100 Austin Burgers: Sala & Betty

Sala & Betty
5201 Airport Blvd., Austin (map), 512-645-0214, www.salaandbettyatx.com
Lunch: 10:30am-5pm Mon-Sat and 2-5pm Sat
Brunch: 10:30am-2pm Sat
Dinner: 5-9pm Mon-Thu and 5-10pm Fri-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.21.16
All apologies to professional detachment, but I loved Aquarelle. The elegant little house off West Sixth was Austin’s best French restaurant before the doors closed in 2011, and chef Teresa Wilson stood among Austin’s most grounded, gracious hosts. No slave to white tablecloths, though, Wilson and crew could speak blue-collar, storming the Austin City Limits Festival with a wicked — and cheap — steak frites sandwich. And Aquarelle’s backyard rosé soirees were like a French street market.
Even so, my head did a dog-tilt last year when Wilson followed up Aquarelle by transforming the old Stallion Grill into Sala & Betty — a chimera with elements of a casual cafe, diner and drive-through. But then I saw Wilson’s daughter, Diana Salazar, working the counter and charming people the same way she did at Aquarelle. And Wilson herself was in the kitchen again. Her dinner menu — with a charcuterie board, seared scallops and sautéed quail joining fried chicken and that steak frites sandwich — is back to some of Aquarelle’s grand old habits. Sala & Betty’s burger is an endearing union of those two worlds.
 Gourmet Hamburger: The everyday lunch burger at Sala & Betty starts with 44 Farms beef (a change from the Wagyu listed on the menu) and finishes with a classic lettuce-tomato-pickle dress for $10.50 with fries. Starting at 5 o’clock for dinner, that burger puts on its evening clothes. Thick, tangy cheddar, robust bacon and whole-grain dijonnaise join the party. Then the filtered light of Aquarelle comes through in a sweet tomato jam that shares its acidic responsibilities with crisp pickled onions. Like you’d expect from Theresa Wilson’s kitchen, it’s a complete sensory package of peppered savory lushness, sharp acid and elegant sweetness. On a bun. ($12.50 with fries)
 On the side: Hand-cut, flash-fried, frozen and then finished to order, fries are a multi-step event at Sala & Betty. “Crisp” is too blunt a word. “Lacy” is more like it, an amber honeycomb from crust to core, like a handcut potato chip with some meat on its bones.
 Wash it down: The Aquarelle heritage conveys a small but well-curated list of sparkling, rosé, white and red wines by the glass and bottle, plus a handful of local craft beers on draft from beverage director Ray Foreman, Wilson’s brother. The wine list is notable for value — most bottles are in the $20-$35 range — and world scope, from the Texas Hill Country to California to France, Italy, Argentina, Spain and even Lebanon. It’s not often I get to pair a burger with a cool, willowy-smooth glass of Mont Gravet Côtes de Gascogne ($7). Can’t narrow it down? Sala & Betty will pour a flight of three for $10. And true to its rolled-up sleeves, they’ll do the same with beer, for half the price.
100 Austin Burgers
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)