Monday, March 16, 2009

Casino El Camino

Well, the Odyssey finally made it to this Mecca which claims the world’s best hamburgers. From the very beginning of the Odyssey, folks have been recommending this place and claiming it as the best and so for our 20th burger spot, the Odyssey decided to take it on. By the way, the Odyssey is not a take off on Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but if it was, FriedEd clearly looks more like Keanu Reeves than does BurgerMatt. But, I digress.

For our 20th anniversary party we decided to invite all of our loyal readers, and so we had a huge crowd of six. Apparently some people were scared off from 6th Street parking and SXSW madness. Others were just hungover. One predicted we would even need reservations and a possible helicopter to drop us off on 6th street. But, true Odyssey folks enjoy a good walk, if it means there is a burger involved; and true Odyssey folks can fight off a hangover, if there is a burger involved; and true Odyssey folks don’t mind a long wait, if there is beer, laughs and a burger involved. We had all of that, we even had hot chicks. That’s right we had three super cool burger eatin’, beer drinking, funny ass girls. It was a great threesome.
Casino El Camino is not a classical burger joint. A classic burger joint attempts a 1950’s good time feel and Austin has its fair share of these. Casino has more of a Goth biker bar ambience to it. If there was a metal detector at the door, it would be constantly beeping from all the piercings. If there was a tattoo artist on the premises, they would be a millionaire. Casino is cool and hip with a pleasant fuck off vibe to it. The back patio feels like a Mayan ruin in Guatemala, complete with murals of temples on the wall, scary stelae lined steps and triple God mask lights. Again, not your grandfathers burger joint, but they certainly take their burgers seriously here.

To get around the crowds, we planned to meet up at 5:30. By the time we all arrived it was 6:15, but no worries we found a patio table right away. Before we ordered, we enjoyed a few beers and laughs, I got pooped on by a bird (that is good luck, right? I need some), and we studied the menu long and hard. Casino names its burgers after cities such as Buffalo Burger, K.C. Burger, L.A. Burger, Amarillo Burger, etc. It was decided that we would all order a different burger and so we had like a little draft to see who would get what. My memory may be off here, but BurgerBuns ordered the Amarillo, Pickle Kari ordered the L.A. , BurgerMatt ordered the; ok, I admit I have no memory. We have some guest blogs below and they can explain themselves. BurgerBuns and I took the ordering duties as you go to the kitchen counter to order up your burgers. As you do, you look into the kitchen and smell the burgers cooking up and your mouth waters. Wait times can be as much as 45 minutes but ours were up in 20 minutes. We were all super excited.

A Casino burger is a mouthful. The patty is the biggest one we have encountered, I think the patty alone is bigger than some entire burgers we have had. Since we all ordered different burgers, we passed them around and enjoyed bites of each. I had the Chicago burger which is a standard bacon, lettuce and tomato burger. The patty had good taste and I was excited about it, but then I had a bite of the Buffalo burger with hot wing sauce and blue cheese and I spent the rest of the meal conniving to get more of that burger. The Pitt Burger was also outstanding with mushrooms and A1 sauce on it. The Amarillo burger was tasty, but with Serrano and jalapeno a little spicy for my taste. My stomach was screaming at me for the rest of the night about my two bites of that one (oh, and the beer, tomatoes, ketchup, bacon and coffee). All in all, great burgers. They were tough to finish and not all of us made it to the finish line, but with our bellies full and the bar getting more and more crowded, we headed off into the night to wash down our bellies with some beer and music.

Burger: 94
Fries: 87
Beer: 100
Quality of Chicks around 45 to 95


Having gone to a number of local burger Mecca’s the blog was about to embark on one of the true stars of the Austin Burger scene. Casino el Camino! Many have been there, the Food Network has visited there, (if that’s good or bad I’m not sure but it definitely means your place is known around TV land,) punk rockers have eaten there, famous actors have indulged themselves and now the blog with an entourage of bloggers.

Could it live up to the hype? My Amarillo burger, with roasted Serrano chiles, jalapeno jack cheese, cilantro mayonnaise and three-quarters of a pound of charbroiled Certified Angus Beef lived up to the hype and the spice! If you like your burger mouthwatering delicious while you feel like you’re sweating to the oldies this is the burger for you. Add in the Verde Chili Fries, yes that’s fries covered in tomatillo verde salsa and smothered with melted cheese, and I may say you might be in burger bliss or hell, it hot in there for sure!

