50 Burgers, 50 Days: Fran's Hamburgers

A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer
to the pressing question: fries or rings?

Day 8: Fran’s Hamburgers
1822 S. Congress Ave. 444-5738, 
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, give or take a half-hour on each side.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 08.18.11
The burger: Medium cheeseburger. Ordinary in every way, except for costing a penny shy of $4. Everybody makes a version of this burger: Sonic, Jack, Mac, the King. A quarter-pound of beef on an ordinary bun with ordinary shredded lettuce. Halfway through lunch, the burger had collapsed like a freeway overpass. Nothing but bun. The reason we come to Fran’s is history and that little girl with the guitar on the roof. It’s a lived-in place, with beat-up red-and-white tiled floors, a red wooden stand-up counter in the back and booths with every bit of the gray plastic veneer chipped off to reveal the wood underneath. Yes, it shares lineage and menu with Dan’s Hamburgers, a family story told over and over, even though it’s really nobody’s business. We just like to gawk.
On the gawking tip, you might recognize the front tables and the windows facing South Congress from “Friday Night Lights.” We could play “Where’s Waldo: Austin Edition” all day long with that show.
Fries or rings? When the oil’s clean, I’ll go with fries, and it’s uncannily clean every time I’m here, not what you’d expect from a place with edges this rough. They have a hint of skin and they’re cut a little thicker than ordinary. Given that the fries are dropped just after the cashier shouts your order to the kitchen, they come out as hot and flushed as the dude on the sidewalk playing guitar for spare change. The rings are shaggy, fried hard and crunchy. But the onions aren’t giving up any sweetness, so they leave a sour taste and a mouthful of greasy breading.

(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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