The Houston's burger can be seen here not sucking.
So I found myself poking around the internet, looking for places that serve a good burger (go figure), and an oddity kept popping up here and there (most significantly on A Hamburger Today): people have been claiming that Houston's, a chain restaurant, has a good burger.
Let me make something clear: I don't think people have very good taste, generally speaking. So normally, I'd just ignore these claims. But for some reason I thought they might be onto something. And A Hamburger Today people seem to put a lot of thought into this stuff. So, off we went to Houston's in Riverside Square mall, in Hackensack, NJ. After my experience with Applebee's "Triple Prime Burger", I wasn't expecting much. Of this you are assured.
It was a Tuesday night or something like that, and we figured the place would be empty. I mean, who goes to a mall on a Tuesday night and then to a chain restaurant (which isn't exactly cheap) to eat on a Tuesday night. In a mall. On a Tuesday. Well the answer to that question was, apparently, "more people than you'd expect."
The place was jumpin'. I dashed through the crowded bar area to the hostess stand to check on the wait. She said "Hi how are you?". I said "I'm just trying to figure out why all of these people are waiting to eat here." I suppose that came out wrong, but she was gracious and explained that this was no crowd at all. This place, apparently, does a business.
We wanted to eat at the bar, actually, because bar dining is almost always preferable. But there were no seats...except this odd table down at the end. Described as "self-seat waitress service." That sounded a lot better than the alternative of waiting for a table.
I have a lot of things to say about Houston's, so I'll bullet them (with no bullets) to save time. Mine and yours.
Very impressive stemware for a chain.
The red wines are served at about 62 degrees. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I asked the waitress if they store their red wines somewhere besides on top of a hot bar, and she told me that they have 2 wine coolers behind the bar: one for whites and one for reds. Local restaurants: take note, because with these types of advantages, you're going to start looking foolish when compared to chains.
The bartender/server was quite friendly and normal.
They have one or two wines from Long Island. That's a good thing.
The place is quite attractive and clean.
The martini got good marks.
The burger, is really quite decent. I mean, it's not great. It's not Copeland. It's not Blue Smoke. It's not a steakhouse burger. It's just a quite decent restaurant burger. And it's a wee bit too thin for my taste.
They serve shredded lettuce and maybe cabbage or something like that on the burger. That's silly.
It's served with chunks (rather than slices) of onion and pickles.
Cross section of the burger with pickles, continuing to not suck.
You will likely be told "we put mustard and mayo on our burgers" to which you might choose to respond, as did I, with "not on my burger you don't."
The tomato wasn't as horrible as I expected.
Tomato: not as horrible as expected
They give you hot wet towels when you're done eating (at least they did for us). It's just like flying first class. But you're in a mall. And the drinks aren't free.
Towels: hot. Additionally, wet
I'd be hard-pressed to name 3 other places within a 10 mile radius of Hackensack that serve a better burger. That says something about Houston's. Or maybe it says something about the local competition.
Houstons : Riverside Square Mall (and a mall near you)