While this may not be your typical classic burger, it has held it’s own for sure and will garner serious award consideration at the year end Salvo’s. If you are coming to town and want to try a burger that will make your taste buds jump for joy while you experience the true essence of our world famous “6th street” this is your place and please folks enjoy a nice cold Shiner Bock on tap, dare I say does it get any better?

Burger 94
Fries 80
Verde Chili Fries 94

As this was our 20 burger blog and was mentioned several times before we had a few guest bloggers, Burger Buns and Pickle Kari. We are honored to have them blog, one a Yankee from New York City, (get a rope,) and a local home grown chic who has been waiting for us to hit this famous spot to make her debut. Without further adieu:

Official BB (Burger Blog/Burger Buns) commentary
I had the pleasure of consuming the following burger:
The Buffalo Burger
Grilled with our own hot wing sauce and smothered with bleu cheese $7.25

As I stepped foot into Casino El Camino 2 things quickly came to mind: Tarantino's "From Dusk Till Dawn" and...Burgers. As my more astute twin sister put it, "You kinda expect everyone to turn into a vampire at any given point." I feel Casino El Camino's decent burgers offer a proper deterrent for such primal transgressions as savory meat and flavorful sauces abound.

Our Burger trio quickly perused the premises and got right to the 'meat of the situation': a chill Mazatlan-inspired patio fit for the Spanish conquistadors, fully equipped with authentic ruins, Chichen Itza pyramids, and a random Lord of the Rings fountain figurine center stage. We were satisfied that proper excavation had produced a modern seating area with lush accommodations. Unfortunately much as Cortes before us had witnessed, there were casualties: Fried Egg got 'egged' by a passing bird within the first minute of the tour; I believe all present also came down with Montezuma's Revenge after this week's odyssey as well (I consider this as an authentic touch given the Mayan decor).

The berating chef adds a hint of derogatory spice to the mix: it's well-worth it to order your own food in the side window while he dishes out customized insults to each customer (I generated a special look of disgust on his face when I dared to make a dash for the ATM behind me to cover my order).

But I digress from my meat!

I chose the Buffalo Burger because I found it to be the spiciest selection on the menu--the only appropriate choice in my opinion that would honor the spiciness of the Camino itself.
I ordered my meat as suggested, medium.

I truly like the flavor of the meat although it was slightly too dry and lacked texture, given the preparation. I would personally recommend that others order their meat Medium Rare to lend more juice to the patty itself.
Let's get to my favorite part now: the buns! I was not the biggest fan of the bun itself as I am a traditionalist when it comes to my burger tooshie as some of you might already know. The caraway seeds did not particularly complement my burger choice although it might have provided a nice accompaniment to the LA Burger.
The sauce was delightful--spicy and tangy as expected and the bleu cheese accoutrement was not overwhelming either.

Verde Fries: a bit too mushy for my taste--although I appreciate the premise of the tomatillo verde salsa and melted cheese, these fries must be served piping hot.

*I would advise any customers to check in quickly on their burger and fry orders as they might be sitting in our Angry Chef's back area too long!

I had the good fortune of sampling some of the other selections as well and feel the Pitts Burger and my Buffalo Burger to have been the best. I would suggest a spicier sauce on other burger selections--aioli mustard and mayo, etc.--as the Cilantro is nice but too subtle on other menu choices.

In short, although the Casino el Camino lacks both a Casino and much of a Camino, you should make stop there for the derogatory good humor and Buffalo Burger.
Don't forget to bring some fresh irony and pampers with you.


Pickle Kari
Fried Ed clearly is living up to his name in this instance. He's waaayyy off on the orders. Let me clear things up: Pickle Kari ordered the Pitts Burger (sautéed mushrooms and onions, provolone and A-1 sauce), Chili Camille ordered the L.A. Burger (sprouts, Romaine lettuce, tomato, avocado and shallot mayo), Burger Buns went with the Buffalo (hot wing sauce and bleu cheese), Burger Matt ate the Amarillo (Serrano chiles, jalapeño jack cheese and cilantro mayonnaise), and Ed got the Chicago (bacon, Romaine lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese).

