Search for the Best Burger Joint in Austin: The Tavern

Augie’s Attic upstairs at The Tavern Austin

If you’ve been looking for the best burgers in Austin, you’ve come to the right place. This post is part of a series on The Austinot.

All the posts in this series start with “Search for the Best Burger Joint in Austin” in the title. Remember, I’m looking at not only the burgers, but the experience itself.

You’ll always get an honest take on the burger joints that I’ve visited. Keep in mind that these are just my opinions. I’m sure you may agree or disagree, and I’m good with that either way.

Regardless, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Tavern Austin First Impression

Located on 12th and Lamar, The Tavern Austin is a great find. Two floors, tons of flat screen TVs on various sports channels and an upstairs outdoor patio with four flat screens of its own. There is also parking across the street, which is a very nice feature for a downtown joint.

As I walked in, some laidback blues poured out over the speakers and my eyes couldn’t help but glance around at some of the fun signs posted about the place. Hardwood floors and an old school wood bar were also features that caught my eye. The business crowd was in the house, as well as a smattering of families and hipsters. It was pretty much anyone’s joint.

We went upstairs to “Augie’s Attic” and were quickly greeted by a waiter in a ball cap. I know The Tavern has had a history of negative reviews for poor service, but for us that wasn’t the case. Our service, though not stellar, was definitely more than adequate.

As a side note, they have a cool little dumbwaiter that brings the prepared food upstairs from the kitchen down below.

Austinot Eric’s Burger Review Criteria

If you’ve read my other articles in this series, you’ll know that I rate burger joints using a 1-10 scale, with 5 being Average. (Don’t be a hater. If I rate you a 5, that means you were average.)

Roughly speaking, a score of 1 translates to “worst ever,” while 10 translates to “God handcrafted this himself.” Remember, you are free to disagree with me. This is just my honest take.

When reviewing a burger joint, these are my categories:

  1. Burger Patties
  2. Bun
  3. Cheese
  4. Messiness
  5. Garnish
  6. Burger Taste
  7. Fries
  8. Atmosphere
  9. Cleanliness
  10. Other Factors

The Tavern Austin Burger Joint Review

One of the best burgers in Austin from The Tavern

  1. Burger Patties = 9. Thick, juicy, flavorful 1/3 pound patties that were nearly perfectly seasoned, definitely perfectly cooked and left very little – if anything – to desire. A solid 9. I almost rated my patty a 10, but I couldn’t bring myself to give it a perfect mark because it wasn’t as piping hot as the burger I had at Nau’s.
  2. Bun = 10. This is how a bun must be made. It was incredible. I almost wondered if they baked it fresh on site, but didn’t ask. So get this, the bun was perfectly sized for the burger, never fell apart, was buttery and incredibly soft on the outside, while being toasted just right on the inside. It was so soft that it reminded me of memory foam…you know, like what you get on those expensive mattresses. It was so   amazing, I actually took the time to point it out to the folks who were dining with me.
  3. Cheese = 8. Finally, a place with a thick burger that knows that thick burgers need an extra slice of cheese, and real cheese at that. I was extremely well pleased, as the cheese melted over the sides of the patty. A great addition to this incredible burger.
  4. Messiness = 8. The burger was messy in a good way. It was a huge burger that I had to press down in order to get a bite in, and it messed just enough to know that I was into something special. Great stuff!
  5. Garnish = 8. The garnish was fresh and chilled. The bacon crisp, the tomatoes thick and fresh and the lettuce crisp and cold.
  6. Taste = 9.  This burger was incredible, amazing and I think it will be tough to beat. Keep in mind, I’m rating burger joints in this series. As far as burgers themselves go, you are going to be hard pressed to find a better burger. Though I may find one in my travels, you can bet your bottom dollar that if I’m anywhere near 12th and Lamar, I’m stopping by The Tavern.
  7. Fries = 6. The burgers come with kettle chips, rather than fries. I don’t like this at all. Again, if you are going to serve burgers, serve fries alongside. Don’t skimp. If you want to offer kettle chips as an alternative, fine. But the standard side should be fries. The fries were decent, maybe a mark of a 7, but the fact that they didn’t come standard with the meal lowered this mark to a 6.
  8. Atmosphere = 8. The Tavern is a very cool place. If you love sports and good pub food, you’ll love the Tavern. I’d bring any out of town guests who love burgers here for sure.
  9. Cleanliness = 7. Other than a few crumbs on some nearby tables, the place was generally clean. For such a large establishment, that is a pretty good sign. Bathrooms were clean too. It wasn’t perfect, but definitely better than average.
  10. Other Factors = 8. The Tavern had a good selection on their menu, though I can’t speak to anything other than the amazing burger and decent fries, with the exception of their potato skins (which were very good). The waiter was adequate and the service decent enough. The Tavern gets high marks in this category for the level of selection on their menu. For a pub, it’s quite extensive.

