1. Hopdoddy Burger Bar
This over-the-counter burger joint in South Austin is immensely popular – we’re talking one hour lines during peak times – because it does things the right way. That means grinding their own meat, baking their own bread, hand-cutting their own fries, churning their own ice cream, supporting local farmers and ranchers, and making recycling easy. More importantly, their burgers are high concept and high quality, starting with in-house grinds like Angus, grass-fed, Akaushi (kobe style), bison and lamb. The roster of preconfigured burger creations is led by the Primetime, which complements Texas Akaushi beef with brie, arugula, caramelized onions, truffle aioli and steak sauce for a magnificent experience in the freshest of buns, with all of the supporting players deferring to the standout beef. Not a carnivore? They’ve got you covered with sushi grade tuna and black bean patties, and no burger idea is beyond their scope. Even the shakes get creative, with flavors like tres leches, caramel & sea salt, red velvet and chocolate stout. The hip, industrial space has indoor and outdoor seating, plus a full bar.
2. Casino El Camino
A downtown Austin burger institution since 1994, Casino El Camino has been rightfully hailed as one of the top burger destinations in the country. Tipping the scales at three-quarters of a pound, the Texas sized burgers arre flame grilled, assembled into the desired configuration, cut in half, then grilled as half sandwiches to obtain the signature grill marks on the cross sections. Demand is high and cooking times are long, so order before you’re hungry and enjoy the juke box selections and eclectic Austin atmosphere while you wait. Insider tip: for faster sustenance, order a bloody mary; it arrives quickly with snacks like bacon and cheese as garnish. But the burgers are worth waiting for, with the contrast between outer char and inner juiciness in full play and the intriguing toppings supporting both the overall flavor of the burger and your desire to order another beer.
3. Dirty Martin’s
Opinions are split on this relic near the University of Texas campus that’s been slinging burgers since 1926. Even if you’re not inclined to rank its burgers in your personal top ten, there’s little doubt that the charm and history of the place itself will win you over, so consider Dirty Martin’s for those occasional times you want to bask in nostalgia. Just look for the white building with the painted-on steer and the old time "Dirty Martin's Kum Back Place" sign. The moniker isn’t related to hygiene; it’s that until 1951, the floor was made of dirt. Aside from the Guadalupe Red Hot Burger that adds habanero ketchup and pickled habanero peppers, the burgers are hardly keeping pace with the newfangled creations downtown. Here it’s all about the thin, simple patties are made from fresh beef, smashed on the griddle and served in buns that pick up grease from the same flat top. It’s a workingman’s burger that still has a place in today’s landscape. Round out your order with fries, onion rings or deep fried tater tots, then enjoy that bit of nostalgia on one of the original eight stools, in front of one of their many TVs or outside at canopy-covered picnic tables.
4. The Jackalope
This energetic dive bar is outfitted with TVs, pool tables, pinball machines, hipsters and even a giant jackalope statue you can climb on, but the 9-ounce flame-grilled burgers shine brightest. Topping the deep burger menu is the Chipotle Bacon Cheeseburger that’s received national attention. It brings a two-pronged attack of chipotle flavor in the creamy mayo and lathered pimento cheese, along with bacon and pickles to amplify and contrast the charred beefiness in the fresh patty. It’s filling and it’s messy, but it’s deserving of both the calories and the hype. Other permutations bring more bacon, different cheeses and honey jalapeño to combine heat with sweet, along with smaller “loaded” burgers that top 6-ounce patties with everything from pulled pork to barbecued goat. Any configuration can swap in a veggie patty, and the hot dogs – which include a deep-dried, bacon-wrapped version – are pretty stellar too. Hit the Jackalope on Wednesdays for 2-for-1 deal that lets you get one of their other burgers while still enjoying the beloved chipotle bacon cheeseburger.