Given that I'm not really a connoisseur of beef burgers (I generally stick to the vegetarian variety), I was way more into enjoying a night out; drinking beer (I was rather disappointed in the selection; only three beers on tap?!) and having a good time with friends. There were clearly burgers that were the night's winners, namely my Pitts Burger and Burger Bun’s Buffalo Burger. Anything with a little zesty tang is going to most likely be a winner in my book and both these burgers were spot on in this department. I was lucky that there were no fries with my order which gave me the opportunity to devote the majority of my stomach to the burger (minus the five missing bites as the burger “puff, puff passed” its way around the table). When The Sage mentioned that the quality of the meat might be lacking due to the over-abundance of patrons (clearly of the SXSW variety), I have to admit, I really wasn't even thinking about the meat. I was much more into what was on my meat and what was on my meat was outstanding! The mushrooms and onions were perfectly sautéed (perhaps even in the A1 sauce?), the provolone was evenly distributed over the meat and there was a nice quantity of sauce on the burger. I think the burger could’ve been a bit better with just a tad more of the sautéed ingredients, but overall, not something that was a major complaint. Didn’t really pay attention to the bun, but it must’ve been decent enough since I didn’t notice it one way or the other. I’d give the fries a “not bad” but definitely not the best in town. The chile cheese fries were definitely good, but a little green love and they would’ve been a whole lot better! Some highlights of the night included the magically morphing waitress (I’d give her a 92) and seeing tattoo artist, Katzen (who I’m pretty sure is the wife of The Enigma).

Burger: 93
Fries: 85
Beer: 90

Monday, March 9, 2009

Terra Burger

Imagine if Whole Foods and Burger King got really drunk one night and had sex. Terra Burger would be the outcome. It is a McDonald's for hippies. The concept behind this new venture is simple: bring organic and all natural to the fast burger industry. Everything here is natural and eco-friendly, from the ketchup (sucks) to the lighting, from the soap in the bathroom to the meat in the burger. Even the soda fountain has the old stand by of Coca-Cola missing. Instead they have a pure cain sugar alternative, along with organic root beer, lemonade and ginger ale. I went with an organic Blue Sky Black Cherry. The breakfast is made with free range eggs, the burgers are 100% USDA organic beef, and the coffee is fair trade. It almost feels out of place to order a burger and fries here, but order up we did.

Rock Star Rodd pointed out another big benefit to the place. Due to its location directly across from U.T., as he said it, "I am not saying there are hot chicks here, but I am saying that if you are a lesbian or are really into hot chicks, this is a good place." P. Terry's watch out. You may have been supplanted in the Year End Salvo's. The place does have a nice youthful energy and a certain idealism. Hopefully the green revolution in the fast food industry that it represents will be the future in the new economy which we hope will emerge back strong by 2048. My only criticism of the place is that it is a little too proud of its all natural status. Signs throughout the restaurant say things like, "You will not find a single non-organic ingredient in our food, not one." and using our cups save 13 Billion pounds of carbon emissions. But the one that went really over the top for me were big screen T.V.'s constantly running images pointing out how the floors are bamboo and the paper cups are recyclable. I was tempted to ask how much energy they were saving by running the T.V.'s.

As to the burgers, well I always feel that something that tastes like meat is a pretty damn good burger and this burger hit a home run. I ordered the "Hill Country Hickory Burger" as I have been itching to get out into the hill country and I like BBQ sauce on my burger. The meat was juicy and tender and very flavorful. The fries are hand cut and tastes like, well they taste like potatoes. They also offer a Sweet Potato fry which Sage had which were super good and will be ordered by me on all subsequent visits. Over all, a great experience and a place we will return to.

On a side note, BurgerMatt and FriedEd followed up the burger with a nice 2 mile flip-flop busting walk through West Campus. We spotted a future burger to try at the Mansion at Judges Hill, and I relived old college memories. Despite all the new construction in West Campus, I was happy to see that all three place I lived in college were still standing, but the pizza place I worked at for two years is gone to a new condo construction, though ironically there is a new pizza place in almost the exact location.

Finally, a big invite to all our fans. Next week will be our 20th Burger Location Anniversary and the kickoff to Spring Break and SXSW. We want to have a little Sunday night party for all our fans at Casino El Camino. Many have told us that this is the best burger and we now feel qualified to take it on. We will give final word on this later in the week as we need to make sure it will be open and not be overwhelmed with bands. After that, the Odyssey will take a little hiatus so be sure to make it out for our big finale.


