Burger Friday: Halal burger with jalapeño ranch receives best marks in Katy

The Pico Burger with cheddar, pico de gallo and jalapeño ranch dressing on a sweet

The Pico Burger with cheddar, pico de gallo and jalapeño ranch dressing on a sweet sourdough bun at Chuckwagon BBQ & Burgers in Katy.

Photo: Alison Cook dinner/Team

This week I ate a halal burger dressed in jalapeño ranch, although enclosed in a booth that looked like my individual miniature Conestoga protected wagon. 

Staying ready to create a sentence like that is why I really like residing in Houston. 

Who could be bored in this sprawling megalopolis, in which a winding drive throughout what applied to be the Katy prairie sales opportunities, sooner or later, to a strip heart the place the occupants are a bao shop, a Vietnamese cafe, a gyros joint and Chuckwagon BBQ and Burgers, the domain of pitmaster Waseem Hilal?

I question you. 

Hilal is a graduate of the Houston Local community College’s culinary program, and he compiled a wild resume (Hotel Granduca, Max’s Wine Dive, sous chef at Tobiuo Sushi) in advance of shopping for Chuckwagon two a long time ago. Smoked meat runs in the spouse and children, due to the fact Hilal’s father — who was working in the kitchen area the working day I visited — owned a barbecue place named Charlie’s again in the day. The shop, in a district of broad-shouldered residences known as Canyon Lakes at Cardiff Ranch, had a constructed-in clientele, which created it fewer dangerous for a to start with-time proprietor.

Hilal experienced the fantastic sense to retain the charming, mini-chuckwagon booths that lined the space. Common country music in a Grand Ole Opry vein fills the modest area, where a westward-ho-the-wagons mural adorns the back again wall, and barbed-wire encloses the pendant lamps that dangle from a significant ceiling. 

But Hilal has set his own stamp on the menu, which runs from the barbecue classics to the sort of exuberant, stunty mashups beloved of youthful people today and their clever telephones. He’s adopted the form of new-wave specials young Houston pitmasters have included to our area repertoire — a smoked pastrami Reuben beef-belly burnt finishes a brisket burrito a “Dino” beef rib on weekends.

And he’s selected to provide beef which is halal, the superior to serve the Islamic local community woven into this affluent Western suburb, where the world-wide combine of people has spawned nicknames like “Katyzuela.” The beef is cooked and lower individually.

Hilal even has a “Secret Menu” that’s printed right out, so that it is not truly a solution at all, which cracks me up. That is the place merchandise like the Very hot Cheetos Burrito, the Mexican Avenue Corn and the Orange, Black and Blue Fries reside. (Never talk to.) 

It’s also in which I spied my Pico Burger. I requested it with cheddar as an alternative of the regulation pepperjack cheese. Here’s how it stacked up.

Rate: The hefty $9.49 burger climbs to $11.99 when requested as a basket with French fries incorporating a fountain drink for $2.50 brings the pre-tax-and-tip tab to $14.49.

Purchasing: The set up is semi-serve, so you order and spend at the back again counter, give a name for them to simply call when it’s ready, and obtain a set in the eating area at one of the picnic tables or in your canvas-covered wagon booth. A server will call out your identify and find your table when your foods arrives out of the kitchen.

ARCHITECTURE: Salad stuff on major — and in the case of the significant leaf lettuce frond I was issued with my burger, on the facet, to incorporate if you desire. The Pico Burger was served open-confronted on a grilled, garlic-buttered sweet sourdough bun. A fifty percent-inch-tall beef patty arrived initial, followed by the cheddar mantle, a layer of pico de gallo and a mighty sploosh of jalapeño ranch dressing. And I do indicate “mighty,” as in a lake of the things. Some sourpusses may well phone it much too a lot jalapeño ranch, but not me, and I intend to explain to you why.

Top quality: Yum. Not to place as well high-quality a stage on items. What with the bloomy beef taste of the 80/20 patty, its crunchable crust, the bounce of the pico de gallo and the exhilarating buttermilk-and-environmentally friendly-chile tang of that jalapeno ranch dressing, this burger had some critical Sandwich Magic (TM). 

It was deliriously messy (thank goodness for that roll of paper towels on the desk) and enjoyable — especially immediately after a couple of burgers in a row exactly where I skipped some galvanizing condiment to bring the entire to existence. I may well inquire them to prepare dinner the burger medium scarce future time, so it’s a minor pinker inside of, but the medium worked for me, and the effectively-seasoned crust definitely popped. 

And in context, that garlic-buttery sweet sourdough bun worked superbly. I know, I know: in some cases these sweet buns so beloved regionally can simply call way too much interest to themselves. But employed on a burger combo as assertive and savory as this a person, a particular harmony kicks in. I cherished it.

OOZE Ranking: Off the charts, many thanks to that jalapeño ranch dressing. (The patty by itself was juicy but not drippy.)

LETTER Grade: A

Price: Good, if you skip the fries. (See under.)

MINUS Points: The beautifully appropriate French fries were also perfectly forgettable. If I experienced to guess, I’d say they were a species of coated fries from a freezer bag. And indeed, I know, it’s a ton to anticipate a barbecue joint to fry from scratch. But Hilal has the chops to do it, and I bet they’d be excellent.

Stuff FOR Afterwards: I scored a homey carrot cake slice with satiny product cheese icing plus a loaded baked potato stuffed with nicely publish-oak-smoky chopped beef and a nicely grilled Reuben sandwich of quite respectable smoked pastrami.

Nearby Colour: My eating companions ended up a trio of deputies from the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Section, which promptly told me I experienced come to the suitable place. 

Chuckwagon BBQ & Burgers, 4031 FM 1463 #50, Katy. 281-394-7784.  Open Tuesday — Sunday, 11 a.m. — 9 p.m.. Web-site: chuckwagonbbqburgers.com

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  • Alison Cook

    Alison Prepare dinner – a two-time James Beard Award winner for restaurant criticism and an M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Creating award recipient – has been reviewing eating places and surveying the dining scene for the Houston Chronicle due to the fact 2002.