Search for the Best Burger Joint in Austin: Opal Divine’s Austin Grill

The view from the front of Opal Divines Freehouse location in Austin Texas

Opal Divine’s Freehouse location in Austin

EDITOR’S NOTE: The 6th Street location for Opal Divine’s closed on May 31, 2013.  However, Opal Divine’s has stated that they will be opening a new location downtown in the summer of 2014. Opal Divine’s has 3 other Austin area locations to serve you.

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.

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.

After you’ve read my review, agree or disagree with a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

First Impression of Opal Divine’s Austin Grill

Located on the corner of West 6th Street and Rio Grande (700 West 6th Street), you’ll find one of the four Opal Divine’s Austin Grill locations. This spot, known as the Freehouse location, was recommended by one of our Austinot readers as a possible candidate for the best burger joint in Austin.

This place is well loved and frequented by native Autinites and tourists alike. However, unlike many other places reviewed in my Search for the Best Burger Joint in Austin series, Opal’s is home to a bevy of regulars who call each other by name, welcome the newcomer, love their burgers, their beer and – of course – their scotch. More on that in a moment.

The sign at Opal Divines Freehouse in Austin

As you arrive at the 6th St. entrance and climb a few short steps to meet the host/hostess, you’ll immediately know that you are visiting one of those special gems of Austin. The delightful outdoor wooden patio, decorated with lights strung about, really gives Opal’s a warm and inviting feel.

I arrived before my friends, so I could take the photos found within this article. As I sat around waiting, a regular by the name of Curtis Rendon approached me as if it were his duty. Curtis was a really amiable  man who hung out with me for around 15 minutes and was kind enough to share his thoughts about the joint:

“Michael and Susan Parker, the owners, opened the place in 2001 and I’ve been here ever since. It’s an old style, laid-back Austin pub with a bunch of regular old timers like me. It’s kind of like Austin’s version of Cheers. There are a a lot of out of town visitors though, but it’s really friendly and not yuppified like many establishments. The bartenders take really good care of you, and staff is very friendly and accommodating.”

Curtis eyes lit up as he spoke. I could tell that Opal’s was a special place for him and his friends Roger and Miller, who I also met. I thanked the guys for their time and, as I was leaving to meet my own friends, Curtis added almost as an afterthought, “Make sure you head upstairs and see the scotch selection. They have 69 different distillations of scotch upstairs.”

Opal Divines Austin has a huge selection of Scotch

69 different distillations of scotch at Opal Divine’s

Curious, I jaunted upstairs. Curtis wasn’t kidding. They’ve got more scotch up there than I’ve seen in one place in a long time. After meeting with the scotch barkeep “Cheese,” I ran back downstairs to meet with my party and place my food order.

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: Opal Divine’s

The bacon cheeseburger at Opal Divines in Austin

Bacon cheeseburger at Opal Divine’s

  1. Burger Patties = 9. 1/2 lb. 100% Black Angus, grass fed, natural, hormone-free patties cooked to order and seasoned to near perfection. Chargrilled and never frozen, with a solid girth.
  2. Bun = 7. The bun was really shiny and pretty to look at and had a sweet taste to it, as well. The bun didn’t soak up as much of the flavor of the juiciness of the burger as I expected, which was a little disappointing. However, the bun was substantial, didn’t break apart when eating, and was definitely above average.
  3. Cheese = 6. Personally I like to see what I call the “corners” of the cheese melting over the sides of the patty. Any time you serve a burger this size, there should be at least four corners showing – if not eight. The Opal Divine’s burger didn’t have that, but it does boast real cheese with a decent flavor.
  4. Messiness = 8. A nearly optimal level of messiness with this burger, which is impressive because the bun stayed intact. I love a messy burger, the kind of burger that trees fear because of the amount of napkins consumed.
  5. Garnish = 8. The bacon was perfect, the tomatoes thick, with a nice and fresh leaf of lettuce to top it off. Heinz Ketchup was a definite plus. The pickles were sweet, rather than dill, which I personally didn’t care for. But hey, if you like sweet pickles on your burger, you won’t have any complaints at all about the garnish.
  6. Taste = 8. As a general statement, this was a great tasting burger through and through. No question that this is a place you’ll want to return to several times to try out the different burgers that are offered. The mix of the garnish and the patty was solid, without being overwhelming in any way. A few items worth noting, though. When you hear the term, “chargrilled,” you expect a flame-kissed taste, which this burger lacked. That didn’t ruin the experience though. The selection of the shiny, sweet bun and the sweet pickles threw me off a little, but in the end the burger was worth having and I recommend you try it for yourself.
  7. Fries = 10. Finally! Fries come with the meal! If you’ve read my other burger reviews in this series, you know that it’s a pet peeve of mine when fries cost extra. Bravo, Opal Divine’s! Thanks for getting this right. The portion of cracked pepper fries that you get with your meal is quite substantial too. The fries were well seasoned and crispy on the outside, while warm and tender on the inside.
  8. Atmosphere = 10. Opal Divine’s Austin Grill is a pleasure to dine at. The staff was beyond kind and friendly and the regulars make you feel like you’re one of them. The decor is that of an old style pub with an Austin flair of weirdness (i.e. a bicycle hanging from the ceiling and old school posters of Mae West and stars of yesteryear). The booths were nice and the outdoor patio is fantastic for people watching.  The main bar is classic. What’s not to love?
  9. Cleanliness = 6. The messiness of the burgers might lend to the fact that my menu was sticky and the tables weren’t perfectly clean. There were a few crumbs on the seat in my booth as well. But looking around, the place wasn’t so messy that it would make you want to leave!
  10. Other Factors = 8. The regulars make this place. They are very welcoming. Add to that the drink selection, the old posters and the unique flair that is Opal Divine’s, and you’ll be happy you stopped by. Oh, and let’s not forget the scotch.

