Papa's has made a couple best burgers lists. The Bur-gal and I called up our friends Al and Karen who are always willing to make a drive for a good eating experience. On a chilly November night, we headed to the westside to eat at Papa's.
Service and Setting
The building isn't much to look at from the outside. In fact, their decorated yellow school buses part of Papa's World Tour catering is more of a distinguishing feature than the building. I can't pretend that the place doesn't have its idiosyncrasies to say the least. You walk in to immediately face the ordering counter, but you have to do a 180 so see the menu behind you. At the counter we were greeted by Papa's proud owner, Robert. He explained the menu and the house rules. He was friendly and the pride in his work comes through in the burger experience. Diners then have to exit out the front door and walk around to the outdoor seating area or through a second door for the attached dining room. Also, don't forget its cash only.
In addition to your standard burgers, they have chili, hot dogs, and array of grilled chicken sandwiches. There are some rare items like the shark tacos along some other tacos. Burgers are 1/3 pounders and can be dressed in a number of ways including chili, jalapeno, grilled onions, mushrooms and a good selection of cheeses. Bargain prices with the original hamburger starting at $6. Dressed up and combining fries and a drink will run $10-12.
Canned standard soft drinks along with some bottled Mexican Coke, Root Beers, and ***Jaritos? BYOB.
Fries, tots and rings can accompany the burger. Everyone at the table got fries. Unfortunately, they were the weakest part of the meal. Standard crinkle cut that came seasoned with salt and pepper. They certainly weren't fresh cut, and the seasoning left room for improvement. Also, they only have ketchup packets which forces one to stop and tear open a new one every third fry to squeeze out another dollop of ketchup.
One of Papa's house rules is that the first bite is how Papa intended it - seasoned and dressed how he made it in the kitchen. After that first bite, he condones condiments to be added. He boasts that 9/10 people will eat the burger without condiments because the flavor is in the seasoning and the meat. He is absolutely correct. It was a juicy, delicious, savory, and perfectly seasoned burger. It left nothing to be desired except another burger. When I returned to the counter for a second round, he convinced me to order the Machete Chicken sandwich with grilled jalapeños. It too was very good, but I would have rather had another burger.
Dress and Bun
The bun is almost as integral to the success of this burger as the meat. It is fresh baked and airy with a hint of sweetness like a Hawaiian roll. It went well with each of the specialty burgers and the extra chicken sandwich ordered at the table. I had the chili burger with shredded cheese and grilled onions. I think Robert said that they grill the chili before putting it on the burger for a little extra flavor. It was lick-your-plate delicious. The produce on the original burger looks hand picked at HEB that morning, because it was.
Papa's is easily among the best burgers in San Antonio, if not an even wider scope. They do the basic things right with well-seasoned meat and a good fresh bun, and then put it over the top with unique touches like grilled jalapenos and shark tacos. This burger is worth driving from out of town to come eat, and I'm sure Papa's is due to father more expansions. My highest recommendation - 5 Spurs.