A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 27, 2008
Bean Burger (Beanburger)

The San Antonio tradition of the “beanburger” (or “bean burger") supposedly began at Sill’s Snack Shack ("Triple S") in 1953. The building (at the corner of Austin Highway and New Braunfels Avenue) was owned by Frank Sill, Sr.; Felix Stehling (who later started the Taco Cabana chain) is often credited for working at the Triple S and putting out the first beanburger. Ringo’s is another San Antonio restaurant that served beanburgers since at least 1972.

The beanburger consists (according to one recipe) of a hamburger on a bun, with Cheez Wiz, white onions, Rosarita refried beans and crushed Fritos corn chips. The beanburger (according to another source) contains no mayo, no mustard, no lettuce, no pickle, no grilled onion, no cheddar cheese, no jalapeno. There are “beanburgers” through the United States that consist of just beans, but that sandwich is completely different from the San Antonio original.

Chris Madrids of San Antonio preserves the beanburger tradition by a similar “tostada burger.”


24 July 1957, Commerce (TX) Daily Journal, pg. 2, col. 1 ad:
SKILLET BEAN BURGERS
1 lb. ground lean beef
1 Tablespoon hot shortening
1/2 cup INSTANT PET (in dry form)
2 1/2 tablespoons onion salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup catsup
1-lb. can red beans (do not drain)
8 split sandwich buns
Brown beef slowly in shortening in 10-in. skillet. Stir with fork now and then to break up meat. Spoon off any fat in skillet. Stir in a mixture of INSTANT PET, onion salt, pepper, catsup and beans.Heat until steaming hot. Spoon into buns. Serve hot, 2 to a serving.

25 February 1973, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 7D, col. 10:
SINCE 1972
RINGO III
Home of the
“BEAN BURGER”
3219 Blanco Road

19 September 1974, Brownsville (TX) Herald, pg. 12, col. 2:
Bean Burger. Place grilled hamburger on toasted bun or French bread slice. Top with a generous spoonful of chili beans.

San Antonio (TX) Express-News
Popular Carlos’N Charlie’s due for January River Walk debut
November 14, 1996
Business Page 1D (521 Words)
Vicki Vaughan Express-News Business Writer San Antonio Express-News
San Antonio restaurateur Felix Stehling has for more than a year been looking to juice up Tequila Charlie’s, his River Walk restaurant.
(...)
He cut his teeth in the restaurant business in 1953, running the “Triple S,” also known as Sill’s Snack Shack, at the corner of Austin Highway and New Braunfels Avenue.

San Antonio (TX) Express-News
Everyday Eats - Love those beanburgers Refrieds and Fritos and cheese, oh my!
May 30, 1997
Weekender
Page 20H (450 Words)
Karen Haram San Antonio Express-News
It’s hard to find a food more uniquely San Antonian than the beanburger. First there’s that Texas staple, beef, topped with refried beans, a Tex-Mex favorite. Then there’s Fritos, invented in San Antonio by Elmer Doolin in the ‘30s. Throw on some cheese—Longhorn, perhaps—and we’re talking a San Antonio classic.

Locally, most credit Sill’s Snack Shack, then located on Austin Highway at New Braunfels Avenue, with…

San Antonio (TX) Express-News
Everyday Eats - Beanburgers: The sequel
Ringo’s loyal customers burn up the phone lines

June 13, 1997
Weekender
Page 24H (536 Words)
Karen Haram Express-News Food Editor San Antonio Express-News
Enough already! We might not have known it when we wrote our recent beanburger article, but multiple phone calls from readers later, we’re now aware there’s a Ringo’s at 2818 West Ave. that readers think has great beanburgers.

We’ll have to take exception with those who say that Ringo’s is where the beanburger started, however. We hold with our original contention that Frank Sill’s restaurant on Austin Highway gave the…

Google Groups: sat.food
Newsgroups: sat.food
From: “D. Cook”
Date: Sat, 01 Feb 2003 00:09:50 -0600
Local: Sat, Feb 1 2003 2:09 am
Subject: Re: Sill’s Snack Shack

Ok, several followups in one:

Chris Madrid’s is a latecomer to the beanburger party.  The Sills of which I speak is indeed the reincarnation of the location that was once upon a time located at Austin Highway near Broadway, where the Stop N Go is now.  Sills closed down in the early 80s, I believe.

