100 Favorite Dishes 2013: No. 48, El Real Burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe

"That," I said to the bartender. "I'll have that."

Ready for its close-up!
The reasons I loved the El Real Burger are precisely the reasons I originally discounted it as too much.

First, the Fritos. I'm generally more of a Frito pie person myself, but Fritos on a burger actually add a great crunch to an item that's usually chewy and meaty but not often truly crunchy. They also add a great deal of salt, which, thankfully, is minimized in other parts of the burger for balance.

Next, the Tex-Mex-ness. Avocado on a burger is great. Poblano peppers on a burger are great. Refried beans are pushing it, but they could be good. Cheese, lettuce and tomato are burger staples. But all of these things together? YES. I, too, was a little surprised.

Generally, if I want Tex-Mex, I'll order tacos, and if I want a burger, it'll be great meat with some cheese and something acidic on top (pickles, tomatoes, etc.) and perhaps something green for good measure. During this meal, though, I discovered that these two disparate cravings can come together in a wonderful way.

The patty, ground in-house, was cooked to an ideal medium-rare, a temperature that, lately, has been difficult to achieve based on the number of overcooked hunks of meat I've been served. The meat was juicy and smoky, with a nice, light char on the outside. Beneath it was a layer of refried beans spread on the bun as if they were mayo, those curly, crunchy Fritos, and, on top, a mound of cheese, tomatoes, roasted poblano peppers, lettuce and, finally, a spread of chunky avocado.

I get full all over again just writing about it.

In addition to the surprisingly tasty Fritos and decadent refried beans, the poblano peppers are what truly sets this burger apart from lesser burgers. Roasted poblanos are ever so slightly sweet and taste like bell peppers upon the first bite. After they linger on your taste buds awhile, though, the heat rises, and you wonder why you so confidently took such a big bite.

Then you down some beer, loosen your belt a notch and dive back in for more.

The list so far:
No. 49: Custard Sandwich at Petite Sweets
No. 50: Black Pepper Beer Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant
No. 51: Red Dragon Roll at Michiru Sushi
No. 52: Fried Bananas Foster at Custom Confections
No. 53: Bánh Canh Hue at Simply Pho
No. 54: Kimchi Koagie at Koagie Hots
No. 55: The Juicy Lucy Burger at Lowbrow
No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga
No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar
No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill
No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe
No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's
No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace
No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market
No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe
No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood
No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS
No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana
No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's
No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi
No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood
No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery
No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19
No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's
No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac
No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto
No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop
No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi
No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas
No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius
No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria
No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch
No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub
No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire
No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches
No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill
No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's
No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie
No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao
No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum
No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar
No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro
No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood
No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub
No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club
No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen
No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra
No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro
No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia
No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme

Location Info

El Real Tex-Mex Cafe

1201 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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I'm more interested in a burger I recently saw on a food truck menu; it was made with a combination of beef and chorizo.


Put off by Fritos on a burger? I thought you went to Trinity - Tycoon Flats much?


@rwsteward Mama's Cafe also puts Fritos on their bean burger, and it's delicious (even though the beef isn't as fresh as El Real's).

KaitlinS topcommenter

@rwsteward I actually only went to Tycoon Flats once I think. I was more of a Bombay Bicycle Club or Rebar kinda gal. 

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