Editor’s Note: Old School owners Danny Parrott and Jonathan Insley announced they sold the lease to Old School in November 2017, so the location will be closing soon.
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 I’d love to hear your thoughts.
First Impression of Old School Bar and Grill
Located on the southeast corner of 6th Street and Trinity (specifically at 401 E. 6th Street), you’ll find the Old School Bar and Grill. This spot was recommended by one of our Austinot readers as a possible candidate for the best burger joint in Austin.
This place has some history, and there are two things that really stand out and deserve mention.
First of all, you should know that when you visit this place, you are eating inside a City of Austin officially designated historical landmark. The building itself was built by a merchant named Charles Wolf back in 1874, and that in and of itself is pretty cool.
Secondly, take a look at the eastern interior wall of the place. The owners of the Old School Bar and Grill managed to salvage a piece of music history and incorporate it into the very framework of the place. Get this, the dance floor from the world famous Armadillo Headquarters – where acts like ZZ Top, Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin frequented the stage – was fabricated into the eastern wall of the Old School Bar and Grill. A nice piece of history that you can miss if you don’t know it’s there.
Also worth mentioning, there are vinyl records that hang from the ceiling in the form of mobile-style art, and several pieces of music-inspired artwork line the walls. The bar itself is an old wooden bar and worth a gander for those who can appreciate the work that goes into a centerpiece of this caliber.
Enjoying the ambiance, I took my seat at Old School Bar and Grill and placed my 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:
- Burger Patties
- Burger Taste
- Other Factors
Burger Joint Review: Old School Bar and Grill Austin
- Burger Patties = 5. 1/2 lb patties. They had a really nice girth and were extremely tender, but only 4 out of 6 burgers were cooked correctly upon arrival. The medium well requests were fine, but the medium rare requests all came out medium. The burgers were also far too over seasoned. They were extremely peppery to the point where you could see the black pepper on the patties themselves. Everyone at my table was in mutual agreement on this issue. Two in our group thought the patties were too salty as well. One of the guys described the saltiness as, “lip puckering.”
- Bun = 6. The bun was substantial enough to hold the burger together and didn’t fall apart during the meal. It was buttered and toasted, but wasn’t especially flavorful.
- Cheese = 5. Just average, didn’t really have that significant pungent and delicious taste that you would expect. Perhaps the over seasoning of the patty masked the goodness of the cheese. For us, it was agreed that the cheese was an unremarkable addition to the burger.
- Messiness = 7. Decent level of mess with the Old School Bar and Grill burger. Dripping off the wrist kind of messy is definitely a plus in my book, for an above average mark here.
- Garnish = 8. The bacon was thick, quite crisp and flavorful. The burger held two ample, medium thick slices of firm, but ripe, tomatoes and a leaf of fresh romaine lettuce, along with a tangy pickle spear.
- Taste = 5. I really debated giving a mark of 6 here, only because of the high quality garnish. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Truthfully, the patty was so strongly seasoned that it really dominated the entire meal. At one point, our table was wondering if Old School had an in-house pepper mill that perhaps they were hiding in the attic.
- Fries = 3. Not impressed. Fries are extra. As of this writing, they cost $2.49 extra and they went through the same in-house pepper mill that the patties went through. I didn’t finish my order and offered my fries to others at my table. Some tried a few, no one went back for more.
- Atmosphere = 8. As mentioned earlier, this place itself is an historical landmark on the world famous 6th Street, and that should count for something. Add to that the owners had the wherewithal to salvage a piece of music history and incorporate it into the decor itself. Definitely a thumbs up. The floor is black and white checkerboard and the vibe is pretty cool. In addition, there were music themed pieces of art by artist Tom Runkle on the walls which were interesting. This Atmosphere mark should have been higher, but there seemed to be something lacking about the consistency of the theme of the place. Sort of a combination of the 60’s and the 90’s and who knows what happened in between. But with the work that the owners have done, it’s hard to drop them to less than a 8 in this category. You have to appreciate their effort to preserve history.
- Cleanliness = 8. Very clean for a 6th Street bar with a black and white floor that is prone to show every flaw. Tables were clean, and chairs as well. A few small discrepancies of tables that weren’t bussed in a timely manner and a restroom that could have used a wipe down. But all in all: really clean for the location.
- Other Factors = 4. Tiny booths. No booths for a larger party, though a smattering of tables were available. We had to take one of the tables and push it up against our little booth just to fit our small group of 6. Old School got my order wrong and forgot to add cheese to my burger. They then had to take it back to the kitchen to be fixed. By the time I got my burger back, it had definitely cooled off, and the cheese didn’t even have time to mix with the patty. Parking is horrendous in that area as well.
Bottom Line on Old School Bar and Grill Austin: 5.9 out of 10
Overall Score = 5.9. The overall score is the average of the 10 categories.
I’m sure that the Old School Bar and Grill faithful are going to disagree with me on this review. I’m good with that; I’d love to hear your comments.
Maybe I was there on an “off” night. Maybe the cook on our batch of burgers thought he hadn’t seasoned the patties and the fries and ended up seasoning them both twice. Who knows. It was what it was, and it wasn’t cheap: $20.00 for a burger, fries and a non-alcoholic drink.
Having said that, the ambiance, and location were very cool. I enjoyed the art, music selection and the old bar itself. The dance floor wall was very special. And though they got my order wrong, the waitstaff was friendly and fast.
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:
#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.
#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)
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.)
Other places that have been suggested to review:
- 2nd Bar + Kitchen
- 24 Diner
- Austin Land and Cattle
- Austin Java
- Black Sheep Lodge
- Blue Star Cafeteria
- Burger Tex 2 on Guadalupe
- Cain and Abel’s
- Counter Cafe
- Cow Bells
- Dan’s Hamburgers
- Dart Bowl
- Foreign and Domestic
- Fran’s Hamburgers
- Hat Creek
- Hill’s Cafe
- Hideout Pub
- Hoover’s Cooking
- Hula Hut
- Hut’s Hamburgers
- Jack Allen’s Kitchen
- Luke’s Inside Out
- Ski Shores
- South Congress Cafe
- 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.)
I’d love to hear what you have to say. Do you agree or disagree with me on Old School Bar and Grill? Do you know of any places that I need to add to my list?
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