As a member of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance, I am joining a team of fellow foodies in creating a City Wide Dining Guide detailing the best of the best Austin has to offer. First up for Ginny’s Austin is burgers with favorites as discovered through personal research (eating) and a very scientific survey of fellow AFBA members. Whether you’re visiting Austin or just on the hunt for that next great burger, Austin has a bounty of options from which to choose. Things might seem a little bit ‘weirder’ in Austin, but when it comes to burgers, our Texan roots are clear as day. Many a great debate has been initiated by opinions on topics like greasy vs. gourmet, sweet bun vs. regular, and medium rare vs. medium. Defining the perfect burger may be an impossible feat, but here is a list of top picks around town to help start the conversation. Happy eating, and feel free to let us know what amazing burgers still need discovering around town!
Contigo – With just one taste of Contigo’s burger, it was love at first bite. Contigo’s burger proves one doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel to make something great. It doesn’t come with a million topping options, attempts at cultural fusions, or secret sauces. It is a straightforward rendition of the classic dish made from high quality ingredients and cooked just right. Inspired by South Texas’ Contigo Ranch, the restaurant consistently doles out dishes that are both rustic and refined, and this burger is no exception. Thick, juicy burgers are made from a quality of beef reflective of Contigo’s ranching roots and served open face on a freshly baked sweet challah bun. With melted aged cheddar on top and salty, crispy fries on the side, it is perfection.
Contigo Austin. 2707 Anchor Lane, Austin, TX 78732. 512.614.2260. Open daily from 5pm-midnight. Sunday brunch from 10:30am-2:30pm.
Casino El Camino – Maybe it’s the dark, gritty interior or edgy soundtrack courtesy of Austin’s best jukebox, but upon first entering Casino El Camino, it is evident a meal at Casino El Camino will either be frightening or frighteningly good. Those who have visited the 6th Street dive bar can attest the latter is most certainly true, and burger lovers who haven’t should do so immediately. Casino El Camino’s monster-sized burgers feature handmade patties made from ¾ pound of charboiled Angus beef, ground fresh daily in house. Grilled medium, each burger is charred on the outside yet tender and juicy on the inside. As expected, Casino El Camino rebels against that whole sweet bun trend as their burgers are all about the meat. The menu consists of six burger options, but if you can handle some heat, put your money on the Buffalo or Armadillo burger (both $7.50). The Buffalo burger is grilled with Casino El Camino’s fiery wing sauce and covered in crumbled blue cheese. The Armadillo burger features roasted Serrano peppers, cilantro mayo, and jalapeno jack cheese. The spicy toppings against the meaty burger flavor are unbeatable, especially when washed down with cold beer. While the burger is beyond filling, it is still highly recommended to save room for an order of Verde Chili Fries. Freshly hand-cut potatoes are fried crisp before being topped with a tomatillo sauce and melted cheese. The made to order burgers can sometimes take a bit longer than average, especially on a busy weekend night, but they are well worth the wait. In the meantime, order a beer and put some quarters in the jukebox while you prepare your stomach for the greatness it’s about to enjoy.
Casino El Camino. 517 East 6th Street Austin, TX 78701. (512) 469-9330. Kitchen open daily from 11:30-1:30am.
Dirty Martin’s – Not much has changed over the years at this Austin institution, and that kind of reliability is exactly why it deserves a place on this list. Dirty’s burgers are greasy, dirt cheap, and always served with a side of nostalgia. For a ‘lighter’ lunch, go for the Sissy Burger ($3.50) topped simply with mayo, lettuce, and tomatoes. Or, throw caution to the wind and spring for the large D.H. Special ($6.25) featuring double meat, double cheese, grilled onions, pickles, and tomatoes sandwiched between Texas toast. Dirty’s legendary burgers aren’t the only menu standouts. A fried egg sandwich ($3.85) with two eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, and mayo is a personal favorite. For those in need of a serious recovery meal or perhaps storing up for winter, the top sirloin sandwich ($6.25) is an excellent choice, especially with extra jalapenos and a fried egg on top. However, no matter what you order, Dirty Martin’s will give you a plate full of reasons to Kum-Bak.
Dirty Martin’s. 2808 Guadalupe, Austin, TX 78705. 512.477.3173. Open daily from 11am-11pm.
The Tavern – According to The Tavern, you are never too far from 12th & Lamar, which is a very good thing for burger lovers. The Tavern’s burgers are made from ½ pound all natural beef and grilled as you like it. Topping combinations run the gamut from the Black & Blue’s fried potato strings and blue cheese to the Shredded Cheddar’s patty encased in cheesy goodness. Just to prove this burger is Texas through and through, it is served on a toasted kolache bun inspired by the Czech-Tex traditional treat. Specialty burgers are priced at $9.99 or $8.99 for a classic. Additional topping options include caramelized onions, fajita peppers, and multiple types of cheeses.
