Sitting in solitary splendor on the roof deck at Burger Bodega, I felt like the queen of all I surveyed. The sun was setting over Washington Avenue. Vintage Houston hip-hop issued from hidden speakers. And that was before I sank my teeth into the year’s most exciting new Houston burger: a smashed-patty marvel of edges so frizzly they cascaded from the bun like some fractal waterfall.
I enjoyed every single thing about that first visit to chef and Instagram influencer Abbas Dhanani’s vision of a modern burger shack. That expertly calibrated double-double cheeseburger, a textural marvel. The beefy aroma that greeted me on the sidewalk. The amusing signage (“Hot Takes for Sale”). The chrome yellow chairs beneath scallops of canvas awning.
I end up feeling buoyant whenever I eat at this young modern Israeli restaurant from the brain trust at Doris Metropolitan. That was especially true when I dined there with a couple of good friends I hadn’t seen in too long. The more the merrier here, the better to graze through a flock of the vivid little dips and salads called salatim, calling for yet another round of pillowy pita orbs hot from the wood oven.
Then you can go on to more, and more, and more. A soft swoon of whole Baladi Eggplant, set off by tahini, pine nuts, tomato and parsley. A drop-dead tenderloin skewer basted with z’aatar sumac butter. A masterfully executed whole grilled branzino, subtly smoky from a final brief turn in the Josper oven, set astride a sparkling fennel salad.
There’s a final good reason to dine here with friends: that way you can share a bottle of rosé from the revered Chateau Musar family winery in the Bekaa Valley. It’s as striking as Hamsa’s food.
And oh, those essence-of-Houston milkshakes — Vietnamese coffee and mango lassi flavors, each made with local ice cream. All served up in a joyful, street-arty room with the kind of customer care that’s rare in a semi-serve joint.
By Alison Cook