Review # 40 - Joe's Hamburger Place

Posted by Hamburglar | | Posted On Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 8:52 PM

We have been to a ton of burger joints in San Antonio on our quest for the best burger in town, but of all the places we have been, Joe’s is unlike anything we have experienced before. In fact, it may have been one of our favorite burger joint experiences yet.

Joe’s is a strictly “word of mouth” burger joint, and by” word of mouth” we mean that you might not find the place if someone doesn’t tell you where it is located. As you can see in the picture above, Joe’s sits in a building that has no signage and provides no indication that it is a burger joint. Rest assured, our job at the San Antonio Burger Blog is to get the word out about the locations of all of San Antonio’s burger joints, but we think part of the allure of Joe’s is that it is a bit of a mystery to find. So in keeping with the mystery, instead of providing the exact address for Joe’s, we’re only giving you the cross streets in the picture below and the building picture above. We’re confident that you’ll be able to use your sleuthing skills to solve the mystery and experience Joe’s for yourself.

The best part about the Joe’s experience is the owner Phyllis. Phyllis runs the show – she takes the orders, cooks the burgers and rings up the sales, all while stating what’s on her mind to the lucky customers at the 6 seat counter. When we walked in, she said: “What are you boys looking for - trouble?” When we replied “no,” she countered with “Well, I am.” Phyllis is like a curmudgeonly old grandmother that you love to be around because she flat out tells it like it is. We’ll sprinkle this review with some of her quotes from our recent visit - what we shall refer to as “Phyllisisms.”

An insider tip – if Phyllis doesn’t feel like opening up shop, then the place is closed for the day. So, if you call ahead you can save yourself a wasted trip if the place is closed. The number is (210) 733-0542, but I wouldn’t recommend asking too many questions or you might get a brash response. When we watched a customer try to come in the wrong door (which was locked), Phyllis said “If they can’t figure out how to get in the door, then I tell them to go away.” Another excited patron told Phyllis he had brought friends from Austin for a burger for their first time - her response: “Tell them to leave.”

The Burger - 7 out of 10

Ever wonder if your burger patty is fresh or if it is of the pre-made and pre-frozen variety? Well, at Joe’s there is no question, it’s made fresh. Have a seat at the counter and Phyllis will ask: “What are you having, honey?” The correct response, by the way, is a small or large burger. Next, Phyllis reaches under the counter and grabs a handful of ground beef and throws it on a well seasoned, antique griddle right there in front of you. There are very few burger joints anymore that offer patrons an opportunity to have a front row seat at the birth of their burgers, and we found it refreshing and nostalgic.

As for the burger, it was moist, hot, appropriately seasoned and flavored with Phyllis’ secret sauce. The toppings are basic and few (no lettuce, tomato or pickles), but we found this to be consistent with Joe’s simple theme. As for the secret sauce, we think it was a nice addition to the burger and gave it a unique flavor. When we questioned Phyllis about the ingredients in the secret sauce (which sits in a pot on the griddle and is ladled on your patty after it is cooked), she replied: “There’s only one other person who knows the secret sauce, and she’s a kid in Seattle. Not even my daughter knows.” Clearly, some secrets run deep. And given how the burger seemed to settle into our stomachs for the rest of the afternoon, we’re not sure we want to know the secret. Here’s what some of my fellow bloggers had to say:

Fry Daddy: Joe’s burgers were served fresh, moist and piping hot, and even though they may not win in a blind taste test of San Antonio burgers, watching Phyllis make the burgers – literally – by hand and cook them on the antique griddle in this tiny little burger shack that time forgot easily ranks as one of the most memorable burger experiences of my life.

Burgermeister on the Burger: This is how burgers should be made. Grab a handful of ground beef. Throw it on the griddle and squash it down with a spatula (or your hand). Throw some onions on for taste, slosh it with special sauce, wrap it in white paper and drop it on the counter in front of the patron.

Sides – N/A

Your options for sides are a bag of Fritos or a bag of Tom’s Potato Chips. We opted for a second large burger in lieu of a side and we weren’t disappointed.

Ambiance and Service – 8 out of 10

Really, how do you rate a place like this for ambiance? It’s definitely not the nicest of places, and there is a bit of clutter around on the inside, but this small intimate burger shack won us over. It was like going to your grandmother’s house and having her cook you a burger and chat with you about politics, taxes and the good old days, and when you leave you crack up thinking about some of the off-color comments that she made. Comments like, “I didn’t vote for your President.” Or, “I think Ann Coulter is funny.” You won’t find that at any other burger joint in town, we guarantee.

Fry Daddy on Ambiance: Most burger joints try to come off as being authentic and non-commercial, but Joe’s is the real deal. Phyllis is the real deal, too. I wish I could adopt her as my grandmother, if only so she could make me a sack of hot hamburgers for lunch every day, along with a hearty helping of liberal bashing.

Burgermeister on Ambience – If ambience means that a burger joint should be on your “bucket” list, then Joe’s should get a ‘10’. And by the looks of most of the clientele, they are getting there
just in time. Also, I give the ambience a ‘10” because she had Rush Limbaugh on the radio. No pinko commie liberals in this place.

Price - Excellent

We ordered 8 large cheeseburgers, 4 bags of chips and 4 sodas and we were shocked at the price – 15 bucks total. Now, that’s hard to beat. As for our receipt, Phyllis wrote it down on the countertop in front of us, which was a first for us.

In sum, if you are looking for a burger experience unlike any you have had before, head over to Joe’s and order a large cheeseburger with a side of Phyllisisms. We think you’ll be glad you did. Did we mention that Phyllis is grandmotherly? Meaning, when she decides to close up shop for good, this unique San Antonio burger joint will be gone. Grab a burger before you miss the opportunity.

On a side note - it has been reported in the comment section to our Suzy Q's post that one of our lady readers experienced her first "Burgasm" after reading our review of Chris Madrid's. All we have to say is, finally!


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