50 Burgers, 50 Days: Hill-Bert's Burgers

 
A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer to the pressing question: Fries or rings?
 
Day 25: Hill-Bert’s Burgers
1503 W. 35th St. 452-3287, www.hill-bertsburgers.com.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.04.11
 
The burger: Of Hilbert Maldonado’s three locations, this is my favorite. Not just because it’s carved from an old mission-style Taco Bell building. They all are. But only this one has Bob “Daddy-O” Wade’s work on the roof: a Volkswagen Rabbit pulling a hamburger as big as the car.
 
This location also represents Maldonado’s resolve to keep his family business strong in the face of change. When it became clear that he wouldn’t keep the lease on the original Hill-Bert’s on North Lamar, he started this place just a few blocks away. So in this quarter-pound cheeseburger ($3.39) with the usual fixings on a sesame seed bun, I’m getting more than lunch. I’m getting a lesson in resourcefulness. And by including Hill-Bert’s in this 50 Days report, I’m paying proper respect to a man who bought a Burger Chef and turned himself into a burger king.
 
Fries or rings? I’ve dipped a few rings at Hill-Bert’s myself for a Statesman story called Burger-nomics, so I know they start as real onions that go through a milk bath and a flour dredge before they see a fryer. The process makes them shaggy and irregular and in every way the ideal onion ring. Hill-Bert’s french fries come from a bag, but they’re a thicker cut that allows for a little drive-in potato flavor to come through. A large “frings” basket with both is $2.39.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)