Amazing Burgers, That’s All

I had the realization over the weekend that when folks from the upper Valley visit the beach for its water attractions and amazing selection of eateries, we hardly make it a habit to explore what Port Isabel has to offer. At least I don’t. I suppose I felt the restaurants in the mainland were reserved for the locals of the area. How wrong I was. When I received my Foodie assignment for a burger shack – a local favorite – tucked into a plaza just a block before the causeway, my curiosity and excitement peaked. Little did I know about the delicious treasure trove that existed along the coast of South Texas.

My boyfriend and I made our way to Will and Jake’s Burger Shack and Beer Garden late in the afternoon, hours after the last of the lunch crowd but just before the dinner rush. Sure enough, the restaurant was quiet, catering only to one other happy couple already enjoying their burgers. Upon arrival, the venue truly looked like a shack. It stands between two taller buildings in the plaza and is decorated with plenty of greenery, outdoor furniture, hanging Christmas lights and cute wooden signs. The outside is very inviting and warm. Walking in, we were greeted with a direct view into the kitchen, its cooks and the tempting aromas of grilled and fried foods. The path continues to an enclosed outdoor garden and patio with more outdoor furniture for guests to dine. It’s all very tropical and laidback. Lucy, one of the co-owners, directed us to a separate dining room furnished with wooden tables and vintage decorations along the walls – a few from her home state of New York.

Like a true fast-talking New Yorker, Lucy took us through the menu highlighting her favorites and customer favorites, all while telling us about the history of the burger shack.

We ordered a Basket of Fried Pickles for an appetizer and a Cucumber Tea to cool off, which is essentially a half-and-half of cucumber water and regular tea. The tea resembled those water-based popsicles you find at local raspa stands or gas stations. It was sweet and refreshing. The best fried pickles that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting prior to burger shack were from a place in Kingsville called Big House Burgers. They’re juicy and salty, and with a bit of ranch, are delicious. But, these friend pickles were on a whole other level of fried goodness. The salty batter crumbles and melts in your mouth to reveal thick, sour slices of pickles. The ranch was almost unnecessary.

For our main dishes, we ordered the #420 Stoner Burger which claims it is dressed “with everything but the kitchen sink dude…awesome” and the #11 Greek Style Lam Burger with homemade tzatziki sauce.  Ah, if there is a burger heaven, we were taken to its greasy pearly gates that day and treated with a burger feast fit for saints. My #420 burger was dressed with grilled mushrooms, green chili peppers, bacon, French’s French Fried Onion, cheddar cheese and smothered with a sweet BBQ sauce. The beef patty was thick and flavored with some secret spice recipe that Lucy was reluctant to talk about, and the burger buns were buttery, soft and golden.  My boyfriend’s burger was dressed with fresh cucumber and tomato cubes, crumbled feta cheese and that deliciously exotic homemade sauce. I’ve never thought to describe a burger as garden-fresh, but this one brought that term to mind. Our dishes were on opposite ends of the burger spectrum. While mine carried a hearty flavor, his was a unique blend of Greek and American flavors.

When it comes to fries, I generally only enjoy them as a complement to the burger. These were different and could stand on their own. They were golden, flavored with a delicate blend of herbs and spices, I think – another secret Lucy wouldn’t give up. The fries were crispy on the outside and just the right amount of softness on the inside. Like the ranch, ketchup was definitely unnecessary to enjoy these bits of crispy deliciousness.

Overall, I felt like each bite revealed all new flavors and textures as my taste buds tried to assess the various ingredients used in their perfectly blended seasoning. Bellies full and content, we said our farewells and enjoyed a walk through the nearby tourist boutiques. That was a whole other adventure on its own. If you’re in the area, I suggest visiting the alchemist shop just a couple of doors down from the restaurant called Alchemaille. The artist’s work is brilliant in every sense of the word.

Until next time RGV Foodies!

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JoAnn is a graduate of the University of Texas-Pan American where she obtained a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication with a minor in English. She is an inquisitive, ambitious and lively person with an undeniable passion for the written word.