Decemburger: 1886 Cafe & Bakery

First came 50 Burgers, 50 Days. Then Novemburger. 2011 wraps up with a burger a day for Decemburger.
Day 7: 1886 Cafe & Bakery
604 Brazos St. in the Driskill Hotel. 391-7066,
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 6:30 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.07.11
So what does a proud Dad do after his middle-school daughter carols in the lobby of Austin’s grand hotel? He makes her join the burger-a-day marathon of Decemburger. And like a good daughter, she’s OK with that. Either that or she’s as good an actor as she is a singer.
The 1886 Cafe & Bakery is the Driskill’s other restaurant, the one that takes up the slack when the show-pony Driskill Grill is dark. It looks more like an ice cream parlor, with etched and lead-paned windows and floors shod with tiny white tiles. But it still carries the stamp of Driskill chef Jonathan Gelman, and pastry chef Tony Sansalone is in charge of filling the pastry cabinet and a dessert tray that warrants its own scripted presentation.
The burger: The cafe’s Hangover Burger ($13) seems to humor the hotel’s demographic, a group that for the most part has put those morning-after days far behind them. But the Hangover has the cure just in case: hash browns as delicate and crisp as a bird’s nest, bacon that’s rubbed with chile powder and brown sugar, a whole wheat bun, a block of Black  Angus beef with a big-league sear from the grill. The kicker is that protein palliative showing up on everything these days: a sunny-side egg, its yolk ready to paint your face and hands a brighter shade of pale yellow. And it all worked, except for the bacon, which tasted nothing like brown sugar or chiles. It just tasted old and stiff and tired, the very things it was supposed to be keeping me from feeling.
Fries or rings? I’ll take the steak fries that come with the burger over an ordinary fruit cup any day. They don’t do onion rings, so you might consider adding a cup of tomato bisque for $2.50, or just go for a bowl at $5. It’s a deep orange, like it’s hiding so much more than tomatoes, and it conveys the deep cream warmth you want on a cold pre-winter night. Plus, it comes with a trio of breads: brittle sails of flatbread with rye and sesame, parmesan bread sticks and crusty slices of baguette.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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