Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In re Hubcap Grill

Before the Burger Court of Houston, Texas

Docket No. 5



GUTTING, J. Before the Court is the submission of Hubcap Grill ("Hubcap") on a petition of certiorari from Houston's food critics and bloggers. After a thorough review of the record of courts below, we hold that Hubcap serves very good hamburgers that merit a B+ rating.

It is difficult to find a louder chorus among the burger faithful than that of Hubcap Grill proponents these days. Located downtown on Prairie (the second location on South Main having recently closed), this Court determined Hubcap merits review because (1) it has had the support of numerous amici and (2) serves as one of, if not the only, quality burger spot for those who work in downtown Houston. Seating is sparse but generally available. The line often stretches down the block, meaning advance planning may be in order in the event of rain or, of more frequent concern in Houston, summer.

Hubcap's menu consists of a litany of creative burger choices, as well as a handful of chicken sandwiches. French fries and sweet potato fries are the limited side selections. Drinks come in cans or bottles. The Court entertained two Hubcap offerings: (1) the Hubcap Decker, a Big Mac-style double cheeseburger with the patties separated by a piece of toast, Swiss and American cheese, and a mayonnaise-based sauce and (2) a double hamburger.

The Hamburger
Hubcap uses hand-formed beef patties. The menu advertises that they are comprised of 100% chuck. The patties generally are too thin to proceed with anything less than a double burger. The meat is high quality, with a pure beef flavor, although the seasoning has a pronounced influence from thyme -- an influence that too frequently is out of balance with the ground beef. Thyme is an excellent complementary flavor to beef, as a general rule, but it must be used sparingly. Overuse of it is Hubcap's greatest sin. There is no need to mask terrific, freshly ground chuck. Second, this Court has noticed on multiple occasions the tendency for Hubcap burgers to arrive overcooked and slightly dry. There remains good juiciness because of the fat content, but the "ooze" of these burgers is too dependent on mayonnaise and melted cheese in order to reach the level of the truly elite.

The bun at Hubcap is worth note. It is sturdy, with good bite and flavor. It genuinely adds value to the experience, although its size and thickness means a double patty is necessary in order to maintain an appropriate meat-to-bun ratio. The other toppings of the burgers are worth mention for their freshness and quality.

Amici offered a muffaletta burger for the Court's consideration, but we declined to do so, preferring instead to tackle Hubcap Grill on its (not insubstantial) traditional merits.

Hubcap, to its credit, offers only limited sides. The French fries are forgettable, usually being a bit undercooked and soggy. The sweet potato fries, however, tend to be flavor and tender, a worthy accompaniment to the burgers. The lack of fountain drinks is not a hindrance, although the prevalence of outdoor seating and lack of ice for drinks may present difficulty in summertime.

In the final review, Hubcap uses quality ingredients and, despite eminently correctable flaws, makes flavorful and worthy hamburgers that are welcome on the Houston scene. In particular, this is a strong choice for those who work downtown and would like a sturdy lunch before an afternoon nap. Due to the over-seasoning with thyme and reliance on cheese for oozing juiciness, Hubcap Grill warrants a B+ rating.


1 comment:

hedrives said...

Thank doG, someone finally tells it like it is. Love Ricky & his family, love the concept, but the burger is a B in the dive burger division for me, too.