Starring shaved sirloin and grilled peppers and onions beneath a quilt of cheese, the Philly sandwich wasn’t necessarily craveworthy, but it was tasty. Photo by Madison Simmons.

For many months whenever I drove east on Allen Avenue toward I-35, a mural has called to me. “Dream Big, Think Burgers N Beyond” advertises a restaurant attached to — but not affiliated with — the Mr. T Food Store and gas station. Any discerning eater knows a restaurant like this can be either very good or very bad, with very few lying in between.

Based on the cars filling up the parking lot regularly and an inside scoop that employees of the county hospital across the street love the place, I had high hopes, and so one weekday morning, I decided to dream big and try it out.

Husband-and-wife duo Ali Altaher and Miada Khalaf opened Burgers N Beyond in January 2019. The couple, originally from Palestine, have lived in Texas for seven years. These business-minded people, with MBAs to prove it, figured a restaurant could survive most ebbs and flows of the market.

“When they say, ‘This is the most awesome burger we’ve had in years,’ it makes us feel so delighted. We’re not even tired anymore.”
Photo by Madison Simmons.

“People will always be eating and drinking,” Altaher said on a break during the lunch shift.

As to the concept, the co-owners wanted to serve fast food made fresh to order and made well.

“It’s house-made food,” Altaher said. “We make our own seasonings, our own sauces, for affordable prices.”

I arrived around 11 a.m. on a weekday with three dining companions: two adults and a baby. All of us came deliriously hungry.

That hunger informed our choices, a senseless smattering of fried food and a couple sandwiches. Khalaf took our orders. Though the co-owners have a small dependable staff, she said either she or her husband, or both, work every shift.

We settled into a table in the back beneath another colorful mural. At this time, well before a normal lunch rush, about half of the 10 tables were full, and a steady stream of folks came inside to pick up call-in orders. Watching others tuck into their burgers, smelling the salt of fresh fried food in the air, my guests and I seemed to grow visibly hungrier.

We did not have to wait long. The food was served in Styrofoam containers, befitting the no-frills concept.

The cheese sticks and poppers were prototypes of their specimens, unremarkable in a Platonic-ideal type of way. The items had clearly just been pulled from the fryer and were still hot and crispy. Both were served with tangy homemade ranch. The creamy dip clung to the craggy, crunchy exterior and perfectly cut through the spice of the poppers.

Ranch also accompanied the chicken wings: juicy without being greasy and with the perfect slick of buffalo sauce all over.

To round out the snacks, we threw in an order of Volcano Fries. Topped with melted cheese, pickled jalapenos, ground beef, and the house signature sauce, the snack satisfied — how could cheese-topped fries do anything else? — but I only reached for a couple bites. Maybe more is not always more. Looking around, I could see this is one of the more popular menu items, so my apathy might speak to my own preferences more than anything else.

I also had only a couple bites of the Philly sandwich. Starring shaved sirloin and grilled peppers and onions beneath a quilt of cheese, it wasn’t necessarily craveworthy, but it was tasty.

Burgers N Beyond’s burger tasted how the burgers in fast-food ads look.
Photo by Madison Simmons.

Everything on the table was delicious. I would happily reorder any of those menu items and recommend them to others, but I didn’t get that spark, that bit of magic, from the cheese sticks or the fries or the Philly or even from the wings.

But then I picked up my burger.

As I bit into it, an “oh!” escaped my mouth. Soft (but not too soft) bread, toasted on the inside, embraced a patty with a light lacing of char on the edge and a slightly pink middle. A tangle of shredded lettuce, lightly caramelized onions, and that signature sauce crowned the beef, anchored by a square of cheese. The nostalgia fell over me at once. Burgers N Beyond’s burger tasted like sitting in the backseat of my mom’s car, unwrapping the wax paper of a kids’ meal. It tasted how the burgers in fast-food ads look. It tasted like someone had dared to dream.

Altaher and Khalaf said that people enjoying their food makes the long hours worth it.

“When they say, ‘This is the most awesome burger we’ve had in years,’ it makes us feel so delighted,” Khalaf said. “We’re not even tired anymore.”

Burgers N Beyond
Burger meal $8.56
Philly sandwich $7.61
Volcano Fries $6.16
Buffalo wings (6) $9.54
Jalapeno poppers $5.14
Cheese sticks $5.14
Any discerning eater knows a gas-station restaurant can be either very good or very bad, but Burgers N Beyond’s excellence leaves no doubt.
Photo by Madison Simmons.