Tyler Morning Telegraph readers were asked to name their favorite place for a burger and also tell what topping had to go on that burger. The overwhelming winner of favorite East Texas burger was Jucys with 43 percent of the vote. Specifically, many readers indicated it had to be the Jucys on 5th Street in Tyler.
Dennis Moreau, manager of the 5th Street Jucys, was thrilled by the news and almost speechless.
“I knew people liked us, but I didn't realize they liked us that much.” Moreau said.
Jucys has five locations, two in Tyler, one in Marshall and two in Longview. The location on Marshall Ave. in Longview is the original location and was opened in 1980.
The second most popular choice was a burger cooked at home. Many who responded agreed that if they wanted the perfect burger they would cook it themselves with whatever method, meat, doneness and toppings they prefer.
Other establishments that received a considerable number of votes were Smashburger and The Blue Store in Noonday.
The only fast food restaurant that received votes was Whataburger.
The miscellaneous category received 12 percent of the vote and included a handful of votes for the following restaurants:
East Texas Burger Company in Mineola, The Butcher Shop in Longview, Chips Burger Palace in Palestine, Country Kettle in Frankston, Where's Rufus, What About Kabob, Chili's, Jalapeno Tree, Mooyah, Legends, Potpourri House, B.J.'s Brewhouse, The Shed in Edom, Coyote Sam's, Big Dog Grill during the East Texas Fair, Dairy Palace in Canton, Lake Tyler Grill and Cotton Patch.
Throughout East Texas, many of these establishments have faithful followers who have high opinions of the restaurants' abilities to create the ultimate burger.
Four of these legendary burgers were reviewed by various members of the Tyler Morning Telegraph editorial staff.
Where's Rufus Sports Bar, 6100 S. Broadway, Tyler
Can an element of surprise make a burger taste better? Part of me is convinced that's part of why I love the burgers at Where's Rufus? So much.
You see, I never expected to eat a burger at this particular sports bar. Heck, I didn't even know they served food. I'm guessing a good number of you reading this didn't either. But serve it they do, and you'll be hard-pressed to find another place in the area that offers up a better burger than the one found here.
So what makes this the king of burger hill? The reasons are many, so let's start like we would in building any good burger and move from the bottom up.
A good bun is essential. Only the meat is more important. But without a good bun, you're left with little to stand on. Rufus' bun is one of the deciding factors of making this a champion burger. Using a soft, sweet Hawaiian-style bun, it has just the right amount of thickness to it and the sweet undertones of the bread provide a welcome surprise the first time you take a bite. The chef also toasts the halves on a griddle for that extra bit of crispy perfection.
Here's the beef. Rufus touts a 1/2-pound patty for their burgers and it feels it. The burger has some definite heft to it. It's thick, but not too thick. It's juicy, but not to the point where your hands are soaked after every bite. There's a charred flavor to it, but it's not overpowering. It's all just right.
The toppings are where you give a burger its personality. The myriad options one can have at one's disposal can radically alter the flavor and texture of a burger, and Rufus has no shortage of options, ranging from cheddar or muenster cheeses to thick-cut bacon to chopped jalapenos to avocado to grilled pineapple slices. There are a couple of pre-set combinations which you can choose from, such as the Green Munster (with avocado, chopped jalapenos, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and muenster cheese), or you can create your own with the BYO Burger.
Personally, I like to keep it simple and go with bacon, cheddar cheese, mayo and barbecue sauce. Simple perfection.
I've eaten a lot of burgers around town and there are definitely some good ones. But the absolutely magnificent bun, perfectly seasoned and juicy meat and the wealth of toppings make this burger perfection. You won't find a better burger in Tyler.
Daniel Boone's Grill and Tavern, 1920 ESE Loop 323, Tyler
Daniel Boone's Grill and Tavern, an independent Tyler eatery in business for more than a decade, does two key things to make a great traditional burger with only a sprinkle of twists.
For starters, the patties, brought in from Dallas, are made from ground steak trimmings and never frozen. Secondly, prior to serving, the bun smartly goes atop the still-grilling patty after it is buttered and sent through the toaster, so steamy greasy goodness gets soaked into the bread. Congress should make the latter a law when it comes to America's No. 1 favorite food.
