This title of this post could just as easily be read “Blasphemous Wench Seeks to Corrupt the Church” – because that is entirely the attitude surrounding all things burger. Each person has assembled their own altar to the most supreme burger in all the land, and anyone who seeks to tear down this foundation…well that my friends, is how the Crusades started.
The idea of a perfect burger is so ingrained in the very fabric of the American lifestyle, I’m surprised it wasn’t written into the Preamble of the Constitution, “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect
Union burger…” but that of course would have had to be written in much later, considering the invention of the hamburger isn’t credited until around 1900 or so.
Its spontaneous outburst into the hearts and stomachs of the American people is dripping in juicy controversy. A quick search for “hamburger inventor” yields numerous results and claims of so-and-so’s great-great grandfather being the first to serve the hamburger at the annual 4th of July picnic. Even those White Castle dudes claim to have had a hand in its origin; however, the debate has been put to rest (much like Old Yeller). The Library of Congress has officially decreed that Louis Lassen of Louis’ Lunch, a small operation out of Connecticut, created and sold the first hamburger in the U.S. in 1900. And we know what that means, Louis Lassen must have slept with a member of Congress (and to the victor go the spoils).
So how, you ask, did I prepare for this burger journey? I polled friends and family, scoured the internet, posted in online forums, got a burger tattoo, and began learning karate at my local dojo. I compiled a list of 20 places around town and did some market research to see what the general consensus was. Turns out, people are really vocal with their opinions on the internet. One user boldly declared that anyone who didn’t like the burgers at Casino El Camino could, and I quote, “ go f@ck themselves.” What criteria was I going to use that could possibly satisfy the erratic masses? Would it be based solely on taste, should I include presentation, do I judge the freshness of the fries as well – for what is a burger without a side of fries?
Then the realization sunk in: I am actually going to have to eat 20 burgers. This isn’t just going to be a savvy article; this could be the beginning to a documentary entitled “Super Size BEE” (get it? Get it? Cuz it’s my name, You know – cause of that movie where the guy…nevermind)
So what makes a great burger? Well it depends on who is doing the eating (me), what mood you’re in (typically pissed off), the weather (erratic)… things like that. Upon closer inspection of my final list of burger joints I discovered that there were just too many to narrow it down to one, or even a top ten!
Then it hit me. [light bulb]
Burger goodness should not be judged in a linear pathway from best to worst; it should be decided by the moments in which they really shine! So after many hours of deliberation, a lot of road rage from driving all around town, and about a good 5 pounds, I present to you…
Best Old Fashioned Burger: Hut’s 807 W.6th Street
Hut’s is an Austin burger staple. It originally started as Sammie’s Drive-In in August of 1939, the same year that Hitler invaded Poland and kicked off World War 2 (which we won by the way). This burger is about as American as you can get! Their beef is purchased locally from South Austin, and each tasty morsel is grilled to perfection. I ordered The All American Buddy Holly burger, which I devoured with all the aggressiveness of the 101st storming the beaches at Normandy. It’s got all the good classic flavors, just like G.Washington would have wanted.
Best Burger ANYTIME: 24 Diner 600 N. Lamar
My first experience with 24 Diner happened several months ago; 2:30 AM, stumbling, and hungry…you know the drill. Where do you go at 2:30 in the morning when you’re hungry? Well, the answer is actually home, but when that won’t do there’s 24 Diner. The burger elicited a reaction that I can only communicate through a group of bards singing tales of it through generations. Well, wanting to make sure that just wasn’t the crazy juice talking, I went back and tried it again. Same reaction, but this time I really savored the effort. Each patty is made from natural brisket ground daily, not your typical chuck. Each burger is served on a locally made pain au lait bun, which translates into “Jesus made this.” Not one hundred percent about that translation though, you might want to look it up.
Best Burger When You’re Hungover: Dirty Martin’s 2808 Guadalupe Street
Located next to the bustling University of Texas campus, this place has seen the framework of the city grow and expand around it. Originally established as a car hop, the nick name “Dirty” came from the stores original dirt floor. But there ain’t nothing dirty about Dirty Martin’s – except for maybe some of the patrons. I personally had been out on a weekend bender and just needed some good old comfort food- and I was not disappointed. There’s a reason Austinites like to add the pre-fix “dirty” as a term of endearment (Dirty 6th, for example), for it is a word that has come to be synonymous with “real“, and Dirty Martin’s is real good.
