Food & Drink

The Best Burgers in Austin

Published On 07/18/2013 Published On 07/18/2013
Clark's Oyster Bar
Courtesy of Clark's Oyster Bar

Here in Austin, brisket has a way of overshadowing just about everything. But it's still important to pay tribute to the other red meat: hamburger. To celebrate our love of all-beef patties blanketed in cheese and topped with a few token vegetables, we've compiled a list of the very best burgers Austin has to offer. Our 13 favorites range from old-school flat-top burgers dating back to the '70s, to new-school creations by the city's most forward-thinking chefs.

Pan Roasted Black Angus Hamburger

Clark's Oyster Bar

Address and Info

Clarksville

The nautical-themed little brother of Perla's is one of the city's best oyster bars, but the Great Cholesterol Trainwreck of 2015 -- aka the McGuire Moorman Burger Challenge -- revealed that Clark's most savory protein is actually land-based. The Pan Roasted Black Angus Hamburger, topped with Gruyere (the second meltiest cheese in existence) and a thin layer of sauce gribiche, is just as mouthwatering as any of the oysters or caviar, especially if you can score one for half off during happy hour.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Cheeseburger

P Terry's

Address and Info

South Lamar

Although it may seem like P Terry's dates back to the days of the Cosmic Cowboys, the Austin institution has only been slinging patties since 2005. But ever since the first location opened on South Lamar and Barton Springs, it's had the market cornered on the best $2.81 burger in town. It's a steal by any measure, and even more so when you consider the meat is hormone-free and the veggies are local. It wouldn't mean a thing if the burger didn't sing, and it does sing, a melty cheese siren song that pulls hungry eaters to 14 different locations and counting.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Counter Burger

Counter Cafe

Address and Info

Clarksville

Everything you want in a short-order diner (except elbow room), Counter Cafe's two tiny locations can lead to some of the most vicious brunch-table battling in town. But win a seat and the reward is great, especially when ordering the Counter Burger, with a grass-fed beef patty inside perhaps the city's best bun, a sweet sourdough pillow that's perfect for soaking up a runny fried egg.

Natalie Paramore

The King

Swift's Attic

Address and Info

Downtown

Zack Northcutt is the Willy Wonka of the Austin burger world. Every Monday he comes up with a different burger theme that destroys his legion of devotees' concepts of what a burger can be. Case in point: The King, an Elvis-inspired burger with banana bread buns, bacon, Reese's cup-stuffed beef patty, more bacon, and fried mac & cheese. Each week's burger is extremely limited and unveiled at 9pm, so we suggest pulling up a seat at the bar and putting in your order around 8pm. If that's too much trouble, the lunch menu also happens to have one of the best burgers in the country.

Cheeseburger

Café No Sé

Address and Info

South Congress

The South Congress Hotel has made its mark on one of the city's most important streets, and is also making appearances on the to-do list of any Austin burger lover. Shockingly available until midnight at the lobby bar, the cheeseburger is a majestic experience that requires time to digest, both physically and mentally. The thin, charred patties somehow maintain a rare red center that bleeds umami and is amplified by simple garnishes of sweet onions and pickles. The cheese is blistered just right, and the buttermilk bun adds a cloud-like textural element while otherwise staying out of the way. Adding a slab of bacon and sunny-side-up egg makes it one of this list's most expensive burgers, but, you're worth it.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Classic Hamburger

Crown & Anchor Pub

Address and Info

UT

The only solace to the abysmal downward spiral of the UT football team is the fact that win or lose, Crown & Anchor's burger is always there. San Jacinto St's eternal college bar maintains a crowd that's long since graduated, drawn by cheap pints and one of the best down-and-dirty burgers in town. You won't see a laundry list of what the cows did and didn't eat, or a roadmap to where the tomatoes were grown, but the lack of foodie frills is forgotten as soon as you take a bite.

Double Meat burger

Dan's Hamburgers

Address and Info

South Austin

The oldest and potentially biggest burger on this list, Dan's has been around since the '70s, and the large double-meat burger nears a full pound of Certified Angus ground chuck. The flavors are as classic as the checkered floors, with decades worth of grill seasoning making their way into every bite. Austin's culinary tastes have much evolved since the days when the founding couple, Dan and Fran, were still together (they divorced and split the chain in 1990), but the burger remains unchanged. And their loyal fans wouldn't have it any other way.

