How do I judge a burger?
First thing I always do is eat just a piece of hamburger meat with nothing on it. Does the meat have its own flavor? Is it juicy? Is it cooked correctly at medium and no more than medium well (exception made for sliders)? Is the bun too dry or does it perform the job of sopping up juice and add flavor and depth to the burger? Does every burger a place offers taste good or only a single burger? If only a single burger, then that’s fine, but it does detract from being a “burger joint.”
There are a tons of great burger joints in Austin, but only a few were pure bliss, what I call the “hallelujah burger.” The burger that hits your mouth and sends you to that special place in your head where you’re at peace with yourself and everything around you. That place where if you were butter you would melt instantly and ooze all over the floor of the joint. There are also a lot of places that are not burger joints, but have a good burger. Those places had to really stand out to make my list, as I focused on places that catered to the burger lover in me.
NOTE: I fully acknowledge that taste is subjective. I don’t think judging a burger on the quality of the meat, how it’s cooked, if it’s juicy and has flavor on its own is subjective, but once you get past the meat and onto the bread, condiments, and add-ons, then you enter subjective taste. I fully expect people to disagree with my list and that’s perfectly okay. I encourage you to post your own top burgers!
So here they are, my Top 10 burgers of Austin (note: four of my original 10 did not survive COVID. I’m currently exploring other places that opened during COVID and a few I didn’t make it to beforehand, which is why there’s only 9 on the list right now):
- 09 Jewboy Burgers
- Get the Oy Vay Guey and enjoy those hatch green chiles.
- 08 Phil’s Icehouse
- The 78704 Burger is my favorite and trust me, get double meat on it (honestly all their burgers need double meat).
- 07 Buddy’s Burgers
- I imagine in my head the owner eating at P. Terry’s one day and thinking, “I can make this 1000 times better.” I admit I went in with low expectation, but their meat is seasoned perfectly and what sets it apart is the coarse pepper they use, causing joy in every bite. I prefer the Double Classic With Cheese and make it spicy! Seriously, make it spicy! Also, add bacon, because, you know, bacon.
- 06 LeRoy & Lewis
- This is a BBQ joint and their BBQ isn’t horrible, but go and get the L&L Burger, it’s amazing with all that ground brisket as the patty.
- 05 Luke’s Inside Out
- There’s only one burger on the menu and it’s delicious. By all means try some of their other great food, but don’t skip The Burger.
- 04 Hopdoddy
- A lot of their burgers are phenomenal. Some aren’t (looking at you The Classic). My absolute favorite is El Diablo. My other favorites are The Que, Goodnight/Good Cause, Llano Poblano, and Bacon Jam Double.
- 03 Mooyah
- This is a chain, and I really hemmed and hawed about putting it on this list, but their Double Diablo burger is amazing and you may never go back to Five Guys again. Make sure you get some Green Chile Queso to dip their awesome fries in.
- 02 Jackalope
- The Honey-Jalapeno Bacon Cheeseburger is an outstanding burger. Jackalope’s homemade honey jalapeno sauce is superb. Also check out their Chipotle Bacon Cheeseburger for their amazing homemade chipotle pimento cheese.
- 01 Casino El Camino
- Their grilled burgers are beyond phenomenal. The true “Hallelujah” burger. Thick, juicy, perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked. My favorite there is the Amarillo Burger with all it’s glorious serano, jalapeno, and cilantro mayo (add bacon, you won’t regret it. If you like pork, check out their Madison Burger as well made from pork belly.
But What About?
Where are the standard ones you see on so many Austin lists like Sandy’s, Hut’s, Dan’s, P Terry’s, etc? Well, they’re somewhere between Wendy’s and McDonald’s because they’re not only just sliders, but mediocre ones at that: especially the exceptionally overrated P Terry’s.
So with that said, here’s are my favorite slider joints (that aren’t above):