Decemburger: Monument Cafe

 
First came 50 Burgers, 50 Days. Then Novemburger. 2011 wraps up with a burger a day for Decemburger.
 
Day 25: Monument Cafe
500 S. Austin Ave., Georgetown. 512-930-9586, www.themonumentcafe.com.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Open Christmas Day 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.25.11
 
When you get to preview some of your vegetables as you walk up to a cafe, it does something to you. It’s not pity or guilt like you feel walking past the lobster tank. It’s more like a sense that they take this whole farm-to-table thing seriously, given that the farm is only 30 yards from the table. Rosemary for your roasted chicken? Pick some on the way in.
 
Inside, the feeling is different, because the Monument dining room is the size of a dorm-hall cafeteria. The institutional feel is magnified not just by the wide-open kitchen but also by a ceramic-tiled half-wall that lets you see al the way to the prep stations, proofing racks and dishwashers in the back. The rattle and clank from the sinks is like industrial dinner theater. Everybody’s in white jackets and dark pants, and the back-of-house crew wears white paper hats. I’ve landed in Pleasantville, and there’s sure to be a full-service Texaco right around the corner. Welcome to Georgetown.
 
This Christmas: The Monument Cafe is open today, Christmas Day, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., serving its regular menu pus a traditional turkey feast, for which they bring in volunteers and serve meals to the disadvantaged.
 
The burger: The standard Monument cheeseburger ($8.50) doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. Doesn’t need them, because the ones it has ring fair and true: a yeasty bakery roll, ripe Bibb lettuce and tomatoes and an elastic cloak of cheddar. That wouldn’t count for as much if the beef weren’t as close to the hamburger ideal as it gets: fatty enough to be juicy, lean enough to bring a dense beef flavor beyond what it gets from the grill. It’s not big on salt or smoke or those crosshatched grill marks. It’s the rare half-pound burger that holds together in your hands, working as a team to keep the silverware at bay.
 
Fries or rings? Neither, because the Monument does something called veggie fries, and from the first mouthful, I was transported to my Grannie’s kitchen in Wolfe City, when she’d fry okra and squash. Except she didn’t use rice flour, and the Monument isn’t frying okra. No, these are julienned strips of potato, sweet potato, zucchini, carrots and beets. The thing is, you can taste what they are through that light cat of buttermilk and rice flour, a choice the Monument made to get away from flour and the gluten allergies associated with it. A manager told me the only fried food they couldn’t re-engineer with rice flour was the chicken-fried steak. We’re fussy about that.
 
With my desire for the fryer satisfied, I added a dish of Nikki’s fruit salad, and I was back in Wolfe City again, with a whirl of bananas, pineapple, oranges, apples and pecans. The fruit’s cut to the size appropriate for its texture: the apples in little brunoised cubes, the pineapple in tiny wedges, the oranges in bigger fleshy pieces and the pecans in random bits to comingle with every bite for texture and Texas.
 
About that pie: Monument Cafe has made a name for itself with a chocolate pie and a chopped pecan crust. It’s as thick as whipped fudge with a layer of dense sweet whipped cream, and along with that nugget base, the pecans bring along a tannic dryness that evens out some of the enveloping sweetness. At $4.99 a slice, consider it a Christmas present to yourself.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
 
 
Decemburger index
 
Novemburger index