Novemburger: Ranch 616

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 22: Ranch 616
616 Nueces St. 479-7616,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday. 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.22.11
Some days, you need a burger with an enchilada on it. Those days when the sun’s too bright, when even the breeze hurts, when you tried too hard to make memories the night before and now you can’t remember what they were. Ranch 616 is the right place to try something this overindulgent. I feel safe here, where the “Ranch” part is just a nail to hang an image on. I was trying to put my thumb on what to call a restaurant with fake rattlesnake hide on the booths, with a stuffed bison head and a disco ball and an old-Vegas microbar with blue mood lighting. And then I heard Charlie Rich doing that smooth country-croon classic “Behind Closed Doors,” and it struck me: This is where Charlie Rich would eat. And I could almost see the Silver Fox playing a baby grand in the corner.
The burger: I wasn’t lying about the enchilada part. Ranch 616’s Mexi-Burger ($9.95) starts with 8 ounces of Angus and the usual lettuce and tomato, then rides off the rails with the enchilada of the day. Tuesday’s was ground beef with tomatillo in a corn tortilla. It doesn’t fit, aesthetically, this Tex-Mex tube bisecting a big circle of beef, like it were making a con carne version of the international “no” symbol. Its biggest flavor contribution comes from the tortilla, like sogging up a few tortilla chips from the queso bowl and laying them down. Inside the enchilada, that petite ground beef can’t touch the thick shred of the burger patty’s medium-rare beef for grilled flavor. What makes the whole thing work as a hangover restorative is the yolk from a fried egg when it bursts on first bite, a thick golden reminder that there is life after last night.
Fries or rings? For an extra $1.50, you can add steak fries, obviously cut by hand in more miscellaneous shapes than a Lego set. Their thin veneer crackles easily into the soft potato underneath. I added a side of onion rings ($3.95), which came more like an appetizer construction than a basket, a tumble of red and white onions and jalapeño slices with the batter barely hanging on, like they’d been awakened from a nap and pushed out the door half-dressed.
Something extra: When beer goes wrong, they call it a michelada. Beer doesn’t get ice or a straw or a salted rim. It’s beer, one of man’s earliest pre-made grain cocktails. But Ranch 616’s Michelada Negra ($5) seemed like a package deal for a day-after drill, with Negra Modelo and lime juice swirled together with spice and crowned with a rim of salt and flakes of red pepper. It’s a spicy citrus swirl of fizz and malt rather than the michelada’s usual Bloody Mary masquerade. And for that, I can forgive its sins.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)