Residents of the Woodlands have no shortage of good burger places in the area. From national franchises to local chains to mom-n-pop stores to chef-driven restaurants, folks in the Woodlands can eat burgers every day for a month and not visit the same joint twice.

And yet the new burger concepts keep coming. As your intrepid servants, we feel that it is our duty to check out the most interesting burger concepts and pass on to you the ones that are worth a visit.

The Woodlands Waterway neighborhood is now home to the Houston area's first BurgerFi location. BurgerFi is a Florida-based burger chain that picks up where other "better burger" concepts leave off.
BurgerFi Woodlands Waterway location
A primary focus is on healthier, all-natural ingredients, including grass-fed, never frozen burger patties. Uniquely, BurgerFi offers different types of patties to choose from, including grass-fed Natural Angus, 28-day dry-aged ground brisket, and crisp quinoa-based veggie. They even offer an all-day breakfast burger, with ingredients such as bacon drizzled with maple syrup and hash browns.
Clearly, this isn't your average burger joint. But how do these interesting creations taste? We find out.
(Disclaimer: BurgerFi was so anxious for us to sample their food that we were invited along with a hundred of our closest friends to sample the food on the day before the opening. BurgerFi picked up the tab, and also wooed us with swag including sunglasses and cool stretchy bracelets. We returned for a second visit on our own dime, and thus this qualifies as an actual review, not a retelling of a media preview.)
As purists, we wanted to sample a basic burger in all its nearly-naked glory. Some burger chains hide a mediocre burger patty behind a lot of "gourmet" toppings, and we think this is like putting lipstick on a pig. (We're looking at you, The Counter.) So we started with a basic double bacon cheeseburger, selecting American cheese from the available varieties.
Cheese is generously applied on the bacon cheeseburger at BurgerFi
What arrived was a petite, 4" bun piled high with two quarter-pound hand-formed patties, freshly cooked thick-cut bacon, and a generous portion of melty American cheese. Veggies were crisp (in the case of the lettuce) or nicely grilled (the onions.)
Biting into the freshly branded (with the BurgerFi brand logo) bun revealed a lush beefy flavor, accented by the mild American cheese. The beef was cooked medium well, but hadn't lost its juiciness; a credit to BurgerFi's process. The bacon added a nice smoky and slightly peppery undertone, and the veggies brought welcome crispness and a zing of acidity to the mix. All in all a nicely balanced burger, which we devoured in record time.

How does it compare to other "better burgers"? I enjoyed it more than Five Guys, but less than Smashburger or Beck's Prime. My biggest complaint was the size. Rarely do I feel hungry after eating an upscale burger, but about one and a half of these would have been perfect. For light eaters this may be a positive.

We also sampled several of the most popular sides: Fresh-cut fries, Parmesan and herb fries, and the ginormous onion rings.
Yes, that is a single onion ring on the left.
Clearly, the highlight was the onion ring. Huge, freshly cut union slabs were divided into rings, generously breaded with a barely-sweet batter, then deep-fried to golden brown crispness. The flavor was superb; the only downside was that the rings were so large that a knife and fork were required to eat them.
The fries were tasty but unremarkable. We preferred the extra flavor provided by the parmesan and herb dusting. We can't help but wonder if the trouble and expense of cutting fresh potatoes is worth it.
We also sampled the interesting brisket burger. Topped with both swiss and bleu cheese, two quarter-pound patties of dry-aged ground brisket brought a very different flavor profile to the table.
Brisket Burger at BurgerFi
The rich, beefy flavor of the regular Angus patty was replaced by a deeper, more earthy and robust flavor, reminiscent of a barely smoked beef brisket. The swiss and bleu cheeses added a lush, tangy tone. It was a tasty sandwich, but the patty just didn't say "burger" to us. We don't think this burger is for everyone, but some folks are going to love the different approach to creating a cheeseburger.
Finally, our favorite. The veggie burger. OK, we're kidding. We didn't try the veggie burger. You should know better.
Downsides? The burgers aren't huge, and the meals are a bit more expensive than we'd prefer, attributable to the slightly pricey fries and drinks.
All in all, we enjoyed the offerings at BurgerFi, and feel that they are a nice new option for burger lovers in the Woodlands. 
BurgerFi | 1501 Lake Robbins Blvd | The Woodlands 77380 | 713-389-5826

BurgerFi on Urbanspoon

There's a certain unique appeal to an upscale beachside resort. The sun, the sand, and the tropical breeze combine to form a relaxing backdrop for doing absolutely nothing... but doing it in style. Here in the Woodlands, we've got plenty of sun, occasional breezes, but no sand to speak of.

