This post is inspired by Austinot Eric’s search for the best burger joint in Austin, a series on the Austinot. As always, the search isn’t only about the quality of the burger. It’s about the experience and the vibe of the burger joint as well.
This review is completely independent and my own. Feel free to comment with your opinion if you disagree with it!
The Workhorse in Hyde Park
Luckily for me, Austin is a wonderful place for these favorites of mine.
After many suggestions, I decided to try the Workhorse Bar. People told me that it’s a blue collar place with good things to eat. Any place with friendly bartenders and medium-rare meat is a place I want to experience.
The Workhorse is placed at one of the grooviest locations in Austin. Vintage clothes stores, food trucks, coffee shops, and other local businesses surround it on North Loop Boulevard. Austin is rapidly growing, so it’s nice to see small communities thrive so well amid all the change.
I honestly couldn’t find Workhorse Bar the first time I looked for it. If that isn’t the definition of hole in the wall, I don’t know what is. Its brown, wooden exterior and heavily tinted windows help hide it from the outside world.
I got an extremely gritty feeling when I first walked into Workhorse. Not dirty or grimy, and nothing that would turn me off to the place, but Workhorse has an Old West feeling. If it had been around about a hundred and fifty years ago, batwing doors would have swung shut behind me as I entered. A group of poker players would glance at me when the piano player stopped abruptly.
The Workhorse is dark and subdued. It does not cater to hipsters or the college crowd. Heavy wooden tables are spread across a cramped indoor area, but the floor space increases in the outdoor area in back.
The walls are decorated by big screen TVs that usually show sports. You will also see some old photos, a jukebox, and an artistic representation of Moby Dick’s white whale struggling against harpoons. This is a manly bar and grill through and through.
Food and Drinks
Workhorse Bar boasts an impressive wall of beer on tap. This bar and grill emphasizes local, local, local whenever possible. If there is a Texas craft beer you cannot seem to find anywhere in town, check out the Workhorse. You’re likely to find it here, along with a few other beers you’ve never heard of before. In addition to the beers, you’ll also find a wide variety of local spirits, margaritas, and other cocktails.
The burgers at Workhorse vary from chef to chef. Since there are no servers here, you order everything at the bar. After eating here a few times, I have definitely noticed that the burgers are best when the bearded guy is cooking – you’ll know the guy when you order.
All the burgers are fat and wide, just like I like ‘em. Be sure to tell the cashier how you want your burger cooked, or it will come out well done. This happened to me a couple times before I caught on. Well done burgers are shameful wastes of cow.
The buns are a bit above average. They come toasted, which is nice. You also have your choice of white or wheat. Not a lot of places let you choose. You have three different choices of cheese. I always go with solid cheddar on my burger. The cheese was ample and coated my burger completely.
Burger messiness is a hard line to toe. It’s not an exact science. A good burger has a bit of runniness, but not too much. This was certainly the shining aspect of my medium-rare burger. Messy enough to soak the bun, but not enough to make it fall apart.
Like I said above, two of the three burgers I ordered here came out well done by default. Those burgers tasted like cardboard. The third burger, however, was drippy and juicy and gave me hope for Workhorse’s food. When it came to this third burger, the patty was seared and mixed well with the varying garnishes available.
The fries here make up for a lackluster burger. I loved every bite of these crispy and thin buggers. They are not thick steak fries, but they aren’t nearly as thin as the fries at P. Terry’s. They are covered in garlic salt. Delicious!
Everything about Workhorse Bar screams hole in the wall. You won’t find any signs for the bar. The rooms are thin and stuffed between two stores. If you are the type of person who loves low-key restaurants, this is your place to go. No glitz, no glam, just beer, sports, regular patrons and food.
Despite its dark and gritty atmosphere, the Workhorse is one of the cleanest bars I have even seen. Every table is wiped clean and the floor is immaculate. This really surprised me. It highlights how much Workhorse is a serious local pub and not a rundown dive.
Workhorse Bar emphasizes local Austin artists and businesses. With a jukebox filled with local musicians and a slew of Texas beers, I really appreciate their attempts to keep Austin weird.
What do you think of my breakdown of Workhorse Bar? What is your favorite bar and burger joint in Austin?
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