We tried the regional burger chain many people say is the best in America to see if it lives up to the hype — here’s the verdict

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Hollis Johnson

  • Whataburger is a fast-food favorite in the South.
  • I visited to see if it could live up to the hype.
  • I was impressed by the chain’s customizable menu options.

A born-and-bred New Englander, I’m woefully inexperienced when it comes to some regional restaurant chains.

In-N-Out remains a mystery to me, and the wonders of Chick-fil-A have only recently entered my life, thanks to its aggressive national expansion.

Whataburger had long similarly been an enigma to me – nearly every Texan I meet extols its many virtues, yet I had never set foot in one.

With more than 790 locations across 10 states, Whataburger is a southern fast-food powerhouse. It has been family-owned since opening its first humble burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1950. The chains ranks seventh on QSR Magazine’s Top 50 Burger roundup, raking in $2.18 billion in system-wide sales in 2016, and it’s expanding rapidly.

So when I found myself heading down to the Lone Star State, I decided a visit to the celebrated burger joint was a mandatory stop on my itinerary.


This location in Port Lavaca is one of a whopping 655 Whataburgers in Texas. It’s built in the classic A-frame design that Whataburger is known for. One of the founders had a fondness for aviation and subsequently worked it into the chain’s design.

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Hollis Johnson

On the windows, decals proudly proclaim the chain’s burgers to be 100% beef, ordered just the way you like them. Also, a dash of patriotism for good measure, apparently — what’s more American than a burger?

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Hollis Johnson

No line at the register — I must have beaten the lunchtime rush. Of course, most Whataburgers are open 24/7, so a late-night burger is always an option.

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Hollis Johnson

I become confused pretty quickly. The menu is simple enough, but I’m just not used to it. You can add toppings like jalapeños and avocado to your burgers, hence the “just like you like it” slogan. Mercifully, the cashier sensed my trepidation and asked whether I wanted my burgers “all the way,” with every standard topping — mustard, pickles, onions, tomato, and lettuce. If you want ketchup, however, you have to ask separately.

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Hollis Johnson

If you’re eating in the restaurant, you’re given a numbered placard so the servers can find your table.

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Hollis Johnson

The interior is sparsely decorated, as one comes to expect from a fast-food joint. On the walls are photos of some of the original Whataburgers, as well as this mega-store in Corpus Christi dubbed “Whataburger on the Bay.” It’s supposedly the largest Whataburger in the US.

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Hollis Johnson

Source: Whataburger


The booths and seats are classic old-school fast-food style. Nothing trendy or hip about this place, and that’s fine by me.

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Hollis Johnson

Within six minutes, my order arrives: a No. 1 Whataburger, a No. 2 Double Meat Whataburger, and an A1 Thick and Hearty Burger — all with fries, of course, plus a strawberry shake.

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Hollis Johnson

This is a medium drink. Everything is bigger in Texas.

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Hollis Johnson

The milkshake is smooth, creamy, and rich. There’s nothing extraordinary about it; it’s simply a good shake. They’re hand-spun, and you can get malted shakes as well.

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Hollis Johnson

The french fries are surprisingly good. These are a step above the often soggy fast-food fries I’m used to. They have a good crunch to them; they hold up well with ketchup.

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Hollis Johnson

While there are two different types of ketchup — regular and spicy — the difference stops there. Rumors swirl about Whataburger’s numbered ketchups, however.

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Hollis Johnson

Fast-food legend has it that the numbers on the bottom of the peel-back top correspond to the range of sweetness or saltiness on a scale of one to five. This has been disproved, however, as the numbers are merely for quality assurance during production.

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Hollis Johnson

But despite the ketchup losing its stealthy, secret cachet, the spicy ketchup is an incredible thing worthy of its own praise. It has a sharp, vinegar tartness to it that lends a sharp kick. But it’s not a lasting heat, so it’s perfect for scarfing down a serving of fries without burning your mouth out.

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Hollis Johnson

First, the simple Whataburger. Only the one single patty peeks out from beneath the wide, flat bun.

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Hollis Johnson

The patty is very thin and wide, which makes it much easier to grip the burger and keep all the toppings (onions, pickles, tomato, lettuce, and mustard) from spilling out.

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Hollis Johnson

The classic Whataburger is delicious but small. The beef is good — not great. The thin patty makes it difficult to taste any difference from any other fast-food beef. But the mustard — apparently a standard Whataburger addition — and pickles add a cutting tartness that clarifies the other flavors of the sandwich.

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Hollis Johnson

Next up: the Double Meat Whataburger. It’s unassuming from the outside, with just the two patties and some cheese and lettuce sticking out of the humble bun.

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I open it up to find two slices of melty cheese, tomato, onions, lettuce, pickles, and mustard — “all the way” indeed. It’s essentially the same as the Whataburger, just with another patty slipped in.

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Hollis Johnson

That extra patty adds a lot, though. This is one satisfying burger — definitely more of a handful than the Whataburger.

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Hollis Johnson

Finally, a burger from the All-Time Favorites menu: the A1 Thick and Hearty.

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This burger is certainly hearty, with bacon, cheese, onions, and a slathering of A1 steak sauce.

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Hollis Johnson

Again, I notice that these burgers are much easier to handle because they’re so wide and flat; it’s genius, really. This burger is incredibly rich and beefy, with a smoky bacon flavor that is well complemented by the tangy and sour A1 sauce. It takes a lot of effort to finish, however.

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Hollis Johnson

The prices are on point with those of most fast-food chains. The classic Whataburger meal with fries cost $5.84, the Double Meat Whataburger meal cost $6.99, and the A1 Thick and Hearty cost $5.59. Special add-ons like jalapeños, bacon, or avocado, cost roughly $0.50 each.

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Hollis Johnson

I’m impressed with Whataburger in the end. Its menu is rather expansive for a burger joint, offering many other melts and chicken sandwiches as well as burgers, and the prices are average. The burgers themselves aren’t outstanding, but the option to customize the toppings to such a degree certainly is. I see what you’re talking about here, Texas.

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Hollis Johnson