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 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 Wholly Cow Burgers in Austin
Nestled inside the Zen Food Mart on way South Lamar, you’ll find Wholly Cow Burgers. Yep, inside the store, just to the right as you walk in the door, is this Austin burger joint known for its local, hormone free, and grass fed beef. They have two locations: the one I’m reviewing at 3010 S. Lamar Blvd, and they have another one downtown on Congress near 7th.
Modest Mouse was playing over the speakers as we entered the Zen Food Mart, a neighborhood-style convenience store. The sign over the counter read “Burgers and Fries,” and that’s what we had come for. So we placed our order and the first thing we found out was that fries were $1.00 extra.
Some of the guys I was with decided to take advantage of the fact that Wholly Cow Burgers is located inside a convenience store, by grabbing a beer to wash down the burger with. There was a huge selection, so this looked promising.
The staff, though friendly, didn’t mention the fact that we couldn’t drink beer on site. This was made worse by the fact that when my friend ordered a burger at the register and was asked what he wanted to drink, he clearly said, “I’m going to grab a beer.” It wasn’t until after my friend purchased the beer and paid for his meal that he was told that he couldn’t drink the beer on the premises.
In all fairness to the crew at Wholly Cow Burgers, there is a sign by the door that says “Warning: It is a crime (misdemeanor) to consume liquor or beer on these premises.” But it’s just one of many signs as you walk in, and who pays attention to all of that when the mind is on burgers?
We looked for drink alternatives, but shakes weren’t available either.
So the basic gist was…order what you want for food, grab something to drink from the store, then come up and pay for it. But don’t grab a beer unless you plan to take it home. Oh yeah, and fries are extra. Not a good start for Wholly Cow Burgers as a burger joint. But things get better, read on.
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: Wholly Cow Burgers Austin
- Burger Patties = 9. Local, hormone free, grass fed beef. This is Wholly Cow Burger’s claim to fame. The patties came hot off the grill, were well seasoned and were obviously fresh. It was also obvious that they were homemade, not frozen and pressed. The only drawback was that the patties could have had a little more girth.
- Bun = 5. The bun was average. It didn’t fall apart during the meal and there was nothing remarkable about it. It was toasted slightly on the inside.
- Cheese = 5. Real cheese. It may have been a little on the skimpy side for the size of the burger, but because the meat was hot off the grill, the cheese melted into the burger. This was nice, but didn’t make the cheese itself above average.
- Messiness = 8. The burger was dripping. It was fairly messy and several napkins perished in this endeavor. I like a messy burger, so this was a plus.
- Garnish = 7. Hunt’s Ketchup is an automatic fail. Everyone knows that Heinz makes the best burger ketchup. On a positive note, the bacon was crisp, nice thick pieces of lettuce, tasty pickles, and thickly cut (but soggy) tomatoes. This combination of factors leaves Wholly Cow Burgers with a 7 for Garnish.
- Taste = 7. The burger had a very fresh taste overall. Like I said, the patties were excellent. The bun and cheese were just average though, and the garnish slightly above average. And the choice in ketchup and along with soggy tomatoes didn’t contribute well to this mark. Regardless, of all the drawbacks, the taste of a Wholly Cow Burger is definitely above average and they get a 7 in taste.
- Fries = 7. This is where it gets tough to rate. Wholly Cow’s fries are off the chain good. Probably a 9 on their own. But then you have drawbacks again. You have to pay extra for fries. If you’ve followed my series, you’ve heard me say time and time again that all burgers should come with fries, standard. In addition, when you do pay for fries at Wholly Cow Burgers, they give you a tiny bit of fries. Talk about small – Lilliputians would have been complaining. Come on guys, we’re talking about potatoes here, not caviar. Either toss in a few extra fries for my dollar or throw them in as part of the meal if you are only going to give out a handful. Having said that, their fries were really rather excellent.
- Atmosphere = 7. Another it’s good/it’s bad sort of thing here. It’s good that Wholly Cow is in a convenience store with tons of choices. It’s bad that you can’t order a beer and have it with your meal. Like dangling a carrot in front of a horse. Oh, and if you’re not going to allow people to drink beer on the premises, then at least tell them before they pay for their beer. Don’t count on the fact that the customers are going to be reading signs as they walk in the door. We have other things on our mind, like burgers.
- Cleanliness = 5. The floor was messy and our table was sticky. Nothing too drastic, but nothing shouting that they actually paid specific attention to their eating area, which is located by the front windows of the Zen Food Mart.
- Other Factors = 7. Despite the good and the bad at Wholly Cow Burgers, there were some other things that deserve mentioning. The staff was really cool and laid back, and the service was friendly and quick. The music coming out of the speakers was a good mix of music worth listening to. I remember both Modest Mouse and the Shins throughout our meal. The place obviously is home for the local neighborhood carnivores and they were really welcoming to us.
Bottom Line on Wholly Cow Burgers in Austin: 6.7 out of 10
Overall Score = 6.7. The overall score is the average of the 10 categories.
Wholly Cow Burgers has a pretty amazing burger patty, and their fries are excellent too. The atmosphere is even cool at the Zen Food Mart.
But then you start looking at all the negatives. Buns and cheese are average, fries are extra, place wasn’t particularly clean, can’t drink a beer with your burger, no shakes and you can start to see why Wholly Cow dropped further and further down the ranking list. Oh, and they were a bit pricey too.
I wanted to like them more. I really did. But when you look at the experience as a whole, I just wasn’t as impressed. Though their fans swear by them, I just couldn’t bring myself to score them any higher.
If you live in the South Lamar neighborhood or happen to be walking near 7th and Congress downtown, give them a shot. I definitely think that Wholly Cow Burgers is worth trying out for yourself. But if you are looking for the best burger joint in Austin, stick to the top 3-4 on my list so far.
I know I’ll probably hear it from the Wholly Cow Burger faithful, but hey I’m willing to defend my position. Whether you agree with me or not, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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 Wholly Cow Burgers? Do you know of any places that I need to add to my list?