When my friends told me about a quiet gem of a restaurant residing in a gas station in Huntsville, I definitely did not expect much. Gas station food has about as much appeal as food cooked inside a house.
But when we set foot in the Citgo housing Shorts Top Burgers, I was immediately impressed. The kitchen area is almost completely visible to customers, and everything was sparkling clean. It was neat to be able to see our food being made.
The menu is sparse but highly customizable. You order on a long, thin card with many options like the process at Which Wich. There are eight menu options with burgers, chicken tenders and catfish. At the time, I was a little too intimidated to try the fish, but I am definitely willing to come back later.
We ordered a Homestyle Fat Burger, a Homestyle Chicken Sandwich, two Homestyle Bacon Fat Burgers and chicken tenders with sides of fries and onion rings.
The sides were impressive. The fries were cut classically thick but cooked admirably and seasoned well with refreshingly good distribution. I don’t usually like thick fries, but I loved Shorts Top Burgers’ rendition.
The onion rings were similarly delicious — perfect crunch, salty sweet flavor, large size and portion.
The chicken tenders were pretty standard. They were crispy and salty with a flavor that came out best when dipped in ketchup. On their own, the tenders were a tad dry, but the ketchup made them satisfactory.
The Homestyle Fat Burger had a sourdough bun, pepper jack cheese, pickles, mayonnaise and ketchup. The first thing that stuck out to me was the bun. Many restaurants sleep on their bun quality, but you could tell this was quality. The buttery sourdough taste on top of the savory patty gave the burger a richness I could appreciate. The tartness of the pickles, ketchup and mayo gave it a rounded flavor.
The first Homestyle Bacon Fat Burger had a sourdough bun, pepper jack cheese, mustard and ketchup. The simplistic experience was great. When I wanted a quality specialty burger, I used to think about Mr. Hamburger. But now when I imagine a quality homemade feel, I will think of Shorts Top Burgers. The composition stayed true, even though we took the burgers to-go. That was in part due to the fact that staff poked holes in the Styrofoam containers before we left.
The Homestyle Chicken Sandwich was impressively good. Many chicken sandwich varieties fall short of the mark for many reasons. Shorts Top’s Chicken Sandwich doesn’t slip into any of those pitfalls. The jalapeño cheese bun, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato made for an incredible flavor. The bun provides a perfect balance of sweetness and light spiciness. The mayo and lettuce and tomato worked to provide that classic chicken sandwich flavor. The breaded chicken was moist and crunchy.
The second Homestyle Bacon Fat Burger was absolutely amazing. I chose a jalapeño cheese bun, American cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce and jalapeños. The bun was again amazing, slightly crispy and buttery, sweet but spicy. The patty was delicious and cooked well. The cheese paired nicely with the jalapeños and bacon. The bacon was thin and hickory flavored.
Overall, I highly recommend Shorts Top Burgers. This is exactly the place that would make it on a list of America’s best hidden burger joints, and it’s starting to explode across Huntsville, especially on the food delivery circuit.
Shorts Top Burgers is at 120 state Highway 30 east in Huntsville. For more information, call 435-9959.
Olive Waldorf is a pseudonym for the food critic of The Lufkin Daily News. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.