Houston food influencer Abbas Dhanani has found a permanent home for his smash burger pop-up. Burger Bodega will open as a restaurant this summer in the former Cabo space at 4520 Washington Ave.
Dhanani, whose houstoneatz account has close to 30,000 followers on Instagram and over 100,000 on TikTok, launched Burger Bodega last year to serve the style of smash burgers he’d enjoyed on trips to New York and Los Angeles. After a series of sold out pop-ups, he’s ready to make the leap to a brick and mortar restaurant.
“Obviously, it was always on my mind,” Dhanani tells CultureMap. “For me, it was finding the right location before I took that step.”
That right location is a historic firehouse in the heart of Washington’s thriving nightlife district. Dhanani is still working on the specifics of his design but plans for a look that will build on the New York-inspired bodega atmosphere — without turning into a theme restaurant.
Dhanani’s formula starts with good beef that’s smashed flat on a griddle for maximum maillard char and crispy edges. It’s served as a double-patty cheeseburger with grilled onions, pickles, and “bodega sauce” on a Martin’s potato bun. Until now, it’s only been available for a few hours every other week at various pop-ups around Houston. Going brick and mortar means diners will have more regular access to the burger and that Dhanani can expand his menu.
“We’ll finally have a permanent home for the chopped cheese and our bodega fries,” he says. “We can run specials and get creative with it.”
The specials are still to be determined, but Dhanani hopes to embrace the pop-up culture with collaboration burgers created by guest chefs.
Hosting the pop-ups has allowed Burger Bodega to refine its processes and improve flow. It will be ready for crowds when the restaurant opens in a few months.
Beyond the validation of selling out at pop-ups, the concept has attracted some media attention. It’s nominated for a CultureMap Tastemaker Award in the Best Pop-up/Startup category, and Thrillist included it on a list of the city’s 31 most essential food experiences.