Fed Man 55: Hopdoddy Burger Bar (49)

Mike Sutter’s Top 55 Austin Restaurants
No. 49: Hopdoddy Burger Bar
1400 S. Congress Ave., Suite 190A. 512-743-7505, www.hopdoddy.com.
Also at 24388 W. Anderson Lane, 512-467-2337.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 08.28.12
Hopdoddy is a hybrid beast: Part fast-food, part bar, part sit-down restaurant, part burger joint. Hybrid? Maybe Frankenburger is a better word. The villagers are mobbing the place, and crowd control has become one of Hopdoddy’s defining challenges. How does a burger bar crack the list of Austin’s 55 best restaurants? The South Austin way: By doing everything themselves. Hopdoddy grinds its own beef, bakes its own buns, churns its own ice cream, mixes its own sauces and cuts its own fries from Kennebec potatoes. The draft beer is local, the soda fountain pours Austin-pedigreed Maine Root. And although Hopdoddy has expanded to two Austin shops and an outlet in Dallas in just two years, the men behind it made their bones here: Larry Foles and Guy Villavaso at Z’Tejas, Eddie V’s and the Roaring Fork and Chuck Smith and Larry Perdido at Moonshine.
That makes good marketing copy, and it makes an even better product. The Llano Poblano burger ($8) was No. 2 on my Austin Top 10 Burgers list, with some of the best burger beef I’ve ever tasted dressed — but not overdressed — with roasted poblano peppers, bacon, pepper-Jack cheese, top-shelf lettuce and tomato on a buttery roll. Hopdoddy’s formula works by building flavors without giving in to our sloppier impulses. The Greek burger ($8.50) pulls together lamb, feta, cucumber and tzatziki sauce without having everything ooze out on the first bite. The same with the Frito-pie Terlingua ($7) and the Continental Club ($8), a refined blend of turkey, sun-dried tomato, bacon, provolone and arugula. There’s no reason a tuna burger should be on anybody’s menu, so think of Hopdoddy’s $12 creation as an American sushi roll, with rosy tuna steak seared top and bottom, with wasabi for heat, teriyaki for sweet and fried seaweed for the hell of it.
You can’t shoot this high without going over the top, and the “Sassy Sauce” that dresses four of Hopdoddy’s 12 burgers reminds me of the German manager taste-testing new sauces on “Breaking Bad”: Cajun Kick-Ass, Franch (French and Ranch) and “that last one is essentially just ketchup.” Who cares what you dip the fries in here ($2.25/$4.50). They’re as thin and crisp and compelling with just a sprinkle of salt as they are in full-dress curry ketchup or the vestigial queso that turns them into chili cheese fries ($5.50). Other selling points: A shake made with salted caramel. Or better yet, with Nutella and chocolate-covered pretzels.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55: Austin’s Best Restaurants