You Burger Believe It

El Arroyo ex-owner returns to Austin to open mile-high burger joint in Far West neighborhood

El Arroyo ex-owner returns to Austin to open mile-high burger joint

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One of 5280's high-end burgers stands tall. Photo courtesy of 5280

UPDATE: The 5280 Burger grand opening celebration in Austin has been rescheduled because of weather. The event will now take place Wednesday, October 27 from 6-9 pm. Cory Morrow will still perform. 

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There’s a fancy new burger joint in town from a familiar name in the Austin restaurant world: Called 5280 Burger and Taphouse, it’s a high-end full-service burger spot opening at 7032 Wood Hollow Dr. in West Austin, in a space that was most recently Cielo Bistro Mexico, but previously a location of longtime Tex-Mex restaurant El Arroyo.

5280 Burger and El Arroyo share something in common: owner Clay McPhail. McPhail and then-partner Doug English took over El Arroyo from original owners Robert and Mary Ogden in 1985, and were responsible for its humorous marquee sign.

McPhail sold El Arroyo 11 years ago and moved to Denver, where he co-created the 5280 Burger Bar concept with partner Don Redlinger.

They opened their first location in downtown Denver in 2014, with a goal of offering gourmet burgers and house-made ice cream. They’ve since opened two more locations in the Denver area. Austin is their first foray outside of Colorado.

One of 5280’s points of distinction is the fact that it has a classically trained chef on staff: executive chef Derek Baril, who previously worked at upscale Colorado restaurants such as Wild Standard and Salt, brings culinary finesse to the menu.

That means using local ingredients and making everything in-house, including the brioche buns, ketchup, mustard, and even 5280’s own version of American cheese.

Burgers are the centerpiece. Signatures include the Perfect Burger, with bacon-habanero jam, roasted garlic aioli, Gruyere cheese, and pickled onions; and the Vaquero Burger with chimichurri, guacamole, mango habanero salsa, and queso fresco.

If you can’t decide, you may want to go for the option called I Can’t Decide, which enables you to order two types of burgers in a smaller slider size.

Burgers are not all this joint does: The menu includes wings, salads, appetizers, and sides such as Brussels sprouts and mac and cheese.

There’s also an evolving component, with specials folded in and out, lingering on the menu until they get replaced by the next trend. Currently in rotation: lobster rolls and fried chicken sandwiches, including Nashville hot chicken.

Salads include entree-size options such as Tiny Tim’s Taco Salad with ground beef, spring mix lettuce, corn and black-bean salsa, and avocado tossed in jalapeño-agave vinaigrette and served in a taco shell.

And 5280 is heavily into fries, giving them their own category, with options as follows:

  • Queso: fries topped with green chile queso sauce and pico de gallo
  • Green Chili: fries topped with pork green chili, pico de gallo, and cotija cheese
  • Poutine: fries topped with chef-made beef gravy, squeeky cheese curds, and scallions
  • Loaded: fries smothered in cheese sauce, with bacon pieces and scallions
  • Truffle: fries done crispy brown and tossed in truffle oil, Parmesan cheese, and parsley

McPhail says he’d been considering Austin and acted when the location became available.

“When that old El Arroyo space came up, it had a good lease option, and I decided it was time to come on home,” McPhail says. “I still have a lot of connections in Texas and we see so many people from Texas at our Denver locations.”

“Our burgers are high-end,” he says. “We buy everything local we can and we never serve frozen meats. Having a classically trained chef helps. Our burgers have amazing flavor profiles. Our ahi tuna is sushi-grade. We have a full bar, and we’re full-service, not counter service.”

5280 is prepping for a grand opening taking place Wednesday, October 13, with live music by Cory Morrow from 6-9 pm.

If you haven’t already guessed, the name is an homage to Denver.

“The number 5280 is how many feet in a mile,” McPhail says. “Denver is the mile-high city.”