5 new burgers: All Star Burger

First came 100 Austin BurgersHere’s the fifth of five more burgers that have popped up since then.
All Star Burger
12921 Hill Country Blvd., Suite 105, in the Hill Country Galleria. 512-263-7300, www.allstarburger.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 05.07.12
All Star Burger looks like it landed franchise-ready in a long, lodge-style space at the Hill Country Galleria, where white stone, clapboard siding, slate-blue upholstered booths, blond wood laminates and matte black trim give an urban steakhouse elan to a a neighborhood burger bar.
Its striking sans-serif agitprop logo notwithstanding, All Star is a standalone family-owned shop, and it came by the steakhouse pedigree honestly. Owner Shane Street’s all-my-life career in restaurants has included III Forks in Florida, Cool River Cafe here and in Irving and Steiner Ranch Steakhouse in that enigmatic Austin enclave we know and love as, well, Steiner Ranch.
All that time in the industry, coupled with an A&M degree, means that Street thinks through — and overthinks — every angle. Unable briefly to get the fresh Pure Gold Angus at the heart of his burgers, he switched apologetically to Niman Ranch, a label most places would put front and center. A conversation with Street means talking about how Jim Richardson at Richardson Farms treats the turkeys that go into All Star’s turkey burger (with respect), how he turned his family kitchen into a meltaway testing ground for the shop’s five shakes (apple pie, Dreamsicle, s’mores among them) and how agonizing it can be to decide between fresh and frozen fries.
“I’d rather not give people bad fries for three months out of the year,” he said, alluding to the growth and delivery cycle of the American potato. So he went with frozen for both sweet potato and regular fries. Along with grinding your own beef and baking your own bread, cutting your own fries has become one of the new food-culture acid tests for artisan burger shops. All Star outsources the first two, and frozen fries will win no points with the eaterati, but I’ve never heard a better walk-through of the decision-making process.
The story of All Star is a celebration of process, down to the logo. Street and his wife, Shannon, opened its development to 300 graphic artists who competed for its design through LogoGuru.com. Their task was to help convey the Streets’ values. “This is our country, our families, our homes,” Shane Street said. “Let’s get out there and work for it.”
The burger: The West ($8), a burger built with dense salt-and-pepper beef on a soft bakery-style roll with roasted jalapeños, a razor-thin layer of cheddar, Bibb lettuce and cream cheese compounded with chopped fresh garlic and cilantro. The flavor philosophy is solid, dominated by soft charred peppers that have surrendered most of their seeds and heat to the roasting process. Cream cheese is a good conveyor of both garlic and herb, suspending each in a stable matrix. But the thin schmear gets lost in the mix when it should be at least chasing the jalapeños for supremacy. Go ahead, put twice as much on there. It’ll be messy, but no stain, no gain. Street said the basic lettuce-tomato-onion-cheese All Star ($7) is the shop’s best-seller, followed on different days by the West, the Make My Day ($8.50, with bacon, cheese, hash browns and a fried egg) and the Pacific Coast ($8, stuffed with Monterey Jack and topped with avocado and sprouts). They also do turkey, tuna and hemp-seed vegetarian patties.
The extras: We’ve talked about the frozen fries, right? I won’t make apologies, in part because the sweet-potato fries ($3) have nothing to apologize for. They’re a sugar high like pumpkin pie, fried in clean oil and spiked with coarse salt. All Star does one thing most shops won’t touch: They fry their own potato chips ($2), which means thicker potatoes and a constellation of folded shapes and sizes and a crunch you can hear through your iPod earbuds.
The drinks: Here’s where the Aggie restaurateur in Shane Street comes out. Like a scientist with an ice cream scoop, he figured out through trial, error and gallons of melted Blue Bell how to put s’mores in a glass. The $5 shake is a union of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla, swirled graham crackers, broiled marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate chips. The texture and taste is like the first bite of a campfire s’more in a snowstorm. Five bucks’ worth? I’m not sure, but I’m intrigued nonetheless by the thought of an apple-pie shake made with cinnamon ice cream, blended apples and cardamom. All Star also pours Lone Star, Shiner Bock, Firemans #4, Sam Adams and a few other beers by the pint ($3-$4) and pitcher $10-$13), plus a handful of wines for $4.50-$5.50 a glass.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)