What's the Big Deal About Whataburger?

mais sorry whataburger.jpg
Photos by Mai Pham
The just-unwrapped "Thick and Hearty" by Whataburger - $5.19
I am not a native Houstonian, so perhaps that's why I'm boggled by the cult status Whataburger has built for itself.

What is so good about this burger? Why is it that people crave it?

I've had debates and chats with several local foodie friends, who insisted that Whataburger is an awesome burger. I tried my first Whataburger years ago at the location on Shepherd at Richmond and was so unimpressed, I never went back.

But with all the hullabaloo around the merits of Whataburger, I found myself caving in and giving the new location on Beltway 8 and Beechnut a try.

When I drove up to the drive-thru, the to-go board displayed some pretty mouthwatering pictures of burgers, and the one that caught my eye was the "Thick and Hearty" burger. Described as two patties with cheese, topped with grilled onions, bacon and A-1 sauce, it sounded like exactly what I was craving. It wasn't cheap, though, ringing in at $5.19 just for the burger.

I drove to the window, paid, and waited. And waited, and waited. There were no cars behind me, and at one point, I thought they'd forgotten the order completely. I waved so that someone would come to window. At least 15 minutes had already passed. "It's coming," the girl at the window told me.

"It better be darn good for me to wait this long," I muttered to myself, envisioning something akin to the last mouthwatering In 'N Out burger I'd had in California.

in n out.jpg
An In 'n Out "Double Double With Cheese" - $3.45 includes tax, and at least double the thickness of Whataburger's "Thick and Hearty"
I finally got the burger after waiting for what seemed like a fast-food eternity. And when I opened the wrapper, the burger that stared back at me was not the mouthwatering vision I'd hoped for. It barely resembled the picture on the to-go board. I was disappointed. Majorly.

Keep in mind that I had unwrapped the burger within seconds of it being handed to me, deciding to pull over and eat it before I hit the road. I didn't wait to come home. It didn't have time to sit and cool. It had come straight from the kitchen into my hands, and there was nothing in the bag -- no fries, no other burger -- to weigh it down.

Out of the wrapper, the bun looked like it had been squashed beneath something heavy. It was pretty well smashed, the burger flat to the point that I could barely see the two burger patties in the middle (I had to pry open the bun to take the picture, above). Far from being "Thick and Hearty," like its name indicates, it was flat and thin. The two patties in the middle were some of the thinnest I'd seen, each maybe half a centimeter thick.

The thin patties were cooked to a thorough well-done, so that the meat was dry instead of juicy. The melted cheese, which coated the patties, didn't help the dryness at all, nor did the overly generous application of A1 sauce. The flavor of the burger was okay, and the bun tasted fresh and had this dense chewiness that I liked, but I thought that the overall burger, for $5.19, was way off the mark in terms of quality, especially when compared to other burgers in this price range.


For about the same price, Fuddrucker's is ten times tastier and better-looking. In 'N Out, ringing in at $3.45, is probably two or three times thicker, heartier, and juicier, and beats Whataburger hands down.

Whataburger? Seriously, what a disappointment. Tell me what I'm missing, folks.



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209 comments
peekabloo
peekabloo

First off you are doing it all wrong, noone goes to Whataburger and orders a thick n' juicy, patty melt or any other of that sissy stuff, "though some do order chicken which isn't bad".


You gotta order the classic "Double Meat Whataburger", add cheese and bacon if you like but doesn't matter as just that sandwich is the main reason people go there, you are ordering the wrong item. Beats all fast food burgers for sure, but wouldn't compare it to a formal restaurant as almost all those will be better by default, this is drive-thru food, remember that.

rlhughes56
rlhughes56

I grew up eating at whataburgers in Texas, and I moved to Las Vegas NV 19 years ago and I so miss my whataburgers.  I only wish I knew how to get this frenchise to put a couple of whataburgers here in Las Vegas Nv.  they are the best burgers ever


Peet713
Peet713

Chicken basket all day!!!!

John Czach
John Czach

I agree, I'm a native Houston Texan and even worked at a Whataburger in my teens,  35 years ago.You wait longer than at a real restaurant, they need better management to slap the patty down immediatley upon ordering.   It's pricey and just not that special.for the wait and price. 

Cristian Cornejo
Cristian Cornejo

well atleast they actulally grill the meat when you order it bt it shouldnt had taken that long though

M-mcmullen
M-mcmullen

It's not necessarily the food, but the fancy ketchup!  Liquid Heaven!  The food is a mere vessel for the ketchup!  Taquitos aren't bad either...

