San Antonio, TX: Remember the Cheeseburger at Chris Madrid's

[Photographs: Damon Gambuto and Arden Martinez]

Chris Madrid's

1900 Blanco Rd San Antonio, TX 78201 (map); 830-229-5600;
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: The stuff of cheeseburger legend. Truly excellent thin-pattied burgers!
Want Fries with That? Yes, but I'd prefer a second (or third) burger instead
Price: Cheeseburger, $5.35; Cheddar Burger, $5.95; fries, $2.25

On a recent trip to the Alamo City I had the opportunity to try a burger that I'll never forget. Why was this burger so memorable? For the best possible reason: it was absolutely delicious. In fact, it ranks as the best burger I've tried in recent memory. I had it at Chris Madrid's and you should too.

Back in 1977, Chris Madrid, a University of Texas marketing major, decided to open a taco and burger spot along an unassuming stretch of Blanco Road in San Antonio. The world has been a better place ever since. It actually first started out as Chris Madrid's Tacos and Burgers, but the burgers were so clearly the star of the show that the tacos were removed from the menu and the name changed. I'm a huge proponent of tacos, but having tasted the burgers, I totally understand.

My Chris Madrid's burger love affair began with their standard cheeseburger with everything ($5.35). In this case, I went with American cheese (they also do cheddar, but more on that later). "Everything" in this case means lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup, and mustard. I added a little mayo because, well, it's delicious and I lack self discipline.

The first thing that got me all hot and bothered about Madrid's burgers was the incredibly sexy buns. These perfectly round, commercial-style rounds were near perfection. Mine came out fresh with just a hint of heat on it and was spongy, yet still substantial. The topping (or in the case of Madrid's, bottomings) had their own sex appeal. Not only were they fresh and full of crunch, I really loved Madrid's preferred method of serving them chopped and underneath the patty.

Then there was the exquisite handling of the meat. The freshly ground, five ounces of beef was formed into a pleasing, thin patty. They grind it to a beautiful coarseness and, equally importantly, loosely pack the meat. Add to that a subtle seasoning and you've got the makings of burger greatness.

The first bite felt like a movie make-out session; time stopped and I was smitten straight away. I was ready to run off with this burger, but there was more to try.

Next up was Madrid's Cheddar Burger ($5.95). Their menu claims "cheddar is better." I wouldn't go quite that far, but the shredded cheese melted into a delightful, gooey mass on this version.

My last burger of my afternoon delight of a lunch was a cheeseburger with no toppings: pure beef, cheese, and bun. I actually loved this version as well. If you haven't the wherewithal for a burger threesome, I'd say you should try the version with toppings.

The Madrid's fries ($2.25) are cut to a medium width from fresh potatoes so they are full of flavor. It would be unfair to say these are anything less than good. That said, they lacked crispness and were nowhere near the equal of the burger.

As my burger lunch wound down I couldn't help but count myself unlucky to not have Chris Madrid's in my hometown. They're serving up some truly excellent thin-pattied burgers that rival the best versions I've come across. They are, in a word, unforgettable.

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