But what we do have is the only Tommy Bahama outpost in Texas.

Tommy Bahama is a beach resort lifestyle brand, offering casual clothing, swimwear, accessories, and more. Basically everything you'd need for a quick trip to St. Maarten. They also operate a group of restaurants at a dozen or so of their resort locations, including the prime spot on Market Street overlooking the central park.

Inside the building is the clothing boutique, a busy bar, and a meandering restaurant complete with a shaded patio overlooking dancing water fountains. You'll find an energetic crowd of well dressed locals relaxing, sipping mojitos, and enjoying the resort-style setting.

The scene is definitely upscale and very engaging, but we were skeptical about the food. We'd visited shortly after the restaurant opened, and were distinctly underwhelmed by the offerings. But we'd heard rumors of a new chef running the kitchen, so it was time to reevaluate.

A recent balmy summer evening seemed like the perfect time to find out if the kitchen had upped its game to keep up with the hopping bar. So we donned our favorite tropical resort-wear and headed down to Market Street.

We were greeted by an elegant young hostess who apologized for a half-hour wait. After about ten minutes we were shown to our table. We perused the drink menu, wanting to get fully into the tropical resort spirit. Many of the drinks were enticing, with interesting ingredients that invoked memories of the islands. Looking around, it appeared that the de rigueur libation was indeed the mojito, a favorite of ours.

Our energetic waiter confirmed that the mojitos were not only popular but were very good, so we followed his lead. We placed our dinner order, and watched the sunset through the louvered windows.

In short order our appetizer appeared. We'd sampled this appetizer a while back at a Market Street restaurant tour, and our remembrance was very positive. A generous disk of goat cheese was encrusted with chopped macadamia nuts, drizzled with a soy glaze, and served over a rustic mango salsa.

The appetizer was as good as we remembered - the lush, creamy goat cheese was complemented by the sweetness of the fresh mango, and the soy provided a subtly salty counterpoint. The appetizer was devoured in short order, and it took great restraint not to order another one. But our entrees were on the way.

We were intrigued by the parmesan-encrusted (Tommy Bahama is big on encrusting) chicken. It was thematically served in a seaside diorama complete with a mashed potato beach, green bean rushes, and the casually landed encrusted chicken breast, the slightly spicy red pepper cream sauce lapping gently at the shore.

Doing our best impression of a resortwear-garbed Godzilla, we dug into the dish, and were pleased with the restrained, surprisingly complex flavors. The red pepper cream sauce was a well conceived adjutant to the encrusted chicken, adding just a hit of bite to the moist, tender chicken and the barely crispy toasted parmesan.

Tropical resorts are about indulgence, and we found an old-style indulgence on the daily menu. Steak Diane is something we've not seen on a restaurant menu in years. We were drawn to this classic dish, and wanted to see how Tommy Bahama's kitchen styled their interpretation.

We believe that classics become so for a reason, and disagree with critics who deride a restaurant for not jumping on the food trends of the moment. The nicely marbled strip steak was cooked as requested (medium rare, as we prefer) and topped with the traditional black pepper and garlic. Rather than cooking it in butter, a smoothly buttery/cream sauce featured lump crabmeat was spread over half the steak, giving us just enough of the essence of the sea to suit the tropical setting.

In the past, we'd dismissed Tommy Bahama as being strong on scene and weak in the kitchen. If this visit was any indication, we had severely underestimated the establishment's talented chefs. We're looking forward to a return to Tommy Bahama to explore the rest of the menu.

Tommy Bahama | 9595 Six Pines Road | The Woodlands | 281-292-8669

Tommy Bahama's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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