In a city where the Longhorn is a powerful, near-sacred mascot and the smell of smoke and firewood rises from the sidewalks, Texans do not take their burgers with a grain of salt. A line regularly winds down South Congress for Hopdoddy and the novelty of In-N-Out Burger still hasn’t worn off.
However, there are plenty of others to choose from, no matter what your preference. Here, we’ve rounded up 11 of Austin’s best burgers in celebration of National Burger Day.
Adorable Henri’s on South Lamar is about more than wine and cheese — anyone who’s ever lunched on one of the scrumptious sandwiches can attest to that. The burger ($12.50) has become such a hit that Henri's has started a monthly burger night on select Mondays, often selling out within a few hours.
The bun is perfectly pillowy, yet substantial enough to stand up to the juicy, flavorful patty, which comes cloaked in melted camembert; slathered with a rich house mustard and aioli; then topped with a sweet tangle of caramelized onions; briny little cornichons; smooth button lettuce; and a thick, juicy slice of tart green tomato. We recommend the greens, lightly coated in a lemon vinaigrette, then tossed with sliced almonds, slivered red onion and just a bit of grated cheese.
Justine's Royale with Cheese
You may arrive at this hip French bistro with intentions of escargot and coq au vin, but, rest assured, you will not be disappointed if you succumb to the Royale with Cheese ($10). The secret behind the patty is the marriage of tenderloin and ribeye, draped with melted gruyere, topped with crisp butter lettuce and tomato on toasted ciabatta. It is accompanied by garlicky frites and dijon aoili, a stylish waitstaff and a pretty choice soundtrack.
The dining room can get loud, so opt for a seat on the patio, aglow with lights and neon signage. Begin or end your meal with a game of petanque and a pint of Kronenbourg 1664 or a glass of reasonably priced house wine.
Casino El Camino's Pitts
You might not expect to find a winning burger in the heart of Sixth Street, but Casino will make a believer out of you. Enter to the sound of a thrashing jukebox and the sight of a tiki-punk interior bathed in ruby red candlelight. Find your way to the window where you will place your order, choosing from six different 12-ounce burgers. Try the Buffalo (wing sauce and blue cheese, $7.50) or the Pitts (sauteed mushrooms and onions, provolone cheese, A-1 steak sauce, $7.50).
The meat is high-quality and ground fresh daily, so don’t be afraid to order medium rare. Do expect a bit of a wait while the kitchen staff cooks the bulbous burger. An order of verde chili fries ($5.75) should set you straight. Come here for straight-up delicious, no frills burgers, served best with an ice cold PBR.
There’s a lot to love about Contigo: the awesome patio, house-made charcuterie and shareable snacks. The burger itself has managed to gain a bit of a cult following for its simple perfection ($12). The Windy Bar Ranch beef patty is a generous portion and comes cooked to perfection on a challah bun baked fresh daily.
Lettuce, tomato, onion and thin-sliced house pickles come on the side; house-made bacon or cheddar can be added to the burger, though purists will tell you it needs nothing more. Contigo's fries are cut thin and fried to a golden crisp. Paired with a local beer on the sunny patio, this is a summertime must.
Hopfields' Pascal Burger
The Hopfields patty ($13) is packed with flavor and salted to perfection. It comes medium rare, unless otherwise requested (and why would you?) and arrives on an appropriately firm bun to hold up to the stack of caramelized onions, soft layer of creamy camembert, slightly bitter wipe of mustard and cornichons. It’s accompanied by thin, herbed fries and a tiny jar of aioli (and a fancy Laguiole pearl-handled knife).
Settle into a spot at one of the long, dark wooden tables or opt for the patio, which features a tented area of Moroccan-style seat cushions.
Burger Tex II's bulgogi burger
This campus-area Korean burger joint bears no relation to the darker, divier Airport Boulevard location of the same name, or the Burger Tex on East Anderson Lane, for that matter. Yet all three have developed a cult following for their spicy bulgogi burgers ($6), which have just the right amount of heat, sweet and umami to them.