Most Surprising: Counter Café 626 N. Lamar
Counter Café has had the shining honor of being featured on the Food Network program, Diner’s Drive-In’s and Dives. Normally, it is known as a breakfast spot, that the one where all the cool kids go…which is why I had to practically assault my way through the door to get in. Once I finally blended in with the crowd (HEY you guys see that show at Stubb’s last night?!?!?!) I sat down and ordered the Counter Burger. I didn’t have any expectations, really, but the burger from Counter Café is surprisingly good… easy like Sunday morning good. They use organic bibb lettuce, fresh produce, all nicely nestled on a savory wheat bun. You can also get it on white, you know… if you’re into that.
Best Burger while watching football: The Tavern 922 W. 12th Street
I came here one Sunday to watch some good ol’ fashion American football with my friends. Apparently this is the spot where misplaced Chicagoan’s come when they want to get together and cry – I mean, cheer on DA BEARS. This particular Sunday was a very good game for Cutler and the Bears, so the place was packed. The beer selection on tap at the Tavern is notoriously good, so I ordered something tasty and in season, and put my name in for the Classic Tavern Burger. Served on a toasted kolache bun (yes, you read that right) this delicious meal could almost make a Bears fan forget that, well, they are Bears fans… ALMOST.
Best use of Ingredients: Your Mom’s Burger Bar 5001 Airport Blvd.
I promise I will not make one “Yo Mama” joke about this restaurant. I had heard great things about this place so I went to check it out with a few co-workers of mine. Their biggest attraction is that the burgers are made with fresh, local produce and meat, and the patties are actually stuffed with ingredients. In some areas of the U.S. this is called a “Juicy Lucy”. I ordered the Buffalo Bill (it puts the lotion on its skin), their most popular menu item. It’s an Austin take on a buffalo burger, with bleu cheese, homemade buffalo sauce, jalapenos, bacon, and a sautéed green chili. I was floored! I must give an honorable mention to the fries, which were equally as delicious. Really, just all around fantastic. You know what else is fantastic? YO MAMA (I lied).
Best Burger in a Hurry: Mighty Fine Burger 10515 N. Mo-Pac Expressway
Now, I want to make a distinction. There is a huge difference between “fast food” and receiving your food in a quick and efficient manner. Namely, the freshness of ingredients and whether or not you’re under the influence. Mighty Fine Burger tosses around the words simple, fresh, and genuine to remind the consumer that they aren’t some fancy-schmancy joint, but rather, a throwback to the good days. The days when people didn’t have to lock their doors, or spend an arm and a leg on gas, or have to wear pants! For a break from the extravagant hustle and bustle of life, sometimes all you need is something mighty fine. Also while you’re there, order a milkshake, and tell em Ol’ Rusty Bee sent you.
Best FEEL GOOD AFTER Burger: Wholly Cow 310 S.Lamar or 619 Congress Ave.
You know like, when you eat a burger and you’re SO hungry you just wolf it down…and then 10 minutes later you feel like Jabba the Hut and you just want to freeze your roommate in carbonite? Yeah, I think we all know that feeling. Luckily, there is a solution to ending that sluggish miasma: Wholly Cow. Their beef hails from up over yonder in Fredericksburg, and is all grass fed. I ordered mine with a portabello mushroom “bun” because let’s get real; I think I’m starting to notice the extra pounds. It’s a little messy, and I probably looked like Jabba the Hut while eating it, but after wiping away the juiciness from off my chin and walking out of there… I gotta tell you I was feeling more like Luke Skywalker. (Jedi Handwave) This definitely is the burger you are looking for.
Best Burger Selection: HopDoddy 1400 S. Congress Ave. or 2438 A West Anderson
Say you’re in the mood for a burger, but you want something different. You can’t put a name to it, or even the right ingredients, but there exists a yearning desire deep within you to eat a juicy delicious beef patty between two scrumptious buns. Hazily you look in the distance and see a glowing neon sign with the word “SHELL” – no not that one keep looking – ah yes, there it is: “HopDoddy.” Suddenly, like a modern day Constantine, everything just makes sense: A burger place to satisfy the void that consistently fills your life. Greek burger, Tuna Burger, Buffalo Burger, Black Bean Patty, Mushrooms.. THE LIST GOES ON. Simply put, if Obama had started HopDoddy, we’d all give him a third term.
Best Burger to Take Your Friends From Out of Town: Casino El Camino 517 East 6th St.
There’s no denying it any longer; Austin is the greatest city on earth. It has a rich history and funky vibrations, as glorious as the rolling hills it was founded on. So it is no wonder then, that we are constantly being bombarded by visitors wanting to get in on the action. SOMEHOW, you always become the unofficial tour guide of Austin for friends who just want to see what makes this place so “weird.” Here’s a tip: Take them to Casino El Camino. As it proudly boasts on its entrance sign, it is home to world famous burgers, and an even more famous location. It is a one stop shop for delicious food, great drinks, and that flawless Austin attitude. (Don’t tell them Rusty Bee sent you, that means something else here…)