Search for the Best Burger Joint in Austin: Dirty Martin’s

Dirty Martin's Place in Austin, TXIf 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 as a whole.

You’ll always get an honest take on the burger joints that I’ve visited. I’m not on any burger joint’s payroll. Agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

First Impression of Dirty Martin’s Place Austin

Dirty Martin's was once Martin's Kum Bak

Dirty Martin’s wasn’t always dirty. The original name of the place back in 1926 was Martin’s Kum-Bak. It featured a tiny drive through, a small eating area with 8 bar stools and – most notably – a dirt floor. The patrons back in the early days nicknamed the joint “Dirty’s” because of the floor. Through the years, this classic Austin burger joint came to be known as Dirty Martin’s. Though the dirt floor was replaced in 1951, the name stuck and Martin’s Kum-Bak accepted the new name as part of their legacy here in Austin.

My first impression of Dirty Martin’s was one of familiarity. Perhaps this was because the parking lot of Dirty Martin’s was in the film Dazed and Confused. Or perhaps it’s just that I pass this place almost every day. You’ve probably passed it too. It’s centrally located on Guadalupe (“The Drag” as it’s known to locals), just north of 28th St.

Don’t be surprised if you walk in and see Mack Brown seated at the counter. Word on the street is that he’s a regular. It’s definitely a UT hang out. Photos and newspaper clippings of old UT football hang on the walls, classic rock blares from the speakers and there are plenty of televisions to watch sports both inside and out.

Bar Seating at Dirty Martin'sThere are three sections to Dirty’s: a small indoor section up front with bar stools, which seems to be where the regulars gather, a back room with a smattering of tables for those not in the “in crowd,” and a rear outdoor patio complete with large flatscreen televisions for sports fanatics and smokers.

I opted for the back room. It was central and allowed me to focus on what I was there for, an honest review of Dirty Martin’s burger.

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

Burger Joint Review: Dirty Martin’s Place Austin

Cheeseburger and fries at Dirty Martin's

Cheeseburger and fries at Dirty Martin’s

  1. Burger Patties = 7.5. The 1/4lb patties were really thin, but tasty. I don’t know if Dirty’s has been using the same grill since 1926. But if they have, it must do something special to the patties. I would definitely recommend ordering a double, or an OT Special as it’s called, because of the patty size. Normally patties this thin get no higher than a mark of a 7 with me, but Dirty’s does something right here. Never frozen, always fresh and well seasoned. I think this is the highest rating I’ve given to a thin patty. I’m even forced to go into the .5 zone, which I’ve not done before in my series.
  2. Bun = 6. The bun was not remarkable. But it was buttered, toasted and had a fresh taste to it, which bumps this score just above average.
  3. Cheese = 5. Standard slice of American cheese. Not much to say here.
  4. Messiness = 7. I went with a standard bacon cheeseburger. For as small as it was, it pretty messy. If you’ve read my burger series, you know that a messy burger is a good thing. Well, at least in my opinion.
  5. Garnish = 7. Medium thick tomatoes, fresh iceberg lettuce and extremely tasty bacon. The bacon was a little fatty, but it had a fantastic flavor.
  6. Taste = 7. The combination of magically grilled thin patties, buttered and toasted buns and above average garnish gives you a pretty decent burger taste. It’s one that’s had patrons coming back since the late 1920’s.
  7. Fries = 8. Love the fries here, hand cut style which almost tasted baked. But you pay for ‘em. $2.25 for an order of fries. Would have given them a 9, but they cost extra. In my opinion, fries should come with burgers as a standard. Having said that, you get a large portion of fantastic fries for the additional charge, hence the 8.
  8. Atmosphere = 8. For conversation, stay up front. If you’re wanting more quiet, go to the middle section. For the sports crowd, outside in the back is where you want to be. Nice to have these three options. An old school Pac Man stand up video game, decent music and plenty of UT nostalgia decorates the walls. It’s a cool joint. You’ll like it. I definitely did.
  9. Cleanliness = 7. Dirty Martin’s isn’t very dirty anymore. Sure, the building is old and there are general signs of an aging establishment. But the floors, counters and tables are clean. There were some crumbs on a few seats and their mirrors could’ve used a wipe-down. But all in all, for the age of the place and the number of customers they serve, the place was remarkably clean.
  10. Other Factors = 8. Really decent beer selection, quick unobtrusive service, lot’s of free parking in a busy area and a list of other items on the menu would keep anyone happy. Add to this the nostalgia and the fact that Mack Brown might walk in and join you, and Dirty Martin’s gets a solid 8 here.

