A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 19, 2008
Hamburger with mustard and without ketchup (Cowboy Burger; Texas Burger)

Texans traditionally eat hamburgers with mustard or with mayonnaise (or with both), but without ketchup. This is simply called a “hamburger” in Texas, but is sometimes called a “Cowboy Burger” or a “Texas Burger” outside of Texas.

A hamburger with ketchup is sometimes called a “Yankee Burger.” A hamburger with mayonnaise is sometimes called a “Sissy Burger.”

Dirty Martin’s (in Austin since 1926) serves hamburgers with mustard, pickles, onions, and tomatoes. The popular Texas “Whataburger” hamburger chain has served hamburgers with mustard from its founding (1950). The hamburger-with-mustard combination in Texas is attested at least from the 1920s, as The Daily Texan (Austin, TX) University of Texas student newspaper described on December 7, 1927:

“Students like to sit on the high stools and watch the skillful cook flap the hamburgers over and over, slap mustard on the buns, put pickles and tomatoes on top of the sizzling meat, and dexteriously wrap the finished hamburger in a paper napkin.”


What is a Whataburger?
FIVE-INCH BUN
FAMOUS MUSTARD
FRESH LETTUCE
THREE TOMATOES
FOUR PICKLES
DICED ONIONS
100% PURE AMERICAN BEEF

austin360.com
Dirty Martin’s Place
2808 Guadalupe Street
Austin, TX 78705
Phone: (512) 477-3173
Cuisine:  American Hamburgers

Despite a moniker that should send diners in another direction, Dirty Martin’s Place has survived (and thrived) for nearly 75 years. In fact, the home of “Kum-Bak” burgers has been standing on The Drag longer than the majority of buildings on the nearby University of Texas campus.

Food: What’s the attraction? The burgers, of course, and the prices; a basic hamburger with mustard, pickle, onion and tomato is $2.25. (Not to mention an atmosphere that is as anti-trendy as can be found in proximity to UT.)

Lone Star Fajita Grill (Buffalo, NY)
BURGERS
One third pound of fresh ground chopped sirloin, charbroiled to order and served on a toasted roll.
Yankee Burger
Ketchup, mustard, onion, pickles w/cheddar cheese ... 3.00
Lone Star Burger
Mustard, onion, pickles, tomato, lettuce & cheddar cheese ... 3.25

Big Bun Hamburgers (El Paso, TX)
1. Hamburger Tomatoes, Pickles, Onions & Mayo 2.49
2. Cheese Burger Tomatoes, Pickles, Onions & Mayo 2.79
3. Texas Burger 2 Patties, Tomatoes, Pickles, Onions & Mayo 3.29

27 September 1917, The Statesman (Austin, TX), “The Sandwich,” pg. 4, col. 1:
The “Hamburger” belongs to the street stands, where it is prepared with a kind of mustard rarely met elsewhere.

7 December 1927, The Daily Texan (Austin, TX), “Eat Shops Lure Hungry Students Day and Night” by Madeline Jaffe, pg. 5, col. 4:
Students like to sit on the high stools and watch the skillful cook flap the hamburgers over and over, slap mustard on the buns, put pickles and tomatoes on top of the sizzling meat, and dexteriously wrap the finished hamburger in a paper napkin.

11 July 1947, Mason City (Iowa) Globe-Gazette, pg. 4, col. 6 ad:
Delicious Hamburger on Butter Toasted Bun With Mustard and Onions 15c
(Bolero restaurant—ed.)

15 January 1949, European Stars and Stripes (Darmstadt, Germany), “Report from America” by Dave Karten (Sumter, S.C.), pg. 6A:
In the local Kress five-and-dime store we ran into 20-year-old Ingrid Mueller, who had arrived in the Gamecock City last September as a war bride. (...) Her sweet Southern drawl had only the slightest Berlin accent and in less time than it takes to tell she had mastered the intricacies of such hash-slinger slang idiom of “all the way” (a hamburger with mustard, French fries, pickle, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and some meat).

