50 Burgers, 50 Days: Hopdoddy

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

Day 7: Hopdoddy
1400 S. Congress Ave., Suite 190A. 243-7505, www.hopdoddy.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 08.17.11
The best beef I’ve ever had in a restaurant burger, or at least the best I’ve had so far in my 50 Burgers mission. Ask for it medium-rare, heavy on the rare, because it’s ground in the store, in a little room that should require security access. Like eating beef carpaccio or tartare, seared with the care you’d give a bone-in strip steak.
I’ve eaten almost every burger on the Hopdoddy menu: turkey, tuna, chili-cheese, hemp. This is the king so far. Big strips of roasted poblano bring enough heat to wake up your senses even if it drowns out the bacon. But everything is at its height, dressed for prom. Good leaf lettuce, summer tomatoes, a brioche bun soft and amber-topped, good enough to buy on its own.
In my 2010 review of Hopdoddy, I begged them not to make me say the name, which combines the magic beer flower hops with a Scottish term of endearment for cattle. But it’s a name you might feel funny saying in front of your motorcycle club. But mostly, I found a congenial place that’s trying hard to behave like a proper South Austinite in a smoked-glass space that used to be a wine bar.
They’re getting the table-assigning formula down, designating numbers as you walk up to the line and then move on the register to order, like a fast-food place. When that’s done, your number is hanging from a rack on your table; you just have to hunt for it. Hopdoddy is like a fast-food hybrid, Burgers and fries, yeah, but really good ones in a sit-down South Austin bar with good draft beer and high-minded cocktails, all of the tables counter-high for elbow-perching and people watching.
Fries or rings? The fries are shoestring thin and crisp as a Texas lawn, the kind McDonald’s spuds would like to be when they grow up.  It’s like a whole potato in a wax paper envelope, delivering heat and color and little dots of herb, because this is a fancy burger stand. No rings around, but you could satisfy the need for novelty with a $5 milkshake. Salted caramel is a marvel of cream and butter and toffee and salt, a cold combination of our favorite indulgences. Suck it up and pay the $16.50 this three-part lunch/dinner/drunk-time snack will cost. 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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