5620 Burnet Road, Austin TX 78756 (map); 512-524-1212; philsicehouse.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Classic thin, griddled burgers. Think Burger King, but good. Order a double for proper bun/meat ratio.
Want Fries With That? Both the regular and sweet potato fries are crisp and delicious.
Price: Cheeseburger, $6.50; double cheeseburger, $8; all burgers come with fries
Phi's Icehouse, with its kitschy, brightly-colored patio furniture, plastic trays, garage doors, and neon signage looks like the kind of place that's been around for years, though it's barely six years old this year.
The burgers, too, hearken back to an older era of burgerdom, when ground beef was just ground beef (custom blend? pffft), lettuce was iceberg, everything was well-done, and fries came on the side for free in both regular and sweet potato form.*
* Let's just pretend for the sake of poetic license that such a time actually existed at some point, ok?
The diminutive patties are thin, well-seasoned, and cooked until crisp and charred on a grill, developing a ton of charred flavor. Though it's tough to say that these things are juicy, the generously melted slice of cheese that tops the patties goes a long way in adding the requisite grease and goo factor. A slathering of mayo doesn't hurt either.
More than anything the burgers at Phil's remind me of a Burger King burger, if the King cared about quality, that is. Though the buns are described as "sourdough" on the menu, they're thankfully not too sour, nor too crusty. Honestly, they taste like a standard soft, squishy, slightly sweet burger bun, and that suits these burgers just fine.
If there's one complaint to be made about the buns, it's that they're a little too tall. Ordering your burger as a double—look for The Phil-a-Buster ($8) on the menu—easily solves this problem.
Vegetables were all crisp and crunchy, thought not particularly flavorful. Next time I'd skip the pale tomatoes.
$8 might seem pricey for a double cheeseburger made with such small patties, but they come with fries. It's a filling meal, and those fries—hand cut and skin-on—are pretty great.
This ain't the burger that will change your life, but it's the kind of spot you'd be proud to call your neighborhood joint.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.