13247 Bandera Road
(in Helotes, a couple of miles beyond Loop 1604)
Little Hipps, the iconic burger joint on McCullough Avenue, went out of business years ago, and entered into the realm of Local Lore. Another burger joint occupies the oddly-angled orange building now, openly imitating, without quite achieving, the atmosphere of the ancient temple; still another, put together by former employees of Little Hipps, opened just off Broadway near the Pearl a couple of years ago. Both are good, but neither quite matches the paradigm they aim at.
Bobby J's, waaaaaaaaaay the Hell out in Helotes, comes even closer to attaining the status of Little Hipps without imitating it; at least not overtly, and probably not consciously. The menu is more extensive than at most burger joints, but not unbearably fru-fru; the food is simple, but very well done; the service has hit that perfect balance between unhurried familiarity and and efficient promptitude; and if the atmosphere were any more down-home, you would expect to be assigned chores before dinner. The prices are in line with what you'd expect to pay at any burger joint, and for those prices you get a better product in a more enjoyable setting. There's a big covered patio out back with a sort of Hill-Country feel (and occasional live music), and a smaller one in front where you can watch the traffic on Bandera Road and contemplate the mysteries of life in the Techie Age.
My friend, who had suggested the place, loved his cheeseburger; it had, he reported, just the right amount of grease. It sure looked good to me, but I was equally happy with my grilled chicken sandwich, served Monterrey style with Jack cheese and green chiles, as well as the traditional 'Murrikin fixin's. For my side, I chose the bottlecaps (fried jalapeño slices), which were crispy and hot and just a little piquant. They were served with enough Ranch dressing to satisfy even people who drink that stuff. My friend went with the regular french fries, which were cut in house and fried up perfectly, then dosed with a surprisingly subtle mix of seasonings. The small order was plenty big, and the fried food wasn't greasy at all.
If this place wasn't so damn far from town, I would be a regular.