the spot: Clark’s Austin 1200 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703
the eats: Burger (during Happy Hour!)
the bucks: $11 normally $22
the full nelson: one of the best burgers in Austin, probably my #2 in town
Clark’s Austin has the second best burger in town which is no small feat. Somehow it took me years to finally cross it off my list but you can chalk it up to the fact that most of the time the burger will run you $22 and that’s like the cheapest thing on the menu. In a part of Austin that reminds me more of Beverly Hills than the town many consider the spiritual home of Willie Nelson, Clark’s is as bougie as it gets. I mean, their second location is in Aspen CO. So why am I here? Well, it turns out money can buy nice things.
Walking into Clark’s Austin reminds me of going out to eat with my parents on one of our more upscale vacations. In a word: lux. Clark’s Austin is costly but it is an oasis for the well heeled and a fine place to have some bivalves cracked open while ruminating on a double dip of steak tartare.
Or a Manhattan. Just know that the drink will be well made and almost worth the mid teen price tab. In Austin these days nothing is cheap, going out is a splurge at almost every level, so you might as well spend the cash on something made well.
The pan roasted Black Angus burger is thick but not overwhelming. I thought it would be bigger than it was but that’s not to say Clark’s Austin makes a undersized burger either. The ratio of bun to beef is spot on, the melt on the Gruyere cheese is obviously well done. It comes with pickles and ketchup on the side but don’t feel bothered to interrupt the magic of the Sauce Gribiche.
I never had nor heard of Sauce Gribiche before. Apparently it’s a cold egg sauce that’s made with boiled cold eggs, plus herbs like tarragon, chervil, plus some briny elements like capers and cornichons. All that is whisked with olive oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard. From what I can tell it’s used commonly in France for fish, vegetables and chicken. One recipe video praises its use on a platter of cold meats.
Well it’s lights out on burgers too, especially ones cooked rare to medium rare. Speaking of, don’t stress thinking your burger might come out overcooked at Clark’s Austin. Even when ordered medium it’s very juicy. For the record I got mine medium rare and I would do order it that way again. My dining compatriot got his medium and felt mine looked like something out of Silence of the Lambs. His loss.
Usually the burger sells for $22 and even with fries(that I would skip tbh, way too thin) it’s way overpriced. But so is everything at Clark’s Austin and every other restaurant this group(McGuire Morman Lambert Hospitality) own. Thing is, I enjoyed it.
It was a very good burger with an impeccable sauce I had never had before. Pair that with a very good martini, a few good oysters and an upscale dining experience for $50 and you too might do the dance again. Did I feel like I was paying Manhattan prices? Yes. And I do that from time to time. While this burger isn’t as good at Salt & Time, even when it sells for half off at Happy Hour($11 3pm-5pm) the overall experience and quality make it an acceptable splurge from time to time. $50 for a martini, a burger and a few oysters in a lovely setting does evoke some sense of Bang for your Buck.
The reality is Austin fast becoming an expensive to dine out in. Time to accept that it’s all a splurge and learn to cook more at home. I do, and I got plans for that Sauce Gribiche. After all if I’m gonna live in a town with bougie places like Clark’s Austin, I better act the part at home a little bit.