Salt and Time

Butcher's Burger

Salt & Time

Address and Info

East Seventh

There's no one that should be trusted more with burger construction than the meat masters at Salt & Time. The butcher burger is only available for dinner, a decision that may disappoint some, but is really in the best interest of everyone's afternoon. The beef is clearly some of the best in town, and a quick ask to your server about the composition of the grind might just lead to a new favorite steak cut in the butcher's case. They don't joke with the pickles, and their nationally lauded salumi skills mean that the extra three bucks for a chorizo-like hunk of 'Nduja Tejano is a steal.

The Dude

Lebowski's Grill

Address and Info

North Burnet Rd

Much respect to Dart Bowl's enchiladas, but The Dude burger from Lebowski's Grill might just be the best bowling alley dish in town. There's an entire cast of specialty burgers, but the simplicity of The Dude lets the zen seasoning of the flat-top stand on full display. The buns come courtesy of Pflugerville-based Lil Mama's bakery, which recently closed up shop, but still supplies Lebowski's with a feather-soft complement to the old-school burger. Just do everyone a favor and be sure to wash up before and after shaking hands with The Dude.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Plancha Burger

Launderette

Address and Info

East Cesar Chavez

Let's be real, everything on the menu at Launderette is an appetizer for the main course: the birthday cake ice cream sandwich. But the burger makes a solid argument for skipping dessert. The playful complexity that characterizes some of the restaurant's dishes is ditched in favor of a straightforward burger that disappears quicker than a Holly St fixer-upper. It's dressed with nothing more than a few pickles and special sauce, but when that acidity comes into contact with American cheese, it flips a switch in your brain that won't turn off until you're a card-carrying member of the clean plate club.

The Royale with Cheese

Justine's

Address and Info

East Austin

When Justine's opened, it was as far east as most Austinites had ever traveled, giving the revelrous late-night haunt a destination element that only added to the debauchery. The city's geography has caught up, but Justine's has maintained that anything-can-happen aura. And what will happen is that you will order The Royale with Cheese after midnight, and you'll be thankful that the hearty ciabatta roll is there to maintain some semblance of order. TL;DR come for the scene, stay for the burger.

Anastacia Uriegas/Thrillist

Lockhart Link Burger

Shake Shack

Address and Info

South Lamar

Including Shake Shack on a list like this might turn some heads. The New York-born chain would otherwise be disqualified from a local best-of, if not for its wholehearted adoption of Texas traditions by topping its signature burger with slices of griddled Kreuz Market jalapeño cheese sausage. It's an example of a national chain taking regional tastes seriously, and for that, we salute it.

Terlingua

Hopdoddy

Address and Info

South Congress

Café No Sé has forced Hopdoddy to watch the throne, yet ask anyone waiting in the line snaking around the restaurant and they'll tell you that Hopdoddy is still king. The breadth and consistency of burger options is unparalleled, each worthy of its own love letter, though you can't go wrong with the chile con carne Terlingua. It's not just the meticulous topping combos or the never-ever beef; the top-down dedication to burger perfection makes every meal there feel like a special occasion. Even though it might sound heretical, this place earns bonus points for having surprisingly excellent salad options.

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Dan Gentile is a freelance writer and former Thrillist editor who once convinced P Terry's to let him create a four-patty burger. Follow him to dreams of American cheese at @Dannosphere.

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1. Clark's Oyster Bar 1200 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703

A small neighborhood seafood joint, Clark's Oyster Bar, prides itself on simple, sustainable seafood with a cozy ambiance. The maritime cache is fully stocked with house-made breads, burgers, and an extensive brunch menu, but the oysters, which come in a breadth of both East and West Coast options that rotate out with availability and season, are an essential order.

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2. P. Terry's 404 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704 (South Austin)

This little walk-up window and drive-thru shack on South Lamar has a classic 1950s vine and a diner-style menu to match. The choice is simple: a beef, chicken, or veggie burger with or without cheese (or an egg burger is you show up in time for breakfast), a side of french fries and a milkshake (they've got the regulars plus caramel and root beer flavors) -- a true American classic. You're better off ordering from your car 'cause there's no seating outside by the walk-up window.

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3. Counter Cafe 626 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703 (Downtown)

An old-school breakfast-,brunch-, and burger-slinging diner, Counter Cafe's got local comfort food that is way better than the spot's humble exterior would seem to indicate. Big plates of roasted quail, steak, crab cakes, and fried oysters draw eyes as the wait staff pass, but the house's specialty Counter Burger with gooey cheddar cheese and a thick, square patty on soft sourdough is the true must-try dish when you're spending an afternoon Downtown.