Bottom Line on The Tavern in Austin: 8.1 out of 10

Overall Score = 8.1. The overall score is the average of the 10 categories.

Bacon cheeseburger at The Tavern in Austin

The burger at The Tavern Austin is a sight to behold and a treat that you should feel guilty about eating. The patty is huge, the cheese plentiful, the bun perfect, and the garnish cold, thick and crisp. This burger will not disappoint!

The atmosphere is great and there is parking across the street. The service was decent and the prices reasonable. But hey Tavern.. if you are going to serve amazing burgers like this, please make fries part of the meal. Kettle chips…really?

If you are looking to go for a quick lunch downtown, or have friends from out of town who love burgers, you definitely want to stop by The Tavern. If you are just a burger fan and looking for one of the best Austin has to offer, you need to head out to The Tavern and try it for yourself.

And so my…

Search for the Best Burger Joint in Austin Continues

So far, of burger joints in Austin reviewed on the Austinot, here is the scorecard:

#1 – score 8.1 – The Tavern

#2 – score 8.0 – Your Mom’s Burger Bar (Tied for 2nd so far) CLOSED see below.

#2 – score 8.0 – Opal Divine’s Freehouse (Tied for 2nd so far) 6th Street location CLOSED see below.

#3 – score 7.64 – P. Terry’s

#4 – score 7.6 – Phil’s Icehouse

#5 – score 7.2 – Casino El Camino

#6 – score 7.1 – Crown & Anchor Pub

#7 – score 7.05 – Dirty Martin’s Place

#8 – score 7.0 – Billy’s on Burnet (Tied for 8th so far)

#8 – score 7.0 – Moonie’s Burger House (Tied for 8th so far)

#9 – score 6.9 – Mighty Fine Burgers

#10 – score 6.7 – Wholly Cow Burgers

#11 – score 6.4 – Nau’s Enfield Drug

#12 – score 5.9 – Old School Bar and Grill

#13 – score 4.8 – Cover 3

Burger joints that have shut down since they were reviewed:

1. Opal Divine’s (The 6th street location is closed but they have other locations so give them a try.)

2. Your Mom’s Burger Bar (The owners decided to buy an RV and see the country. But they did write a farewell letter to Austin. We’ll miss you Your Mom’s!)

Other places that have been suggested to review: 

  1. 2nd Bar + Kitchen
  2. 24 Diner
  3. Austin Land and Cattle
  4. Austin Java
  5. Black Sheep Lodge
  6. Blue Star Cafeteria
  7. Burger Tex 2 on Guadalupe
  8. Cain and Abel’s
  9. Counter Cafe
  10. Cow Bells
  11. Dan’s Hamburgers
  12. Dart Bowl
  13. Foreign and Domestic
  14. Fran’s Hamburgers
  15. Hat Creek
  16. Hill’s Cafe
  17. Hideout Pub
  18. Hoover’s Cooking
  19. Hopdoddy
  20. Hula Hut
  21. Hut’s Hamburgers
  22. Jack Allen’s Kitchen
  23. Jackalope
  24. Lambert
  25. Luke’s Inside Out
  26. Parkside
  27. Ski Shores
  28. South Congress Cafe
  29. Sputnik
  30. Top Notch

Got one you’d like added to the list? Comment and let us know! (Only suggestions of burger joints founded in Austin will be added.)


@EricHighland asks:

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Do you agree or disagree with me on The Tavern?  Do you know of any places that I need to add to my list?
Tavern on Urbanspoon

  • JLM


    Eric, who told you about The Tavern?

    That’s right, ME.

    Glad you went and glad you liked it.

    But, Eric, you have to have the steak fries — crispy. That justifies another trip.

    Thanks for following up and well played!

    I am going to The Tavern today myself.


    • Austinot

      @JLM:disqus you rock! I just read your comment out loud to @Brittany and she was laughing out loud with that cute little laugh that she has! We like you. Enjoy your trip to the Tavern today. I’ll add Hill’s in S Austin to my list.

  • JLM


    OK, Eric, here’s my next pick — Hill’s in S Austin. A Tavern quality burger.