Billy T’s, on Austin Highway near Eldon, claims to use the original Sills recipe, but it’s just not the same.

The Sills beanburger, to the best of my recollection, is a toasted bun, a meat pattie, refried beans, fritos, onions, and Cheez Whiz. Jalapenos are optional but a welcome addition.  Very, very greasy.

My husband and I went to the location that’s out Highway 87 a few years ago, and it was just as good as I remembered it to be.

There’s actually a Citysearch page on it -
http://sanantonio.citysearch.com/profile/10077215/

I’ll have to call to find out if they’re still around.  =)

Houston (TX) Press
Texas Burger Binge
Our food critic reports on the state of the Texas burger—and recommends 18 you need to try immediately

By Robb Walsh
Published on August 25, 2005
(...)
The tostada burger is one of several variations on an old San Antonio tradition called a bean burger. Invented near Fort Sam Houston in the 1950s at a joint called Sill’s Snack Shop, the original bean burger was a regular ground beef patty on a bun, topped with refried beans, Fritos corn chips and a dollop of Cheez Whiz. Lots of burger joints in San Antonio serve the old version, while upscale variations include bean burgers made with black beans and bean burgers with guacamole added. Closer to home, Tookie’s in Seabrook serves an excellent bean burger topped with salsa.

In Hamburgers and Fries, Edge spends an entire chapter on the Alamo City delicacy. The bean burger and its Tex-Mex embellishments “define the burger as Texan, while paying homage to the Mexican roots of the state’s people,” Edge writes. He goes on to compare the bean burger’s sense of place with that of cedar-planked salmon in Washington State.

Roadfood.com
HankNBugsy Posted - 07/03/2006 : 12:45:23
Are bean burgers strictly a Texas burger, or do they make them in other states? Beef patty, refried beans, Fritos corn chips or nacho chips, grilled onions, cheddar cheese, jalapenos. My favorite, and as far as I’m concerned, the best burger in Texas, is at Specht’s Store just outside San Antonio. It will make your eyes roll back in your head from sheer pleasure at the first bite.
30 L A T E S T R E P L I E S (Newest First)
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Well, today in the Express News they had the article about Felix Stehling in the food section. According to the article, he leased the little building from Sill and called it the Triple S.
Later when the lease came up Sills took back the building and started his own place and also started selling the bean burgers. The article mentioned that the newspaper claimed Sill invented it. However Cappy lawton, who owns several resaurants in town and knows Stehling, wrote them a letter stating that Stehling was the real inventor and had eaten them there when Stehling ran the Triple S on Austin Highway.
wes-tex-rex Posted - 10/09/2006 : 16:11:51
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
“the old Snack Shack about 2 miles outside 1604 on 87?” That sounds right, it was a small simple white building on the left, in front of the owners residence. I bet if you stopped in they could tell you, but no guarantee you’ll get a beanburger!
Last Wednesdays TASTE section of the San Antonio Express News promised an article this Wednesday on “After Inventing the beanburger, Felix Stehling didn’t rest on his laurels”. He owned the Crystal Pistol, and then opened the first Taco Cabana across the street, but didn’t know he laid claim to the beanburger. Can’t wait to see...........
HollyDolly Posted - 10/09/2006 : 15:19:24
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Never at at the Snack Shack though I know where it was.Haven’t tried Billy T’s yet.
Will have to look for the former Snack Shack at 1604 and 87.
HankNBugsy,never eaten at the one at Blanco and 281.Hate that area lots of traffic,especially at 281 and Bitters over by the Embassy Theatre.I’ll let you know some time how the beanburger is over at the Forum one .
HankNBugsy Posted - 10/08/2006 : 19:09:55
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Holly Dolly - this one was from the EZs at Blanco & 281.
wes-tex-rex - by any chance is the old Snack Shack about 2 miles outside 1604 on 87? If its the building I think it is, its latest incarnation opened with a new owner on the 1st as a smoked barbecue place - haven’t tried it yet though ....
wes-tex-rex Posted - 10/06/2006 : 16:40:30
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The inventor most believed to have truly originated the beanburger was Frank Sill, Sr. His business Sill’s Snack Shack, was in the 400 block of Austin Hwy, in Alamo Heights, a suburb of San Antonio, TX. It was a great lunch place for myself and other 1960’s high school students. It had 7 or 8 tables and a 5 cent Williams batting machine. I worked there for about a month one summer. Frank’s son ran the Snack Shack for a while, but then closed it down. He “retired” to Adkins, Tx, about 20 miles from Alamo Heights, on Hwy 87 past China Grove. He re-opened the Snack Shack in front of his house for 4 or 5 years, but finally retired from that too, saying it was too much work. A Sill’s Beanburger: Hamburger bun, toasted on the grill, beef patty, cooked medium. Place 1 large spoon original Rosarita refried canned beans on top of the patty when it’s turned over and done on both sides. Turn again to heat & grill the beans. Place chopped onions on one bun, place Cheez-Whiz on the onions, turn patty one last time and place bean side up on the onions & Cheeze-Whiz. Top the beans with slightly crushed original size Fritos (we used Facs corn chips, now out of business), and serve. Best with crisp tater-tots. The beanburger had no mayo, no mustard, no lettuce, no pickle, no grilled onion, no cheddar cheese, no jalapeno. The Ringo establishment, now also closed, made the same recipe, and credited Frank Sill for it. Billy T’s, a few blocks out Austin Hwy, still makes the original Frank Sill recipe.
HollyDolly Posted - 10/03/2006 : 09:12:14