25 May 1950, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 15A, cols. 5-6:
Cavalier claims one of the best 15-cent hamburgers available anywhere. These are made from U. S. government inspected beef with onions, pickles and mustard for added flavor and spice.

22 August 1953, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, pg. 6, col. 1 ad:
Just like last week’s Hamburgers 1/5 lb. good grade grocery store ground beef, served with crisp lettuce, delicious sliced tomatoes, onion, pickles & mustard on a big toasted bun—A complete meal.
Corral Drive-In

26 September 1955, Waco (TX) News-Tribune, pg. 14, col. 6 ad:
WHATABURGER
With Lettuce, Tomatoes, Pickles, Onions, Mustard or Mayonnaise
AND MALT
Both for 50c
“Ask Anyone”

20 August 1971, Amarillo (TX) Globe-Times, pg. 22, col. 2 ad:
HAMBURGERS
4 for $1
Complete with Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Pickle and Mustard.
(Wolflin Drive Inn—ed.)

27 June 1979, New York (NY) Times, “Dixie in New York: The Flavor of Home” by Roy B. Hoffman, pg. C18:
For the taste of home, Miss Parker prefers Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 1633 Second Avenue at the corner of 85th Street, and Jackson Hole Burger Shop, 232 East 64th Street, “where the hamburgers are steamed and served with mustard and mayonnaise, like they are in Texas.”

5 August 1986, Seguin (TX) Gazette Enterprise, “Burgers are an inexpensive way to please at parties,” pg. 5, cols. 1-2:
Then there’s always the Truly Texas Burger, the classic lettuce, meat, sliced tomato and raw onion version on a soft white bun liberally spread with yellow mustard and mayonnaise. The Truly Texas is such an established favorite, it shows up frequently in backyards all over the state.

12 February 1988, The Brazosport Facts (Clute, TX), pg. 16, col. 3 ad:
BIG TEXAS BURGER
1/4 LB. ALL BEEF WITH MUSTARD, ONIONS, PICKLES, LETTUCE & TOMATO
$1.49
(Red Top restaurant—ed.)

25 June 1995, Dallas (TX) Morning News:
It tasted like the perfect marriage of an old-fashioned, heavy-on-the-mustard Texas burger and these newfangled chicken sandwiches.

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking
From: (Nancy Dooley)
Date: 1996/07/02
Subject: Re: DINNER ON THE 4th JULY - Suggestions wanted.

>From: (Sam Waring)
>Date: 01 Jul 96 23:02:59
>Subject: DINNER ON THE 4th JULY - Suggestions wanted.
>and sending it all back, then.  I’m inclined to believe that mayo on
>burgers was more a Southern sorta custom than anything else; burgers with
>ketchup on them, or ones missing the complement of lettuce-tomato-onion-
>pickle, or both, were “Yankee burgers” in my childhood lexicon.

But now that you’re growed up, don’t you put ketchup on your burgers just like those “Yankee burgers?” wink

I’m one of those mustard-pickle-onion folk (no ketchup allowed).  And for more elaborate burgers, they’ve got to have tomato, lettuce and cheese.

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking
From: “Holly C.”
Date: 1998/08/13
Subject: Re: McDonald’s fries

In some Texas locations, we can get the Texas-style hamburger (mustard and pickles, no ketchup).  We also have Cajun-style McChicken sandwiches, which are pretty good. 

New York (NY) Times
The Pride of Texas on a Bun
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Published: October 28, 1998
(...)
‘’The biggest shock of my life was in New York, where they served me a hamburger with no lettuce and tomato,’’ said Ann Criswell, the longtime food editor of The Houston Chronicle and a third-generation Texan. ‘’I thought that was so’’—she searched for the right word and settled on ‘’primitive.’’

Texans love beef, and when they order a hamburger, they expect to see a lot of it on their plate—freshly ground, cooked right and tasting like meat, not soybeans. Cooked right—and this is the key to the Texas burger—means seared on a grill until it gets crisp on the outside while remaining juicy inside, even if the patty is extra thin, a popular Texas style. Thick or thin, the burger must be served on a bun that’s toasted until the perimeter gets a nice crunch to it, and then piled high with lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles and raw onions. Mustard and mayonnaise go on the bun, but never ketchup.

