Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Stomp's vs. Tookie's

Categories: Burger Break

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
The Jezebel burger at Stomp's.
Here's the quick story as I understand it: Tookie's -- the iconic gold-and-green burger stand in Seabrook -- opened in 1975, served happy customers giant burgers for many wonderful years and was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

In the interim, Stomp's opened two years later in Bacliff -- just a few miles up the road from Tookie's -- with many of the same recipes under different names. The bacon-infused Squealer at Tookie's became the Hog Wild at Stomp's; the Bean Burger at Tookie's became the Stomper; even the freshly battered onion rings at Stomp's resembled those at Tookie's so closely as to call to mind the classic art forgeries of Mark Landis. Landis never sought to profit off his forgeries, but the care and attention to detail made his copies art in their own right.

See also:
- Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Taqueria Taconmadre
- Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Chief's Cajun Snack Shack

And then, in August 2011, Tookie's reopened. New owner Barry Terrell had purchased the restaurant -- and its recipes -- from longtime owner Jim Spears, and reassembled the old girl as best he knew how, even hiring as many of the old Tookie's staff as possible.

Nearly two years later, Tookie's still boasts a line out the door during lunchtime and an hour wait at peak times. Stomp's, on the other hand, is smaller than Tookie's but will seat you the moment you walk in.

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I liked the rough-hewn look of Stomp's interior.
As such, I quite naturally expected that Tookie's -- the original, the one-and-only the matriarch of Bay Area burgers -- would turn out the superior product. And having never eaten at Tookie's, I was excited to finally taste its famous burger for myself. But because my friends and I couldn't quite stomach an hour wait at high noon, we decided to head to Stomp's first and follow back up with Tookie's after we'd had our first lunch of the day.

I liked the rough-and-tumble look of Stomp's from the start. Someone had painted "STOMP'S" on the brown-shingled roof in large white letters using something resembling shoe polish so that you couldn't pass it from the road, while the interior looked like a hospitable barn. There is nothing fussy about Stomp's -- right down to its prices. The most expensive burger on its menu is a double-meat item with refried beans, avocado slices and more on a torta bun for $5.98.

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The RoundUp at Stomp's.
We went with a simple cheeseburger and a Jezebel, for $3.68 and $4.98 respectively, and a Round-Up appetizer that featured fries topped with "campfire chili," melted shreds of Cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream, real bits of roughly chopped bacon and jalapenos for $5.28. This lovely mess of fries arrived first and set the tone for the meal to follow.

Any good Texan has been to a party where someone brought a rectangular hunk of Philly cream cheese topped with raspberry-chipotle "salad dressing." It's the ubiquitous appetizer of church potlucks, baby showers and Christmas parties from Houston to Henderson. Imagine that on a rugged, half-pound burger and you've got the Jezebel. It went very quickly.

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The Stomp's cheeseburger looks plain, but packs in a lot of flavor.
Stomp's cheeseburger looked rather plain by comparison, but went equally fast. The meat on both was well-seasoned and I liked the soft, slightly sweet, eggy bun on both. More importantly, I couldn't wait to try the Tookie's burgers. Considering that the Stomp's versions had just rocketed into my personal list of Top 5 burgers in the greater Houston area, the Tookie's burgers seemed poised to blow my burger-loving mind.

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The high-water mark left by Hurricane Ike at Tookie's.
"I have to warn you," said my friend Cortney, a Clear Lake resident who's eaten at Tookie's for years, "the Squealer I had last time I was there wasn't very good." She couldn't taste the bacon at all, she claimed, and the overall burger seemed to have lost its luster. But as we headed to Tookie's, we were both determined to chalk it up to a bad day.

Not so, as I quickly found out. After a "brief" 20-minute wait, we paraded past packed tables and a colorful merchandise counter selling all manner of Tookie's paraphernalia to our own table -- which had been occupied so recently that it was still being wiped clean of burger debris.

I can't stress enough how popular Tookie's is and how clearly happy the local residents are to have their old burger joint back and intact.