The fries are lightly coated in a layer of crispness and burger fixings are self-serve via a salad bar setup. A hand-written sign promises, “Homemade sauce must be good — Mrs. Lee made it!” Judging from the fast and friendly service, climbing vines, floral curtains and tableside roll of paper towels, we might as well be in Mrs. Lee’s home kitchen.
Swift's Attic's Monday night burgers
When designing the burger for Swift's Attic’s lunch menu, Chef Matt Clouser looked to one of the team’s favorite burger memories for inspiration. Appropriately dubbed the Bowling Alley Burger ($11), this doozy of a Niman Ranch patty is cooked on a flat top and topped with griddled red onions and a melty layer of fontina cheese on a house-made sesame bun. The fries are cooked to a deep golden brunch and tossed with sea salt.
Can’t make it for lunch? Every Monday is "Burger Night," but Swift's only makes 12 specialty burgers each week. To enjoy, you must make a reservation by 5 pm that night and arrive by 8 pm to place an order. The burgers are served at 9 pm sharp. The lucky dozen get to nosh on creations like The Breakfast Burger (crispy prosciutto, hash browns, sunny side up egg and mayo), The Porkstrami Burger (house cred porkstrami, jalapeno kraut, Russian dressing, fontina), and The Rossini Burger (foie gras, seared cremini mushrooms, gorgonzola, wilted arugula, port demi-glace) — all for the price $10.
Jo's Coffee's hamburger and veggie burger
Don’t expect any half-hearted coffee shop fare from the downtown location of Jo’s — especially on Monday night, when the delicious burgers are buy one, get one free (we suggest going with a friend and splitting both the hamburger and the veggie — $10 for both). The house-made veggie burger is the perfect blend of black beans, wheat roast, spinach and red bell pepper. The fact that the 100 percent Angus beef patty is fresh and delicious is unsurprising considering that owner Liz Lambert and her brother Chef Lou Lambert come from a long line of West Texas ranchers.
Drink.well's Texas Kobe Burger
Don’t expect any ol’ greasy bar burger from drink.well. The thick patty ($11) is made with Kobe beef, then topped with melted white cheddar, smoked onion marmalade, a thick slice of tomato, fresh butter lettuce and house-made pickles on a rustic bun. Add-on options include Tender Belly bacon, sauteed mushrooms or a Vital Farms fried egg. You could opt for a side salad, but it’s hard to pass up the house chips, which are sprinkled with salt and served with a white bean and garlic dip.
An Avant-Gardener (gin, rhubarb tea liqueur, Dolin dry vermouth, lemon, honey syrup) from the seasonal cocktail menu will go great with this burger ... and, before you know it, the low-hanging Edison bulbs will be dimming as the sun sets. Consider it another extended happy hour.
Parkside's bar burger
This burger might just be the best kept secret on Parkside’s otherwise seafood-centric menu. You'll find it on the bar menu with a few other staples, and you’ll thank us later. Served on a house-made brioche roll, it comes draped with white cheddar, a fresh slice of tomato, layer of lettuce, red onion rings. Normally $14, it drops to $7 during Parkside's daily happy hour.
All Star Burger
The signs at All Star Burger serve as a warning for what’s about to happen: “We have napkins on the table for a reason — our burgers are messy!” This upscale fast-food joint in the Hill Country Galleria prides itself on using Premium Gold Pure Country Angus Beef from cows that are USDA Certified All Natural and never give any antibiotics or hormones. All Star sources produce, meats and cheeses from local farms whenever possible, and a posted chalkboard keeps a running tab on what ingredients are coming from where at any given moment.
The nine beef options are met with a venison burger, a tuna burger and a hemp seed burger ($7 - $11), as well as rotating specials. The burgers are just as juicy as promised, the cheese is generous and thoroughly melted, and the soft bun has a way of soaking up all the goodness without falling apart. Just make sure your table is stocked up on napkins.