    • Austinot

      @JLM:disqus are you up for a trip to Hill’s sometime in the near future? Let me know.

  • Jim Howard

    I just had a great burger at Opel Divine’s Maria (next to Fry’s, Mopac & Parmer). Check them out.

    • Austinot

      Thanks for the tip @twitter-820613:disqus is it the best burger you’ve had in Austin?

      • Jim Howard

        I’d say it’s a close race between Opel and the Tavern. Both are way better than Mighty Fine IMHO.

  • Chris Bailey

    Didn’t think about The Tavern for burgers but this review calls for a trip there soon. Good to see Billy’s and Hopdoddys (the Llano Poblano is sublime) on your list.

    Here are a couple of additional suggestions for burger joints:
    1. Phil’s Icehouse. I’m a sucker for sourdough buns. I’ve never been disappointed in any of their burgers.
    2. I never go to The Alamo Drafthouse without getting the Royale with Cheese. Might not be Tavern-good but it’s definitely a tasty burger with damn good fries.

    • Austinot

      I thought Phil’s was on the list… hmmm… did you know that Amy from Amy’s Ice Cream founded Phil’s? At least that is the word on the street. Hey we should make a lunch date for Phils @chrisbailey:disqus

      • Chris Bailey

        Yep, Amy and Steve Simmons do own Phils. Love that they converted an old gas station (my family used to own three similar old gas stations back in the day). Let’s make a Phil’s lunch date happen.

        • Brittany Highland

          Me too me too!

  • Gary Molina

    Cover 3 and counter cafe are overrated IMO. Try Phil’s 78704 burger, and Crown and Anchor. Dan’s on N Lamar is the best Old Fashioned burger in town.

    • Austinot

      @twitter-50792114:disqus thanks for the tips. They are all on my list… appreciate it. We’re going to hit up Phil’s soon. Are you following us on Facebook? I might actually just have to make Phil’s an event. So many people have been talking about it.

  • WonderousATX

    3 trailers to try: Cow Bells on E. Riverside next to Amli, Luke’s Inside Out next to Gibson Bar on S. Lamar, Collie’s S. Lamar near 360. Hopdoddy rating will be swayed by which burger type is selected.

    • Austinot

      Since I’m rating Burger Joints (not just burgers) trailers might not work. Though that could be a series in itself. :)

  • David Papas

    Burger Tex on Airport > Burger Tex 2 on Guadalupe. And not apparently related!

    • Austinot

      Thanks for the suggestion @facebook-1104925654:disqus we’ll have to check them out. Have you tried the Tavern Burger?

  • matt

    i envy your job!

    • Austinot

      @779640b54449e6def26427150c4ec64d:disqus it’s tough my friend but someone has to do it. Tonight we actually went back to the Tavern after playing Blazer Tag for yet another post coming soon on the largest laser tag arena in Texas which is right here in Austin.

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  • koderken

    The presence or absence of a dumbwaiter should never influence your decision to patronize a restaurant. At the very most, it adds a tenth of a point for ambience, if you like such details.

    • Austinot

      I’m pretty sure I mentioned it as a “cool little side note” not a point factor. But it is pretty cool. Do you not like this place as a burger joint @twitter-18431078:disqus?

  • Fernando A. Labastida

    I would add “Hut’s” on your list of other suggested places to review, with their rock’n’roll themed burgers (original old Austin burger place), and “Players,” traditional UT campus place to have burgers (would go there many a midnight after studying for exams or writing papers).

  • Kash

    Check out the Incredible Burger @ Lee’s Meat Market (35th & Jefferson). Huge delicious burger. The actual shop can only seat like 5 people as it’s mostly take out / pick up orders. But the Incredible Burger is still one of my faves and you can customize it how you like. Just be sure to get there before they close for lunch at 3pm.

    • Austinot

      Whoa, how did I miss this comment? Sorry about that @mellamokeanu:disqus, sounds like my kind of place. Appreciate the heads up!

  • Jennifer Weltz

    The Happy Trails bar at Whole Foods Arbor Trails is pretty good. Currently this is my go to burger

    • Brittany Highland

      Thanks for the heads-up, @jenniferweltz:disqus! Eric hates going into Whole Foods because of how busy it is all the time, so it may take some work to persuade him to try… :)

  • sara

    Mmmmm…kolache bun….

    • Austinot

      Sara this burger is sooo good.

      • sara

        I know it well, sir. And miss it!! Can’t wait to move back :)