My son and I recently began a quest to find the best burger in El Paso. We began some months ago with a place called, appropriately enough, Chuco Burgers and Dogs. We went there, at my insistence I must admit, because I had seen references to this tiny, hole in the wall (used to be a tiny, old, sleazy neighborhood bar) place on Facebook. If you are interested, it is close to Bel Air High School, at 1201 Lafayette.
First of all, there had been a lot of raves about this place, and upon our arrival (the place was nearly deserted during the noon hour), we heard a bit of bragging from the guy in the kitchen. This place is, as I said, very small, and you can see the guy cooking very easily. Despite the brag, and the dearth of customers, we had to wait a very long time for our simple orders to be filled. Cokes were in cans only, and the only drinks offered were sodas. The fries were simply greasy, albeit hot, and the burgers were nothing to write home about (since I did not write home about them, I am now blogging about them instead). Frankly, I found my burger to be a bit dry, and if it wasn't for the grease, I would have needed a second Coke.
Long story short: This is NOT the great El Paso Burger. Not even close.
My wife and I had already tried Frisco Burger and Happy Burger (both on Yarbrough, between Pebble Hills and Edgemere). I found their products to be OK, but very much run-of-the-mill, large, flat patty on large bun, just like Hamburger Inn and Hamburger Hut used to be. They at least have fountain sodas, but Happy Burger uses foam cups, and I just don't like foam cups.
Next, my son and I tried the new Papa's, located at the corner of Wedgewood and Montwood, in what used to be a 7/11. They do offer a variety of burgers, with original names for them. Overall, not a bad burger, but again, very much like the average El Paso Burger, with the flat patty, large bun.
Our most recent foray was to Crave Kitchen & Bar, on the East Side, on Rojas, between George Dieter and Zaragoza. This experience made us realize that we are going to have to start categorizing our burgers, because this place makes a premium burger, with prices to match. Their menu is extensive, with a lot more than just burgers offered, and their burgers also carry different names, with different ingredients.
I opted for pretty much their basic burger, with a couple of refinements. This was because none of their six choices, all alone, appealed to me. So, I asked for their large patty (1/2 pound is all they offer), and instead of cooked onions, I asked for raw. And, since one of their signature burgers offered ham (among other things) I asked for a slice of ham, with Swiss cheese. I did not expect to be able to eat the whole thing, and I also asked for fries.
Unfortunately, their menu does not warn you about the seasoning that they put on the fries, which are super thin, almost Julienne-like. They put some sort of chile powder, that is very heavy on the Ascorbic Acid, because my first bite puckered me up so bad, I lost the flavor of the potato. Frankly just a touch of salt would have been just fine for me. I did not finish even a fourth of my order.
As for my Burger, now, that's a whole 'nother story! This was a very good burger! Juicy, medium (although I had asked for medium rare), so it was nicely pink. Instead of putting mustard, or mayo, or ketchup on the burger, the waitress brought us little stainless cups of each, so we could put what we wanted to our own taste. I really like that because all too often I find the kitchen puts too much mustard, or not enough mayo, and I'm left wanting something. The bun was like a Kaiser roll, so it was chewier than the other burgers we've had so far, and it holds together just fine. And, I did finish that puppy, all of it!
So, we're not done yet (actually, we're going across town this afternoon to try Hoppy Monk's burgers), but now we are going to have to be very specific about what kind of place we go to, and what kind of burgers we encounter. I guess we'll call Papa's a Diner Burger, and lump Chuco, Frisco, and Happy as dive burgers. I don't think we'll seek out any drive-in burgers, because all that's left in El Paso in that category is one Charburger, way up Mesa, and, of course Sonic.
More later. I'm hungry.