Burgers, Baby!

Galveston flips over America’s most iconic sandwich

By Esther Davis McKenna
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Hamburgers may well be the world’s most popular food. Nearly 50 billion of these iconic sandwiches are served up annually in America alone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This humble beef-patty-on-a-bun knows no boundaries; it’s served at drive-through windows of fast-food franchises, at hole-in-the-wall dives and five-star restaurants.

The ground-work for the ground beef sandwich in America goes back at least 100 years. Like many popular foods today, the earliest version of the hamburger emigrated to America when foreigners settled here in the early-19th century and later morphed into its modern form.

In a nutshell, Hamburg-style chopped beef patties were originally served by Germans in a raw state. Later, a New York doctor, James H. Salisbury, suggested cooking the beef patties, and the Salisbury Steak was born.

There are as many stories about how the burger landed on a bun as there are folks who claim to have been the first to serve it. It is most likely that the modern burger was created simultaneously in cities across America and offered by lunch trucks as an easy-to-eat option.

News accounts confirm that the modern version of the American hamburger was first introduced to the masses at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

National burger chains were founded and boomed in the years following World War II. White Castle opened their flagship store in 1921 and was followed by McDonald’s and In-N-Out Burger in 1948, Whataburger in 1950, Burger King in 1954, and Wendy’s in 1969.

Today’s hamburger comes in too many variations to count; from a myriad of buns and toppings to different components of meat and/or vegetables.

Galveston’s burger scene has exploded in recent years and GM would like to share some next-level samples served on the island. Here are just a few of the unique burgers found here on the island.

Placeholder imageBREWS BROTHERS
2404 The Strand

Amor Pro hibito: Angus beef burger topped with blueberry/serrano bacon jam, goat cheese, chamoy peanut ponzu, and spring mix, served on a concha bun. This was their February featured burger of the month was a valentine to Texas native and popular singer Selena. Request one in March!

When new head chef, Blaine Lunz, joined this neighborhood brew pub last fall, he “revitalized the kitchen,” with new menu items like burger of the month, owner Justin Strait said.

“We are a craft beer brew pub that specializes in burgers,” Lunz said. “But we love being referred to as a beer and burger joint.” Brews Brothers prides themselves on using locally sourced products. All of their Angus beef comes from 44 Farms in Texas, and their rolls are baked locally. Burgers are hand-pressed every day from fresh, never frozen, beef. Burgers weigh in at an impressive half pound; those with a lighter appetite can order a quarter-pounder.

Lunz and Strait say they love feedback about their burger-of-the-month program. “Whether it’s the burger as a whole or just the sauce or cheese, let us know you like it. It’ll make its way back on the menu,” Lunz said.

Brews Brothers has one of the island’s most diverse offerings of beer. Need help picking the right one for your burger? Ask Strait or his partner James Moreno - one of them is almost always behind the bar and eager to help.

2021 The Strand, Unit 3
Crispy Crawfish Burger: Angus beef topped with fried crawdads, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato, served on a toasted brioche bun that is slathered in house-made remoulade.

“Burgers, beer and bourbon,” is the tag line at this uniquely cool space that clearly has the goods it promises. All of their burgers are hand-pressed from six ounces of high-grade Texas Angus beef and served on a bun made in a 100-year-old Houston bakery. A lot of thought and ingenuity goes into every burger by owners Teffeny and Frank Caruso.

A self-proclaimed “gypsy brewer,” Teffeny spends many hours creating brews and batch cocktails that best suit their burgers and the rest of the Hubcap menu. Enjoy their fun fare in a dining room decorated like a sitting room straight out of New Orleans.

The couple relocated from Michigan several years ago and are currently remodeling a historic home near downtown Galveston. Why Galveston? “It’s a big city with a small-town vibe,” Frank Caruso said. “We visited often from Houston and decided island life was more our style.”

The surf-and-turf crawfish burger was created for Galveston’s Mardi Gras celebration and will remain on the permanent menu. Look for the Reuben burger to make an appearance in March. This special burger will be topped with grilled corned beef, sauerkraut and special Hubcap sauce.

4501 Broadway (Avenue J)

Island Burger: Half-pound beef burger topped with sautéed pineapple and fresh jalapeno and white pepper jack cheese with BBQ sauce, served on a brioche bun.

