Decemburger: Turf N Surf Po' Boy
First came 50 Burgers, 50 Days. Then Novemburger. 2011 wraps up with a burger a day for Decemburger.
Day 30: Turf N Surf Po’ Boy
Update: Turf N Surf has moved from its trailer on Congress to the Lavaca Street Bar at 407 Lavaca St. 512-276-2763, Facebook page here.
Hours: 11am-midnight Mon-Thu, until 3am Fri-Sat and noon-10pm Sun.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.30.11
Ralph Gilmore’s Turf N Surf trailer looks like Baywatch and the Beverly Hillbillies collided at Congress and Second. The tumble-down beach shack with cardboard signs and rust and a sailboard must make the people who bought city-view units at the Austonian across the street want their money back. It’s not the first Gilmore trailer in Austin. Ralph Gilmore’s nephew Bryce Gilmore had the now-closed Odd Duck Farm to Trailer before he started Barley Swine. Little brother Jack Gilmore runs Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Oak Hill. “Some people ask if I’m following in his footsteps,” Ralph Gilmore said. “I say, ‘No, but I used to feed him.’ “
The restaurant life has fully consumed the other Gilmore Guys, but Ralph Gilmore’s life outside the kitchen has moved from building choppers to designing and building high-end homes and now preaching the gospel of po’ boys from a trailer on windy downtown afternoons.
The burger: Given the Gulf Coast aesthetic of Turf N Surf, even the burger ($8) gets a long, po’ boy-style roll, with the beef patty cut in half and laid end-to-end. The roll brings advantages to the burger experience, especially this one, fortified with wheat, oatmeal, poppyseeds and sesame seeds as stout as the burger itself. Adding grilled mushrooms for 50 cents and cheese for a dollar makes good sense in this tangle of pimped-out po’ boy dress: cole slaw, tomato, red onion, mixed greens, thick sections of dill pickle. And the beef is as juicy and character-driven as any seafood po’ boy could be.
For sheer heft, character, flavor and personality, it’s among the best burgers in the city, and not just because it’s unorthodox. In the long gray line of 111 burgers I’ve eaten for this series, Turf N Surf made me excited about the form all over again. The first bite made me shut my eyes and say, “Damn.”
Fries or rings? Turf N Surf cuts its own potatoes for a big order of fries ($2.50) dressed with cilantro. Cut in planks rather than sticks, they’re a good balance of soft crunch and potato moxie. Jalapeño hush-puppies are a nice thought for $3, more than you could or should eat in one sitting, with a lacquered shell over cornmeal batter fortified with chopped peppers.
But look to the edges of the menu for something to take Turf N Surf a notch higher. On a blustery weekday morning, hot gumbo ran for $5 a bowl. It starts with a mean, greasy roux with a stinging herbal bite, and every one of those adjectives is a compliment, a declaration of how gumbo should use its dark powers for the greater good. The good becomes even greater with big pieces of tender chicken, hot sausage and fat slices of okra cooked to the fleshy, crunchy midpoint where okra expresses itself best.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)