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Lankford Grocery

88 Dennis St., Houston, TX - (713) 522-9555
Posted By Michael Stern on 4/28/2014 6:25:00 AM
The Lankford Cafe has the lumpiest upholstered booths in which we've ever tried to get comfortable. And it also has one of the most uneven wooden floors in any place to eat. Tables are covered with vintage rose-pattern oilcloth and the plastic that covers menus is peeling off the ancient paper documents like skin off salted peanuts. Condiments are set out in cardboard beer totes; in lieu of napkins you get a roll of paper towels. When the staff is busy, it would be appreciated if you got up and helped yourself to refills of coffee, which is served in a bunch of mismatched mugs that are souvenirs of the Austin Museum of Art, New York City, and K-Lite radio. We got ours in a mug that declared, "After 50 Gravity Takes Over."

Is it apparent yet that we love this place? If not, let us describe the hamburger. It is Houston's best – and that's saying a lot in the city such high hamburger consciousness. Each patty is a gnarled, uneven circle with crunch to its crust and juices that ooze the moment that crust is severed. It is deliciously beefy – not an effete gourmet burger, but neither a skinny lunch-counter patty. It is improved by American cheese on top, and even better than that with a layer of thick, crunchy bacon strips; and for those of unlimited appetite, there are double meat patties and even triple meat patties. Just after having breakfast at the Lankford Cafe, we ordered a triple meat bacon cheeseburger, and our waiter broke out into a big grin. "It's hard to keep a straight face when someone thinks they're going to eat one of those," he said.

Needless to say, there was no way we could eat it. Not only because our appetite had vanished from beautiful plates of chilaquiles (a Mexican casserole of cheese, hot salsa, and strips of tortilla topped with three fried eggs) and French toast with bacon, but because there is quite literally, NO WAY TO EAT IT. It can barely be hoisted in two hands; and no human could put any significant section of it between his or her jaws. We consulted with the staff, as well as with several customers at nearby tables who were enjoying the presentation of the triple, and they all said that the only way to go at it was with fingers, knife, and fork, tearing off portions as you go.

By the way, there are a few other items on the menu – grilled cheese, ham sandwich, some Mexican specials – and breakfasts are excellent, especially on Saturday when fresh, hot biscuits are served with sausage gravy. But on the menu, under the heading "Appetizers" is this proclamation: "We ain't got none." It is hamburgers that has put this infinitely charming out-of-the-way former grocery store on Houston's good-eats Roadfood map.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Triple Bacon Cheeseburger
Chilaquiles
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Size matters when it comes to this triple bacon cheeseburger, but what's really important is that the meat patties upon which it's built are wonderful: hand-formed patties sizzled to crusty succulence. And it doesn't hurt that the bun is impeccably fresh and the condiments are applied with abandon.
"Size matters when it comes to this triple bacon cheeseburger, but what's really important is that the meat patties upon which it's built are wonderful: hand-formed patties sizzled to crusty succulence. And it doesn't hurt that the bun is impeccably fresh and the condiments are applied with abandon."
Michael Stern





Chilaquiles: a Tex-Mex breakfast casserole of salsa, hot peppers, fried tortilla strips, and cheese, topped with three eggs. The texture of the tortilla strips is magic, some soft and mushy, others chewy in parts and crisp at the edges. And that heap of bacon on the left is a single order.
"Chilaquiles: a Tex-Mex breakfast casserole of salsa, hot peppers, fried tortilla strips, and cheese, topped with three eggs. The texture of the tortilla strips is magic, some soft and mushy, others chewy in parts and crisp at the edges. And that heap of bacon on the left is a single order."
Michael Stern


Lankford's is a very relaxed place where regular customers come to chat as well as to eat. Regulars get up and help themselves to coffee refills.
"Lankford's is a very relaxed place where regular customers come to chat as well as to eat. Regulars get up and help themselves to coffee refills."
Michael Stern


Lankford's started serving meals in 1977, but the Lankford family opened it as a grocery store in 1940.
"Lankford's started serving meals in 1977, but the Lankford family opened it as a grocery store in 1940."
Michael Stern


Coffee is served in mismatched mugs acquired from virtually everywhere in America. This one is from a local radio station. Jane's mug was a souvenir of New York City.
"Coffee is served in mismatched mugs acquired from virtually everywhere in America. This one is from a local radio station. Jane's mug was a souvenir of New York City."
Michael Stern


Good ol' American French toast: just waiting for a spill of syrup
"Good ol' American French toast: just waiting for a spill of syrup"
Michael Stern


Outdoor dining is a pleasure at Lankford's.
"Outdoor dining is a pleasure at Lankford's."
Michael Stern


There aren't any other businesses near Lankford's, which is surrounded by town houses and apartments. Groceries are no longer available, just breakfast and lunch.
"There aren't any other businesses near Lankford's, which is surrounded by town houses and apartments. Groceries are no longer available, just breakfast and lunch."
Michael Stern


Condiments are organized in cardboard beer totes. In lieu of napkins, every table is outfitted with a roll of paper towels.
"Condiments are organized in cardboard beer totes. In lieu of napkins, every table is outfitted with a roll of paper towels."
Michael Stern


Here I am trying to at least hoist a triple bacon cheeseburger off the wrapper in which it is served. I gnawed at it plenty and still had at least a meal's worth of leftovers to take away. Jimmy Lankford told us that one customer,
"Here I am trying to at least hoist a triple bacon cheeseburger off the wrapper in which it is served. I gnawed at it plenty and still had at least a meal's worth of leftovers to take away. Jimmy Lankford told us that one customer, "a really big guy," ate three double meat cheeseburgers in a single sitting!"
Michael Stern



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