100 Austin Burgers: Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Hours: 11am-10pm daily
More locations: 1400 S. Congress Ave. (map); 2600 Hoppe Trail, Round Rock (map); coming soon to the Triangle (map)
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 08.04.16
When Buda Grocery closed in 2013, it yielded its No. 1 spot on my Top 10 Burgers list to Hopdoddy by default. Good beef, hand-cut fries, buns baked right there in the shop. Not a tough call at the time. Since that list came out, the burger bar started by a team of Austin restaurant veterans (Moonshine, Z’Tejas, Roaring Fork) has grown from a single shop on South Congress to 15 locations in Texas, Arizona, Colorado and California.
The North Austin location doesn’t draw the lunatic lines of South Congress, but it’s just as much of a jumbled anthill of confusing traffic patterns, stupidly loud music and a table “reservation” system that can leave you adrift if you don’t know the drill. For consolation, there’s a decent bar with good draft beer and a theme park cocktail menu, and the burgers help compensate for the clusterstruck experience.
But given the surge of contenders old and new in the Austin burger banquet since my last Top 10 list — places like Jacoby’s, the Townsend, Launderette and Lee’s Meat Market — is Hopdoddy still strong enough to make it to the top? No way.
► Magic Shroom burger (at top): Less is more at Hopdoddy. Mushrooms won’t cascade down the sides of this burger, but you’ll taste each and every one, with dark and earthy elasticity. They support a beef patty grilled from chuck that's ground in-house, then grilled to a practiced medium. In this subtle tableaux, basil pesto glimmers through, and so does the low-key twang of creamy goat cheese. Leaf lettuce, onions and a single slice of tomato are mostly along for window dressing, but a fresh brioche-style bun with a varnished pillowtop dome makes a fine window frame. ($8.75)
► Primetime burger (below left): The temptation of turning the knob up to 11 is what drives a burger like this, made with Akaushi beef from superhero cows. Except that the knob is turned up to $12, and it’s not nearly loud enough to justify the upcharge. Good beef? Absolutely. But the difference is negligible. This modest brie-and-onion burger overcompensates with truffle aioli, the kind of truffle that hangs on like Axe body spray at an all-ages show.
► On the side: Hopdoddy cuts some of the best Kennebec shoestring fries in Austin, as lean and tan as a Lululemon spokesmodel. They’re $2.75 for a single order or $5.50 to share. For $6.95, though, they’ll bombard a wire spiral basket of those fries with parmesan cheese and a side of truffle aioli — the same truffle that clings to that burger. And like that Akaushi beef, it’s an underperforming upgrade.
► Wash it down: The bar is a bipolar zone at Hopdodddy, whiplashing from a respectable Maine Root ginger mule to those touristy frozen margs with pony bottles of beer dunked upside-down. Or the punchy Pop-Tart called SoCo Sweet Tea ($7.50), a swirl of limoncello, raspberry, lemon and sweet-tea vodka, which lends an astringent finish that barely keeps it from turning into a fountain drink. Hopdoddy’s shake game remains strong, from salted caramel to Red Velvet Cake with rich ice cream character and floaters of cupcake icing ($6).
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(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)