Burgers & Booze: Spec's is the Place

Burgers and tots make good eating and good memories.

Last Saturday we had to run to Spec's(4970 Hwy 290 West at Brodie Lane)to grab a bottle of well tequila for some cocktails to be prepared at an upcoming dinner in Houston, and couldn't pass up one of the deli's superlative burgers while we were there.

In case you haven’t tried the Spec’s deli yet, they produce excellent food, using high quality ingredients, for very reasonable prices, and this is the clincher for me: they have TATER TOTS! Dunno about all their local outlets, but the deli here is bigger than the one at MoPac, and is usually less crowded.

Art decided to go for their amazingly good “Reuben to Die For” at $7.99 (their description, not mine). It’s amply filled with 1/3 pound Angus corned beef, a nice nutty Swiss cheese, a really good kraut, and Russian dressing, all held between a high quality rye that’s toasted to griddled goodness on the flat top. I couldn’t resist my standby, the Blue Cheese Bacon Burger ($5.99), a 1/3 pound Angus patty that’s fire-grilled and topped with a rich, tangy blue cheese, and a couple of slabs of thick apple wood-smoked bacon, with ripe tomatoes, red onions rings, crisp leaf lettuce, and a schmear of mayo. They have a wide selection of condiments on the table to choose from, including a natural ketchup, good yellow mustard, and several different hot sauces.

The cool thing about Spec’s is that for only a dollar more, you can add tots, fries, onion rings, or curly fries to any burger or sandwich, and you get a mountain of whichever you choose. I have a preternatural love of Tater Tots, and order them whenever I can, which isn’t that often. I know this freaks some folks out, but for me, nothing goes better on tots or fries than yellow mustard. This flavor combo is a hold-over from my elementary school days at UT's Memorial Stadium, when the football game food of choice was a corny dog and fries, slathered with mustard. In those days, Austin elementary school kids could buy really cheap tickets to UT games so they could fill the end zones with bodies. A small herd of us watched every home game from the "Knothole Section" in the north end zone. Read my previous Tater Tot post here.

I also got one of Spec's fantastic hot dogs, which is garlicky, peppery, and has a nice juicy snap with every bite; I’d say it’s at least a 4 to 1 (or 4 4 oz dogs per pound), although it could be a 3 to 1. It comes with your choice of condiments, on a nice fluffy bun for a measly $1.99. It’s a really good grilled dog. Another advantage of Spec’s is that you have their massive soda selection to choose from (note: we’ve heard rumors of imported Mexican Dr. Pepper, made using real cane sugar, a la Dublin DP). Another advantage is that mere steps away in the cheese section is an assortment of free fancypants cheese samples, which provide a varied, upscale amuse-bouche.

As for the tequila, we opted for the Alteño Reposado, a 100% agave tequila with assertive agave flavor and a nice finish. For $12 bucks a quart, it’s really hard to beat. Right next to it for the same price is Agavales Reposado, another great but cheap 100% agave tequila. Both are smooth enough to sip, but assertive enough to make an excellent cocktail with true agave taste; they remind me of when I used to be able to get Tesoro for a song. The Alteño will be superb in the tamarind margaritas we’ll be serving before the Indian feast. Burgers and booze, Spec’s is the place.

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Restaurant review, Spec's Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods, Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger, Angus beef, Reuben to Die For, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, Tater Tots, yellow mustard, UT football games, UT Memorial Stadium, Tequila Alteno Reposado, Tequila Agavales Reposado, Tequila Tesoro, Knothole Section

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