Monday, February 16, 2009

Driskill Hotel

The Driskill Hotel was established in 1886. That is so old, it is older than the concept of the hamburger. The first hamburger, according to the Odyssey historian FriedEd, was created in Athens, Texas in the late 1880's. As such, we do not think the Driskill was kickin' out burgers when it first opened its doors. But, at the Driskill Hotel, located at 6th and Congress, a little restaurant called the "1886 Cafe" does today.

We choose the Driskill for this Odyssey visit for two reasons. First off, BurgerMatt had the elegant and classy Mustard Madeline in town and we needed a place to match her style. BurgerMatt and MustardMadeline had the day before rounded up a Hill Country road trip in which they had thoroughly geeked out on Cowboy crap. In a single day, they revived the cowboy tourism business in Fredricksburg and Luckenbach. Country songs are already being sung about these city slickers and all the gold they spilled. The Driskill seemed a nice topping for that. They strolled in with cowboy hats, cowboy boots, belt buckles and I am sure they had some stirrups somewhere.

Secondly, the Driskill was also a good choice for President's Day. The first President to stay at the Driskill was William McKinley in 1901. Lyndon and Lady Bird had their first date at the hotel cafe and LBJ watched the 1964 Presidential election returns at the Driskill. I am sure other presidents have stayed there as it is very Presidential. The 19th century architecture is studded with marble floors, columns and brass gilded ceilings. It was the fanciest burger blog yet. We even had valet service, a definite Odyssey first.

We sat down and were joined as usual by Rock Star and Sage. By this point, we have gotten so good at organizing, Sage knew where to go by ESP. The cafe offers only one burger (unless you count their veggie burger) and it is called the "1886 Bacon Blue Cheese Burger." FriedEd does not like cheese that is that old so he substituted cheddar. Others substituted Swiss. Served up before the burger is a nice basket of bread with excellent cheese straws.

As the burgers arrived we were going crazy with anticipation and we snapped some photos posing with the burgers. The fries started it off with a bang. They were truffle seasoned with Parmesan cheese. I must say they have been the best fries in all of the places we have been. Sadly, it all went downhill from there. The burger tasted like it had been frozen for two weeks and then thrown into the microwave, bread and all. The bread was crumbly, the patty tasted like an old whore that had been used and abused, and the cheddar tasted like, well it had been sitting out since 1886. We compared the whole experience to meeting a beautiful women, getting all excited about her, and then finding out that she attended the University of Oklahoma. Beautiful on the outside, horrible once you find out more. Very sad. Driskill, we reserve the right to call PETA for serving something not resembling a cow.

Despite the bad burger, the night was a good one. The Odyssey sees the taste of the burger as only one element of a good night out, as with good people, a few laughs and a classic place you can not go wrong. We hit the Driskill bar for some drinks after the burgers to drink away the taste and we got lost in the 19th century. FriedEd taught BurgerMatt some Cowboy etiquette and we all posed with a Longhorn on the wall. As we walked out, the 21st century was a rude awakening. It was a nice step back in time. Sadly, burgers were not all that good in 1886.

Burger: 50
Fries: 96
Cheesestraws: 90
Feeling of Stomach One Hour later: 70
Quality of Hot Chicks Around: 100


Howdy folks! To say I may have embraced my Texas roots since returning from a 14 year hiatus, well that might be a bit of an understatement. My new MHT Cowboy hat, which stands for Master Hatters of Texas, signifies the completion of my journey back home. Tonight's blog was what a Cowboy could dream of. A night at The Driskill with your friends and loved ones enjoying a good burger and having a night cap at this Texas legend.

As we sat down for a night of high anticipation, we were greeted by our waitress who was not the happiest to see this Motley Crue of burger aficionados. As we all ordered the exact same thing save the cheese and how the burger was cooked, we got the sense we might not be the clientele she wanted to service. Mustard Madeleine ordered a tortilla soup to start that, along with the bread baskets, hit a home run. Then when the burgers arrived, they looked huge and tasty. The fries were an immediate hit, topped with salt, cheese and yes truffle oil, the blogs excitement hit a high and anticipation for this burger had us thinking we might have found a match to our childhood favorite, Jack's Burger House.

Just as the Alamo went down with a fight so did this burger. (The fight being the fries.) So disappointing was this burger it makes me scared to go back to The Driskill Grill, a four star restaurant in the hotel. Our waitress did not help things out by giving us the check and not even asking if we wanted coffee or desert. This is a four star hotel and the service was half a star to be on the nice side.

Moving up to the upstairs bar to indulge in a nightcap The Driskill's legend finally hit a home run. A bar that most western Cowboys could only dream of, a piano, live music, cowhide bar stools and saddles for decor you can't help but look around waiting for "The Duke" to walk in. This bar will undoubtedly be visited by all of our friends who make the long journey to Austin, we'll just have to go somewhere else to get a good burger.

Burger 50
Fries 95
Upstairs Bar 98

Monday, February 9, 2009

Phil's Ice House

Phil's Ice House was recommended to the Odyssey last week at Mighty Fine Burgers by a fellow customer so this week the Odyssey ventured up to one of Austin's great streets, Burnet Rd. Burnet Rd. is full of great local places with tons of character. It is Austin's secret South Congress and good finds are a plenty on it. Phil's Ice House is one of those and is a ton of fun.

