When I first started chronicling my burger adventures, I had no idea what I was doing…not a clue. I turned to almighty Google and searched for other burger bloggers…for inspiration, for advice, and just to read about all the deliciousness out there. One of the blogs I stumbled across was Rev Ciancio’s Burger Conquest. I was mesmerized by Rev’s accomplishments and awestruck by his passion for the burger. Long story short, he gave me just the push of encouragement I needed and a list of “must-try” burgers here in Austin, one of which was the Bar Congress Burger at Second Bar + Kitchen.
A couple months back, I overheard some of my coworkers talking about their favorite burgers in town. As most “best burger” conversations go, each person had his/her own opinion, and as I recall, no two answers were alike. Most of the burgers discussed I had tried, but there was one that I hadn’t had the pleasure of consuming – the Bar Congress Burger – yup, the very one recommended to me by Rev. I would’ve tried this burger sooner, but I don’t usually eat in restaurants this fancy. Nothing against fancy restaurants. It’s just that they’re usually reserved for special occasions in my house, and with my birthday coming up, the wife thought it was the perfect time. As is our custom, the wife and I headed out early to avoid any large crowds and to get a good parking spot that is often so elusive in downtown Austin. Unfortunately, there were already a good number of people out and about, so we circled. And circled some more. And just when we were about to give up and head to another restaurant, I saw it. It was as if the heavens had opened and a ray of light was shining down on this spot right across from Second Bar. Too dramatic? Yeah, I know. Actually, I think the only reason the spot was open was because of the orange construction cone partially blocking the spot. I wasn’t about to let this deter me, though. We squeezed into the spot, got harassed by one of the homeless residents of downtown, paid the parking meter, and went on our way. Sorry…this prologue has gone on a little longer than I had planned. On to the burger!!
Introducing…the Bar Congress Burger – a patty made of house ground brisket and chuck, shallot confit, gruyere, greens, tomatoes, horseradish pickles. Need I say more? I could probably stop typing here, and this would still be my best post ever…… But where’s the fun in that? Let’s continue… To dress the burger, I was presented with 3 tins filled with housemade condiments – dijon mustard, ketchup and cracked pepper mayo. I’ve never had a taste for mustard, so I went with my usual red and white combo. However, I did find it necessary to at least give the housemade dijon a try. I could totally appreciate the vibrant flavor and the wasabi-like heat in it that cleared my sinuses, but…still not a fan of mustard. Maybe one of these days…
This burger was beyond what I could’ve imagined. I would’ve taken a picture of the middle of the burger, but once I started eating it, I couldn’t stop. The patty was cooked to a perfect medium and had an incredible char on the outside that was…whoa. I think my wife asked me a couple of times for my thoughts and the only thing I could come up with was, “Mmmm…delicious”. The gruyere was earthy and rich (and wonderfully melted), the veggies were immaculately fresh, and the shallots delivered a sweetness that only an onion can deliver. Every ingredient seemed purposeful, not extravagant or unnecessary. Even the horseradish pickles that appeared haphazardly strewn on my plate…there for a reason. And the fries…oh, the fries…
So maybe it cost a little extra to upgrade to these truffled beauties, but let me tell ya, it was well worth it. Coated with a fine dusting of Grana Padano and served with a side of truffle aioli for dipping, these pomme frites were decadent. I could only handle so much of the aioli, but had no trouble cleaning up my little cast iron vessel of fries.
As I went about the rest of my day, I kept the Bar Congress Burger close on my mind. So much so that I think I irritated the wife a little with my random ramblings about the burger. But the way, I look at it, she has nobody to blame but herself – she’s the one that took me there. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Location: 200 Congress Ave, Austin TX