Huntsville's next best burger?

Michelle Wulfson | The ItemShorts Top owner Suraj Paikara is pursuing his life-long dream of working with food. The entrepreneur's burgers have gained a strong following in the Huntsville community since opening in September, and many are calling them the best in town.

Currently the new burger joint to watch, Shorts Top owner Suraj Paikara is humble about his successful beginnings.

“I don’t want to be the best, I just need excellence, I need something to be very good, perfect,” Shorts Top owner Suraj Paikara said.

Though many have argued that his burgers are the best in town.

Located inside of the old Short Stop gas station, currently known as Huntsville Food Mart No. 2, Paikara wanted to bring the well-known name back to the community with a slight twist.

With a Short Stop burgers already in Austin, Paikara decided to slightly alter the spelling of his first restaurant to Shorts Top, creating a name that still drew homage to the gas station’s roots and exemplified the entrepreneur’s search for excellence.

“It’s the fastest burger that you get, and it’s the top burger that you get, so that is what my focus is on,” Paikara said, adding that he has perfected his method to get a fresh burger out in just six minutes flat.

The 28 year-old has worked at Huntsville Food Mart since 2013 as a part time cashier while attending Sam Houston State University studying management information systems. Two months shy of graduating, Paikara dropped out of school in pursuit of his passion and hasn’t looked back since.

“I knew what I was doing with my life and I didn’t see the value of what I was doing there … (dropping out) was the best thing of my life, I didn’t want to do something that I didn’t love, so finally, I think I found it,” Paikara said.

Paikara views the business as a means to fulfill a life-long dream of working in a kitchen.

“My friends used to go play after school, and I used to sit with my mom in the kitchen and watch her cook, so she inspired me,” Paikara said.

Shorts Top’s beginnings were small. Opening for business in mid-September, Paikara would seamlessly switch from his cashier’s shift at the gas station to serving food from 7 p.m. to midnight, operating the business entirely on his own before hiring help in October.

“We used to have one more cashier and when he clocked-in, I would clock-out and start doing my stuff. I was not getting paid for what I was doing, I did it just for my interest and satisfaction,” Paikara said, describing his first week as just okay, and his second week as “big”, making over 100 burgers by himself.

Paikara plans to keep the menu small and classic – wings, chicken sandwiches, home-style fries, and burgers made from quality meat and sourdough buns toasted in 100% butter.

“Most people in Huntsville don’t use sourdough buns – before I started making burgers in October, I went to all of the burger places here and I noticed many things that they weren’t doing, so I picked those things and put it in mine,” Paikara said.

The Shorts Top owner has built his business model on differentiating himself from what he commonly notices amongst local businesses, and is constantly learning from constructive criticism he sees online.

Shorts Top is currently running a $4.99 special for current service members of the armed forces, veterans and police officers. As for the future, Paikara has big dreams of franchising, and with his strong sense of business and passion for food, it’s doubtful he won’t see his goals through.