Many questions have plagued mankind throughout its existence. Always at the forefront of philosophy, we ask questions like, “Why are we here?,” “Where did we come from?” and “What is the purpose of life?” Cursed with curiosity, mankind has searched for countless answers to countless questions. Finally, after thousands of years of unexplainable questions, as a species we are one step closer to revealing the truth about the ultimate question: What is the best burger in Wichita Falls?
The hunt for answers has led to five mom-and-pop locations throughout the city: Ronnie’s Burgers, Scott’s Drive-in, Gene’s Tasty Burger, Pat’s Drive-inn and Willie’s Place in a search for the best burger in town.
TASTERS — Stephen Wright, English senior; Shay Finley, born and raised Wichita Falls native; and myself, Taylor Morrison.
RATING — A burger could earn up to 10 points each on three topics: vegetables, patty and bread.
THE WINNER: Pat’s Drive-Inn:
Pat’s sits alone on a corner in downtown Wichita Falls. It’s located on Scott Street, just across from the city’s bus station. Pat’s is a little peculiar in-name for two reasons. One, the name is spelled drive-inn, with two n’s, as in a hotel, or lodge. Two, Pat’s isn’t a drive-in at all, there is a drive-thru and a dining room inside, but no drive-in intercoms or parking spots.
The taste testers arrived at Pat’s and elected to sit in a booth, as opposed to bar top, which is set up in a classic diner fashion. Our waitress suggested we try The Porker, which is a standard cheeseburger with a piece of grilled ham sitting nestled between the patty and the top bun. In a standard, recurring fashion, the burger was otherwise topped with lettuce, onion and tomato.
Finley: The bun is grilled, like grilled way more than the others.
Wright: Yeah, I like that, but, again, my veg is falling out everywhere. And I can’t really taste the ham.
Finley: Yeah, if I didn’t know there was ham on the burger, I would just assume it was thick, chewy bacon.
Morrison: You guys are crazy. The ham tastes awesome, and the beef patty is a bit thicker than Gene’s.
Wright: I agree with the patty being thicker, I agree with bun being better grilled, but I can’t taste the ham at all. I think the overall quality is the best so far, but that has nothing to do with the ham.
Note: Sadly for Willie’s, the tasting team lost a key member of its entourage. Stephen Wright had to step away from our screening of burgers for physiological reasons. He was not alone in his fleeting health. Five burgers in three hours takes its toll on even the most seasoned of carnivores. Stephen, if you’re reading this, it means you have not succumbed to your stomach ache, you need to know we hold no grudge, and look forward to our next outing for, “The best in Wichita Falls.”
Willie’s shares location features similar to Gene’s. The restaurant is located at the bottom of the Beverly Drive hill and 10th Street, every road to it goes through some form of residential area. Across the street to the east is a row of buildings that have seen better days. They now sit mostly empty, with a coin dealer and slot car racing center being the most predominant businesses in the strip.
Inside Willie’s there are only four tables. The walls are adorned with old tin signs, license plates, and mounted deer heads. Arriving at roughly 5 o’clock, the start of the dinner rush, the line was longer than the other restaurants, customers filled the seats, and we were forced to take our meal outside.
When asked what the best burger was, we were given multiple, and we soon understood that we would have to pick one of our own, so if that makes Willie’s a bias example, I apologize. One of the top answers given, of the many, was the Onion Burger. Without reading the menu and just hearing the name there was interest between the tasting team, and it was agreed that the Onion Burger will go under scrutiny; but more importantly, in our stomachs.
The Onion Burger, to complete a core competency, was dressed standard. Yes, again, lettuce, onion, tomato and pickle. What makes the Onion Burger standout however, is the char on the burger, and the grill on the onions. The onions are grilled in mustard.
Finley: They actually grilled the onions, which shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s the first time to happen today.
Morrison: And they grilled them well, it’s not just a caramelized onion, it’s fried in mustard so the favor is super deep and tangy. And the crust is the best today, hands down.
Finley: Oh yeah, no doubt, best char of the day. I would eat this burger every day.
Morrison: The veg doesn’t fall out either, and that’s huge, because we have had that happen a few times today.
Finley: The best note to end on, this place is 10/10 for me.
Scott’s is nothing more than a shack situated on Old Jacksboro Highway, painted blue, and surrounded by a buffer of intercoms to order from. It is the type of location that if you weren’t looking for it, you would completely pass it by. At 2:30 in the afternoon we pulled into a space as the third customer in the lot. Inside it appeared to be a single employee, taking orders, cooking, and running food to the vehicles outside. The majority of the 20 intercoms lay vacant for the entirety of our meal.
Once again, we asked the person taking our order what the most popular burger at the restaurant was. This time, the straight-forward answer we received from the previous location was not supplied.
“Well, people order all of them,” the man on the intercom assured us.
After a fair amount of poking and prodding, we were finally able to get an actual menu item by name, and naturally, it is what we decided to order.
“A lot of people get the Cowboy Burger, it sells pretty good,” the employee said, “Most people get it as double.”
