Best Burger in Houston Search: The Petrol Station

The petrol Station is the second stop on my quest to find the best burger in Houston. I have been hitting some new places and some old favorites this summer, and the reviews are on their way.

The Petrol Station opened in 2007, and the converted neighborhood gas station is a dive in all the best ways. The setting is nothing fancy. There are some picnic  tables on the front porch and in the back yard of the bar.  The beers are where the Petrol Station gets fancy—they have over 30 craft beers on tap. That was a big deal when they opened in 2007. Now there are lots of bars with massive numbers of beers on tap, but the Petrol Station has such a great ambiance, and a hand picked selection of great beers, that it is still special despite all of the competition. I had been to the bar for beers after work, but I had never tried the food until recently. What a mistake that was.

Enter the Rancor

If you are a Star Wars nerd like I am, you know exactly what a Rancor is. For the rest of you, it was the big scary looking monster that Luke Skywalker had to fight in Jabba the Hut’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. When I saw that the Petrol Station had a burger on their menu called the Rancor I  pretty much didn’t see anything else after that. Any burger with a namesake like the Rancor has to be good. Here’s the description: Half pound organic, grass-fed beef, bacon, cheddar, more bacon, swiss, sunny-side up egg, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and mayo. Bring it on, Rancor.

Grass-Fed beef

From a paleo perspective, I was happy to see the beef was organic and grass-fed. So what’s the big deal with grass fed beef?  You are probably thinking all beef is grass-fed. That’s what cows eat right? We’ll it’s  what cows are supposed to eat. Cows are ruminants, meaning they can digest course vegetation, like grass, that other mammals can’t digest. So, if they were made to eat grass, why do most cattle raised in the the United States eat grains their whole lives? First off, grains are more calorie-dense than grass, so just like people, cows put on weight faster when they have a heavy diet of  grains like corn. That means ranchers can take the cows to market faster. Faster to market means cheaper for the rancher, and they pass that savings on to the consumer, so it makes meat more affordable to you and me. Also, people like the taste of grain-fed beef because grain makes the cows fatter, just like it does humans, which produces that beautiful marbling you love so much in your steak.

So if grain-fed beef is less expensive and tastes great, why worry about eating grass-fed  beef? Well, the are a few reasons. Grass-fed beef is way more nutritious than grain-fed. According to Paleo Leap, it contains nutrients you can’t find in grain-fed beef like:

  • Conjugated linoleic acid, a fat that prevents weight gain,
  • Omega-3 fats, those are the good ones your doctor wants you to have
  • Vitamin K2, important for heart health
  • More antioxidants, especially Vitamin E

Another reason to choose grass-fed is that it is better for the animals. Most cows raised for food in the US live in large filthy barns that crowd way too many animals in way too small of a space. I won’t get into the ethics of eating meat on this site, especially in a hamburger restaurant review, but there is no doubt in my mind that cattle raised in a pasture eating grass until they are ready for market is a way more natural and humane way for them to live than being cooped up in a factory farm their entire lives. I am a confirmed carnivore, so don’t worry that I’m turning into a vegan on you. I just prefer to eat ethically raised meat when I can.

The meal

The rancor delivers on its monstrous name. Of course I ordered mine bunless as usual. Many times when you go bunless, your burger is much smaller than it would be otherwise, but this is a big burger. I also substituted a side salad instead of the fries to keep my carb count down. The first thing that struck me about the Rancor was how thick the patty was. It was close to two inches thick. See the image below. I really like thick burgers because you can keep the center of the burger pink and juicy while still searing the outside.

The super thick Rancor Burger at the Petrol Station.

The sunny side up egg was a great touch. As I mentioned earlier, grass-fed beef contains less fat than grain-fed beef, so the yolk of the egg made a great sauce that moistened the patty. The bacon was another amazing touch. They use thick cut bacon, and then melt a generous slice of cheddar cheese on it, then they add another layer of bacon and then melt swiss cheese on top of that. The cheese and bacon all sticks together to form a crown on top of the burger. Even the greens they put on the Rancor are good. No wilted ice burg here. There was a nice mix of baby arugula, romain, tomatoes and onions, or maybe that was from my side salad. Either way, it paired really well with the monstrous burger. And yes, I eat the whole thing.

The verdict

The Rancor is truly a great burger. I wasn’t sure that a place known more for beer than for food would be a serious contender, but the Petrol Station nailed it. I never thought that I would say that a $13 hamburger was a good buy, but The Rancor is huge and loaded with lots of first-class ingredients, and you get your money’s worth for sure. We may have a new leader in my search for Houston’s best burger. Luke Skywalker may have defeated the Rancor in Return of the Jedi, but we’ll have to wait and see if any of Houston’s other eateries can defeat the Rancor to win the title of Best Paleo Burger in Houston.

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