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Texas French Bread heightens its ambitions with new executive chef Max Mackinnon

Matthew Odam
You can get the burger at Valentina's Tex-Mex only on Thursdays.

This meaty piece of criticism (named after an ’80s arcade game) is part of a recurring series of burger reviews. For more burgers, tacos, fine dining and much more, visit the Austin360 Dining Guide, visit austin360.com/eats.

Burger Time: Smoked burger at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ

Three-word review: Tex-Mex burger paradise.

The setting: If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent part of the last 9 months looking for silver linings wherever you can find them. The coronavirus pandemic has taken much away from us, but one loss I’m not too mad at is the absence of long lines at some of my favorite spots.

While I missed the mingling crowd of veterans and newbies standing in line at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ on my last visit to South Austin, I must admit I loved the ability to order online, show up at the trailer, wait a couple of minutes for my bagged burger and head to a picnic table. I was out of there in 15 minutes (including eating time). And while I don’t believe dining to be about speed and convenience, it was a nice change of pace in these rough times, and I was happy to see a (distanced) crowd gathering for their to-go orders by the time I split.

Miguel and Modesty Vidal started their trailer in 2013, tucked behind the West Sixth Street bar scene, and the business has exploded on Manchaca Road into one of the most respected barbecue operations in the state. A fifth-generation Texas native, Vidal has drawn raves (and lines) for his mesquite-smoked brisket, carnitas and chicken that are enlivened with salsas and toppings associated with Tex-Mex cuisine, like guacamole and peppers, and serves them on sandwiches or wrapped in the best lardy flour tortillas in town.

The burger: Circle Thursdays on your calendar. That’s the only day of the week you can get Valentina’s massive burger, which might be a good thing for my waistline. The burger blushed almost as hard as I did when i unwrapped it, thanks to Valentina’s red rub mix, which, when combined with two hours over mesquite smoke, gave it the same ruby shade as the smoke ring on the trailer’s brisket.

A brisket burger, and this one’s made with a half pound of Angus brisket, can sometimes hit you a little too hard up front with salt, but the seasoning almost hides here, before the sea salt finish pops up to delight you. I blame the allure for making me devour the burger in an almost mortifying record time. Like the sandwiches and tacos, the burger gets a Tex-Mex treatment: this day (the setup changes weekly), that meant queso blanco and poblano peppers oozing and slithering from the lightly smoky, coarse-ground meat that is finished on a flatop and then slathered with the supple fat of guacamole and a blanket of queso. It tasted like an entire fajita meal magically smashed into a burger and squeezed inside a gentle Martin’s potato roll. I’m glad I had a table to myself, because I commandeered the entire roll of paper towels. Sometimes the angst of a pandemic can only be soothed with an indulgent meal that reminds me of why I love Texas.

Price: $13.50, includes a bag of chips

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. 7:30 a.m to 6 p.m. Saturda-Sunday. (The burgers is available to order starting at 11 a.m. Expect about a half hour from ordering until pickup time. Burgers do regularly sell out.)

Location and contact: 11500 Manchaca Road. 512-221-4248, valentinastexmexbbq.com

Miguel Vidal makes some of the best barbecue in the state, and his team makes a mean burger.