Chris
Chris

agree totally, sometimes there fresh n juicy and other times overcooked and bland. and by the time you get em, you usually just quaff em down cuz you waited so long and are hungry and God forbid you send it back.  Smashburger thank you , too bad your not open late and cant call in orders ahead

hikethacanyon
hikethacanyon

I've been eating Whataburger for years and years. I guess you would need to be from this area to appreciate it... Honestly i do not like the thick n hearty burger.  I basically always go with the double meat with Cheese and add jalepenos.. I also know that there is a Carls Jr and the line is always around the block.  I finally went and tried it.. it was so so.. kind on like your experience with whataburger.. I have never been to an In and Out burger but it looks good.  But honestly, I do find it a bit offensive to come to a town where you are not from and start bashing the locals favorite places to eat.  Whataburger is one of my favorite.  so it's simple.  Go back to where you came from and stop writing articles trying to badmouth products.  your opinion just makes us want to go to whataburger today for lunch.. and crawfish tonight for dinner.. (i guess you would have a problem with crawfish too) 

Lillieanngraham
Lillieanngraham

You just went to a bad one. The regular Whataburgers are the best. The buns are buttered unlike any other chain. The veggies are really fresh and the iceberg lettuce is crunchy, not wilted. The meat patties everywhere are thin. That is just the way it is. If you want a thick burger, you have to go to a restaurant and pay a lot more or make one home-made. I also completely agree that NO burger looks like the pictures EVER. Whatburger is not for everyone but its my favorite fast food chain. 

Robert J
Robert J

Lived out West for awhile, enjoyed In and Out while I was there. But being a native Houstonian I am / was partial to Whataburger. #1 all the way, add Jalapenos.  Been ordering it as long as I can remember.  Moved back two years ago and was more times than not disappointed at most of the local product.  Then last Friday I was in Liberty, Texas and the experience in that Whataburger made me remember why I liked it so much. friendly service, yes I had to wait, so they could make it fresh, but it was well worth it. Fresh produce, juicy meat patty did I mention friendly service? I think you would "get it" if you tried it outside of the Houston Metro. Which does not really help our cause here but for most of us that grew up with it, those are the experiences we remember.

Rebecca
Rebecca

I love Whataburger for many reason but it is certainly not because the burgers are excellent. I think they are alright, but I like the fact that they make the burgers when you order 'em and you can get what you want on them. And I can order a burger at any time, even at 7:00 am when I'm just leaving work (which is my "supper time"). The people working in the Whataburgers I visit are generally competent and friendly, They bring my food to the table and offer my all sorts of condiments and napkins and that's just nice. Their iced tea is also quite good, IMO. I just wish the patties were a little thicker. Oh, and I do like their fries, while not perfect, for fast food, they are among the top tasters in my book because they are always hot and I can have lots of those little salt and pepper packets to pour on them and as much ketchup as I want to dip them in.

Geml2002
Geml2002

First, get out  of your car and go inside.  You have to eat it hot.  If you wait to get home, it is horrible.  Order a WHATABURGER with jalapenos.  Get a large coke.  Skip the fries.  No, it's not Fuddruckers, but it doesn't cost as much either.  For a regular hamburger, it's not bad at all

Bookmanchild
Bookmanchild

If you're not from Texas you won't ever REALLY understand Texans, let alone their food preferences...leave Whataburger out of this.

keystonelonestar
keystonelonestar

You're not missing anything. Whataburger was just another fast food chain until the advertising campaign started maybe three years back.  Then suddenly it was 'iconic.'  It's still the same gross crap as BK or Jack in the Box. 

dani
dani

Doesn't anyone besides me notice that every single thing at Whataburger smells and tastes the same.  Chicken, burger, fries.  It's weird!

Wagordon
Wagordon

First, another vote for the taquitos.

Second, many of the posters here are spot-on regarding the nostalgia thing, plus the fact that WB isTexas-based. The burgers are never cooked till they're ordered, so you NEVER get a pre-cooked heat lamp patty. Add the fact that you can get raw/grilled jalapenos, that the default toppings are Texas-style (mustard, no mayo or ketchup), 24-hour availability, etc. and you can see why so many of us like our Whataburgers over other fast-food burgers.

I too have had bad smashed/mushed whataburgers, sadly. I've also noticed many franchises/locations over-dress their WBs, too much mustard, lettuce, onions etc. & especially loads of salt (WTF?) on the patty. As always, YMMV.

I'd suggest trying them again, dining in, & getting a customized burger "just like you like it" as they say. At a well-run location, I guarantee you'll understand much more why WB stands out....

SoSezYou
SoSezYou

I was always more of a Whataburger breakfast fan, with the place I used to stop by in South Texas having some of the best coffee I've ever had. Here in Houston, its tougher to find it consistently good. Again, its a situation where the people who own the franchise aren't, shall we say, culturally aware of what they are serving. Lately, since they've updated their menu, I've been enjoying the Pattymelt, with the caramelized onions making for that homemade taste....and that's up here in Cypress. Again an ownership thing?  

