Quest for a Better Burger
S. Kirk Walsh
Quest for a Better Burger
In our nine years of living in Austin, my husband, Michael, and I have been on something of a culinary pursuit to track down the best burger in the city. Admittedly, we had been spoiled by the monumental burgers that Manhattan has to offer (from the classic on an English muffin at P.J. Clarke’s to the Parisian variation topped with melting Roquefort at Café Luxembourg). When we first arrived in 2004, Austin’s selections were, let’s just say, less than impressive. More than once, we met with sad plates of overcooked patties or belt-busting, Texas-sized burgers, both resulting in a post-repast, brick-in-the-stomach state. But like other versions of dining in Austin, the rapid proliferation of new restaurants along Congress and other areas of town has spawned a wide array of new options—from the bustle and (often) wait of Hopdoddy to the artisan burger at Salt & Time butcher shop and restaurant.
This spring another burger joint opened in town, after two years of renovations and delays from the considerable backlog of city building permits (another sign of the boom), on the corner of East Seventh Street and Lydia: The Silo on 7th. With its burger-centric menu, this low-key restaurant definitely brings something new to the table. At The Silo a bit of old Austin meets new Austin; the two-story restaurant is housed in a former tortilla factory. The stone building was first erected in 1922, but parts of the structure burned down, while the main retail store and old corn silo stayed intact. (In the downstairs dining area, two of the original packages from Tony’s Tortilla Factory are framed and displayed along the exposed metal beam that runs across the center of the restaurant.)
Upstairs, the rooftop deck offers a prime perch for alfresco dining on early summer evenings. On our first visit, Michael and I sat at a table as the sun began its descent and soft pinks played across the silhouetted skyline of downtown. Right away we were drawn to The Silo’s friendly service and low-key atmosphere with little hipster pretense.
We were each seduced by a different burger. I went for the traditional half-pound burger (the Silo, $8.95) featuring Stella’s relish, a homemade relish with finely chopped zucchini as its starring ingredient. The burger was perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside with the right amount of red juiciness on the inside. The dense, toasted brioche bun soaked this all up, in addition to the mouthwatering mix of relish, mayo, mustard, and ketchup. Michael went for bold and spicy: the Navasota ($10.95), which consists of a patty made from pork butt topped with Muenster, grilled avocado, tomatillo, garlic, cilantro, serrano, and chipotle in adobo sauce. His burger offered up a fiery kick with a complex layering of fresh flavors, from the thin-sliced tomatillo to the paprika-spiked adobo sauce. For a side, we split the sweet potato tots—crispy nuggets of goodness seasoned generously with salt and pepper. As we ate, the sun settled beyond the western cityscape, and the string of yellow lights crisscrossing the deck glowed more brightly. Early eighties Depeche Mode pulsed on the sound system.
Other menu selections range from a sloppy joe to a grilled portobello mushroom. Appetizers include tempura-battered, fried deviled eggs and pulled pork sliders, among other standard barroom fare. For beer geeks, there is a comprehensive selection of more than thirty-six varieties, including Texas craft beers. If you have room for dessert, there are scoops of Lick ice cream.
The verdict: Silo on 7th is a burger destination that stands out amid the other options in town. This new restaurant presents bold, tasty burgers in a casual, friendly atmosphere. Brunch is also served on Sundays and Mondays, and lunch is served daily, with a modified menu being offered soon.
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