100 Austin Burgers: Justine’s
Hours: 6pm-2am Mon, Wed-Sun; closed Tue
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.14.16
The chic-shabbiest of Austin’s French restaurants, Justine’s lays down a solid tour of that country’s classics: steak frites, ratatouille, tartare, coquilles St. Jacques, charcuterie, escargots and the like. It also lays down a steady diet of American vinyl, like Otis Redding’s “Cigarettes and Coffee” from “The Soul Album.” Which makes it just the place for homegrown expats to sit down for a burger and fries.
► Royale with Cheese: You know the name from “Pulp Fiction.” A French quarter-pounder, metrically speaking. The name is the only novelty; the rest is honest burger work from a formidable kitchen. The beef is like the earth in reverse, going from a cool core to a hot, seared crust with grill-defined lines of latitude and longitude, standing 2 inches high at its hemispheric center. The build is unfussy, just soft butter lettuce, a single slice of tomato, rich golden mayonnaise and salty cheese with a pronounced twang on a toasted ciabatta roll with a firm but forgiving crust and a BeautyRest center. ($16 with fries)
► On the side: The fries are a toasted still life of what we want from humble pommes frites. Salt and skin, part chip and part soft starch. A noble companion to an American experience with French royal embroidery. Served with mayonnaise, of course.
► Wash it down: The squirrelly charms of cabernet franc are sometimes best served chilled, like on a mid-March day with highs in the 90s. The coolness of a Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil brings out the broader sense of cool in this glass. The dry remove at first blush, resolving into perfumed confidence, then clean, dry repose. Hip, as in rosehips. Also: Pretty good with a burger and fries. ($60/bottle)
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(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)