Bottom Line on Opal Divine’s Austin Grill – Freehouse: 8.0 out of 10

The interior of Opal Divines in Austin

Note the bicycle hanging from the ceiling

Overall Score = 8.0. The overall score is the average of the 10 categories.

Opal Divines Austin Pub Entrance

The pub entrance at Opal Divines Freehouse location on West Sixth

I can see how it could be very easy to become a regular at this place. The atmosphere is fantastic, the staff really friendly, and the burgers are great.

A great spot for hanging out with friends or taking a date. There seems to be a fairly large menu selection too if you want to try something other than burgers. I’ve heard that Opal’s makes incredible fish and chips. The music and ambiance are nice and – bottom line – it’s well worth a visit.

If you stop by, say hi to Curtis, Roger and Miller for me. They’re probably there by the bar somewhere and will be happy to share their thoughts on the place with you over a beer or two.

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

#2 – score 8.0 – Opal Divine’s Freehouse

#3 – score 7.6 – Phil’s Icehouse

#4 – score 7.2 – Casino El Camino

#5 – score 7.1 – Crown & Anchor Pub

#6 – score 7.05 – Dirty Martin’s Place

#7 – score 7.0 – Billy’s on Burnet

#7 – score 7.0 – Moonie’s Burger House

#8 – score 6.9 – Mighty Fine Burgers

#9 – score 6.7 – Wholly Cow Burgers

#10 – score 6.4 – Nau’s Enfield Drug

#11 – score 5.9 – Old School Bar and Grill

Other places that have been suggested to review: The Loop on Palmer, Cover 3, Burger Tex 2 on Guadalupe, Flat Top, Counter Cafe, Austin Java, Hopdoddy, 24 Diner, Fran’s/Dan’s, Hideout Pub, Dart Bowl, Hat Creek, Hill’s, III Forks, Roaring Fork, Lambert’s, Black Sheep Lodge, Foreign and Domestic, Hoovers, Cow Bells, Luke’s Inside Out, 2nd Bar and Grill, Hula Hut, Cain and Able’s, Blue Star Cafeteria, Yume Burger, South Congress Cage, Jack Allen’s, Parkside, Hut’s, Sputnik and Spec’s on William Cannon.

 

@EricHighland asks:

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Do you agree or disagree with me on Opal Divine’s – Freehouse?  Do you know of any places that I need to add to my list?

***

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  • Tyler

    Loved that bacon!

  • http://twitter.com/Wattenberger Amelia Wattenberger

    Why is drink.well Kobe burger not on this list!

    • Austinot

      Happy to add it @twitter-1098849494:disqus if you think it’s among the best in the city. Haven’t been there yet. ~ Eric

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1158574418 Troy Herman

    I guess I’ll need to get the burger next time. I explicitly go to OD to eat their Fish-n-Chips and a Live Oak Hefe to drink.. no matter what location; they all taste consistently good. Thanks Eric.

  • Drew Franklin

    I think it is a fair assessment. Like you stated a 10 would be one god made himself. Now that my favorite and most comfortable neighborhood hangout is gone I miss it more than I would have ever immagined. I have literally been there 100s of times and never had a bad experience. I love the Bubba burger Opals serves up. Go’s great with a cold beer : )