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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Where automobiles roam

Yesterday saw the "soft" opening of the burger chain Five Guys Burgers and Fries here in Houston at the emerging commercial strip mall at Bunker Hill and I-10. The place was mobbed due to a promotion offering free burgers to people on Facebook. A local contingent of Houston Chowhounds made an expedition to try out the burgers of course, but I failed to join them due to scheduling conflicts. I had other plans in the area later in the evening, so I decided to check the place out, even if I had to pay for the food (how expensive can a burger be? - turns out, around $5). Although they let me in initially, the manager hurriedly intercepted me on the way to the ordering line to tell me that they aren't really open yet, and ushered me out of the place (which was, incidentally, teeming with people eating burgers, so I can't say I wasn't a just little miffed).

So, I took a moment to walk around this emerging commercial megalopolis. Although not quite stocked with vendors yet, the area promises to be huge. At the back of Five Guys, I found the other little gem of this area - an upscale branch of El Rey Taqueria! This Mexican/Cuban chicken and comfort food joint makes great food, and is a stalwart standby of the Shepherd/Heights area for a while. The menu seems relatively unchanged except for slightly higher prices.

Adjacent to these two restaurants are a few more chain eateries: Panda Express, an Arby's, Denny's and an Olive Garden. And an obvious predominance of drive-thru windows. Despite the proximity of these establishments, the designers do not expect pedestrian cross pollination of clientele - there are barely any established pedestrian walk zones.

Such is the stereotype of automobile driven life in Houston.


  1. They have 5 Guys in Baltimore. They're totally overrated. There's a similar place in California that people rave about "In-N-Out Burger". Granted, both have perfectly edible burgers (which is to say that they're about 1000x better than McD's), but they're certainly not worth driving out of your way to. It's perfectly edible fastfood.

    That said, I do remember being alarmed when I first moved to Houston in 1997 - folks would drive from one part of a mall to another. What the hell? No wonder Houston is the obesity capital of the U.S.

  2. I have been reading about the different good local burgers in Houston, and I think I am lifting my 4 burger a year limit for the sake of research :). I tried Smashburger, a chain from Denver, and was unimpressed (other than the fact that is was a pretty big sandwich).