Chris Madrid’s (San Antonio, TX)—customer comments
Sill’s Snack Shack in Alamo Heights
Thanks for reminiscing with us about the home of the original San Antonio Bean-Burger at the Sill’s Snack Shack on Austin Highway in Alamo Heights. You and your place carry the Bean-Burger Flag proudly and well. Vaya con Dios y buena suerte, mis amigos.
Michael & Norma Blankenstein
Fort Worth/San Antonio
July,17 2006

San Antonio (TX) Express-News
GOOD EATS
October 11, 2006
Taste Page 01F (2310 Words)
David Uhler EXPRESS-NEWS STAFF WRITER
Fortunately for San Antonio restaurant-goers and bar hoppers, the inventor of the beanburger didn’t rest on his laurels. If he had, Felix Stehling wouldn’t have launched the incredibly successful Taco Cabana chain in San Antonio or more than a dozen other popular eateries and watering holes.

Today—more than half a century after he first topped a hamburger with refried beans, crunched-up Fritos and Cheez Whiz—the 79-year-old Stehling has slowed down some, but he…

Texas Monthly Recipe Swap
Beanburger Texas Style
Author: Rex Wright
Date: 11-17-06 07:23 recipe swap

Sill’s Snack Shack was where the Beanburger originated. It was in the 400 block of Austin Hwy, in Alamo Heights, a suburb of San Antonio, TX. It was a great lunch place for myself and other 1960’s high school students. It had 7 or 8 tables and a 5 cent Williams batting machine. I worked there for about a month one summer. Frank’s son ran the Snack Shack for a while, but then closed it down.

A Sill’s Beanburger.- HOW TO MAKE ONE: A large hamburger bun, toasted on the grill, a quality beef patty, cooked medium.
Place 1 large spoon original Rosarita refried canned beans on top of the patty when it’s turned over and done on both sides.

Turn again to heat & grill the beans.
Place chopped onions on one bun
place original Cheez-Whiz on the onions, turn patty one last time and place bean side up on the onions & Cheeze-Whiz.

Top the beans with slightly crushed original size Fritos (we used Facs corn chips, now out of business), and serve.