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4. Swift's Attic 315 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701 (Downtown)

Located the second floor of the historic (and now defunct grocery store) Swift's Premium Food Co. building on Congress Avenue, the appropriately named Swift's Attic serves up eclectic small plates and creative cocktails for hipstered out Austinites. Among a brunch Bloody Mar bar and generous daily happy hour deals, Swift's offers sophisticated meats, seafood, snacks, and cocktails. Must trys are Korean BBQ flank steak, squid "fries," and the Pop Rocks charred edamame.

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5. Café No Se 1603 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

Normally, when you're craving a burger, your first instinct is to hit up a local dive or stick to fast-food franchises but this artsy, airy cafe in Travis Heights is worth changing your ways for. Along with dishes you're used to seeing at restaurants of this caliber, like gravlax tartine, chicken milanese, and grilled lamb ribs, No Se serves up some of the best burgers in the city. You'll pay a little bit more for it, but with local, hand-pressed beef, sweet onion, pickles, and a buttermilk bun, it's just as much as piece of art as the rest of its cuisine (and the literal artwork lining its walls).

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6. Crown & Anchor Pub 2911 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78705

This neighborhood favorite in Central Austin has everything: a dive-bar attitude, ample seating indoors and on the dog-friendly patio, multiple pool tables, dartboard tournaments, more than 30 taps and more than 100 beer bottles and cans, a full menu of pub food staples, and a long, daily happy hour. It's not the bar for visitors or bar-crawlers -- when you come to Crown & Anchor, you end up staying for the whole night with a local brew in one hand, a cheap cheeseburger in the other, and familiar faces surrounding you.

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7. Dan's Hamburgers 4308 Manchaca Rd, Austin, TX 78704 (South Austin)

The art of the made-to-order burger is not to be touched, and Dan's Hamburgers proves that. Since the 1960's, this joint's been slinging the city's best double cheeseburgers across Austin and hasn't changed much aside from it addition of a full breakfast menu, complete with massive platters of eggs, potatoes, bacon, and pancakes. That goes for its decor, too -- modernized fast-food diners couldn't hold a flame to the spit-polished, all-American image of this true '60s relic.

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8. Salt & Time Butcher Shop and Salumeria 1912 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702 (Central East)

A butcher shop and bakery, Salt & Time slices up local, sustainable meats from farms around Austin and Central Texas. Tex-Mex (Migas, empanadas) and Southern (biscuits and gravy, pork hash) plates dominate brunch on the weekends, and every day it offers a Butcher’s Cut menu with eight to 10 high-quality offerings -- including Angus and wagyu -- cooked to medium-rare heaven. If you’re ready to up your steak game at home, Salt & Time’s butcher shop has fresh and aged steaks ready to be wrapped and weighed.

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9. Lebowskis Grill 8909 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78757

The kitschy food counter/grill inside Highland Lanes serves up delectably greasy burgers, the kind that are somehow more delicious because you’re in a bowling alley. The menu is surprisingly extensive, spanning everything from meaty burgers to fries with housemade sauce. And fortunately, the eating quarters are spick and span, despite the bowling crowd, so don't be scared to lick your paper plates and trays clean.

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10. Launderette 2115 Holly St, Austin, TX 78702

By the vintage, all-American vibe this place place is putting out, you'd expect this upscale eatery to be serving run-of-the-mill domestic dishes. In reality, Launderette's specialty is Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare like beet hummus plates, tandoori prawns, and mussels. Even the house Plancha Burger, one of the best in Austin, has a little challah on it to take it a notch up from the American version.

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11. Justine's Brasserie 4710 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78702 (East Austin)

Situated in East Austin, Justine's Brasserie is a sexy French eatery and social club specializing in "very late night dining." Classic bistro fare (steak frites, ratatouille) and daily blackboard specials make up the bulk of the menu. Super boozy cocktails, lots of red wine, and the company of friends may make it hard to leave this lounge-y, chic bistro.

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12. Shake Shack 1100 S Lamar Blvd, Suite 2100, Austin, TX 78704

From humble beginnings as a hot dog cart in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park in 2001 to more than 60 locations in the US and abroad, Shake Shack has become a cult favorite. This South Lamar location (Austin's first) even has Austin-inspired menu items, like the Lockhart Link Burger with topped with a Kreuz jalapeno cheese sausage link.

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13. Hopdoddy Burger Bar 1400 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704 (Austin)

This Austin-based burger chain serves up hormone- and antibiotic-free beef ground in-house daily, hand-cut fries, and scratch-made buns. The varied burger options range from a classic lettuce, onion, tomato version to amped up ones, like the habanero-topped El Diablo. As for beverages, there are plenty of craft beers, unique cocktails, and solid milkshakes.

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