Convenience stores

Houston’s Burger Bodega pays homage to NYC convenience stores

Abbas Dhanani has spent much of his life becoming a jack-of-all-trades. He helped run restaurant franchises and launched his own success Food Blog Instagram (@houstoneatz). Now he focuses on his obsessions: New York and meat.

So when he came up with the idea to launch a burger-focused pop-up paying homage to New York’s iconic little grocers, after nearly a decade of chronicling his culinary exploits and finding remarkable burgers, he jumped. on the occasion. Almost a year later, Dhanani officially opened its first permanent location of Burger Bodega Thursday, November 3 at 4520 Washington Avenue.

Burger Bodega brings New York flavor to Washington Avenue in Houston with a tribute to the city’s convenience stores.
Michael Ma

Once a fire station built in the 1930s, Burger Bodega now features windows adorned with posters promoting recognizable bodega-like products and offers guests a space to relax upstairs on the outdoor rooftop with fans , chairs and a retractable awning.

But the fruit of his efforts comes straight from the griddle in the form of a signature double smash burger – a gooey combination of two smashed patties, American cheese, grilled onions, homemade pickles and his signature Bodega sauce. mayo-ketchup base on a potato bun. The menu has become more stacked since its pop-up days, with the option to purchase single, double, or triple smash burgers; classic cheeseburgers on sesame buns; and in true New York style, Dhanani’s take on chopped cheese sandwiches, consisting of two chopped burger patties, with diced peppers, onions and other fixes on a Royal Bakery hero roll .

Odes to Clutch City include Chopped Fries, loaded with diced beef, onions, peppers and sauces, and Screwed Fries in Gravy, topped with cheese and onions – both are signature calls from Houston choppy and screwed up music – plus a mouth-watering spicy mayo aioli that comes with chunks of mashed habanero.

Abbas Dhanani holds up two smash burgers at Burger Bodega.

Abbas Dhanani’s experience in the restaurant industry, coupled with his passion for burgers and the Houston food scene, led to the concept of Burger Bodega.
Michael Ma

“I’ve been researching burgers for about a decade,” says Dhanani. Sometimes his searches lasted up to nine hours a day, he said. Only after seeing how to smash burgers took off in Los Angeles that he decided to fully pursue his passion for burgers in Houston with an emphasis on using the best ingredients, he says. And in September 2021, he decided to launch his burger business as a one-stop business, operating a pop-up from a white truck.

The walls of Burger Bodega, which are decorated with street art prints and murals of bodega cats.

Burger Bodega owner Abbas Dhanani hosted artists from Houston including Noke 713, Donkeeboy and student artists from Young Art Pros to decorate the restaurant’s walls.
Michael Ma

The Burger Bodega rooftop, equipped with tables and chairs.

Burger Bodega’s rooftop offers diners a place to enjoy their burgers and chopped cheeses.
Michael Ma

And the drinks go beyond fountain drinks. Dhanani typed Artisanal creamery to whip up rich milkshakes in standard flavors like vanilla and chocolate, but also rich, velvety spins like Vietnamese coffee and mango lassi, swirled with sweet mango puree – Craft’s homage to Pakistani heritage from Dhanani.

Beneath fluorescent blue lighting and lined with metal grilles mimicking plexiglass frames, shelves displaying Burger Bodega-branded groceries line the walls and a display case mimicking a deli counter awaits upcoming goods, including detergent H-Town laundry detergent (with real liquid detergent inside), and retro cereal boxes emblazoned with Burger Bodega branding. Elsewhere, the shelves are shoppable, Houston-made products like Feges barbecue spices, cookies from Pudgy Fine Biscuitsand condiments of Grand Chief: Houston graduate and chef Evelyn Garciathe pop-up window Close.

“My biggest concern is the people of New York,” says Dhanani, who admits never having lived in the city. Not wanting to disappoint, Dhanani insisted on traveling to New York, visiting at least five times while planning the restaurant. “I really want to be well informed and honor them in the right way.”

So, Dhanani was very intentional with the setting, approaching overprotectiveness. That’s why the restaurant opened slowly last week, he said, first taking orders through its side window while the rest of the restaurant’s windows remained shielded from the public. (The restaurant quietly began service on Tuesday, November 1, before it officially opened.)

Dotted with stickers of street art and streetwear, the interior feels like a heartfelt reimagining of a New York experience, not just a whirlwind tour of its most obvious places. Dhanani hired a local artist from Houston Donkeeboy and the Young art pros, a group of student artists between the ages of 10 and 15, to paint murals of bodega cats, modeled after the restaurant’s mascot and animals usually kept to ward off pests. Then artist Noke 713 carved different words and sayings on the walls to add a local touch. A nearby hallway leading to the restroom will soon be emitting sounds from the New York City subways and streets to further place diners in that Houston-New York fantasy, as well as 90s New York hip-hop playing throughout the restaurant.

Still, it’s a completely Houston place. Born and raised in the city, Dhanani is no stranger to the local culinary scene. His family operated Burger King, Wendys, Popeyes, La Madeleine and all of the Hurricane Anaya locations in Houston, with Dhanani personally overseeing various Dairy Queen locations – a responsibility that helped him learn how to run a business, hire staff and to act. effectively in the kitchen, he says. Dhanani launched his @HoustonEatz Instagram in 2011 to showcase the city’s food scene, the burgers he loved and what else he ate in a mini-blog format.

Abbas Dhanani wears a Burger Bodega t-shirt in front of the restaurant counter, which indicates with fluorescent lights where to order, pick up and get food

Ahead of Burger Bodega, owner Abbas Dhanani took to Instagram @HoustonEats, where he showcased some of the most exciting aspects of the city’s food scene.
Michael Ma

Dhanani says the restaurant’s New York touches have been well received so far, especially the chopped cheese. Dhanani has no plans to expand Burger Bodega yet. But, it aims to promote Houston’s culinary scene by offering a range of collaborations, promotions and invites for chefs to put their spin on burgers or featured items. Additionally, there will be a BBQ-specific shelf showcasing products from local institutions like Blood Bros. BBQ, another coffee-focused shelf with products from Greenway Coffee and more, plus space for James Beard Award-winning chef Aaron Bludorn’s hot sauce and other items. by Craft Pita.

“I wanted you to feel like you’re in a bodega,” he says, but “I also want to honor and love the city that raised me.”

Burger Bodega is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant will eventually extend its hours until late at night on weekends through a pick-up window.