50 Burgers, 50 Days: Second Bar + Kitchen

A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer to the pressing question: Fries or rings?
Day 37: Second Bar + Kitchen
200 Congress Ave. at the base of the Austonian. 827-2750, www.congressaustin.com/second.
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.16.11
The burger: Among the things to appreciate at this casual component of the three-part David Bull complex that includes Bar Congress and the flagship Congress restaurant is the option of a 10-ounce beer, a $4 foray into what’s on tap, and the day I visited they were pouring Real Ale Lost Gold IPA, which floods me with memories of Collin County Pure Gold, the first big-hops beer I ever tried, from that long lost brewery in Plano, Texas.
The light is soft and elegant all over this stylized urban lunchroom, from the communal counter at the front windows to the banquettes that hold parties of two just a few feet apart from each other. I’m learning from everybody around me. Advertising on one side, late-life first dates on the other. “Did somebody tell you I like Diet Coke?” Smooth move, Mr. Order for the Lady.
The Congress Burger ($12) starts with ground chuck and brisket, and if it didn’t bring the right grind for a sturdy but tender bite and the big beef flavor that comes with it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. An oniony-sweet shallot confit weaves around a blanket of gruyere cheese, and I wish there were more of it. But no matter how good the side of cracked-pepper aioli is, or that smoked tomato ketchup, this burger is best undressed, the better to let horseradish bread-and-butter pickles do their work.
Fries or rings? The Congress Burger usually comes with gaufrette waffled potato chips. But for an extra $4, you can sub a handful of truffle fries. Truffle oil usually sets my teeth on edge, but it’s a component here rather than an interloper, integrated into a french fry the size of your pinky finger, if your pinky finger were wearing little rings made of Italian Parmesan.
If truffled fries aren’t outside-the-box enough, you could go with blistered shishito peppers or fried olives with pimiento cheese. Or skip all that and have a bowl of pepperoni soup ($6), a dish chef David Bull brought with him from childhood, from his grandmother’s recipe. It eats like a casserole, all mozzarella and tomato and fat pieces of pepperoni indulgence. Order one for the lady, Casanova.
For my full reviews of Second Bar + Kitchen, Bar Congress and a 5-star review of Congress, follow these links:
► Congress
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)