BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Downtown Brownsville is literally blocks from the border. What was once a bustling area for business has sort of succumbed to the state of disorder across the river. Throw in a plummeting value of the peso and it’s somewhat surprising some of these small shops are able to survive. But there is one burger joint in a teeny tiny alleyway that’s been keeping the home fires burning since 1924, Rutledge Hamburgers
Gloria Perez has been keeping this Texas tradition alive since she purchased it from the family that opened it in 1995. But she still remembers her first itty-bitty burger at Rutledge when she first came to the states in the 80’s.
“My husband, back then boyfriend, he would bring me here to this place to eat hamburgers, and I didn’t really like it because I wanted something more fancy,” Gloria said. “That’s how we started coming to this place.”
Gloria started working for the restaurant and at the time, Hilda Rutledge the woman who opened this business all those years ago was still flipping her famous food. Hilda’s son Martin took over and eventually sold it to Gloria.
“Marlin Rutledge told me to always sell quality, and I have that memory sealed in my mind,” Gloria said. “It is sealed in my mind to sell quality.”
This burger joint actually started in this alleyway that was eventually enclosed all those years ago and despite the fact you can touch both sides of the wall the masses make their way in.
Juan Garza used to come with his grandfather.
“They’ve been here for so long that a lot of generations have come to this place,” Juan said. It’s just an icon for this region, for this area.”
Prices are ridiculously reasonable, only a few bucks a burger but since they’re so small, I did have one question. How many should a guy like me order?
“Maybe dose, triples,” Gloria replied.
We headed about 15 feet to the kitchen where the first thing we noticed was the grill. It is truly an antique, and officially the oldest we’ve ever seen on The Texas Bucket List.
“It has been the same since 1922. The only thing we have replace is just the valves,” Gloria said.
We opted for a couple of doubles and this is as simple as it gets. Gloria fries up the tiny patties and buns, throws some pepper on the patties, and your typical toppings on the bun. With that the burger is ready to eat. I thanked Gloria for the little burger with a great big gracias, and then it was time to try the legendary Rutledge burger.
With decades of burger tradition tumbling around my taste buds, it was easy to see how Rutledge has made it through the years. This burger is truly worth a stop.
“It’s not a heavy hamburger,” said Brownsville native Anna while describing the burger. “It’s got the same taste since back then. Nothing has changed. The taste is really good.”
Obviously when you’re cooking meat on a grill that’s nearly 100 years old, that plays a big role in how this hamburger tastes, but then the pepper and all those other extra things Gloria puts on their really makes this little hamburgercita well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List. All you’ve got to do is drive down to Brownsville.
“It’s just a Texas thing to eat a hamburger,” Juan said. “And if you want to eat a hamburger down here on the boarder that’s homemade, you need to come to this place.”