Spring is a great time for wonderful weather; perfect for dining on some of the many patios around The Woodlands, or grilling in your own back yard. And in case you needed another excuse to enjoy a great hamburger, you'll be thrilled to know in the realm of "food holidays you probably didn't know existed," May is National Barbecue Month, National Chocolate Custard Month, and, most importantly, National Burger Month.
Our plans to celebrate such a glorious month include sampling a variety of burgers, and reporting back to you on a fair selection of them; some from places we've been to a dozen times before, and some from places you'd never event think to order a burger. It's from this end of the spectrum we begin; by grabbing a couple of burgers at Taco USA.
Still the "new kid on the block" in the Grogan's Mill Village Center, Taco USA is anything but new to the restaurant scene. Taco USA's history stretches back almost forty years, to it's original birth in 1976. And while there are many things about the menu at Taco USA that may remind one of any number of other fast food/Tex-Mex places, one thing that certainly sets them apart would be the inclusion of Taco Burgers, Hamburgers and Cheeseburgers.
I ordered the standard Cheeseburger, with mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion ($6.00).
One of the great things about the burgers at Taco USA is the sweet-sourdough bun. It's not as sweet as a Hawaiian roll, nor as chewy as traditional sourdough, both factors which, in my opinion, make for a great burger bun. King's Hawai'ian rolls tend to get too soggy, too fast and fall apart; while traditional sourdough really only works for a brief window of time between being too chewy and being too dry. These buns, however, from a local Houston bakery, are wonderful. They are lightly toasted on the grill to warm them up and are so much better tasting than what you will typically get at other burger joints. This was not my first time to enjoy a Taco USA Burger and this one was almost as good as the first.
Texture - I enjoy the texture of fresh foods, crisp red and green peppers, juicy tomatoes, soft breads, and shaved ice like you can get at this eatery in Grogan's Mill Village. The flavoful fresh ground beef, the delicious pickles and the fresh tomato sandwiched between the cloud soft bun is a delight.
My only complaint about this burger is the over-abundance of onions. This is where the burger took a detour. The white onion s Lices are cut very thin so they were soft and almost mushy. The onion flavor wasn't too strong, but the quantity of them resulted in two issues, one - the onion flavor washed out the other flavors that I know were present and two - the textures were unfortunately reduced to a soft mush. So, either light or maybe no onions for me next time.
Those buns are great, true. But there is something I'm holding against Taco USA when it comes to their burgers; they're lacking my favorite "condiment" for a cheeseburger - the bacon. I don't know where along the line I decided a cheeseburger needed bacon, it certainly wasn't in my childhood. Dad never fried up a pan of bacon in the kitchen whilst grilling the burgers outside. Somehow, though, whenever I order a cheeseburger these days, it's usually a bacon-cheeseburger. It just seems... right. I'm sure my heart (and my hips) appreciate the "missing" ingredient, though. On a more positive note, one of the great additions to the burgers at Taco USA is the pickles - and healthier than bacon, to boot! Those thick-s Liced 'cukes are not your average dills; Chad Byers, co-owner and head chef, transforms them with some sugar, some Tabasco®, and a little time. The result is a s Lightly-sweet, somewhat-spicy, still-salty dill s Lice that really brings together the flavors of the bun and the beef.
The hand-pressed, never frozen, all-beef patties are wonderful. Seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper - which is really all a good burger patty needs, anything more and one has to wonder what you're trying to hide - the quarter-pound patties are juicy and flavorful. Overall, I give the cheeseburger at Taco USA a solid "B+." Having some bacon available would go a long way to nudging them up into "A" territory. ;-)
A sharable side order of fries can be had for a mere $1.50; just remember to have a little patience. Like nearly everything else at Taco USA, the fries are made at the time of order (a few obvious exceptions being the multi-day-preparation-required beans and taco meat), which allows for them to arrive fresh and hot. In my book, Taco USA fries are second only to McDonald's in the world of fast-food fries. This is due largely to Chad's long-suffering search for the best side-order spuds. What makes these so great is their simplicity; these are just potatoes. You'd think that'd be a given, but in reality, many frozen fries come pre-coated with a batter, meant to lengthen the amount of time they can be "held," that is, sitting under a heat lamp until ordered. Since this clearly isn't a requirement at Taco USA, you get to enjoy 100% potato french fries.
Of course we'd be remiss if we didn't mention some of the other foods on the menu at Taco USA. They are, after all, known across thirty-odd years of history and half the State of Texas for their Tex-Mex. We've sampled a few of those items, and really enjoyed some of them - like the crispy fish tacos, made with a batter infused with Shiner Blonde. So be sure to give Taco USA a try. Go for the tacos, stay for the burgers.
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