One of our passions is finding great burgers, and we love bringing you photos of some of the delicious and often beautiful burgers that we find.

This isn't that kind of post.

We'd read about McDonald's in France's newish Dark Vador burger, a misguided attempt to use a poorly spelled version of a movie tie-in to create a hamburger.  But not just any hamburger.  Perhaps the least appetizing hamburger that we've ever seen.


If you know of a less appetizing burger (actually sold by a restaurant; we don't need to see examples of the sorts of disgusting things that our twisted readers can place between the buns) leave us a link in the comments.

Bon appetit.

A recent lunch at Beck's Prime made me wonder:  Who started the whole gourmet burger trend in Houston?  Beck's has been my benchmark gourmet burger for years; they opened their first store in 1985.

You, pretty burger, are responsible for all this.

Before that, I remember burgers from Prince's Drive-In and Bellaire Broiler Burger, but while good, they aren't the same sort of burgers that Beck's.  Same goes for Rosnovsky's and Someburger.  Been around forever, but they serve fast food-style burgers, albeit very good ones.

An astute Twitterer, Jennifer King, remembered that Cafe Express started around the same time period, but while they do serve burgers, I don't think they're in the same class as Beck's.

Another of the Twitterati, Joey, reminded us about Annie's on South Post Oak.  I'm a fan, but I wouldn't consider them to offer a high-end experience.

So I'll put it to the experts here:  Who started the gourmet burger craze in Houston?

We have sad news to report during National Burger Month.  Coal Burger, the coal fired oven burger concept from the folks at Grimaldi's, has closed.  We were fans of the burger, but will admit that there were consistency issues:  Sometimes the burger was perfect, sometimes it was dried out.  Apparently cooking ground beef in a 1000+ degree coal-fired oven requires a very deft touch.

Combine the consistency issues with the notoriously dicey parking situation at the Woodlands Waterway, and Grimaldi's decided to close this restaurant after less than a year.

According to our sources, Grimaldi's plans to expand its pizza operation into the Coal Burger space.

We have no word on whether other Coal Burger locations in Arizona are closing as well.

Growing up, I enjoyed burgers, but like many teenagers, considered them to all be pretty much the same.  Only when I moved up to Austin to attend UT did I begin to appreciate the differences between a good burger and truly exceptional one.  And on my frequent visits back to Houston, I'd often crave a burger.

On one trip, I was fortunate enough to stumble into the then-new Beck's Prime, and I realized I had found a real Houston treasure.  Beck's is a chain, but it's locally owned and run; the opposite of an impersonal franchise.  And the burgers - thick, juicy, with quality ingredients and the mesquite-charred flavor that was anything but mundane.  Beck's became my go-to burger place, and to this day remains my benchmark for an excellent burger.

I realized that I'd not visited Beck's in months, and thought it would be the perfect way to kick of National Burger Month.  I met fellow burger aficionado Kerry Stessell (of Hot Line Pepper Products fame) at the scenic Woodlands location, ordered at the counter, and grabbed a table.

Dining Room at Beck's Prime

In short order our burgers appeared.  I went with the classic - a simple cheeseburger.  It's a favorite of mine; the fresh veggies and American cheese compliment rather than overpower the lush mesquite flavor of the beef, and the freshly baked bun serves as a foundation to this formidable burger.

Cheeseburger at Becks' Prime

My companion ordered one of Beck's signature options, Bill's Burger.  It adds cheddar cheese, grilled onions, thick-cut bacon, and special Bill's sauce to the Beck's formula.  Here the sass of the grilled onions and the slight sweetness of the bacon combine with the mesquite-tinged beef to create a very satisfying combination.

Bill's Burger at Beck's Prime

Beck's also offers a formidable ahi tuna sandwich among it's non-burger offerings.  Heck, you can even get your choice of prime steaks... through the drive-through window.

A great burger or a prime steak through a drive-through window?  It's things like this that make Beck's Prime unique, and distinctly Houston.  It was a perfect way to kick of National Burger Month, and it's one of the best burgers in town.

Becks Prime (The Woodlands) on Urbanspoon

Copyright 2023 Nurick + Associates