Decemburger: Ski Shores Cafe

First came 50 Burgers, 50 Days. Then Novemburger. 2011 wraps up with a burger a day for Decemburger.
Day 31: Ski Shores Cafe
2905 Pearce Road. 394-7511,
Winter hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.31.11
Winter T-shirt weather is one way to get a taste of Ski Shores Cafe on the north bank of Lake Austin, where you really can sail, speed or swim right to the deck that hovers over the green water.
The drive isn’t bad, either, most of it along the high, twisty curves of City Park Road. Cedar tees rise up on both sides like the invading columns of an evergreen army, a Cedar Fever Alley on the way to the lake below.
There’s been a restaurant here in some form or another since 1954. Lakeside fans got a scare in December 2009 when the family that had been running Ski Shores for 13 years called it a day. But by March of 2010, Ski Shores had been resurrected by the restaurant group that runs Austin Java, Uncle Billy’s, Little Woodrow’s and other form-follows-function bar-and-grill operations.
With the country music turned up a notch too high, a rambling building that’s been patched together over the decades and the worst $8 margarita in town, Ski Shores is the dictionary definition of a lakeside dive with a receptive but nonetheless captive audience.
The burger: It’s a burger best appreciated through the forgiving haze of lake goggles, with Ray-Bans and the lingering smell of sunscreen, because in a more focused setting, you might wonder where the rest of the $9.25 Border Burger went. It’s a third-pound of hard-cooked beef on a small bakery-style roll that’s nicely butter-toasted. Grilled onions, American cheese and pickled jalapeño slices lie low on the top, and the bottom carries a suggestion of guacamole, so spare that at best it fills the contractual obligations of the menu description. Like I said, a burger that tastes better if it’s third or fourth on your list of priorities when you’re sitting by the lake at sunset.
Fries or rings? The barman told me the fried stuff comes from a bag. So I checked rings, cheese, pickles and okra off the list. The burger includes the kind of battered fries favored by turn-and-burn operations all over the fast-food map. An overpriced appetizer of chips, salsa and queso ($5.95) offered an alternative, with smoky red sauce and a queso in that processed-cheese style leavened with enough tomato and green chile to give it color but not much else.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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