Decemburger: Good Luck Grill

First came 50 Burgers, 50 Days. Then Novemburger. 2011 wraps up with a burger a day for Decemburger.
Day 23: Good Luck Grill
14605 FM 973 N., Manor. 512-272-8777,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Call for holiday hours.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.23.11
If the Good Luck Grill opened in Austin, we’d call it ironic, with all the knickknacks and license plates and 4-H photos nailed to the walls and the washer pits out back. But it’s an irony-free zone at this cafe carved into flat, bare pastureland off FM 973 a few miles east of Manor proper. The ceiling is corrugated metal, and its cedar-plank, cabin-style exterior is as country-clean as if it had just opened last week, although it’s been open four years now. And the staff hasn’t lost the easygoing desire to make sure you get what you want, whether it’s a decent glass of unsweetened tea ($1.29) or a $2 longneck during a 4 to 7 p.m. happy hour that runs Sunday through Thursday.
I came here as a fallback after my primary target — the Old Times bar at Rice’s Crossing another 12 miles north — was closed during its posted business hours, and I didn’t get dressed up for nothing.
The burger: By itself, this double cheeseburger ($8.49 with fries) would have fit the model of a diner cheeseburger just fine. The third-pound Angus beef patties from the flattop are juicy but not greasy, overcooked a shade but not oversalted, then decoupaged with American cheese in that reassuring shade of antique yellow. Add chopped white onions and iceberg, and you’d have most any burger from anywhere, But three things set Good Luck apart. One is a semolina-dusted, unsweetened Kaiser roll. Another is slices of real dill pickles, with the field-issue green and firm bite of free-range cucumbers. The third and most distinguishing factor is a quartet of fried green tomato slices for an extra $1.99. The cornmeal breading is the kind you might find on a catfish dinner, draped around the tomatoes less like armor and more like a 4-H windbreaker.
Fries or rings? The house-made halo of fried green tomatoes doesn’t extend to french fries with the tell-tale burnt-honey color of institutional batter. They work, but they work because they were engineered to get the job done. Onion rings ($3.99/small) give a better taste of what Good Luck does, with a breakaway peppered shag over long, lean strands of onion.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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