Novemburger: Patsy's Cafe

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 18: Patsy’s Cafe
5001 E. Ben White Blvd. 444-2020,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.18.11
After all the years Esther’s Follies has made satirical hay out of waitresses and food, you’d think Esther’s founder Shannon Sedwick would be too self-conscious about living those parodies to open an actual honky-tonk cafe. But here Patsy’s stands, draped in a roadside giftshop’s worth of pastel-colored Western arcana. It was originally called Patsy’s Cowgirl Cafe, but they dropped the “Cowgirl” from the name when another Cowgirl Cafe got possessive. Charley Pride and Don Williams play on the PA, tumbleweeds hang from the ceiling and Patsy Cline rides a jackrabbit through a desert sky on the mural behind the bandstand. Patsy’s is so Country and Western, even the hamburger patty sports a checkered print.
Patsy’s puts me in perpetual mind of my favorite routine at Esther’s, the Sixth Street avant-vaudeville theater where Sedwick has championed several generations of Austin talent. In that routine, Sedwick hits the stage in a taffeta prom dress and belts out “She’s Got You” in Patsy Cline’s country crooner hiccup. By the time the song’s over, she’s pulled a general store’s worth of stuff from her bustier: class ring, framed picture, hammer, ripsaw, telephone ... you know, the sentimental things.
The burger: While Esther’s might be a satire, Patsy’s is not. From a rogue’s gallery of local celebrity burgers (Molly Ivins, Willie Nelson, Vince Young), I picked the John Kelso ($7.95), named for my former colleague at the American-Statesman. His namesake burger comes with the usual lettuce and tomato, then adds a little smart-aleck spice and gratuitous pork in the form of pepperjack cheese, grilled onions, mild green chile sauce and, of course, bacon. The meat’s been blazed into charred submission, but the overall effect is twangy and juicy and South Austin substantial. But I know John Kelso, and this burger reminds me nothing of that compassionate, gentle and moderate man who always had a kind word for me. ... Just kidding. He’s as cranky, sardonic and dangerous as you think he is, and he could do a lot worse than having a green chile cheeseburger at Patsy’s named after him.
Fries or rings? The $7.95 Kelso Burger comes with fries, but I substituted rings for 75 cents and bought a side of fries for $1.95. They’re both fine, fried crispy in good oil, and the rings take the edge for having more of a handmade look and taste. But if there’s two of you at the table, a chicken-fried steak platter ($9.95) would make a better side dish. A burger with a side of chicken-fried steak. Now THAT would be a John Kelso burger.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)