This meaty piece of criticism (named after an ‘80s arcade game) is part of a recurring series of burger reviews. For my Top 50 restaurants in Austin, along with the rest of the Austin360 Dining Guide, visit austin360.com/eats.
Burger Time: Better Half Cheeseburger
The grade: A
Three-word review: Cheesed-blanketed juicer.
The setting: Is it a cocktail bar? Is it a laptop-dotted coffee shop? Is it a bespoke all-day diner? Is it an outdoor patio hang that might stumble deep into the night? Yes. Better Half is at once a haven for the hip and a straight ahead populist post-up. Competition for a seat inside at the bar or one of the few tables at peak hours can be stiff, so I recommend getting there before or after prime times.
The burger: The first thing you notice is the sunglow orange blanket of American cheese. The bright color lets you know that you’re dealing with a classic. The first thing you taste is a perfectly salted 44 Farms beef patty charred and fatty enough to release its juices onto the plate with a firm press of the hand. A glossy and mildly sweet bun pillows at the top and stays sturdy below, absorbing the 80/20 chuck’s juices. There is a swipe of Dijonnaise zippy with Duke’s Mayonnaise (smart touch) on the lightly toasted bun, and I could have used about 20 percent more of it.
Respectfully tame red onions and excellent puckering housemade pickles add to the crunch of meaty crust and toasty bun, and the thick slice of tomato bursts with late summer sweetness. The kitchen chooses to drape the bottom bun with a wave of butter lettuce (my preferred burger greenery). They say the lettuce’s lower bunk positioning helps keep the bun from getting soggy, but I think that’s mostly cute social media posturing and still prefer my lettuce upstairs. Regardless, the absorption rate works, and this burger, juicy from meat, tomato and pickles, sticks together for a wallop of fresh, savory flavor. Credit that blanket of nostalgia-tickling American cheese for holding it all together.
Price: $10 without a side ($5 during reverse happy hour from 9 to 10 p.m. daily)
Kitchen hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. 8 a.m to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.
Location and contact: 406 Walsh St., 512–645–0786, betterhalfbar.com.
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