October 26th, 2010
Bernie’s Burger Bus – An After School Special
Sometimes I question whether or not I have gone overboard on the whole artery-clogging burger scene in Houston. Then I remember how tasty hamburgers and their accompanying sides really are and all doubts go away. Either that or I mention my doubts to someone and they slap me back into reality. A friend of mine heard about Bernie’s Burger Bus through Twitter and passed along the details. No need to tell y’all, I was interested; very interested.
Justin Turner made his way to Houston from the Chicago area and, before opening Bernie’s Burger Bus, was the personal chef of Houston Rockets star, Shane Battier. He decided to go it alone and converted a small school bus into a burger-making machine. The name is a tribute to Justin’s grandfather. Sadly, he passed away before seeing his grandson’s business completed.
I visited the bus at Lizzard’s Pub on a quiet Wednesday evening. My wife and I were in the mood for a burger and there’s no better time to try a new place than on a hungry stomach. Justin was waiting at the window, patient as we tried to decide on what to get. The naming convention for the menu doesn’t shy away from the truck’s overall theme. Burgers get names like “The Principal” and “The Bully” while sides are called “Extracurricular Activities”. My wife ordered “The Principal” and I went with “The Substitute”, a burger topped with bacon, caramelized onions and bleu cheese. We couldn’t pass on sharing a serving of sweet potato fries as well.
It took only ten minutes to hear my name being called to pick up our order. The burgers and fries were piping hot, served in paper jackets, and came with a homemade chipotle aioli and homemade ketchup.
Both burgers had just the right amount of time on the flat-top, coming out with a perfect char on the outside and a juicy center. The bun was light, yet didn’t collapse under the deluge of juices from the burger. The bleu cheese on my burger had just the right pungency to complement the sweetness of the onion, though the thing that tipped the scales on my burger was the bacon. It was a expertly cooked, just thick enough, piece of pancetta that made my mouth water.
My wife’s burger, “The Principal” came with all of the toppings you would expect on a cheeseburger, but with a slight twist. The house-made pickles were not dill, but bread & butter instead. The tomatoes were roasted with garlic, giving them a slight sweetness. Don’t expect the normal, savory flavor you’re used to when enjoying a burger. Instead you’ll be treated to a burger that has a few hints of sweetness from these different elements, making one tasty dinner.
The fries – oh, the fries – were delicious and the homemade aioli was a fantatastic, slightly spicy way to top them off. They had a great crunch and a moist, flavorful center. In general, sweet potato fries usually lose a lot of flavor in the cooking process but Justin has somehow perfected preparing them without losing that taste we all enjoy.
Overall, I was very happy with Bernie’s Burger Bus. The only small qualm I had was with the size of the patty. It seemed a little small for the bun and in certain bites I ended up with a mouthful of bread and toppings with no meat to be savored. Justin has the flavors down and fries perfected. If I had to give one suggestion, it would be an adaptation of “The Principal” that focuses on the savory rather than going the sweet route.
If you’re out and about the Upper Kirby or Washington area, then a stop at Bernie’s Burger Bus is the route to take. The one burger I wish I had tried but didn’t during my visit was that evening’s “Field Trip”, or daily special. On this particular night it was a burger with sundried tomato goat cheese and applewood smoked bacon. See, it’s making you hungry isn’t it? When not serving burgers outside of Lizzard’s, Bernie’s Burger Bus is in the parking lot of Walter’s on Washington. But even that isn’t 100%. Your best bet is to follow them on Twitter or Facebook to get their location on any particular night.
Where – Lizzards Pub (2715 Sackett) or Walter’s on Washington (4215 Washington)
When – Lizzards Pub (Tuesday-Thursday 5pm-8pm) and Walter’s on Washington (Thursday-Saturday 9pm-2:30am)
What – Delicious burgers prepared in a repurposed school bus
How Much – Burgers from $6.50 to $9.
Web – berniesburgerbus.com / @BerniesBurgers (Twitter) / Facebook