Google Groups: alt.food.barbecue
Newsgroups: alt.food.barbecue, alt.food.mcdonalds, alt.food.hamburger
From: “Jeff Wheeler”
Date: 1999/01/08
Subject: Re: Mustard on a Hamgurger?

Well yes..mustard on hamburgers is totally normal. In fact where I was raised if you wanted mayonnaise on a hamburger you was forced to order what was called a “Sissy Burger”. Ketchup was never standard on any kind of sandwich..burger etc. Was only used for fried potatoes.

Google Groups: soc.retirement
Newsgroups: soc.retirement
From: Bob
Date: 1999/07/13
Subject: Re: A Chocolate Malt

No, we “pure bred” Texans couldn’t eat a hamburger without mustard.  No ketchup either unless you’re at McDonalds.  Mayo makes what we call a “sissy burger.”

Google Groups: alt.food.barbecue
Newsgroups: alt.food.barbecue
From: “Jeff Edwards” Date: 2000/07/19
Subject: Re: Best Burgers? (Long..."Let me tell you about the best burger I ever had...")

Funny: here in Texas most of the old-timers consider it blasphemy to put ketchup on a hamburger.  I grew up referring to that as a yankee-burger. Mustard, on the other hand, is an accepted standard.  Visit the popular Texas chain Whataburger, and you always get mustard - no ketchup.  Ketchup is for fries only. 

Houston (TX) Chronicle
Sept. 25, 2003, 5:07PM
Cheeseburger Shangri-La
Roznovsky’s feeds body and soul

By ALISON COOK
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Restaurant Critic
(...)
Once again, my palate had proved me a Texan. Here’s why: I didn’t need ketchup to get me through this burger experience.

A northeastern childhood, where burgers came with ketchup and relish as standard equipment, left me with residual cravings. Anytime a Texas burger—with its classic fixings constellation of mustard-mayo-lettuce-tomato-pickle—fails to measure up, I find myself reaching for the ketchup bottle.

Fast Food News
Saturday, April 16, 2005
“Texas" Burgers
Fast-food chains have created regional burgers named after the Lone Star State:
McDonald’s: Took note that Texans preferred burgers with mustard, onions and pickles and created the “Texas Homestyle Burger.”
Wendy’s: “Texas Double Cheeseburger” with two 2-ounce patties, mustard, onion, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes.
Burger King: “Texas Double Whopper,” a traditional Double Whopper with mustard and jalapeños – no ketchup, no mayo. 

Lone Star Bay
Texas Burger
topic posted Tue, September 6, 2005 - 2:40 PM by Frito
OK, where in Texas do they put a fried egg on top of their burgers?

I lived in South Texas for 24 years and never saw anyone eat a burger like that, but they serve it in NY and CA as a “Texas” burger.

I always thought a true Texas burger was no mayo or ketchup but keep the mustard and onions - a la Whataburger?

The Phrase Finder
Posted by ESC on January 28, 2006
Phrases I’ve collected recently:
(...)
COWBOY BURGER - Cowboy burger (with mustard), sissy burger (with mayo) and Yankee burger (catsup). Texan, 40s, relating phrases from a documentary. (Maybe: “Hamburger America” by George Motz?)

Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Relax, we’re safe from fried baloney sandwich
By BILL VIRGIN
P-I COLUMNIST
(...)
But even the biggest of chains will have some regional variations. McDonald’s sells lobster rolls in Maine and tacos in San Diego. In Texas, Haley says, hamburgers are popularly sold with mustard but without ketchup.

Homesick Texan
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Who cares where the burger was born?
(...)
EVille said…
Just where does Hamburg, Germany fit into the hamburger story? Or for that matter Frankfurt in the frank story? LOL.