David Beebe
David Beebe

You nailed the difference between Whataburger and ALL the rest of the fast food chains in your comments about the wait. They make it to order only- no pre-cooking or heat lamps. I own and operate a restaurant and bar in Marfa known for our burgers and don't really dig Whataburger, but it's miles above any other Texas fast food burger, for sure.- DB

Powerlftr45
Powerlftr45

In n out sucks big time!! Tried it twice in cali, no comparison to whataburger... You're smoking crack

Abie
Abie

What you are missing is that you have no idea what you are talking about. You have taken two instances and extrapolated them to come to a wrong conclusion. Don't know anything about but In N Out but I will make it a point to try it next time I am in California.

Odtrauma
Odtrauma

Whataburger is not that good for burgers the breakfast is good though also In N Out burger was not that impressive for some reason people from Cali think it is great whatever. The best Burger I think is Fatburger I accidental ordered a large and when it came out I was like WHAT it was huge I couldn't even finish it. I wish there was a Fatburger in Houston.  

Sammie_Jo
Sammie_Jo

Whataburger is the only FF burger I will eat, it's all made to order, you get it fresh and hot.I go to the new whataburger in College Station on Hwy 6 and wm d fitch pkwy. It's immaculate, the workers are super polite and the burgers are excellent. I've never gotten a burger that looked like the one in the picture.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

It was a valid comparison. It was a "specialty" sandwich, after all. And specialty does imply that it should be something "special."

As to why I drew the comparison, these were both double meat burgers with cheese. The only difference was the toppings. The Whataburger had A-1, onions and bacon. The In N Out had lettuce, tomato, grilled onion and special sauce. 

In my blog post, I noted that it wasn't the toppings in this burger that left something to be desired -- it was the thinness of the patties, the presentation (smashed), the fact that the meat was dry. And, correct me if it's an invalid assumption, but I'm assuming they use the same beef in their burgers, so I don't know how ordering a different version would have helped the situation.

While the width of the Whataburger is larger than In N Out's version - I'd say by about 3/4 of an inch overall (certainly not double the width as some other commenters have suggested) - the larger width of my burger was more from the buns than the meat patties, which were dwarfed by the bun.

SirRon
SirRon

"go back to where you came from"

awesome.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Robert - that's what I've been hearing, that it's better in the small towns. Why do you think that is? Is it the way it's made or the care (and quality) that it's made with by people in small towns?  

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Just curious, which burger did you have at In N Out? There's a reason there's always a long line outside In N Out. They make an awesome burger. And it's ridiculously cheap compared to what you can get at other "fast food" houses. 

If you are inclined to give In N Out another chance, try the double double with cheese and grilled onions, or get it "animal style". The double double is the way to go, and it's only $3.45 inclusive of tax. And it will look like my photo -- all the double doubles generally look like that.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

 See, now this is where your opinion has now gone to bias.  I'm not sure if you remember how to measure Area from geometry, but Whataburger is twice the size.  That isn't opinion; it is math.  And as to being "dwarfed" by the bun?  I just had a Whataburger last night (actually, because of this thread and the fact that I hadn't had one in a while) and the burger was the same circumference as the bun, so again, there was no dwarfing.  I took pictures, if you'd like proof of this.

Joie
Joie

The reason there is  always a line at In N Out Burgers is because its been glamourized as ohsoawesomemadeofunicornpee. It has a cult following. Ive had it several times, both in Las Vegas and the LA and San Diego areas. Its a decent burger, passable not great.  And yes, I think that Whataburger makes a better burger - one that doesnt taste like uhm...NOTHING.

Soooo yeah, you need to learn how to compare apples to apples, otherwise the premise of your entire article is flawed.

And a Fuddrucker's comparison? Really. Not only is it NOT a fastfood joint, their burgers are probably one of the worst ive ever had.

Try again, champ.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Fatty, I took out a ruler and eyeballed the width of what I remember to be the burger. The In N Out is about a 4.5" diameter; I've had enough of them to know. The Thick n Meaty was about 5.5 inches, even 6 inches looked bigger than what I remember. Sorry, but NO WAY could it be double the size, you'd be talking about an 8-9 inch diameter burger. (Anyone who actually wants to go out and measure, feel free)!  

I know you were one of the Burger Bracket team, so I don't doubt your word, but I assure you, when I received my burger, the smashed bun (I think the flattening added to the width) had the effect of dwarfing the meat. I had to pry it open and push the patties towards the edge to get the meat into the photo. My first photo was all bun. You can even see in my picture how the bottom bun hangs on the right about 1 cm.

Anyways, I am glad Whataburger is reading. It means they are listening and want to put out a better product, and for that, along with some of these wonderful memories people have shared, I will go and try their taquitos, chicken strips, and their regular burger with jalapenos and ketchup, which everyone seems to love. :)

SirRon
SirRon

youre so rite krazy lol

Joie
Joie

So you cant sense when youre the one being mocked. Interesting.

