50 Burgers, 50 Days: Black Sheep Lodge

A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer to the pressing question: Fries or rings?
Day 40: Black Sheep Lodge
2108 S. Lamar Blvd. 707-2744, www.blacksheeplodge.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Friday. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.19.11
The burger: The Black Buffalo Burger ($7.99) put Black Sheep on the map as more than a just a South Lamar beer bar when it opened in 2009. It starts with a half-pound patty that comes pink in the center to show off what fresh beef can do for any burger. Then it gets interesting with Frank’s hot Buffalo sauce, a sinus-awakening blast that dances drunkenly with blue cheese that’s light on salt and heavy on the dry twang that makes us want to dance with blue cheese in the first place. Mixed greens are a nice alternative to iceberg, and the wheat bun has gotten even better since the Black Sheep opened, with a long-grain pull and the right toast to give it structure.
The Black Sheep itself is a den of thick brown wood and bar games (shuffleboard, darts, pool), and a patio that keeps evolving with the restaurant’s success, now with misters, ceiling fans and a ceiling from which to hang them.
Fries or rings: I’ve had battered fries and sweet potato fries at Black Sheep, and they’re OK, with the edge going to sweet potato. The waitress told me the onion rings aren’t battered in-house, so I gave in to cheese cuds, fried kernels of pull-apart dairy art I tried for the first time at a blue collar bar in Austin, Minn., with Grain Belt beer. Thirsty Planet Yellow Armadillo Wheat will have to stand in on a Monday, when all Texas drafts are just $3. It’s not a fair fight, of course. Grain Belt is exactly nothing like this, aside for the golden color and cascading bead. The wheat is dry and bracing with a whisper of fruitiness on the finish.
Not all these side-order side trips work out. The cheese curds are soft-fried and barely warm, shiny with grease and at $6.99 for a basket of 11, a troubled value at best. By comparison, the whole burger with a side of sweet potato fries is just a dollar more. Cheese sticks masquerading as a Midwestern bar snack, best left to the native practitioners.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)