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Burger Friday: Cowboy Tacos and Burgers serve an old-school Texas classic in Conroe

Burger Friday: Cowboy Tacos and Burgers serve an old-school Texas classic in Conroe

January 14, 2022
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The half-pound Cowboy Burger at Cowboy Tacos and Burgers in Conroe I crossed the West Fork of the San Jacinto River — running low, the color of milky coffee — to get to this week’s Burger Friday destination. Turns out my field trip to Cowboy Tacos and Burgers , […]

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The half-pound Cowboy Burger at Cowboy Tacos and Burgers in Conroe

I crossed the West Fork of the San Jacinto River — running low, the color of milky coffee — to get to this week’s Burger Friday destination. Turns out my field trip to Cowboy Tacos and Burgers, a food truck in the rural outskirts of Conroe, was just the travel adventure I needed.

This quirky outdoor dining compound, set before a ragtag autoyard and body shop, was the furthest I had ventured from home since a trip to Chicago in June. As it has for many, the pandemic has shrunk my horizons. It felt exhilarating to explore some country backroads again.

And I was charmed by my whole experience at Cowboy Tacos and Burgers, from the moment I greeted the resident calico cat — a calm, regal presence perched at the edge of the paved patio that fronts the bright red food truck. Umbrella-shaded picnic tables filled a grassy yard, and along the split rail fencing, children’s toys in pastel plastic made an impromptu playground.

It must have fallen below freezing up here in Montgomery County last week, because two bushy banana plants along the perimeter were edged in brown. Somebody had lit a fire in the home-made brick firepit to keep warm.

“One nation under God,” read the bumper stickers affixed to the soda cooler out front; and to the giant wrecker truck parked to one side; and to the sepulchral, matte-black schoolbus that blocked off the auto-repair operation. In an open garage, I glimpsed a car hoisted high on a hydraulic lift, unattended.

The welcome was friendly. And let me tell you about the burger and the fries.

PRICE: $12 for the half-pound Cowboy Burger with cheese, hand-cut fries and a soft drink. (An apologetic note taped to the window noted that they had had to raise their prices recently. Previously, the Cowboy Burger meal had been $10.99.)

ORDERING: Step up to the window to place your order; or you can call it in or order online. They’ll call your name when it’s ready. I came in mid-afternoon, when business was slow, so there was just enough wait time to soak up my surroundings. But this is not fast food — it’s like somebody cooking for you at their house — so best not to be in a hurry if you’re coming at a busier time.

ARCHITECTURE: On a sprawling toasted bun go squirts of mustard, mayo, ketchup and the free “spicy sauce” I had requested. (It resembles a thin red hot sauce, a la Crystal, but more fiery.) Then comes an inch-thick beef patty, a coat of melted American cheese, a thick furry of neatly chopped raw onion, a couple of tomato slices and some broad leaves of Romaine lettuce. On the top bun, more squiggles of mustard, mayo, ketchup and hot sauce.

QUALITY: The Cowboy is a fine example of an old school Texas country-store burger, with a coarsely ground beef patty so colossal it’s a little jaw-dropping.

The “half-pound” promise seems only a loose guideline; I could only consume half this monster in one sitting, and the half I took home weighed in at 2/3 of a pound. Do the math. Even counting bread and tomatoes, that’s a lot of meat.

My favorite things about this burger were its hot-off-the griddle freshness and tight sear; the crunch of those little squares of raw onion and romaine; and the way the soaring current of hot sauce gave a caballero touch to the favor profile. Puro Tejas, as they say.

OOZE RATING: The patty may have been well done, but it had plenty of juice, some of which seeped out into the paper towel I used to cradle the burger half.

LETTER GRADE: Solid B plus.

VALUE: Nice for the whomping size, along with the serious fries and an ice-cold Dr. Pepper straight from the cooler.

VEGETARIAN OPTION: No.

BONUS POINTS: The skinny, skins-on fries here are hand-cut and fried to order. I loved the variation in texture from crisp to soft to slightly glazed in places. Tasted homemade.

Not to mention that while I generally don’t drink soda, that first cold swig of Dr. Pepper was like nectar.

LOCAL COLOR: Cowboy sits at the head of a bosky community of mobile homes, many of them moored to foundations and heavily customized. Most everyone who arrived from the highway while I was there drove trucks, and my little Kia stuck out like a sore thumb. Yet I never felt out of place in this unassuming compound. Just being there, many miles away from home, did me good.

alison.cook@chron.com

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Texas

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