5. Hut’s Hamburgers
Here’s another old timer – they’ve been around since 1939 – that’s more about nostalgia than appeasing today’s high-hurdled palates, but it’s a slice of Americana that takes pride in its sourcing and delivers beef of a much higher caliber than many of its more media savvy competitors. The all-natural, never-frozen, grass-fed beef is purchased locally and raised locally and humanely, yielding a healthier, tastier product than you’d expect. That’s why the best choices on the menu are the ones that are the simplest; try the Dag Burger, which gives you twice the beef and twice the cheese, augmenting that combo with nothing more than lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. The deep list of options has its thrill rides too, like the Wolfman Jack with diced green chilies for heat, sour cream for a coolant, plus Jack cheese and bacon just for the heck of it. For a change of pace even while keeping the toppings simple, try your burger with a buffalo or longhorn patty – the meat is leaner, healthier and more flavorful than the regular beef option.
6. Liberty Kitchen ATX
The burgers tend to change configurations at this hip Southern eatery, but two versions are available both day and night. A more stripped-down house burger is outshone by the toppings-centric Eddie Would Go Burger, named after the Hawaiian surf legend Eddie Aikau. It’s a gargantuan package of beef, fried egg, American cheese, bacon, jalapeño pickles and Liberty sauce that needs to be compressed to even take a bite. The burger is certainly a mouthful, with the explosiveness of the fried egg countering the bright punch of the pepper. At the end of the day, it might just be the thick, well-seasoned onion rings that’ll have you dreaming about Liberty Kitchen for ends of days to come.
7. Vino Vino
Named one of the best wine nars in the whole country by Thrillist, the dimly lit Vino Vino also happens to have a worthy burger, but it’s only available on their late night menu. If there’s anything that pairs well with red wine, it’s the luscious wagyu beef, complemented by cheese, red onions and house made pickles. Not into hanging around ‘til later? Try their lamb slider, an easy $5 wine accompaniment that tops the succulent miniature lamb patty that offsets the spicy red pepper harissa with cooling cucumber and yogurt. Be aware that Vino Vino can get noisy when the place is packed, so conversation should be treated as optional as white wine.
8. Hot Mess ATX
This newish food truck at the Historic Scoot Inn rocks loaded baked potatoes (after which they’re named) and tacos with smoked meats, along with the occasional barbecue ribs, but it’s the burgers that are the main draw. The Chipotle features some heat from the chipotles and secret sauce, along with some crunch from the griddled cheddar and smoky bacon. In the Western, barbecue sauce and grilled onions stand in for the heat duo. Fried egg and green chiles are optional add-ons to any burger, which includes a respectable homemade veggie patty. Be sure to call ahead to verify that they’ll be there, because hours have been known to be sporadic.
9. Second Bar + Kitchen
This high-ceilinged eatery in the Second Street District has a compelling burger with options aplenty. The Congress Burger starts with a house-ground brisket-and-chuck patty topped with silky gruyere, a shallot confit, greens and tomatoes on a brioche bun. The juiciness of the high-fat brisket comes roaring through, nudged along flavorwise by the tame supporting players. To ramp up the volume, you can choose add-ons like seared foie gras, an over-easy egg, avocado and crisp pork belly. Or simply double the meat and cheese for an extra $10. As tempting as that sound’s we lean toward the sufficient basic model that saves more room for savory snacks like chicken fried olives, blistered shishito peppers and veal meatballs with fennel.
10. Counter Cafe
This tiny Clarksville eatery serves breakfast all day and ”the finest of fresh, local and organic food with global love,” according to their tagline. That love extends to the burgers, which have received national attention (making a top 30 list) but routinely sell in quantities of just over 600 every week. They’re fresh ground daily, made into loose, thick patties and served on soft, squishy, slightly sweet buns with lettuce, tomato and onion, keeping things simple but never lacking in juiciness or flavor. Their secret weapon might just be the curry chicken burger, a favorite of Guy Fieri. It deploys fresh jalapeños in addition to curry powder to elevate the heat level just enough to make you notice.