This blogger has never turned away from his duty to wage "the never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way." And "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night" has stayed this blogger "from the swift completion of his appointed rounds." When Texas Monthly chose the 50 best hamburgers in Texas in its August 2009 issue, this blogger dutifully verified the TM findings for the eight Austin joints/restaurants listed among the top 50 in the Lone Star State. The Austin burger venues were, in order (with TM ranking):
This blogger, risking artery blockage at every turn, visited all of the eight Austin joints. The research resulted in a revised Top 3: Cover 3's Chop-House Burger is the best to be had in Austin; the Counter Cafe's Counter Burger was the next-best; and the third-best burger in Austin was the Roaring Fork's Half-Ass Burger. That all said, the search for a good burger is now history and joins the posts in '08 about the Texas Barbeque Hajj here, here, and here. If these is (fair & balanced) gourmandism, so be it.
PS: The Iron Law Of Sandwich Condiments:
[x YouTube/Elmike1 Channel]
"Pulp Fiction Royale With Cheese" (1994)
By Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta
The Fifty Greatest Hamburgers In Texas
By Patricia Sharpe with Rena Behar, Nate Blakeslee, Jordan Breal, Cathy Casey, Ken Cluley, Pamela Colloff, David Courtney, Megan Giller, Lisa J. Grissom, Leanne B. Hedrick, Stacy Hollister, Charlie Llewellin, Margaret Y. Luévano, Patricia Busa McConnico, Fern McDougal, Wendy Moncada, Brad Perkins, Kaitlin N. Petersen, Tony Privett, Ronn Reeger, Emily Rosenthal, Sandy Sheehy, Jake Silverstein, John Spong, Mimi Swartz, Brian D. Sweany, Andrea Valdez, Katy Vine, Amy Weiss and Lois Wischkaemper
Barbecued brisket, chicken-fried steak, and tacos aside, there is no more iconic Texas food than the hamburger. Not only was the most famous American sandwich invented here, but every day, we Texans consume burgers by the millions. Which is why Texas Monthly concluded some six months ago that it was high time we published the definitive story celebrating this indigenous food and identifying the fifty greatest examples currently being served. That such a story had never before greased, er, graced these pages seemed inexplicable.
Almost immediately, we understood the omission. The task was impossible! Everybody who wrote, called, or stopped us in the hallway had a different favorite burger. (For fun we also asked a bunch of notable Texans for their top picks.) Sure, the names of classic joints kept popping up, but basically people nominated their neighborhood favorites. It was as if we had asked, “Who’s the best kid in Texas?” The answer’s always “Mine, of course.” (Editors’ note: To be clear, “The Fifty Best Kids in Texas” will not be featured in an upcoming issue; please do not send nominations.)
We boiled down these recommendations, plus everything else our research turned up, into a list of candidates ranging from the ultrasimple to the über-swanky. For patriotic and aesthetic reasons (and to maintain our sanity), we eliminated national chains and urban steakhouses. Our 31 valiant tasters covered 12,343 miles, visited 253 restaurants, and gained a cumulative 45 pounds.
The results were startling. Legions of legendary places—Dirty Martin’s, Nau’s, Kincaid’s, Chris Madrid’s, Adair’s, Bellaire Broiler Burger—had failed to score in the top fifty. Though plenty of old-school joints did appear, the thin-patty, no-nonsense burger of bygone days was routinely upstaged by a buxom, tricked-out twenty-first-century iteration.
The conclusion? This is what happens when you go for quality over nostalgia. In seeking burgers that stopped us in our tracks, we left some hallowed names in the dust. Undoubtedly, burger-loving readers will be outraged at a few of our picks and misses, but so be it. Here begins our list of the fifty best hamburgers in Texas Patricia Sharpe and Jake Silverstein
$9 (Fries are included in this price.)
Counter Cafe, Austin
During any given lunch hour, more than half the customers are having burgers, despite a menu with first-rate crab cakes and fried oysters. That’s what happens when you have a monster hit. This simple, flawless burger is like an expertly composed three-minute pop song: There are no wrong notes. The hand-pressed patty is six ounces of plump and succulent Niman beef from Colorado, cooked to order. The sweetness of the bun plays treble against the meaty bass line, and the toppings all contribute excellent backup. The lettuce is Boston, the onion is Bermuda, the cheese is very good cheddar, and the tomatoes are ripe. Elegant, uncomplicated, addictive. 626 N. Lamar Blvd., 512-708-8800. PS [Patricia Sharpe]
Chop-House Burger (with cheese and bacon)
$10.25 (Fries are included in this price.)
Cover 3, Austin
Can this really be a sports bar? The joint’s too classy, and so’s the burger. Half a pound of freshly ground beef cooked to rosy perfection rests regally on a square ciabatta bun. The bread is toasted, and if you lean in close, you can sniff the buttery aroma. The cheese is good Longhorn cheddar, and the bacon is just about as supreme a sliver of pig as we’ve ever encountered. Shredded lettuce and slices of ripe red tomato and purple Bermuda onion round out the plate. The fries—delicate potato shoestrings dusted with Parmesan and chives—underscore the better-than-it-has-to-be philosophy here. 2700 Anderson Ln., 512-374-1121. PS
Half Ass Burger
$10 (Fries are included in this price.)
Roaring Fork, Austin
A highly personal question must be asked before you order: Are you a Big Ass or a Half Ass? It’s cool if you’re a Big Ass, but happily, even the eight-ounce Half Ass is plenty. The hand-formed patty of 100 percent ground chuck is accessorized with aged cheddar and three crunchy strips of excellent lean bacon. Chipotle mayo (infinitely superior to plain mayo, IOHO) comes on the side. The one drawback is that the inevitable gusher of meat juices soaks the bottom bun, causing the sandwich to begin falling apart about halfway through the meal. Frankly, the Half Ass doesn’t eat all that well, but, as Mom used to say, everything gets mixed up in your stomach anyway, and would that all catastrophes tasted so fine. (Plus, the dainty eater could always—gasp!—use a fork.) 701 Congress Ave., 512-583-0000. Two other locations, one in Austin and one in San Antonio. PS Ω
[Patricia Sharpe was the principal writer, among thirty reviewers, for Texas Monthly's "Fifty Greatest Hamburgers " guide. Sharpe holds a B.A. with honors (and English honors) and an M.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining Texas Monthly in 1974, she was a research assistant in educational psychology, taught English and Spanish, and served as a supervisor of publications for the Texas Historical Commission. She was co-editor of Texas, the first Texas Monthly Press statewide travel guide, and is a recipient of the Anson Jones Award from the Texas Medical Association.
Jake Silverstein received a B.A. in English from Wesleyan University, an M.A. in English from Hollins University in Virginia, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. Silverstein was a writer and editor for Harper's before coming to Texas Monthly in 2006 as a Senior Editor. In September 2008 he was named Editor of Texas Monthly.]
Copyright © 2009 Emmis Publishing
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Copyright © 2009 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves