The Hamburger – A Texas Culinary Creation

According to more sources than I can list, the hamburger was invented by Fletcher Davis from Athens, Texas, in the late 1880’s and introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. “Uncle Fletch” is so beloved in Athens that they hold the Uncle Fletch Davis Hamburger Festival every September. In fact, the Uncle Fletch story is even international. In Providencia, Chile, you can dine at Uncle Fletch Bellavista Just Burgers & Beer, where their tagline reads “Round about 1880.” Thanks, Chile, for having our back.

Now the good people in Seymour, Wisconsin, say it was “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen. On their Home of the Hamburger website, they ask you to be a believer and they also host an annual Burger Fest in August. The folks in Canton, Ohio, say the brothers, Frank and Charles Menches, introduced the culinary creation at the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York. Canton recognizes September 18 as National Birth of the Burger Day in their community. Of course, Erie County in Hamburg had to put in their two cents since they say the Ohio brothers served them at their fair so they say the hamburger was invented there. And then there’s Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, which opened in the late 1800’s and is still running strong today. They state the first hamburger sandwich was served in their restaurant in 1895.

What’s the truth? Since this is a Texas-themed blog and I’m a Native Texan, where do you think my loyalties lie? I’m Team Uncle Fletch and support the Lone Star State story 100%. I stand with Athens as the home of the hamburger.

Since this blog is about all things burger, here’s to Uncle Fletch and the great folks in Athens who keep this important culinary story alive.

Benson’s Eats & Treats in Athens – Photo Credit – Benson’s Eats & Treats

Friends and Facebook Followers Favorites

I recently stumbled upon a 2015 article in D Magazine in which the writer proclaimed Dallas to be the hamburger capital of the USA. Having never eaten a burger in Dallas to my recollection during my many visits there over the years, the only way I could see if he was correct would be to eat my way through the Dallas restaurant scene and find out for myself. Instead, I reached out to my How Big Is Texas Facebook Page followers and good friends to ask them to share their favorite burgers in Texas. I figure if we trust total stranger’s TripAdvisor reviews, why not trust my Facebook friends and followers to tell me what they like. They didn’t disappoint. And to those Dallas burger lovers out there, comment on this blog and share your favorite burgers in Big D. Sadly, the list below didn’t include any.

My Personal Favorites

Having tried many a burger in the great state of Texas, my own list features the ones that stood out most forto me.

The first time I ever ate a green chile burger was at Blue Sky Texas in Amarillo. I can stand the heat more now, but at the time I was a light weight when it came to eating spicy food. I was glad they served the chiles on the side, in case they were too hot.

East Texas Burger Company in Mineola makes one of the biggest ½ pound burgers I’ve ever seen. So I recommend going with a 1/4 pound burger so you have room for dessert. Their fried pies are almost as big as their burgers. Trust me on this one.

My friend Darragh introduced me to the Judice’s French Market & Deli in Port Arthur, where we went up to place our order in a very small space from busy ladies working the counter and preparing the food. You can order anything from fried chicken to homemade cracklins. We enjoyed our burger in the car while watching boats come in along the Intercoastal Waterway near the Gulf of Mexico.

The Angry Cheeseburger at the Angry Cactus West Texas Bar & Grill in San Angelo comes with Pig Candy. Seriously! So delicious. Taking a que from a famous movie line, “You had me at candied bacon.”

Whenever I order the Cheddar Blanket Burger at Zero One Ale House, also in San Angelo, I get a two for one. You see, the burger comes to the table with about an six-inch circle of melted cheddar covering the burger. I eat the top bun and the outer rim of the cheese, like a grilled cheese sandwich. I take the rest home and have an entire burger to eat for dinner, sans the top bun. Winning!

I discovered the Ranch House Restaurant in Sanderson when I drove the perimeter of Texas back in June of 2020. In this town with a population of 769, good food can be found. The Ranch House has a walk-up window for ordering. You wait under a covered patio, and when you’re name is called, it’s outdoor, old-school dining at its best. No frills, just delicious goodness in a bun.

Bob & Brenda’s Burgers in Gorman is pretty unassuming. When I first walked into this diner in Eastland County, a person I assumed to be Bob was sitting by the register. A woman I assumed to be Brenda, took my order and then cooked my meal. I thought maybe Bob was there for the conversation, but I never heard him speak, as he was reading the newspaper the entire time. Still, the grilled jalapeño bun makes their burger a standout in my book in this small town of just over 1,000 people.

I’d never eaten cream cheese on a burger until I visited Shep’s in Weatherford. Their Presbaugh Burger comes with fresh, raw jalapeños and a slab of cream cheese. Order it with their crinkle-cut sweet potato fries. Delicious. Delicious. Delicious.

The first time I ate at Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap, I had a mesquite-grilled steak, green chile hominy, and their signature Perini Ranch Bread Pudding with Maker’s Mark Whiskey Sauce. To mix it up on my return visit, I ordered the Today Show Award-Winning Ranch Burger. It comes with cheddar cheese, grilled mushrooms, green chiles and onions. To this day, it is one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. Award-winning, indeed.

How Big is Texas Burger Trail

A few months ago, I did this same outreach about BBQ and I was given more tips on great places to enjoy those delectable smoked meats for which our great state has been known for years. I also created a How Big is Texas BBQ Trail for the occasion because, why not?

It would seem only right for me to create a burger trail, too, so here you go. This includes all of the mom and pop restaurant listings in this blog. If you should take either of the trails, make sure and share them with me. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Special Recognition to Dairy Queen and Whataburger

For me, no story about burgers in Texas is complete without two chain restaurants from which I have enjoyed many a burger.

Dairy Queen booth blinged out with the Texas Flag. Photo Credit – Darragh Castillo

Back in the day, I remember Bob Phillips with Texas Country Reporter talking about Dairy Queen. I think the words Hungr-Buster and Blizzard were introduced to me by Bob. Remember his blizzard commercial? Did you know Dairy Queens in Texas have their own menu? In fact, their slogan is even different in Texas. Everywhere else, it’s “Happy Tastes Good.” In the Lone Star State, it’s “That’s What I Like about Texas.” The funny thing about that is Dairy Queen didn’t start in Texas. As the saying goes, they got here as fast as they could. With nearly 600 locations in the state, I think they deserve a shout out.

I’ll take a Whataburger over an In-N-Out Burger any day. Sorry, California.

Founded in 1950 in Corpus Christi, Whataburger has been a fast-food staple for many Texans for 70 years. I know many who are bitter about the 2019 selling of Whataburger to a Chicago company. I admit to being one of them and I’m still trying to get over it. I even boycotted for a few months but I found I couldn’t quit them altogether. I thought they’d stay Texas owned forever. It was not to be. I don’t know about you, but the orange-colored burger wrapping always puts a smile on my face. I remember enjoying what I believe was my first Whataburger in Tyler when I was younger. Thanks to Harmon Dobson for creating the two-handed burger. Mr. Dobson obviously caught on quickly that everything’s bigger in Texas.

So was your favorite Texas burger location on the list? If not, please share it with me. Who knows? I may have to create a second How Big Is Texas Burger Trail in the future. Texas is a big state and there’s no doubt in my mind, more great burgers are out there waiting to be tasted.

Did you know How Big Is Texas now has a new podcast? If you’d like to listen, visit my podcast page and click on any episode, including Episode 5, which is the audio version of this blog post.

Until next time…from Texas…safe travels!

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