Ever since they opened we'd heard great buzz about the Hubcap Grill, Ricky Craig's tiny burger joint nestled next door to the Alden Hotel downtown. We visited shortly after they opened, but we were underwhelmed by the burger... it was good, but we weren't blown away.
Our foodie friends assured us that this was an anomaly, and we recently revisited to find out for sure. A rainy Wednesday proved to be a great day to visit, because for once they weren't packed to the gills.
The Hubcap Grill truly is a tiny place. Only a handful of tables exist inside, there are a few more on the now-covered outside patio. We've seen the lines at lunch; savvy downtown burger lovers have turned this place into an institution.
During our visit, Ricky's dad was manning the counter, while Ricky and his cooks were in the back whipping up the burgers. Ricky was gracious enough to give us a brief demonstration of what makes the Hubcap Grill's burgers special:
So how was the burger? In a word: Spectacular.
Hubcap's style of burger is a thin, traditional fast-food-style burger, but the similarities to any fast food chain end there. The beef is hand-formed, well balanced between lean and fat, and extremely fresh. Ricky griddles it on a small, hot, well-seasoned griddle, and the result is a deliciously caramelized crust on a deliciously juicy patty. The cheese is American, melted to an oozy flow of goodness, and the meat/cheese ratio is dead on. The vegetables are cut in-house and extremely fresh, and the bun is custom made each day for Hubcap and lightly toasted. The finishing touch on our burger were some soulful grilled onions, marinated overnight and lightly grilled, retaining flavor and moisture.
What impressed us most about Hubcap Grill's approach to burgers is the attention to detail. Clearly, Ricky Craig is a chef who is passionate about burgers, and he has done his homework. Everything from the meat to the condiments to the bun has been thought out and refined. The fries are fresh, hand-cut and prepared using a painstaking process that results in some of the very best in town. Even the beverages are carefully considered: Bottled soda instead of fountain, assuring that the flavor doesn't drift because the fountain is out of calibration.
We applaud Ricky Craig's approach to burgers, and his attention to detail. And the proof is in the result. We are proud to list Hubcap as one of Houston's Best Burgers, moving ahead of Christian's Totem as the best traditional burger to be found in Houston.
And we won't wait so long to go back.
Hubcap Grill - 1111 Prairie - Houston 77002
713-223-5885 - www.hubcapgrill.com