50 Burgers, 50 Days: The Frisco Shop

A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer to the pressing question: Fries or rings?
Day 35: The Frisco Shop
6801 Burnet Road. 459-6279, www.thefriscoshopaustin.com.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.14.11
The burger: One of the best dates of my life started at the Frisco Shop in 1986. The Frisco was at the corner of Burnet and Koenig then, where it started in 1953. A great woman, out of my league, and we both knew it. With the pressure off to impress or be smoov, we just went to the Frisco for a burger, and it was perfect. Frisco dressing like Thousand Island, relish, wrapped in white paper like a First Communion present.
Wouldn’t it be a great narrative arc to say I married that girl and we went back to the Frisco for this report? Well, it didn’t work out that way. But time hasn’t changed that burger. And the Frisco hasn’t changed much since its move further down Burnet in 2008. Julia Child is cooking chicken on the TV, and Engelbert Humperdinck is playing on the PA. I suspect most of the people in here have been coming to the Frisco since before this song was on the radio in the ‘70s. I was surprised to see a guy I work with in here. He’s 20something and said he’s been coming here since he was a baby. You can’t buy that kind of loyalty, except with decent food and the right atmosphere.
Taking stock of the Frisco burger 25 years after that date, the sweet-hot relish taste is so strong and the bun is so soft that it’s like a hot dog took over this burger’s soul at first bite. But then the beef kicks in, and that Frisco dressing finds its own sweet foothold, and you’re left with a burger that doesn’t taste quite like anything else. It belongs to the Frisco Shop, no matter what the place and time.
The basic Frisco burger is $5.50. Make it a plate with fries and slaw for $8.15, or sub rings for another 50 cents. The menu tells us that burger was a quarter in 1953, and fries were a nickel. I don’t remember how much it cost in 1986, but the experience was priceless.
Fries or rings? Skin-on fries have a soft, full-potato diner taste, but onion rings get the edge here, so thin they crumble away as you pick them up, but fried so the grease does its job and gets out of the way, leaving a flaky, irregular, golden armor.
Also: How could I leave without a slice of coconut cream pie, one of my favorite forms of the species? At the Frisco, it’s coconut from a bag, sugary whipped cream, custard filling with no identifying flavor notes and a crust whose flake is weighed down by its sodden density. At $4.25 a slice, its charms need to be about twice what they are, because my threshold for nostalgic forgiveness stops at about half that price. 

(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)