HOUSTON – When you first pull up to Stanton’s City Bites, a Houston hotspot just north of downtown, it looks more like a house that a hamburger joint. But once you step foot into the eatery, you’re floored with food and friendly faces.
That’s when we met the owner, Theresa Fong, who just happened to be one the most fun-loving burger flippers we’ve ever come across.
Theresa and her son Jonathan run Stanton City Bites, a burger joint with history. Theresa’s in-laws opened the corner store as a grocery back in 1961, but when Theresa and her husband Arthur inherited the store in the ‘80s something had to change.
“Grocery business – so boring! You know, I’m from Hong Kong. Everything is the fast-paced,” said Theresa. “I told my husband, ‘I can’t do this. It’s so boring. I fall asleep.’ I said, that’s not good to show the customer. I’m boring here. ”
So Theresa started making meals, meals that smelled so sweet people would come off the street trying to buy a plate. It wasn’t long before people were lining up to buy anything and everything Theresa would cook – but then Arthur had an idea.
“I did that after a little while, and then my husband said, ‘This is America. You need to sell a burger, you know.’ But I said, ‘I don’t want burger!’ I don’t want any beef, or chopped beef – no, you don’t understand, because I wasn’t from here.”
Luckily, she made an exception and started selling beefy burgers one day a week.
“Every Monday we started serving a just bacon cheeseburger and fries. Just Monday. Then these guys said, ‘Hey, we come back for the burger.’ And I said, ‘But you have to come back Monday.’ They were so mad,” Theresa said.
That’s when the grocery store started to take another form. Customers wanted to hang around to chow down on their meal, another change that Theresa resisted. But once again, she made an exception and 15 years later Stanton’s is a staple. But, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t their fair share of bumps and troubles along the way.
“The tears and heartache – many, many, many heartaches – but you know, I always tell myself, if you work hard, you’re willing to learn, you’re willing to listen, you get there,” said Theresa.
The hardest heartache hit Theresa in 2013 when her Arthur passed away.
“Kind of hard for me. I sort of kind of give up, you know,” said Theresa. “But, we’ve got all the friends and family and customers that say, ‘You need to stay on,’ that are, they want you to continue, you know, so. It’s a hard, long, hard three years for me.”
Theresa didn’t give up and with the help of her children, Stanton’s is staying strong.
“It’s hard for me and I think my children help me out. I say, ‘That’s why I put you through college!’ I mean, now I need your help, you know,” said Theresa.
Now she concentrates on what she does best – making burgers – and we’re here for a giant: the Cowboy Brunch Burger.
It starts with pre-seasoned beef, and then comes some tremendous toast dipped in butter, pickles are placed in the fryer while an egg gets fried up, onions are placed on the grill while Swiss cheese crowns the burger and American covers the egg. The fried pickles and bacon finish up the bulk of the burger and that’s placed on the Texas toast with mustard, lettuce, and tomatoes.
“People come in, ‘Oh my God, your burgers are so fresh,’ because we don’t make a lot in the morning. We make it in lump through lunch, then after 2 to 3 o’clock we make it again,” said Theresa.
You can tell Teresa really takes pride in everything she does in that burger, because it’s big, juicy, and beautiful.
“Why the hair so big, the food so much, people just – this is Texas. Everything has to be huge. That’s what I learned when I first moved here,” Theresa said.
Any time you get a burger with bacon and eggs on it, it does kind of taste like breakfast. But then when you throw a little of the fried pickles and mustard and the mayo, you get an entirely different sensation. There’s just so much going on in this big ‘ole burger!
“We’re the best burger,” said Theresa. “ We put a lot of love and passion in our food, and you can actually tell, okay?”
Stanton’s City Bites – a burger as big as Houston, and well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.