Phil's was started by the same folks who brought us Amy's Ice Cream and as such they have a creative menu full of local flair. Burgers are named after Austin neighborhoods such as the Allendale Burger, the Rosedale Burger, The Crestview Burger, and their most popular burger, the 78704 Burger with avocado and jalapeno. It is an odd name for a North Austin resturant but 78704 is FriedEd's old hood and the home of Barton Springs so we won't complain. FriedEd went with the Rosedale Burger, a cheddar mesquite burger with a sweet bbq sauce. Throwing BBQ sauce on a burger is a sure winner and this burger was gobbled down in a heartbeat. The sourdough bun complemented the fresh cheddar and smokey patty.

Attached to Phil's is an Amy's Ice Cream. I asked the burger manager if it is common for people to get a burger and then go eat ice cream. He said, "No, people will come for the ice cream and then be like, hey, there is a burger place here and then come back the next day." We did it backwards and came for the burgers and as such, we started a new tradition. After the burger we went next door and ordered the second best ice cream in Texas. We recommend a tiny if you want to be able to move for the next few hours.

And best of all, this fun complex has an attached playground on which the Odyssey learned that playgrounds are fun when you are five, and they are just as fun when you are 33. If you want to do the Phil's Ice House challenge (invented and accomplished by all members of the Odyssey), you eat a burger and fries, get an ice cream, and then do the spinning pole and spinning bucket on the playground. Top it off with trying to walk in a straight line afterwards. All in all, this fun little area is a great treat for the whole family, even if your family is a few thirty year old dudes.

Burger: 92
Fries: 85
Feeling of Stomach One Hour Later after spinning in Buckets: 32

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mighty Fine

A little back story on this way North Mopac rather newish hamburger joint pick for an Odyssey visit. On Saturday, FriedEd was hiking the hills with the cool and lovely lettuce Laura. Meanwhile, BurgerMatt was on his second margarita before noon and his day progressed predictably from that point. The next day was Super Bowl Sunday and FriedEd had planned a Super Bowl party for members of the Odyssey and friends. FriedEd, fresh off a hike was in tip-top shape and ready to go for this little fiesta. However, BurgerMatt was MIA from the Super Bowl party having been handed a sound defeat in the game of work hard/play hard that we inhabit. Apparently he couldn’t even get out of bed until the second half. This got quite a giggle from the rest of the Odyssey. Normally BurgerMatt and FriedEd consult over the weekend on the Odyssey visit for the following Monday and announce the place via text to those who have expressed interest. But, on this Sunday night BurgerMatt was nowhere to be seen and was refusing to answer his phone. So Onion Ring Sage, Milk Shake Rock Star and FriedEd were left to make the decision. Sitting on the couch sipping on our combined 15th beer we wondered aloud during the game where we should go. We were all a little stumped. Of course someone threw out Camino, but we don’t think we are ready yet. At that moment, the strangest thing happened. A locally produced commercial came on for Mighty Fine Burgers. We all instantly knew that had to be it. The television had heard us talking and it was fate. Of course we had to check first to make sure it was not a chain and sure enough it is an Austin original. So off we went.

Mighty Fine Burgers is brought to us Austinites by the same folks who brought us Ruby’s Bar-b-Que and they have been grilling up some thick natural patties since way back in 2006. The restaurant recreates the Ruby’s and high school cafeteria feel with long tables. Though it has a bit of a corporate atmosphere, the long tables encourage you to sit and chat with your neighbors which gives it a town hall feel according to Milk Shake Rock Star. Folks sitting next to us entered two of our conversations, and the band Romance Fantasy, widely recognized in North Austin parking lots, even picked up a new fan. The Odyssey was joined by a new member, JJ Jalapeno.

Ordering at Mighty Fine is industrial style with several eager and happy employees at the cash register writing your order down on bags complete with your first name and last initial. If you ask them how they are doing, the answer is “mighty fine.” The set up is basic. You order a hamburger or a cheeseburger and then can add the standard veggies and make it a red (ketchup), white (mayonnaise)or yeller (I forget what that one was). Five minutes later they holler out your name and you sit down to burger goodness.

Mighty Fine has the only hand cut crunchy fries in Texas and this is served in a baggie that you can easily mix with salt and seasoning provided on the table. Make sure you don’t over salt like FriedEd does. But if you do, note that Mighty Fine has an amazing hand washer which is something between a drive thru car wash and a pedicure. You will have to experience it to believe it. And to the burger. It is mouth watering good and all natural in eight different ways according to the card on the table. It is a thick patty with a very average bun but the natural way is the way to go as it actually tastes like you are eating meat. Top it off with a shake mixed up with Blue Bell ice cream and you have yourself, dare we say it, here it comes, a Mighty Fine meal. As Sage said of the shake, “that is what vanilla should taste like.” At Mighty Fine, they come pretty close to making what a good burger should taste like.

Burger: 92

Fries: 90

Shake: 95

Feeling of Stomach One Hour Later: 72

Mighty Fine Burgers! A name like that and you better be ready for criticism, or in this case you better make a mighty fine dang burger. I must say it was dang good. The fries already come very well seasoned and the ability to add Lowry's seasoning or pepper and sea salt, yes sea salt scored very high with the crew.

The atmosphere makes you want for the days of being in high school and sitting down with all your friends while you eat a classic and enjoy good company. The horse trough presentation for your bottle drinks, which included a Burger Blog favorite of IBC Root Beer and real Beer, was a hit as was the fresh squeezed lemonade and even more interesting the strawberry lemonade.

As for the burger, it had great flavor and all the right fixins. Many of us who have been to In-and-Out Burgers had a familiar feeling with this place. We all agreed that this burger was soon to become a chain as well as it had franchise written all over it. We were just happy to get there before it goes mainstream.

Burger 90

Fries 91

Shake 94