Everything on the menu at this home-style kitchen screams Texas barbeque, even the burgers. These hand-formed, half-pounders are packed with fresh brisket and topped with local Texas ingredients. Each burger is served on a toasted brioche bun and is smothered with the usual suspects - ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomato.

If pork is your pal, add the bacon jam to any burger when ordering. It’s made with bacon, onion, brown sugar, and spices and it will add “bacon-y goodness to every bite,” according to co-owner Tara Finn, who works with her husband and business partner P.J. The Finns are life-long islanders.

All burgers are made to order; just order early as they close at 3pm and sometimes sell out of their most popular items.

1110 23rd Street, located next to Galveston Bagel Company

Double Meat Smashburger: A classic, double meat and American cheeseburger, cooked on a seasoned flat top and topped with lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Mac-ies serves all burgers on buns baked in-house. Don’t forget to order their homemade special sauce.

Do not be intimidated by the construction surrounding this burger business; it is open and has plenty of parking in front of its sister restaurant, Galveston Bagel Company. And can we talk about the pronunciation? It’s pronounced, Mackees, with a hard “c,” named for the daughter of owners Shelby and Dillan Mena.

“We wanted to create a classic smash burger; like the ones you remember from your childhood,” said head chef Dillan. His unique background includes hands-on construction of dozens of professional kitchens as well as a culinary degree from Colorado Mountain College and executive chef positions at a number of restaurants.

His wife and partner, Shelby, rounds out the team with her experience and education in business and finance. Look for a third, high-end, concept to open at the same location this spring named “Natalynn’s” after another of their children.

Mac-ies’ buns are similar to brioche, using the same flour as Dillan’s original bagel recipe, and hearty enough to hold your choice of quarter-pound burgers. Burgers are hand-rolled and fresh, not frozen. Customers order in a build-your-own fashion: pick your patties (you can choose up to four on one sandwich); your cheese of choice and, lastly, pick your condiments. Mac-ies special sauce is a fan favorite, and don’t forget to ask for it.

Located inside Valero Gas Station, 7428 Stewart Road

Double Meat Burger: Two, one-third pound patties grilled on a flat top and served with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickle on a toasted brioche bun.

Home cooking in a gas station? You bet. A high volume of classic burgers and comfort food are being served up at this mini-but-mighty kitchen express inside of a Valero service station.

Mel’s is the creation of owners Becky Chavarria and Belinda Enriquez who came across the open space three years ago.

“We lived close by, and we were looking for a new place to set up shop,” said Chavarria whose brick-and-mortar business on 38th Street was a COVID casualty. Mel’s is named for Chavarria’s sister who has died.

Mel’s burgers are hand-pressed and made fresh daily. They use their own blend of house seasonings and are cooked on a grill top. All burgers are made to order with your personal choice of the usual toppings.

The double-meat monster is enough to fill the belly of any burger enthusiast, and the onion rings and French fries are made from scratch.

There are a half dozen tables for eating in, but they fill up quick during busy lunch and dinner hours. And of course, all burgers are available to go.

Placeholder imageMOSQUITO CAFÉ
628 14th Street

Green Chili Burger: Hand-formed, 6.5-ounce burger topped with house-made green chile sauce (jalapeno and serrano peppers, onions and cilantro), Tillamook cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion.

All of Mosquito Café’s burgers are hand-formed and weigh 6.5 ounces with a 73/27 lean-to-fat ratio grind of beef. Their buns are baked daily at PattyCakes, the café’s own island bakery.

The meat is seasoned with a proprietary rub and always grilled on an open flame. Top your burger with a number of choices including their house-made garlic herbed mayonnaise.

James Clark puts a high priority on the placement of ingredients when constructing their burgers. “The order of assembly is very important,” Clark said.

Clark is the director of operations for Mosquito Café and PattyCakes Bakery as well as the chair for the Galveston Chapter of the Texas Restaurant Association. He knows food.

“You want the cheese and meat to be the first things you taste when biting into the sandwich. If you change the order of how it’s laid out, you will change the flavor profile. After several different experiments, I believe we’ve got it down perfect.”