Origin aside, for me growing up in Texas with Yankee parents there were always three distinctive variations of the common ground beef sandwich:
1) Yankee burgers consisting of a fat grilled patty, ketchup and sliced onion on toasted white bread. Yum!
2) Texas burgers, or drive-in burgers, consisting of one or two thin grilled patties, mustard, chopped onions, pickles, lettuce and tomato on a fluffy bun. Whataburger still does them this way. Yumm!
3) Fancy burgers with huge patties (a la Chilis), or lots of variations but all good. Mayonnaise is common with these. And chili. The best fancy burger though was at the Neiman-Marcus Zodiac Room, a simple grilled sirloin patty on French roll with mayo served with consomme and a popover. Yummm!

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking
From: Serene
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 19:38:22 -0700
Local: Tues, Aug 21 2007 9:38 pm
Subject: Re: Eggless Fried Rice

Becca wrote:
> Growing up in Texas, the local burger places would put mustard on their
> hamburgers. Whataburger, a southern chain, is still that way. It
> frustrates some of my northern friends who forget this when they place
> their order. Some people think mustard on a burger is disgusting. I love
> it.

Mustard on a hamburger’s fine. Mayo is mandatory. Ketchup is an abomination.

15 November 2007, Tulsa (OK) World, “Oklahoma 100: Meersburger” by Natalie Milkes, Lifestyle section, pg. F1:
You have to really want a Meersburger to eat a Meersburger.

But whether it’s a three-hour drive from Tulsa or an overnight flight from Japan (yes, Japanese tourists love the Meersburger, too), the first bite makes it all worth it.

At the Meers Store, near Lawton, burgers are served in tin pie plates with a fork, and unless there’s a special request, are topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mustard. You can order it with ketchup or mayonnaise, but there’s no telling what they’ll say about you behind the kitchen door. Owner Joe Maranto calls burgers with mayo “sissy burgers” and burgers with ketchup “Yankee burgers.” A burger with mustard? That’s a cowboy burger.

she eats.
Burgers!
February 12, 2008 · 11 Comments
A coworker (and one of the only people at work who can tolerate me when I’m having a bad day) and I went to Cliff’s today for a quick bite at lunch.  I ordered — as I always do — the Murphy burger, a heart-stopping concoction of 100% beef, grated sharp cheddar cheese, sauteed onions, thick strips of bacon and tangy barbeque sauce.  No wussy lettuce or tomatoes on this bad boy; it’s pure myocardial infarction-inducing goodness.

My coworker, who originally hails from Denver, watched curiously as I tossed aside the ketchup packets that came with the burger, irritated by their mere presence.  “Stupid ketchup,” I grumbled.  “Why would they give me ketchup for a burger?”

“Why wouldn’t they?  Don’t you want ketchup on your burger?” he asked, bemusedly.

I glared at him, trying to decide whether or not to answer sarcastically: “Of course!  I love ruining a perfectly good hamburger with ketchup!  Pass those packets back over here!”

Instead, I responded with a sharp, “You’re in Texas now, buddy.  We don’t put ketchup on our burgers.”

“Really?  I mean, I thought I had noticed that, but I wasn’t sure.”

“Yep.  No ketchup on burgers.  It’s like a state bylaw.  Heresy.”

“Wow.  So…what do you put on them instead?”

“Mustard, obviously.  And mayonnaise.  Sometimes.  But always mustard.  Haven’t you been here long enough to know that by now?”

“I guess not.”

“Hmph.  You’ve got a lot to learn.”

“There was this place in San Diego that used to do the best burgers with ketchup on th–”

Me, interrupting: “I don’t care.”

“I was just going t–”

Me, rudely interrupting yet again: “Don’t care.  You’re cutting into my valuable Murphy burger eating time here.  I don’t care how they do it in California or Colorado or anywhere else.  In Texas, you don’t put ketchup on burgers.  Period.”

Serious Eats
Ketchup On Burgers...
Posted by sheeats, February 18, 2008 at 6:38 PM
...is a cardinal sin here in Texas. Anyone know why this is? It’s mustard and/or mayo here—along with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, cheese and bacon, of course—but never ketchup. It never occurred to me until a conversation I had last week with a coworker from Colorado, but I realized that you will never catch a Texan intentionally putting ketchup on their burger.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Tuesday, February 19, 2008 • Permalink