The Tavern. 922 West 12th Street, Austin, TX 78703. 512.320.8377. Open Monday & Tuesday 8am-12am. Wednesday – Saturday 8am-2am. Sunday 8am-10pm.
Hopdoddy – Judging by consistently out-the-door long lines, Hopdoddy is not exactly Austin’s best kept secret, and for good reason. The widely popular burger bar makes buns in house, grinds meat fresh daily, and uses locally sourced products in everything from the burgers to the beer. The use of superior ingredients shines through in the flavorful burger combinations. Additionally, choices go beyond the traditional beef patty; bison, turkey, veggie, and tuna burgers are all part of the menu. Burgers like the Primetime ($12) featuring Kobe beef, brie, and a truffle aioli and Ahi Tuna ($10) with Nori chips and honey wasabi put Hopdoddy’s on the gourmet end of the burger spectrum, so expect to pay a bit more than at the drive through. However, these delicious, creative burgers are well worth the uptick in price and wait in line any day of the week.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar. 1400 South Congress, Austin, TX 78704. 512.243.7505. Sunday – Thursday 11am- 10pm; Friday – Saturday 11am-11pm.
Counter Café – Counter Café’s burger reached peak fandom after landing on Texas Monthly’s list of 50 Best Burgers in Texas. Served medium rare on a sweet bun, fresh off the grill, with grilled onions and cheese added, it’s certainly easy to understand its acclaim. Best burger in Austin? Tough to say, but it is pretty darn delicious. Other menu highlights include the grilled pimento cheese sandwich, homemade soups, and crab cakes and eggs. The small and popular diner fills up quickly, especially on the weekends, so get to the Counter Café early to beat the lunch rush.
Counter Café. 626 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78701. 512.780.8800.. Open 7:30am-4:00pm Daily.
P. Terry’s – Since opening in 2006, local favorite hamburger slinger P. Terry’s has served to reinvent the fast food model by proving quick and cheap doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality. P. Terry’s burgers don’t rely on tricked out toppings and fancy ingredients to be special. Their straightforward, simple burgers are made from 100% natural Angus beef, delivered daily produce, and tried and true toppings like French’s mustard. Beyond the beef burger, P. Terry’s also boasts the best veggie burger in Austin made from a house blend of fresh vegetables, brown rice, and black beans. Despite serving a much higher quality burger than the average chain, P. Terry’s still manages to keep prices at fast food levels. A hamburger is just $2.00 or $4.55 with fries and a drink. P. Terry’s. 5 area locations in Austin & Lakeway. This burger: Barton Springs & Lamar location. 404 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704. 512.473.2217. Open Daily: Mon-Thurs 7am – 11pm. Fri 7am -3am, Sat 8am-3am, Sun 8am-11pm.
Phil’s Ice House – The family friendly Phil’s Ice House was founded by Amy and Steve Simmons, owners of Austin’s favorite ice cream shop Amy’s Ice Cream in 2004. Named in honor of Amy’s recently deceased partner Phil Clay, the husband and wife team set out to honor their friend with food to make him proud. One can only assume if Phil were here today, he would be quite pleased after sinking his teeth into a 78704 burger ($7.75). The burger joint’s house favorite features a hearty yet manageable patty perfectly cooked to order before being topped with a spicy array of ingredients. This hotter-than-Hades ‘South of the River’ burger features grilled onions, melted Monterrey Jack cheese, jalapenos, avocados, chipotle mayo, and a jalapeno cheddar bun. For milder palates, The Rosedale’s blend of sweet BBQ sauce and cheddar ($7.75) or a classically topped Allandale burger ($7.00) may be a better fit. Better yet, let indecision be your guide and order a la carte mini versions of Phil’s burgers ($5.50). All burgers are served with a mix of sweet potato and regular fries.
Phil’s Ice House. 5620 Burnet Road-Northland and Burnet or 2901 South Lamar, Austin, TX 78704. Open Sunday – Thursday 11am-9:00pm. Friday-Saturday 11am-10:00pm.
Wholly Cow – Set in the nondescript Zen Food Mart on South Lamar, Wholly Cow defines the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. Only in Austin would one find the best burger created from hormone free, organic, grass fed beef in such a surprisingly off the beaten path location. The meat is lightly seasoned to ensure a burger which tastes like actual beef. Toppings like lettuce and onions are finely minced, old school style. Fans of a low carb or gluten free lifestyle can choose the Paleo Burger which subs two huge portabella mushrooms for buns. Don’t worry about being too healthy, however. The burgers are cooked on a well-greased griddle to ensure just the right amount of greasiness. Fries can be hit or miss, so try your luck with onion rings. Word is the Philly cheesesteaks are excellent as well. Wholly Cow recently expanded operations to a second store front downtown, but its original location comes with an element of pleasant surprise to make it extra unique.
Wholly Cow. 3010 South Lamar Boulevard Austin, TX 78704. (512) 394-8156. Open Monday-Thursday 11am-9:30pm. Friday-Saturday 11am-10:30pm. Sunday 12-8:30pm.