Editor's note: Burgermeisters! Here's another excerpt from George Motz's book Hamburger America. George and his publisher were kind enough to allow us to run them here, along with George's beautiful photos. Eat up!
I was informed of the Casino’s burger prowess by a film crewmember of mine in Austin, John Spath, who begged me to give it a shot. In a town whose burger culture is dominated by Hut's and Dirty Martin's, and in a state enormously burger-proud, I was skeptical. Even John commented, "It’s not the kind of place you’d expect to find good food."
The burgers at Casino El Camino start as fresh ground 90 percent lean chuck that's hand-formed into three-quarter pound patties. They are cooked on an open-flame grill, placed on a bun, halved, then the two halves are placed back on the grill again, cut side down, to achieve a decorative grill brand on the cross section of your burger. It should be noted that cooking over a flame and achieving decent results is not common. Most grill cooks, especially those working from a Weber in their backyards, manage to overcook and ruin burgers. Every time I’ve been to Casino, the burger has been cooked perfectly. Casino El Camino cooks their burgers to temperature. If you ask for rare, get out the napkins and listen for that mooing sound.
Don’t be alarmed when your burger shows up on a wheat bun. In this dark punk rock hang, a wheat bun was probably the last thing you’d expect. It’s quite the opposite — the kitchen’s attention to quality, from the toppings to the beef, follows through to the bun.
Casino El Camino is both a bar and a person. Casino El Camino, the stage name for this rocker and bar owner, came to Austin for the famed South By Southwest Music Festival in 1990. He was impressed with the forward thinking Texas town and told a friend back in Buffalo, NY that it would make a great spot for a bar. “Before I went I thought Texas was all tumbleweeds and fucking cowboys,” the Long Island, NY native admitted.
Expect to wait for your burger, sometimes forever, but so what? Enjoy the music, gawk at the crazy piercings, and get a drink. If you complain you may make it worse. Just remember, this is not fast food. It’s slow food at its best.
Casino El Camino
517 East 6th Street, Austin TX 78701
casinoelcamino.net Open daily 4 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Hamburger America is available at Amazon and comes with a DVD of George's movie of the same title.
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