100 Austin Burgers: Eureka!
Hours: 11am-midnight Sun-Wed; 11am-1am Thu-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 07.28.16
The first time I passed Eureka in its stark historical building across from the Driskill Hotel, I thought it was one of those co-working office spaces, too clean and minimalist for Dirty Sixth. The sign shouts its exclamatory “Eureka!,” but nothing suggests the burger, beer and whiskey bar within, cased in limestone and distressed wood. A study in California restraint from this chain with 17 outlets in the Golden State and outposts in Dallas, Seattle and Austin.
► Fresno Fig Burger: In the same way that I’ll forgive restaurants for interchangeably characterizing California and Austin with avocado and sprouts, I’ll overlook the “Fresno” label on this Eureka cheeseburger. Because Fresno or no, I want a burger that has fig, goat cheese, arugula and thick, salty bacon. Why? Sweetness, cream, herbal snap and lush excess are the kind of Tilt-A-Whirl I like on a burger. And it’s a good burger to begin with, with a firm, fatty patty cooked salty pink on a fresh Driskill sesame brioche bun with chopped tomato and red onion. ($12.50 with fries)
► On the side: The burger includes clean, crisp handcut fries as blonde as a California beach. Even the modest side order was more satisfying than four onion rings for $5, rings that stood an inch and a half-tall but couldn’t hold that altitude with an underprovisioned and undercooked panko armor.
► Wash it down: Eureka could stand just fine as a burger bar. But the pre-lunch patois from the waiter included a whiskey and beer specialty sales pitch. They carry 45-plus American variations on whiskey ($8-$80 for a 2-ounce pour) alongside a standing menu of 20 American beers on tap plus another 20 on rotation, with specialties and oddballs like watermelon IPA from Ballast Point and Melange A’ Trois Belgian from Nebraska (yes, Nebraska). A beer and a shot is the sweet spot between the two, and my waiter put together two and two for me, almost on a dare to keep the quartet at $15-$17.
The result was a Texas tour de force:
— Beer: Soft and floral Blood & Honey from Revolver and Adelbert’s fuzzy Philosopher Saison.
— Whiskey: Classic high and hot Herman Marshall Texas Single Malt and the butterscotch blaze of Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whiskey.
The board touched off a four-part chain reaction tasting: Blood & Honey tamed the Herman Marshall, leaving a clean slate for the yeasty tannic dryness of the saison, opening the door for the sorghum biscuit dessert finish of Baby Blue. I dare a cocktail to do that much.
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(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)