Day Trips

Charles Kincaid's Grocery Market in Fort Worth consistently gets listed as one of the best burger joints in the U.S.

Hamburger heaven
Hamburger heaven (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

Charles Kincaid's Grocery Market in Fort Worth consistently gets listed as one of the best hamburger joints in not just Texas, but the entire U.S. Books, magazines, newspapers, television, and the Internet all have proclaimed that the former neighborhood grocery store holds a place in the upper echelon of the most American of American foods.

"We start off with a good cut of meat," says Morris Gardner, the store's manager. "It's all natural beef. No steroids. No hormones. We've been doing it that way for more than 40 years."

Gardner, who has been with Kincaid's since 1994, isn't hesitant about divulging the restaurant's secret to success. "We always use fresh meat," he says. "You won't find any prepackaged, frozen patties here."

Every day the crew grinds their own chuck and forms the quarter-pound patties. "It's not rocket science," Gardner says, "but it does take a great effort to produce a consistently good burger year after year." And the public seems to agree. Customers drive to the west Fort Worth location from all over the Metroplex to get one of those juicy hamburgers. In fact, hungry folks from all over the country seek out the burgers; some walk in carrying a copy of one of the several guide books that have included Kincaid's.

At first glance, the former grocery store doesn't look particularly special. The bright white building set off of the historic red bricks of Camp Bowie Boulevard is easy to miss among the storefronts and houses. Inside, the red-and-white-checkered tablecloths cover long picnic tables, and inflatable beer bottles and promotional dolls hang from the ceiling. In the very back of the store, the old butcher counter is where you place your order.

It was this butcher case that started Kincaid's Grocery on the road to success in the very competitive burger world. Charles Kincaid opened the neighborhood grocery store in 1946 selling Coca-Cola to the kids and Tide to their mothers. "It was supermarkets that put the mom-and-pop grocery stores out of business," Gardner says. That might be true for most independent grocers, but Kincaid's out-lasted the A&P Grocery that once stood across the street.

The evolution from grocery store to burger joint happened slowly. It began in 1964, when the butcher, O.R. Gentry, fried some ground chuck leftover from the day before and sold burgers to the students from the nearby high school. As a grocery store, Kincaid's was always known for having a good butcher shop. "We're just continuing the tradition," Gardner says.

At first Gentry sold only a few burgers a day from the meat counter – nothing compared to the 800 to 1,000 burgers that Gardner now sells. The butcher bought the shop in 1966 from Kincaid, and his reputation for hamburgers grew first by word of mouth and then by rave reviews in area publications. Eventually, Gentry was selling more hamburgers than groceries.

When the butcher and short-order cook retired in 1991, he passed the business on to his daughter and son-in-law. Recognizing the hard future for neighborhood grocery stores, the younger Gentrys discontinued the grocery business and concentrated on the cooked foods. They replaced the checkout counters in the front of the store with picnic tables and converted the three rows of grocery shelves into counters where patrons devour the burgers standing up.

Gardner says that quality has been the store's secret to success, yet the food is still competitively priced with the McChain burger joints. A cheeseburger at Kincaid's costs less than $4, fries are less than a dollar, and a cold beer is $3. The menu also includes grilled chicken sandwiches, chili, hot dogs, and onion rings, and is topped off with homemade banana pudding and Blue Bell milkshakes.

Kincaid's Grocery Market is at 4901 Camp Bowie Blvd., about seven miles west of downtown and four miles from Fort Worth's cultural district. "Folks can visit some of the world's top museums and then top it off with a greasy burger," Gardner says with a laugh. "Culture and fine dining in one weekend." The burger counter is open Monday through Saturday, 11am to 8pm. To place an order, call 817/732-2881.

716th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Charles Kincaid's Grocery Market, Morris Gardner, Camp Bowie Boulevard, A&P Grocery, O.R. Gentry

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