Burger Friday: Alison Cook Finds an Unexpectedly Good Chili Cheeseburger at Big City Wings

By Alison Cook: HoustonChronicle.com

The tantalizing prospect of a chili cheeseburger quesadilla — with house-made Thousand Island dip, no less — sent me to Big City Wings, the local sports bar franchise that has eleven locations scattered all over Greater Houston.

The photos of this totally Texan idea recently popped up on the brand’s Twitter and Instagram feeds, and even migrated to the gallery on their website.

I had to have it. But when I arrived at the Big City Wings nearest me, the new EaDo location near the soccer stadium and Minute Maid, I was told that the Cheeseburger Dillas weren’t on the menu yet.

I was crushed. But I settled on a choice that I found surprisingly good, coming from a wing specialist, and one that warmed me up on a mid-afternoon when the cold front was moving in.

Here’s how it went in the Land of Big Screens for this Chili Cheeseburger.

PRICE: $12 for the Chili Cheddar Burger with a side of waffle fries.

ORDERING: You can order ahead online, or at the front register. The menu is huge, so it’s best to scope it out in advance. My food took a little under 10 minutes to come out from the kitchen, enough time for me to catch a variety of sports events on the TV screens and investigate the snug covered patio, where some tables were furnished with stacks of rectangular building blocks for kids.

ARCHITECTURE: On a toasted sourdough bun went a substantial Angus beef patty, a cloak of melty cheddar, a cascade of thinnish chili, a scatter of chopped red onion and a vigorous swipe of yellow mustard.

QUALITY: I like this burger a lot, even though I found the patty cooked too thoroughly to suit me, or to preserve the meat juices. The ground Angus had a clear, beefy flavor that shone through. The “famous” chili (is there any other kind?) added a welcome, dusky red-chile depth, and the ample cheddar gave the sandwich the lush effect that you want with a chili cheeseburger.

I admired the crunch of the chopped red onion and the sharp pop bestowed by the ballpark mustard. And the gently sweet sourdough bun added just the right contrast to all that savor. The fact that it was toasted on both sides — almost to the point of caramelization — added some further textural snap.


LETTER GRADE: B plus, with potential to move up.

VALUE: I would have been happier to have a couple of bucks knocked off the $12 price and dispense with the fried potato options.

MINUS POINTS: The waffle fries that came with my burger had an industrial quality that made me wish I had sprung extra for the onion rings, which looked promising in the menu photo. The fries weren’t bad, they just weren’t the kind that compelled me to keep eating.

STUFF FOR LATER: Don’t judge, but I am not a wing person. Yet I gamely ordered the house Original Buffalo-style wings, with a medium-hot hot-sauce baste and a ranch dip (recommended by a staffer) to take home. I noted that the wing scarcity I keep hearing about has sent the price of five wings up to nearly 10 bucks. And I realized I still don’t care about wings, at least in the Buffalo style. Both the hot sauce and the ranch dressing delivered way too much salt per bite for yours truly. I cede the field to others.

VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: None in the burger category, but the extensive menu offers customizable baked potatoes and salads, including a Caesar and a dinner salad that comes with house-made dressings like blue cheese, ranch or Thousand Island.

LOCAL COLOR: Screens, screens, and more screens, all with soccer or basketball or hockey or talking sportscaster heads. On one wall hung a digital screen the approximate size of my kitchen.

Also: guys, guys, and more guys. Like the lunch scene at Pizzitola’s a few weeks back, everyone in view except me and a staffer was male.

To my delight, a couple of security guards picking up their lunches engaged in a good-natured Alphonse and Gaston routine involving who had the ranch and who had the blue cheese with their wing order.

The next customer after me pulled up in a black Jaguar that gave my little dented Kia a case of insecurity. Poor thing still hasn’t gotten over it.

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Burger Friday: Alison Cook finds an unexpectedly good chili cheeseburger at Big City Wings