Novemburger: Abel's on the Lake

Because 50 Burgers, 50 Days wasn’t enough, I’ll write about a new burger every day this month. And next. We’ll call that Decemburger.
Day 20: Abel’s on the Lake
3825 Lake Austin Blvd. 904-0570,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.20.11
Tucked into the Oyster’s Landing complex that includes Mozart’s Coffee and the Hula Hut, Abel’s on the Lake is a lakeside party barge, no matter how much of it rests on dry land. It starts with 63 beers on tap and extends to Mexican martinis, Bloody Marys and two versions of Long Island Iced Tea.
The Cowboys game is a good backdrop for a celery-strong Bloody Mary ($4) with real heat both from the vodka and peppered spices. Ask for extra horseradish to blend in and you could just skip lunch. If you’re more of the tee-many-martoonies type, just one Mexican martini ($12) could clock you out. It’s enough tequila, Cointreau, olive juice, sweet-and-sour and lime to fill a steel shaker for two.
Abel’s two-story deck on Lake Austin out back has a view of the Tom Miller Dam and the thatched roof of Hula Hut, lakeside amenities its West Campus brother Cain & Abel’s can only dream about. But for those of us who feel as welcome as narcotics agents when we visit the UT area, Abel’s on the Lake is more our speed. And on a breezy warm Sunday, our speed is slow.
The burger: The sins committed in the name of “Austin” make me skeptical of any dish called “The Austin.” It’s usually lousy with sprouts or it’s full-on vegetarian or some horrid hybrid of barbecue or Mexican food. Or for some reason, mango. Take just about anything you’d slap a “California” label on, and it’s bound to be interchanged with Austin sooner or later. The Austin Burger ($8.99) at Abel’s comes with guacamole. OK, Sacramento. But it’s finished with creamy goat cheese and roasted red pepper and a well-grilled half-pound of beef on a fresh onion roll. An Austin dish built to taste great, to plug into our embrace of unusual textures and subtler flavors – that’s a naming system I can get behind.
Fries or rings? Burger plates at Abel’s come with chips, but you can turn them into fries or rings for $1.50 extra. The crisp, tawny brown fries with the skins left on are dusted with garlic and rye seeds and cracked peppercorns. They’re good, but the onion rings here are works of art, gnarled like skillet-fried chicken, cut in tall rings the width of baseballs. A basket is  just $2.99.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)