Best with crisp tater-tots. The beanburger had no mayo, no mustard, no lettuce, no pickle, no grilled onion, no cheddar cheese, no jalapeno.

San Antonio (TX) Express-News
Web Posted: 07/23/2008 12:00 CDT
Readers’ Questions
By John Griffin - Express-News Dining Editor
Q. Up on Austin Highway there is a chain link fence and padlock around Billy T’s. Any idea what’s going on, and, if it has closed, where can one now get a real Frank Sill’s beanburger with tater tots?

Like many other Alamo Heights kids of the times, I worked for a while there. We used Cheez Whiz, white onions, Rosarita refried beans and crushed Fritos. Does anyone still make one like that?

Chris Madrid’s is good, but different. Same with EZ’s. Mr./Mrs. Ringo have been gone a while; I guess they actually started it.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (6) Comments • Wednesday, August 27, 2008 • Permalink


I saw that Billy T’s closed down, sadly I never went there.  There is a new burger place over on Walzem called Bunsen Burgers that has a burger called “The Stehling Experiment” which is their take on the original bean burger.  They use fresh ground beef, with refried black beans, fresh melted cheddar, fritos, and pico de gallo.  Again, it’s their take on the original bean burger that Stehling created.  Even though it’s different, it’s pretty damn good I must say.  They bake their buns fresh in house too.

Posted by Michael  on  12/26  at  10:15 PM

We have a restaurant on 2818 West Avenue were Ringos used to be, it is called Rosti Pollo and we are just introducing the Bean Burger, so far we are told that is very good. Also our roasted chicken is a must try.

Posted by Jannette M.  on  01/29  at  07:35 PM

My father built our house at 215 Routt Street and we moved there in 1950.  I cannot remember how old I was, when my mother first told my I could go the the Dairy Queen by myself, but not Sill’s Snack Shack. I guess she thought it was safer for me to go get an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen. Both of these establishments were located just a few houses away from where I grew up. I actually did not eat any Bean Burgers until I was in high school, however I did consume quite a few of them. During high school, we would drive to Sill’s, order a Bean Burger, watch Mr. Sill’s slap the meat on the grill, put a scoop of refried beans on top and brush cheez whiz on the bun.  Onions were optional, depending on whether you were dating someone seriously at the time, however, the onions did blend well with the ingredients.  We could eat our bean burgers and get back to school in less than 30 minutes. I cannot remember very many kids in my class that did not eat a bean burger at one time or another.

Posted by Frankie Delph  on  08/16  at  11:15 AM

Billy T’s is back!  serving up the original Bean Burger!
New location 1896 Nacogdoches at New Braunfels

Wow that was a lot about the Bean Burger.
No matter who exactly invented it (either Stehling or Frank Sills Sr.) it was at “Sills Snack Shack”.

Billy T’s is carrying on the tradition of the original Bean Burger where you can also get a side of tater tots!
At my old location I even had the grill from Sills.
The Bean Burger has to be plenty of Chees Whiz on both buns onions on the bottom then meat. Topped with a plop of beans and pushed down slightly with slightly crushed fritos.  The only change I made to the original is I make homemade beans instead of out of a can. I recommend Jalapenos.
Make it what is called a Texas Bean Burger and get chili added.

Posted by Scudder Miller  on  06/29  at  06:38 PM

I grew up on bean burgers from the snack shack in the late 60s and early 70s. I’ve had the fancy ones from EZs and they were good but just not the same.

While the beanburger has continued to be remembered, the Snack Shack had another delicacy that does not seem as remembered and which in my opinion was an indispensable companion. The “Chihuahua”. This delectable offering was a hot dog, split down the middle with a slice of cheese inserted, wrapped in a corn tortilla, secured with a toothpick and then deep fried. Kind of a hot dog flauta that oozed cheesy goodness.

Every time I visit San Antonio, I drive lovingly past the spot where the Snack Shack stood.

Posted by Paula Buls  on  08/27  at  08:01 AM

i love this burger aint had it for ages

Posted by haram  on  09/11  at  04:27 AM

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