People waited in long lines to sample a certain Houston rapper’s smashburgers at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. But Southwest Management District has a burgers-and-more place that appears to be a crowd-puller year-round.

At Bismillah Restaurant & Cafe, 5696 Hillcroft St., you can get fries with that burger. But at this business in the official city Gandhi District, you don’t have to stop there.

You can add samosas, chaat and other Indian/Pakistani favorites to your order. Craving pizza? That’s on the menu, too — including versions with tandoori chicken, shredded beef and more.

Opened by Shah Moghul, Bismillah has been on the Houston culinary scene for years. After his retirement, Moghul’s son, Inam, and daughter, Huma, took over the business. They remodeled — combining two nearby restaurants into one — and also came up with fresh and innovative culinary dishes for new generations to enjoy.

From traditional kebabs and authentic curries to unique burgers, flavorful and equally distinctive pizzas and wings, they have it at Bismillah. And, if they don’t have it on the menu, it might be on the “secret menu” that isn’t so secret anymore.

Ali Khan wrote an article for Texas Highways last year about burgers in the Houston area that will “pop your eyes out and bust your gut.” At Bismillah, Khan dined on the Waffle Burger — a patty wrapped in two Belgian waffles and topped with Philly cheesesteak.

“You know the food is good when the locals come here,” said a Yelp reviewer. “This is a go-to spot whenever I am in Houston.”

On a recent weekday evening in the Southwest Management District, the restaurant was hopping with families gathering to eat together flanked by a mural celebrating the owners’ Houston and Pakistani heritage. A steady stream of people came through to pick up orders to go.

Local foodie John Nechman stopped by Bismillah based on a list of the “10 Best Burgers to Try Now in Houston” from Houston Food Finder.

Nechman wrote in a social media post that he’s eaten at Bismillah many times over the years and said the restaurant’s samosas are some of the “tastiest in town.” But he only had one, and not his usual five, on a recent visit because he was also going for the Black Mamba Burger — a beef patty, Philly cheesesteak and beef gyro topped with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and spicy sauce.

Inspired by Nechman, I ordered the Aloo Samosa served with spicy tamarind sauce to start my meal. And, while I had intended to go for the burgers everyone is talking about, I took a different route on this particular night.

My husband wanted to try the Pani Puri, a popular street food he recently tried in India. The dish consists of potato, onion and chickpeas stuffed into puri — small pockets of deep-fried bread — and then drenched in sour and spicy mint-flavored water.

Bismillah’s Instagram page states, “If you can take the heat, we can dish it out,” and the Achar Chicken — cooked chicken with pickling spices — sure did bring the heat with tender pieces of chicken that were delicious, but required me to stop eating every so often to let my mouth catch up with the spice level.

I should have ordered the mango lassi (a creamy yogurt-based drink) to cool off my palette, as suggested by Eater Houston.

One of the original halal restaurants in town, Bismillah was named recently by Eater Houston as one of the “exceptional halal eats” in the area.

(Halal, an Arabic word for “permissible,” refers to meat slaughtered according to Islamic standards).

For our final dish, we chose the Goat Biryani based on reviews and, as soon as I tasted it, I told my husband he could, of course, sample it, but the leftovers were mine, all mine.

The flavorful dish was spicy, but not too much so, and the goat was tender and cooked to perfection, falling off the bone —  and onto my list of favorite dishes in the Houston area.

Bismillah Restaurant & Cafe
5696 Hillcroft St.

— by Dorothy Puch Lillig