Alison Cook reviews the smashburger at Cafe Louie in Houston

Here a smashburger, there a smashburger. The latest contender in Houston’s burgeoning burger category comes from Cafe Louie, the charming East End bakery/café that also recently opened for dinner.

That’s when the double-double dry-aged cheeseburger made its appearance on the fine little menu.

I’m already a big fan of Café Louie. I admire the pastries and pastries of Lucianna Emiliani — that’s the “Louie” in question — and the savory dishes of her brother Angelo, whose pop-up pizzas have blown me away during the pandemic. Terrific pasta and classic brick chicken in the style of San Francisco’s legendary Zuni on the new dinner menu told me I had to come back for the burger, pronto.

Here’s how it went.

THE PRICE: $16 for the double-double cheeseburger. You can add waffle fries for an additional four bucks.

ORDERED : A host will seat you in the large, airy dining room, with a view of the glass-enclosed kitchen at the rear. A server will take your order.

ARCHITECTURE: No salad. On a homemade brioche bun, a layer of sweet and sour pickles, a bed of caramelized onions, then two crushed patties, each topped with an American cheese fudge. Finally comes a drapery of grayish black garlic aioli, which gives the burger a disconcerting gothic edge.

QUALITY: Hmm, wow. The contrapuntal flavor and texture dance of this burger really grabbed me, and the lacy frizz of the crushed patty edges proved irresistible. Sweet pickles in a crunchy, semi-sour style cut through the rich flavor of super caramelized onion. The sweet ooze of unpretentious American cheese, punchy black garlic aioli and buttery brioche highlights the crispy patties and forward flavor of 21 days of dry aging. The beef comes from the RC Ranch in Arlington, and the grind is short rib, brisket, and chuck.

OOZE ASSESSMENT: Mainly based on condiments, but the thin and medium patties have some juice.

CLASSIFICATION BY LETTER: Solid a.

ASSESS: Fair, considering the quality of the ingredients and the overall excellence.

VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Not on the burger side, but there are delicious small plates and vegetable salads.

BONUS POINTS: Waffle fries are surprisingly light on their feet, and they’re good with a side of that black garlic aioli for dipping. And the wine list by the glass, with offbeat natural producers, could yield an energetic Slovenian red blend that’s mostly Blaufrankisch and served chilled for summer.

LOCAL COLOR : The young crowd mixes uptown and downtown professionals with the artsy locals of the Second Ward neighborhood. You might spot an exhausted seafood vendor knocking on the kitchen door with a cooler full of the day’s rockfish, or sharing the dining room with a celebratory party of young women who embody the diverse face of Houston 2022 — the all set against a Roy Orbison backdrop and crisp aqua wall graphics that evoke the mid-20th century.

About Walter Bartholomew

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