Customers can have their burger flat grilled or charbroiled.
Other than “secret” seasonings the namesake owner won't reveal, this anything-but-gourmet burger shines in its tasty simplicity, like the kind served up at a golf-course grill or neighborhood pool.
Between the patty's joyful juiciness and the bun's shiny sebaceousness, eating one of these babies is a multi-napkin affair at this eatery at 1920 ESE Loop 323 in the shopping center than once housed Albertson's.
And, yes, the owner's name really is Daniel Boone, who says his burgers are not only a menu-item favorite among customers but for him as well.
Chip's Burger Village, 908 W. Palestine Ave., Palestine
A good burger always tastes better with a serving of nostalgia on the side and Chip's Burger Village is the perfect place for both. As you pull into the parking lot you can tell this place has a history.
I have been driving past Chip's for more than 20 years on the way to College Station or Houston and never stopped. I was always curious but also in a hurry to get where I was going.
Inside and out, many parts of Chip's still show glimmers of 1963 when the restaurant was opened as The Burger Ranch by J.D. Dorman. The old neon sign and classic décor, along with the parking slots that used to be equipped with speakers are still reminiscent of an old-fashioned drive-in.
Becky Wolfe, Mr. Dorman's daughter, remembers working with her family to open The Burger Ranch. Her parents had been in the restaurant industry in Beaumont when he decided to move his family to Palestine. He grew up in Jacksonville and was eager to raise his family in the East Texas area.
Mrs. Wolfe began helping in the family restaurant when she was three years old and is just as busy now as she was then. The Dorman-Wolfe family has been prominent members of the restaurant industry in Palestine for almost 50 years.
She currently operates Oxbow Bakery and her husband, Chip (the namesake for Chip's Burger Village) and son, David own and manage several restaurant properties in Palestine.
The restaurant has changed hands many times over the years and eventually came back into the family as a pizza place called Mario's and then changed back into a burger place when it was renamed as Chip's Burger Village.
“That is why the chef on the sign looks like he's holding a pizza,” Mrs. Wolfe said. “It was a pizza before we tried to turn it into a burger.”
The restaurant is currently operated by David and Patti Walling who are just as dedicated as the Wolfes at keeping the tradition of the place alive. Well-known for their burgers, malts and seasoned fries, they also have just as big of a following for their taco salads.
“When I was in high school, many moons ago, I remember hearing all about how good the taco salads were,” Mrs. Walling said. “We have continued that tradition all these years later and people who eat here know they can find a delicious taco salad.”
They've been voted best hamburger and best fast food restaurant for several years in the Palestine Herald Press and plan to keep that tradition alive for many years to come.
Their half-pound burgers come on a toasted bun and can be ordered as a plain hamburger, cheeseburger, chili cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger or cheddar-jalapeño burger. And be sure to try the dirty fries or onion rings. Finish things out with an icy Coke or an old-fashioned malt.
I can't believe I spent all those years driving past Chip's and never stopped. I had no idea what I was missing. And now that I've discovered their burger I can't wait to try the taco salad.
Chip's is open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner.
The Butcher Shop, 102 LeHigh Street, Longview
Walking into The Butcher Shop is a special treat for the senses. The smell of freshly baked desserts and bread, along with the sizzling burgers on the grill only hint at the marvelous tastes to come in this neighborhood eatery.
Although the best burger in East Texas is a highly personal decision, the place that gets my vote every time is The Butcher Shop on LeHigh Street. It starts with an all-beef patty from their own full-service meat market (where customers can purchase meat) on a large homemade bun (made in-store).
The restaurant features a fixings bar, where customers can pile as many toppings on their burger as they want, including homemade chili, jalapenos, pico de gallo and shredded cheese. The bar also features homemade beans.
Biting into the bacon swiss cheeseburger piled high with fresh vegetables was a superb experience, with just the right amount of beef, goodies and bun together in one bite. And the fries are a nice, crispy golden brown.
The restaurant, which is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., features a full-service bakery, which makes wedding cakes, petits fours, cinnamon rolls and other baked goods for special occasions.