Peaky Grinders Unique Cheeseburger at Railway Heights Food Hall
Photo: Alison Cook / Staff
When I first saw the name “Peaky Grinders” appear among the food vendors of the new Railway heights market, I thought they were going to sell submarine sandwiches. Where I grew up in Vermont, “grinders” were what we called heroes or submarines.
But no: here, the pun name that plays on the British series Netflix refers to the homemade ground beef patties that anchor their burgers – and their homemade hot dogs, too. I will allow it.
I couldn’t wait to see the airy two-story market hall that opened this summer at Cottage Grove, on a curve where Washington Avenue leads to Hempstead Road. The whole region is developing so rapidly that just getting there can feel like an urban obstacle course.
It is a worthy adventure. The market hall with its food and drink kiosks on the second floor has opened in stages over the past few months, and there is an inviting terrace on the balcony where you can enjoy the autumn breeze and watch the sunset.
There is also a good mix of food options. I spotted Ben McPherson from Hall of the Bravery Leader the fame of pasta and pizza, looking exhausted. He said he just opened his BOH Slice pizza stand that day. Then he rushed forward as if he was going to put out a fire.
8200 Washington, 713-485-4563; railheights.com
Hours: Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
THE PRICE: $ 8 for the quarter pound cheeseburger
ORDERED : Order and pay at the counter, give your phone number to the extremely friendly young employees, and they’ll text you when your food is ready to grab. It gave me time to have a drink of McClellen Estate Vineyard Petit Verdot at the Puncheon Wine and Beer Bar, conveniently located at the entrance to the outdoor patio. It’s a Walla Walla red, and it’s great.
ARCHITECTURE: No salad stuff. On a toasted yellow potato-style bun, a 4-ounce beef patty is ground internally; a coat of American cheese; a layer of homemade dill pickles; a dispersion of chopped onion; and ketchup and yellow mustard twizzles. The burger is wrapped in faux newspaper making it a nice, neat wrapper.
QUALITY: I found this insanely scarfable burger. In fact, once I was done I felt compelled to go back inside and order another one, which never happens.
What was the magic? It was something about how the modest proportions fit together into a satisfying whole; and how the thin patty held a flambé on its surface while remaining slightly pink on the inside, with a clear beef flavor. The sharp pickles kicked it; the cheese and diced onions softened it; and the condiments brightened up the sandwich without dominating the profile.
The burger may be simple, but it’s made with love. Indeed, owner Sunny Vohra, who once ran the hamburger business in Los Angeles, said he had to resist the pressure to get the burgers out faster in the face of the weekend crowds. I like this.
FOLLOW-UP ASSESSMENT: Fair. No juice sploosh, but a nice slide of condiments, with enough juice in the thin pancake.
CLASSIFICATION BY LETTER: A. The burger so good, I ate it twice.
VALUE: Yes, eight dollars is a bit pricey for a modest-sized burger, but the overhead here means the prices at all the kiosks seem higher than expected. You are paying for the variety and the experience.
I felt a little weak when I saw some aguas frescas on a stand for eight dollars, but then realized you had 32 ounces of it – which can basically quench a family of three’s thirst, or even four.
BONUS POINTS: Nice onions melted in duck fat that you can put on your burger or on the side. I ended up eating them with my fingers as an appetizer; they were so good.
MINUS POINTS: The fries and o-rings are frozen so I skipped them. Life is too short.
THINGS FOR LATER: The surrounding food hall is Stuff for Later Central. I bought a Lomo Saltado, the Sino-Peruvian beef fry, from David Guerrero at its new kiosk in Mykuna. I missed his food since the end Andean coffee, but he told me that a new one was coming soon to Houston substation, the development of the former downtown Barbara Jordan post office.
I also had a few flavor bars from PopSoap, which I first encountered and loved at the Canary Cafe in Lindale Park.
I could have caught okra from Heads & Tails, samosas from modest Samosa Haus, or pierogies from Queen pierogi. The next time!
LOCAL COLOR : The upper hall, with its high ceiling and procession of chandeliers, is as grand as it looks in the photos. I bumped into Martin Weaver, the talented young chef I first met at Kuu, who has been hired as the Culinary Director of the Market Hall, and he informed me about the locally sourced vegetable takeout and catering stand, Watever Fresh, which he will be opening downstairs . It’s an outgrowth of the multi-course pop-ups he made at Bravery Chef Hall, brother of downtown Railway Heights, during the pandemic.
Heard that there can be a crowd of customers on the weekends, but the Thursday night crowd was modest. They ranged from young professionals to entire families, the latter enjoying the wooden swings and the playground up front.
Bald cypress trees and surprisingly large sycamore trees give the grounds a park feel. I ended up rocking quietly on a wooden porch swing, kicking the gravel below to make a satisfying crunch. I hung around until the sun went down and the colors ablaze and died in the west.