Which is why it made me doubly sad to find a boring, bland, almost lukewarm burger after such fanfare had preceded its delivery to our table. We'd ordered the #99 -- listed on the menu as "A Champion" -- but couldn't find any trace of the wine the beef had apparently been marinated in, nor "special spices." I also wasn't impressed with the comparatively drier sesame seed bun, which flaked apart as we cut the burger.

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The #99 at Tookie's.
It wasn't bad, not by any stretch of the imagination. But it wasn't worth a 20-minute wait, nor an hour wait for that matter. And at $6.25, it was one of the less expensive burgers on the menu. Granted, it appeared larger than the Stomp's burgers (and the $8.25 burgers on the menu feature a full pound of meat, so order wisely).

"It's fine," said Cortney. I agreed: "A perfectly serviceable burger." But based on this sample, not one deserving of the fame and fanfare afforded to the little Seabrook burger joint.

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Onion rings and Pelican Eggs at Tookie's.
The famous onion rings and Pelican Eggs on the other hand? To use the menu's parlance for the bacon-and-cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers: "Perfection." The service, too, was comparable at both places: cheerful, welcoming and efficient.

While Tookie's may be worth the drive south for the nostalgia (real or imagined, depending on whether or not you've visited in the past) and the onion rings, it's best to just keep heading south on Highway 146 until you hit Stomp's. The burgers aren't just better, the prices will make up for the gas money you spent getting there.



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Location Info

Tookie's Restaurant

1202 Bayport Blvd., Seabrook, TX

Category: Restaurant

Stomp's Burger Joint

3107 Highway 146, Bacliff, TX

Category: Restaurant


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12 comments
ypman
ypman

I always thought Tookie's was overrated, even pre hurricane Ike. Been eating at Stomp's since they opened and their burgers are fantastic. 

Noelle A. Perry
Noelle A. Perry

never been to stomp's but tookie's was awful as far back as 2006-07 [that's the last time we were there - we got fed up with it being a "bad day" every time we went in]. gonna have to try stomp's.

txjboy
txjboy

We couldn't wait to get to Tookie's after it reopened.  I have to agree with the other comments.  The burgers were tasteless.  The onion rings were just OK.  Stomps will be our go-to burger joint when heading to the bay to buy shrimp.

RebeccaS
RebeccaS

I carried an old copy of Tookie's HP review in wallet for years before I finally made it there (3.5 years after the review but before Ike). I had the squealer and the champ. They were very small burgers. But very tasty. And the onion rings were they best I had eaten since Mayer Dairy Mart (La Grange, TX) days. Sorry to hear things aren't the same but I will find a way to get back down there and give Tookie's and Stomp a try. 

waterlover
waterlover

I agree about Tookie's. I ate there many times before Hurricane Ike, but is just not the same. Stomp's is far better. 

Timothy Grandolfo
Timothy Grandolfo

While out here you should have hit Joe Lees Seafood Kitchen. The famous South Shore Beer Garden that was destroyed by Ike now does Burgers out of there and their SSBG Super Burger is no joke. IMO their burgers beat Stomps and Tookies.

Sara Meyn Holder
Sara Meyn Holder

I am so glad The Houston Press realized there is food south of the Beltway.... Clear Lake area and along the 45 corridor heading to Galveston has some amazing places to eat and enjoy. We aren't just Tilman/Pappas land down here... we have some family owned restaurants that put some of the inner loop restaurants to shame. That said, I enjoyed Stomps, and enjoy Tookies... both are good burgers, sides and the staff at both places are great...

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

I find myself driving past Tookie's and going to Stomp's. I like that the burger is slightly smaller and significantly cheaper.

Matthew
Matthew

can't wait to read the comments on this one. i don't have a dog in this fight, so this should be fun.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@Matthew I'm not fully abreast of any animosity between the two camps. Do I need to find cover?

Matthew
Matthew

not that i know of specifically, but beloved institutions usually have no shortage of internet defenders. from the lack of outrage, it seems they don't read eating our words. or tookie's has been abadoned!

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