Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Shuttle Burgers and Space Age Memorabilia
The time it takes to get your burger at Shuttle Burgers will give you ample time to reflect on these things, especially if you're a native Houstonian. To reflect on how much this maddening city has changed, and yet -- when your burger and basket of hot french fries is delivered to your table -- how some things are still comfortingly the same.
The signature Shuttle Burger comes with a pineapple slice on top.
Back in 2009, Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook noted that the true triumph of Shuttle Burgers was those fries. "'Burgers Out of this World,' reads the slogan at Shuttle Burgers, which is tucked into a sleepy, semi-industrial pocket south of Hobby Airport," she wrote. "What the slogan really should say is this: 'Hand-cut French Fries Out of this World.'" Those fries are as good as ever, I'm happy to say, and still hand-cut and fried to order.
The burgers shouldn't be given short-shrift though, especially the restaurant's signature Shuttle Burger. A well-worn sign by the register explains that the Shuttle Burger is simply a burger with a slice of pineapple on top, but that fat ring of fruit makes all the difference. You see, the patties at Shuttle Burgers -- while hand-formed and also, like the fries, cooked to order -- can be a little dry. The ring of pineapple on top gives the well-done patty that much-needed juicy boost to send it into orbit.
Shuttle Burgers offers more than just a great burger, however. Through its sun-parched and time-worn decor, it also offers a reminder that our space program has been similarly neglected for far too long. What was once the pride of our city now operates on less than half of its former budget -- $18.4 billion in 2011, which is only roughly 0.48 percent of the total federal budget and down from 4.41 percent of the federal budget in 1966 when the space program was at its peak with the Apollo missions.
Of the ever-decreasing federal budget for NASA, astrophysicist and best-person-in-the-world-to-follow-on-Twitter Neil deGrasse Tyson said in March 2012: "Right now, NASA's annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that -- a penny on a dollar -- we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th century birthright to dream of tomorrow."
Chocolate cake: consolation that we're never going to colonize the Moon.
I'd count on that as much as I'd count on Braniff coming back from the dead, but it's nice to dream.
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