50 Burgers, 50 Days: Waterloo Ice House

A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer to the pressing question: fries or rings?
Day 15: Waterloo Ice House
6203 N. Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360). 418-9700, www.waterlooicehouse.com.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 08.25.11
The burger: Peppercorn blue cheese ($8.75). I’m getting too spoiled to appreciate a classic overcooked flat patty from a place that can do better. The crispy edges and elastic texture create a shaky foundation, which makes a sauce of red wine and black peppercorns important here. It eases the beef’s grainy impact and softens the saltiness of the blue cheese. A bakery-style bun helps, too, keeping even the mayonnaise-saturated shredded lettuce and bucket-grade pickles in check as you bite down. Given its less-spectacular components, this burger comes together better than it has a right to.
Fries or rings? “Hey Napoleon, give me some of your tots.” That’s on continuous loop in my head, because tater tots are on the agenda here, and I need some alternative potatoes to break up the 50-day starchfest. These are nubbly and hot, a landscape of salty crunch. If only I had my zipper-pocket Zubaz. The burger price includes tots or fries, but for 50 cents extra, they’ll do a mix of tots and onion rings with a loose flake and good onion flavor. Light but still structurally sound. As the chain has grown, Waterloo Ice House has gravitated from its burger-shop beginnings to big family barns with playscaped child farms out back. But the staff at this Waterloo on Loop 360 makes the pace feel like its old small self. They’ll ask if you want your tea to go. You’ll save the earth one cup at a time by deciding that your four refills have been enough, thanks.