848 Texas 46, Bergheim, TX 78004 (map); 830-229-5600; obriensinbergheim.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A delightfully beefy patty with a little country gourmet flair
Want Fries with That? Yes, big hearty spuds that are professionally handled
Price: Beef Burger (w/fries) $10.99 w/ fries
I've eaten my share of burgers in Texas of late and they've been consistently good—in one case, truly great. They've also defied my expectations by generally being in the model of the thin-pattied, drive-in variety that I find in Southern California rather than the honking, beefy steakhouse burgers I thought I'd find in the Lonestar state. Then I tried the burger at O'Brien's in the quaint Hill Country town of Bergheim and found the burger I had expected. Well, almost.
O'Brien's (and Bergheim for that matter) isn't exactly what it seems. The restaurant looks a bit like a old school roadhouse, honky-tonk from the outside, but what you find on the inside is a fun, rather elegant little Texas cafe. The husband and wife team of owners, Tim and Becky O'Brien, call their food Hill Country gourmet and the menu is full of twists that play on Texan classics. The idea isn't as out of place as it may sound for this sleepy, Hill Country town, as Bergheim has a decidedly more upscale demographic than you'd expect. Of course, this is still Texas and they still love their burgers.
I tried the Beef Burger ($10.99), a hefty eight ounces of Angus beef. O'Brien's leaves the dressing to you with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and red onion served on the side. I, as a man of deep belief in the holy trinity of burgerdom (meat, cheese, bun), ordered mine with a slice of American cheese. The bun is a bit of a hybrid between the classic commercial bun and a poppy-seeded Kaiser roll.
The first bite was deeply familiar and deeply satisfying. The rich, mineral hit of beef was Texas-sized. The hefty char played well against the nicely melted American and fresh crunch of the veggies. I topped mine with all of them, though only a few slivers of onion. The overall flavor was that of a classic backyard burger with the addition of a slightly higher-end handling. The bun balanced the sponginess with enough substance to stand up to all of the juice of the beef and water from the toppings. There wasn't anything that vaulted this burger into the upper echelons of excellence, but it was a very good and gave off the feeling that you can count on the quality being consistent from visit to visit.
The fries were long cut and had the dimensions of a steak fry. I'd imagine they'd benefit from a double frying, but O'Brien's puts a good browning on them, so while not entirely crispy, they still had a lovely flavor and creamy interior texture.
O'Brien's is the kind of spot that most neighborhoods would benefit from. It's got a welcoming atmosphere and a regular lineup of live entertainment to fill the long, hot Texas summer nights. When I was there a Patsy Cline cover band was slated to perform. To not love a great burger, a cold beer, and some of Patsy's classics would be, well, crazy.