Alison Cook: Smash burgers at burger pop-up inside coffee shop have a ‘glorious’ crust – Houston Chronicle

The smash burger from the Boo’s Burgers pop-up, downtown at The Tipping Point
There’s something about a pop-up that appeals to the Secret Squirrel in everyone.
You’ve got to stay attuned to the grapevine, know just where to look on social media for the next announcement of a date and time. Houston came alive with pop-up food events during the pandemic, and the form has delivered everything from ube baked goods to Japanese-style egg-salad sandos to burgers, that civic obsession of ours.
That’s where Boo’s Burgers, currently a Saturday evening pop-up, comes in. Burger maestro Joseph Boudreaux dispenses his own special smash-style burgers out of The Tipping Point, the downtown coffee shop and vintage streetwear outpost where he also works as a barista.
BURGER GUIDE: From A to F: Every Alison Cook burger review of 2021 (so far)
I showed up right at the 5 p.m. start time last Saturday to check out his wares. This is not a wham-bam operation — Boudreaux’s burgers are clearly a careful labor of love — and my paper sack was produced at 5:24 exactly.
Here’s what the Secret Squirrel in me discovered inside.
214 Travis, 713-485-5650.
PRICE: $16 for a cheeseburger basket with Zapp’s Voodoo chips.
ORDERING: While you can order at the counter at The Tipping Point on the day of the pop-up, you’re encouraged to pre-order and pay using Boo’s Square site. It doesn’t let you specify a pickup time; just show up during the 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. window and give them your name. A coffee shop staffer will fetch your sack and call your name when it’s ready. Are you vegetarian? There’s an Impossible Smash Burger option, too.
ARCHITECTURE: On a butter-grilled bun goes a swipe of remoulade-like “special sauce,” a griddle-smashed beef patty and a drape of American cheese. Next comes a nest of caramelized onions, a slice of tomato and a shower of iceberg shreds. There’s more special sauce on the top bun. Somewhere in there toward the summit are the pickle slices, but mine popped out as I ate, so I couldn’t swear to their placement.
QUALITY: The most appealing element of this burger is the glorious, smashy crust on the sprawling patty, which covers the big bun and then some. Boudreaux grinds together short rib and chuck for the patty. Mine was so crisp and craggy it actually showered a few chunks of beef debris as I ate, right along with the iceberg confetti.
The other burger facet I loved was the deep caramelization of the onions, which added all kinds of sweet, rich savor. Alas, the tomato slice was the pale, tasteless placeholder kind (why even bother?), but the house-made pickles provided a sharp kick of acid and heat. I would have liked even more of them.
The meat-to-bread ratio seemed off to me. The high-domed, coarse-textured bun overwhelmed that lovingly crusted patty, and I couldn’t help but think a smaller, softer bun would show it off better. Still, if you’re a smashed-patty connoisseur, Boo’s is a must-try. And I bet springing five extra bucks to make the burger a double would have brought the sandwich more into balance. Yeah, that would bring it to 20 bucks, but I bet I wouldn’t have to eat anything else until tomorrow’s breakfast. And I might skip that.
OOZE RATING: There was condiment and meat juice leakage. (I have the drips on my shirt to prove it.) That smashed patty may have been well done, but it still oozed — a feat of house-ground magic.
LETTER GRADE: B. Plus extra credit for potential. With some tweaks, this burger could fly high.
BONUS POINTS: Sweet counter service.
VALUE: On the pricey side. The burger is hefty and lovingly made, but these are sit-down chef-burger prices, and the potato chip side doesn’t add quite enough.
STUFF FOR LATER: From The Tipping Point stash, I snagged a bag of Mayan Harvest Billa Vista whole coffee beans “proudly roasted in Alief, Texas” by Rasa Libre Coffee. The Chiapas-grown beans yielded rich, warm tones of dark chocolate and caramel that I’ve been enjoying all week.
LOCAL COLOR: The coffee shop fronts The Tipping Point’s retail store for their well-known Houston line of vintage streetwear, so the benches and seating make a gathering place for shoppers, music fans and burger hounds alike. It’s a lively, easygoing hangout with some outdoor seating on one of downtown’s oldest blocks. (The venerable La Carafe is right around the corner.) Here 2021 meets 1921 in a very Houston kind of vibe.
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Alison Cook – a two-time James Beard Award winner for restaurant criticism and an M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing award recipient – has been reviewing restaurants and surveying the dining scene for the Houston Chronicle since 2002.
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