50 Burgers, 50 Days: South Congress Cafe

A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer to the pressing question: fries or rings?
Day 11: South Congress Cafe
1600 S. Congress Ave. 447-3905, www.southcongresscafe.com.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 08.21.11
The burger: South Congress Burger ($8).  At lunch — or brunch, as they call it every day here until 4 p.m. — every table in the washed rock-and-brick dining room is full, opening up a chance to knock 20 percent off your bill by sitting at the bar, a deal that’s in effect roughly Sunday night through Thursday afternoon. It’s an interesting place to hear the staff interact as they roll in on their spare time, swapping war stories and planning for what comes after work. It’s also a good place for a tall, cool glass of Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA from Austin.
Upgrades on the basic SC Burger include a $3 package with smoked Gouda, prosciutto and caramelized onions. Order it. Then do nothing. Add nothing. You’ll lose the interplay of melted, lazy Gouda with amber flakes of fried prosciutto and sweet onions. Those flavors play a melody over a backbeat of well-seasoned beef cooked true medium-rare if you order it that way, with no gristle or distraction from the reason you came here in the first place. The bun is more buttery than sweet, something we can all be thankful for, because pastry-style buns will be the ruin of the burger as we know it.
As I look out the cafe’s big windows that front the avenue, I’m struck by how shabby the food trailer court across the street looks when only three of the trailers are open. Heat wilts enterprise the same way it does everything else, but that spring garden of entrepreneurship looks more like a weed patch on an August afternoon.
Fries or rings? Let the burger do the work here. But your plate comes with fries or slaw. The fries come crisp and thin, but they’re hit with spice that makes them too hot for a sidekick, which we never want to get in the way of the talent. Go for slaw instead, a light mix of purple and green cabbage with parsley. It has a little spice on the back, too, but the coolness helps ease the sting.

(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)