50 Burgers, 50 Days: Steak 'n Shake

A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer to the pressing question: Fries or rings?
Day 32: Steak ‘n Shake
9300 S. Interstate 35. 291-8095, www.steaknshake.com.
Hours: 24 hours, seven days a week.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.11.11
The burger: It’s hard not to be charmed by this place, with its black-and-white tiled floors and red booths upholstered like bowling-league shirts. But what’s extra charming at 3:30 in the morning is sit-down table service at fast-food prices. A double bacon cheeseburger with fries for $4.79? Hold on, there Adam Richman. The trick to the doubling and tripling here is that the “steakburger” patties are as thin as Milanesa, almost like lace curtains of ground beef. What you lose in heft compared to  a premium burger (besides the price) you gain with the greater surface area that gets a sear from the flat-top, and the burger gets a little more texture and flavor to go with the toasted malt-shop bun and long-cut pickles and tangy-sweet Thousand Island-style Frisco sauce.
The steak part? It’s a stretch, but technically you can call just about any piece of beef a steak. But the shake part? I’m not buying into that one, if the banana’s a clue to the species. It tastes like those rubbery banana marshmallow-ish candies our great aunts kept in bowls, with the same too-bright-by-half yellow pallor. Cute glass, though.
Fries or rings? They’re as processed as dollhouse food, but the matchstick fries have an inexplicable draw, like those potato sticks out of a can. They come with most of the burger plates; side orders start at $1.79. I don’t like the way the onion rings are eyeballing me, and their uniform batter is as suspect as their overt sweetness. Build a matchstick ship out of fries and sail the rings to somebody else at the table.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)