Burger report: Lankford Grocery and Tornado Burger

The burger detectives went to Lankford Grocery over Thanksgiving. Incidentally, any place that doesn’t have a website I can link to is a good candidate for “best burger,” because that means it’s a one-off kind of place and not a chain.

Anyway, Lankford was incredibly crowded, which affirms its status as a lauded Houston institution. We were lucky (or pushy) enough to grab an unbussed table and clear it ourselves. (I say pushy, because other patrons stood around looking dolefully at other unbussed tables, leading me to conclude that we Northerners weren’t observing Southern etiquette.) The burgers took a long time to arrive, due to how crowded it was. They were clearly hand-formed, so my mom was immediately pleased by that. Dan and I loved the fries, although my mom was less impressed.

Everything was hot and fresh, but there were some flaws. The menu says all burgers are served medium, which the waitress reiterated. Mine, however, was well-done. Lankford’s burgers are also thin-patty style, which I’m coming to despise. The condiments on mine were applied with a heavy hand, such that I couldn’t taste the cheese. When I mentioned that to my fellow detectives, my mom said that, come to think of it, she couldn’t taste the cheese on hers either. Which was really odd considering that she had gotten a plain burger with cheese as the only adornment. All of this caused me to give Lankford a half-thumbs up, although the others each gave it a full thumb, for a total of 2.5. We gave our ratings before we tried to pay, at which point we discovered that Lankford has a “wait in line and pay at the cash register” policy. Given how busy it was, Dan waited 15 minutes just to pay.

Lankford was the first universally-acclaimed burger joint we’ve tried, and I have to say that it was disappointing given the hype. On the other hand, today’s special bonus review was a pleasant surprise. I pulled into Tornado Burger for lunch today. Their sign says they’re the “Best Cheeseburger in Houston” according to the Houston Press. I thought I’d give it a try on my own and bring the other burger detectives along sometime if it was worthy. It’s not that good, but since it’s in a run-down old Long John Silver’s location on a shabby stretch of Murphy Rd in Stafford, I wasn’t really expecting much. It was the best fast-food burger I’ve had in Houston. Someone there has clearly been to In-N-Out and decided to try to replicate it. The bun was grilled and crispy, and the fries were great, albeit seasoned, which I know is a deal-breaker for my mom. The burger was thin, and the condiments heavily-applied (is that just a Texas thing?), but overall very good for a fast-food burger.

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