How can something so organic lead to something so delicious? As we took in this new spot on the drag you got the sense that this little "green organic burger joint" has the chance to be something were not used to seeing in these tough economic times, a successful and growing business. You can't but help to think this will be a franchise within a year and with the world going green, there should be no reason it won't thrive.

The burger comes on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, onions, mustard, ketchup and mayo, with the meat being the champion. This burger was great, a taste that had me thinking about a good old backyard burger that only my parents could make. The seasoning was delicious and the burger seemed to vanish within a few bites. The hand cut fries were a good compliment, however, I am still stuck on The Driskill fries and was not a huge fan.

The decor is not what a classic Austin Burger feels like, but it works well with the green theme and was quite inviting. The service was great and definitely gave us a new fondness for good service. I have to say having been to new, old and really old places this one stacks up and will be revisited for sure. Good luck to these newbies and bring on Casino!!!!

Burger 90
Fries 82

Monday, March 2, 2009

Burger Tex (on Guadalupe)

For our millions of readers who study the blog closely and hold trivia contests about Odyssey history, you might notice that we have already been to Burger Tex. It was way back sometime in November when Ketchup Nicole joined us for a guest trip. However, that was the original Burger Tex up on Airport Blvd. Normally, the Odyssey would not visit the same burger place, even if they have multiple locations, but Burger Tex is a unique case. For mysterious reasons, the multiple Burger Texs split at one point in history and are no longer affiliated with each other. As such, the two have followed different evolutionary paths, much like the animals of Australia followed a different evolutionary path after Australia broke away from the super continent of Pangaea 250 million years ago. That is kind of like Burger Tex. It is like Australia and it is weird and mysterious.

And so this is the Burger Tex on Guadalupe. We choose this location for two reasons. First of all, a hungry BurgerMatt and FriedEd drove by BurgerTex on Sunday. We were looking for a place to eat and neither one of us wanted Thundercloud and Foodheads was closed. When we saw Burger Tex we considered stopping, but felt it would be too glutinous to eat burgers two days in a row. That would not normally stop us though, but then FriedEd thought of Slices and Ices just a few doors down and we went pizza instead, or the healthy route as we considered it. Secondly, Burger Tex proudly proclaims on its outside owning "Best Burgers in Texas." That, and the fact that it has Texas in its name seemed like a good place to eat for Texas Independence Day. We thought Davie Crockett and Jim Bowie and Ricky Williams would all be proud.

Burger Tex is famous for one reason- the Korean flavored Bulgogi Burger. This sliced beef burger is sweetened with sesame oil, soy sauce, onions and garlic. Now both Burger Texs have the Bulgogi Burger, but the Airport location spells it "Bulgoki." I guess it is like a McDonald's vs. McDowell's thing. Either way it is tasty. We can not do a straight up comparison to tell which is better because last time BurgerMatt had the Bulgoki and FriedEd went with a regular burger and this time it was reversed. It would be neat if we could do a straight up comparison but we are idiots and didn't think of that really great idea while we were ordering. However, the Korean looking man behind the counter said that the Guadalupe location Bulgogi burger was better and that was the same thing said at the Airport location but about the Airport burger. OK, whatever, I guess we will just have to go back. Maybe we should have stopped by on Sunday. BurgerMatt, it is still not too late to eat burgers two days in row. What do you think?

Bulgogi Burger: 95
Fries: 93
Water: 92
Feeling of Stomach One Hour later: 60

Burger Matt

With a great name like Burger Tex, how can this burger go wrong? The name itself gets extra credit and the burger lived up to the name. While FriedEd enjoyed the exotic Korean burger I decided to have the tried and true double burger with cheese. Double here is is rather different than the doubles we are used to, as you do not get two patties, instead you get one Texas sized patty, and it was big!!!

This burger spot lets you dress your burgers at their condiment stand complete with jalapenos and pico de gallo, can it get anymore Texan? The bun and well seasoned beef are great and only you can mess up the rest. The fries, while crunchy, lacked flavor and were not one of my favorites. The decor is one that leaves a bit to be desired. You kind of felt like ordering a number 3 with special sauce.

Overall this was a good burger that can hold it's own amongst the big boys, but if I had to go with one of the two Burger Tex locations I would go with the one that has the decor of a classic burger joint, the one that serves beer and this honor goes to the original on Airport Road.

Burger 88
Fries 79