Seeing clearly that he was trying to upsell the burger, we decided to indulge the man. We ordered a double Cowboy Burger. The Cowboy Burger comes dressed standard, again with tomato, lettuce and onion, but, it also comes topped with bacon, jalapenos, barbeque sauce and onion rings.
Morrison: Oh my god, this burger is what I’ve been missing, the barbeque and the onion ring kill it.
Wright: I dig it, I don’t really like onion rings, but it works. There’s a spiciness to it, quite a bit of jalapenos, but it’s not too much.
Finely: But there’s also raw onion on it, like double onion, and I think it could do without that.
Wright: It’s a little redundant. They did a good job with it, but it’s nothing mind blowing. Kind of like, I could get it from anywhere.
Finley: It reminds me of a way better quality version of a Rodeo Burger from Burger King.
Morrison: I think the bacon has a good crisp, it’s not soggy like it at other places.
Finley: Oh yeah, terrific bacon. I’m not disappointed with this burger at all.
Ronnie’s is a small burger place located in a strip mall on Midwestern Parkway. The storefront is hidden snuggly somewhere between a nail salon and a Little Caesar’s Pizza. The restaurant is narrow, maybe twenty-feet across, with a maze of no more than 25 tables between the entryway and the register at the back of the room.
We prompted the employee at the register with the question of what burger sells best at the restaurant. After a few moments the clerk said the Frisco Burger is among the most popular. After a slight misunderstanding as to what our order number was, we finally received our burger.
Note: At Ronnie’s Burger you receive both a printed receipt with an order number, and the stub of a hand-written receipt with a separate, different order number. The number that corresponds to the order is the stub of the written receipt. Learn from our mistake.
For those who don’t know, and to save the suspense, a Frisco Burger is a just a cheeseburger with chili on it. Ronnie’s Frisco Burger comes dressed in the standard fashion, with sliced tomato, diced onion, shredded lettuce and pickle. The top bun has the slightest smear of mustard.
Wright: I’m usually a guy that likes a plain burger, but the way all the ingredients come together really makes it bearable for me. Especially the chili, and I thought chili on a burger would be weird.
Finley: It’s good, right? I think the chili could be better, and it makes the bun a soggy, but as a whole it’s pretty good. I would definitely get it without veggies next time.
Morrison: I’d agree, I don’t usually like to mix fresh veg with chili, but I think the tomato kind of becomes part of the chili.
Finley: I love the patty though, it doesn’t taste like the regular frozen patty you would get at a burger place.
Morrison: I like the crust on the patty, the little crispy bits where they let it char really comes through to me.
Wright: All in all it’s a pretty quality burger, I would definitely give it a solid seven.
Gene’s Tasty Burger:
Gene’s is the hardest to find of all the mom and pop joints on this list. It’s located off Old Jacksboro Highway, on Holliday Road, a street just across from the Dog Patch neighborhood, home to Wichita Falls Flea Market, and otherwise classified as a residential area. Broken, dilapidated buildings surround Gene’s. The amount of shattered glass and boarded-up windows outnumbered the amount of windows still intact on the street. As we pulled into the lot, two men walked by shirtless, laughing loudly in the street. This is not where you would imagine a restaurant to be.
Walking into Gene’s, you immediately come across the kitchen on the left, openly visible, with the sound of burger grease spitting on the flat top. To the right is the dining area, not able to seat many more than the aforementioned Ronnie’s, only here the tables are claustrophobically placed side-by-side. If you aren’t lucky enough to get a booth seat, be prepared to become very friendly with the patrons on the table next to you.
The bacon cheeseburger we ordered, on recommendation of the waitress, had the least awe-inspiring look of the day. It also comes standardly dressed, again with mustard, onion, lettuce and tomato.
Wright: A lot of veggies on this one, a lot more than the last two. The pickle comes through a little more.
Morrison: And mustard too, it’s not hiding from me as much as the other two.
Wright: A lot of veg though, like, so much it’s falling out the back of the burger.
Finley: The patty has a good crisp on it though; kind of like you were saying about Ronnie’s, the crispy bits are really tasty.
Wright: The bacon is good. It’s not soggy, but it’s not as crispy as Scott’s. I really like it.
The burger doesn’t look that good, it actually looks pretty bad, with the vegetables falling out, and the way it’s just kind of thrown together, but it’s really well prepared. It might be my favorite so far.
Finley: Disagree, it’s good, but it’s not great.
After tallying the numbers, Pat’s Drive-inn is the overall winner for this round of “Best in Wichita Falls.” The grilled bun is what really set it apart from the competition according to Stephen Wright.
“The fact they grilled really set the bun over the top. Everyone else just put ingredients on a bun and served, but Pat’s actually did something with it,” Wright said.
Even though the score has set a measurable standard for most-to-least favored, each individual taster had their own top pick.
Wright highly favored Gene’s, “I know it scored the least, but personal taste isn’t determined by a score, so I really think Gene’s was my favorite spot for today.”
Finley also didn’t agree with the majority winner.
“Willie’s Place was the best. It scored second, but that doesn’t change the fact that Willie’s is the best,” Finley said.
Finally, personally, I favored Ronnie’s. I feel there is something about the meat quality that makes it stand apart.