SirRon
SirRon

Word up. Solid advice.

Joie
Joie

Comprehension. Need it to make it in the real word. Try again.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Joie, you use absolutes in your comments: 

"You were prepared to hate Whataburger.""their burgers are probably one of the worst I've ever had." 

In fact, the tone of both your comments is much more aggressive than mine. The tone I was aiming for was "boggled." If it came up condescending, perhaps it's because you want to see what I wrote in black or white. If you see things in terms of "hate" and "the worst," then of course you'll read condescending.

To correct your assumptions, in actuality, I wanted to like Whataburger. They are everywhere. It would be convenient. Why would I go there if I thought I would hate it? If I thought I would hate it, I definitely would not have gone back. There's no point. It's because everyone raves about these burgers that I wanted to try it again. 

Did I order the wrong burger? Perhaps, but this is in no way my fault. If it's their worst burger maybe it shouldn't be featured prominently on their to-go menu.  Maybe they did too good a job with marketing, because it sounded good enough to order. It sounded and looked like something I would enjoy.

Here's what I said, and I didn't say I hated it. I said I was disappointed. There is a big difference:  "The flavor of the burger was okay, and the bun tasted fresh and had this dense chewiness that I liked, but I thought that the overall burger, for $5.19, was way off the mark in terms of quality, especially when compared to other burgers in this price range.
"

SirRon
SirRon

Real talk. If I can't understand you, I can't productively mock you. That's very unLOL, unfortunately. Sad face.

Joie
Joie

Haha @ "Whatevs". Cat got your tongue? LOL. I dub thee champion of EOW, mighty Sir Ron.

SirRon
SirRon

Correction. 2nd biggest. Whatevs. Just deets, right? lols. Ding ding. Champ.

Joie
Joie

Oh Sir Ron. We all know youre the biggest champion EOW has. LOL.Ive said it before, and ill say it again. Try again, champ.

Joie
Joie

You need to read your article again. If your intention is not to bash anything, you did not succeed in your intention. Your tone was, at the very least, condescending. I see that from the title alone.Second, you ordered a specialty burger -- something Whataburger rolls out every so often for whatever deluded reasons their Corporate team has. Its not their meat and potatoes burger.

If you really wanted to give Whataburger a fighting chance, you should have ordered a Whataburger with cheese, grilled onions and whatever other condiments are in your oh-so-favored Double Double from In N Out (minus the precious special sauce, of course). The comparison should have been based on that.

Bottom line - you were prepared to hate Whataburger because it isnt In N Out.

SirRon
SirRon

"worst ive ever had"

Joie is probably the best commenter ive ever read. Ding Ding. Champ.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Joie, it's kind of love or hate thing. You either love In N Out or you don't. You either love Whataburger or you don't. I drew the In N Out comparison because to me, based on my experience, and as evidenced in the casual snapshot I took of the the burger, the $3.45 In 'N Out double double blew away the "Thick and Hearty" Whataburger I tried for $5.19. I rarely have an ok burger at In N out - I find it very consistent. It has a cult following, yes, but it's because the burger is good. Like Whataburger, they make their burgers fresh and they always come out piping hot and new. It is absolutely an apples to apples comparison: 2 double patty burgers from a fast food joint, where the wait is fairly long and where the food is supposed to be made fresh.

As for The Fuddrucker's mention, although it's not fast food, its an example of a great burger (I will go down on record about it being a great burger) for about the same price I paid for Wjhataburger's "fast-food" burger. The Fuddrucker's 1/2 pound burger, the last time I checked, is a little over $5. I know for a fact their 1/3 pound burger is $4.89 (at least at the location I frequent, which is Stafford location on the lakes).

My whole point in this article is not to bash Whataburger. It is to say that the Whataburger is expensive for what I got. If it was expensive and great, that's fine, but for me, the one I got was just "ok." I'm not bashing it like several other commenters are bashing In 'N Out saying that it's tasteless or bad -- that was not the intent. If anything it's to say that Whataburger is either charging too much or needs to up their game to put out a better burger at that price point, so that I can take one bite of their burger, and have a reaction like "Oh, so THIS is what people are raving about!" instead of the reaction I had, which was: "Ok, so what's the big deal about this burger?"

gottacomment
gottacomment

@Mai Pham hahaha...ur hanging on by a tiny thread. hrere..bro i'm from the north and it's still obvious to me u got owned...u opened ur big mouth just let it go

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Ok, I concede on size, Fatty, based on other people's research you have mentioned. But my double double with cheese and caramelized onions was still empirically better for me (1/2 size and all) than the Whataburger I tried. 

The Whataburger size accounts for the price difference (pay more get more), but for me personally, I would rather pay less and have a burger than I'm happier with (even if it's smaller).

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