Bernie’s Burger Bus

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BY MIKE PUCKETT

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Bernie’s Burger Bus is located on the west side of Houston, just outside the west loop in Bellaire. Justin, the owner and chef, worked as a personal chef in Chicago before striking out on his own with the food truck / restaurant named for his grandfather.

What started out as a food truck has now moved into a brick and mortar location, and more venues are planned in the near future. It doesn’t look like anything is going to get in the way of this burger paradise. With its classroom-style décor and academically-inspired menu choices, Bernie’s has a nostalgic feel. There’s even a school bus in the dining area!

Since I moved back to Houston, let’s just say I’ve had burgers on my mind! Literally tons of great burgers are built throughout the area, encompassing many different styles and flavors. I do believe I could eat one from a different joint every day for 3 months and still be looking for burger fix! But few of these can compare with the quality burgers we enjoyed at Bernie’s Burger Bus!

With accolades that are insanely abundant… I wanted to see if the place lived up to all the hype. I think the photography speaks for itself.

Everything at Bernie’s Burger Bus is made from scratch using only the freshest of ingredients. The meat for the burgers comes from a custom blend of choice cuts ground right on the spot. The condiments are made in small batches for maximum freshness and are free of any preservatives or fillers. Even the bread is baked daily by an amazing, local artisanal baker. For Paleo people, Bernie’s offers gluten-free options as well. Just ask your server and they’ll fix you up.

I met a couple of friends at Bernie’s and we got to work.  We started the evening off right with a couple of Top Texas Craft Beers: the Rodeo Clown and the Staycation, both from the Karbach Brewing Company.

We ordered four different burgers so we could sample a variety of tastes and textures. All the burgers were simple, but very tasty, and super fresh, of course!

First up, The Principal – your classic cheeseburger, done right! A plump, meaty patty layered with your choice of cheese, thinly-sliced onions, pickles, shredded lettuce, and slow-roasted garlic tomatoes, then topped off with Bernie’s delicious homemade mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup.

Then, we savored my personal favorite, The Substitute: a fabulously flavorful cheeseburger made with tangy blue cheese, thick crispy bacon, burgundy mushrooms, and “tipsy” onions.  I’m a huge fan of blue cheese and love all the other ingredients in this mouth-watering burger as well.

If you’ve never heard of “tipsy” onions, here’s the scoop!  Tipsy onions are made by slowly caramelizing onions over medium heat over a period of 4 hours. Once they’ve turned dark brown, a healthy portion of Jack Daniels is added to the mix and allowed to burn off before serving.

Back to our beautiful burger-fest. We sampled the Fire Drill: a freshly-ground meat patty done Mexican-style with salsa verde, spice guacamole, pepper jack cheese, slow- roasted garlic tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and homemade chipotle aioli served with crispy tortilla chips on the side. This peppery patty provided a great combo of flavors – with just the right touch of Texas spice.  If I had to rank all the burgers I tried here, this one would come in at number 2.

Our last selection was the Class Clown: an old-school burger made with two thin hand-ground patties topped with American cheese, lettuce, Roma tomatoes and homemade special sauce, and served on a potato bun. I loved the stacked double burger; totally fresh and absolutely delish!

So much for the sandwiches, now for the sides.  We had the hand-cut fries, freshly-made and served with hand-crafted ketchup. No frozen Franken-fries at Bernie’s, just pure, freshly-cut potatoes, fried to crispy perfection! And the house-made condiments truly make this side something special.

Now, how do you make the above better? Add truffles, Parmesan and green onions for a flavor-packed treat: Truffle-Laced Hand-Cut Fries. Mmm, good!

Last, but certainly not least, we sampled the Honor Roll Fries: a meat-lover’s bonanza with smoky BBQ brisket, crispy bacon, melted cheddar, BBQ sauce and green onions.  If you’re just visiting Texas – you have to try this. If you live here – then you must try this… get the picture?  It’s that good!  ‘Nuff said.

Although we were stuffed by now, I always make it a point to have just enough room for dessert. We sampled the Salted Caramel Apple Pie Shake. This luscious liquid was a mixture of blended cinnamon apples topped with whipped cream and a streusel crumble.

We also ordered the Strawberry Shake, which was topped with homemade puppy chow and whipped cream. It really hit the spot!

In case you’re wondering, puppy chow – also known as muddy buddies or reindeer food – is a type of snack made here in the US. The name and ingredients may vary, but most recipes include cereal, melted chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar. The cereals used in the mix are usually Chex or Crispix.

All-in-all, my experience here at Bernie’s Burger Bus was a tad bit more fun than I remember having in the classroom, but the motif provides a cool, nostalgic feel. I will just put it simply, Yes, Bernie’s did live up to the hype. Needless to say, I have found another go-to!

PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT

 

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