Bottom Line on Dirty Martin’s Place Austin: 7.05 out of 10

Dirty Martin's in Austin since 1926

Overall Score = 7.05. The overall score is the average of the 10 categories.

What’s not to like about a legacy Austin hangout with a UT influence that has good food, quick service and free parking? Not the best burger joint in Austin. in my opinion, but absolutely worth a visit.

Dirty’s has been pleasing people since the 1920s. If you are in Austin, you need to stop by to find out why.

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 Dirty Martin’s?  Do you know of any places that I need to add to my list?


Photos via Flickr CC, courtesy of Ronnie Pitman, Gary A. K. and Ampersand72


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  • AS

    If you haven’t been to Hopdoddy this list is incomplete!!

    • Austinot

      If you’ll look at the very bottom of the post, you’ll notice that Hopdoddy is listed as a place still on the list to review. Definitely plan on checking them out. Thanks though for mentioning that. Believe me you aren’t the only one. I just hope they can live up to all the hype when I go.

  • Lani Rosales

    My grandparents met at Dirty’s in 1950 when they were going to UT. So, technically I EXIST because of Dirty’s! :) Great review, Eric!

    • Austinot

      Had I known that I might have given them a 10 in “Other Factors” so glad you exist @facebook-727275754:disqus ~hugs~

  • David Lackey

    My go-to place is Sputnik (formerly Good Knight), you should give them some love. Enjoying the reviews.

    • Austinot

      @twitter-43119443:disqus added Sputnik to the list and Hut’s which Kristin recommended on this thread too. Thanks!

  • Kristin S. (@AustinKVS)

    Please review Hut’s! I’d like to know how it matches up – it was my husband’s grandfather’s favorite place back in the day.

    • Austinot

      @79f35ca1e617c67a11e8f5d488f8a743:disqus added!

  • Brian

    My favorite Austin burger is at the Dog and Duck Pub on Guadalupe and 17th. Extra points for the atmosphere too.

    • Austinot

      Dog and Duck hasn’t made it to my list yet. Thanks for the comment @7d8b2ab31a88a56b15c7558f0e6016b3:disqus I’m adding it to the list.

  • M. D.

    Check out Sputnik on E 6th. Delish burger on a one of the best buns. Plus there are pin up girls on the walls.

    • Austinot

      Added Sputnik to the lis @d0c6b47bf6c7e5abd3c8e1ebcadd0681:disqus thanks for the tip!

  • Kurt Bradley

    You need to try the burgers at @blacksheeplodge. Whether the regular, little stinkers (their sliders, or the black buffalo burger (my favorite), they all rock.

  • Troy Herman

    So, @Austinot:disqus .. who is your doctor again? Hehee… glad to see you are on that quest still for the best protein burger meal around. Not sure if this series will ever end for you.. so many choices and reviews.. it may never be completed, Thanks again for another good review.

    • Brittany Highland

      @facebook-1158574418:disqus, this series was not the best idea, but we really enjoy it. Seriously, Eric loves burgers and he eats them all the time – regardless of whether he’s doing reviews or not. So at least he’s helping people in the process. :p

  • Karen

    Them is some greasy burgers – but totally delish. and love the vibe.