Beefy bites from Austin's newest joints
Steak 'n Shake9300 S. I-35 (Southpark Meadows), 291-8095
Sunday-Thursday, 10am–2am; Friday-Saturday, 10am–3am
Steak 'n Shake was founded in 1934 in Normal, Ill., by Gus Belt, the owner of a diner/gas station. Gus would wait for the busiest time in the diner, wheelbarrow in a container of steaks, and grind them into burgers right in front of the guests; hence, the slogan, "In Sight It Must Be Right." This restaurant is a tile-and-metal temple of cacophony: A loud, tinny sound system competes with every word said by anyone within 25 feet of you. That high-pitched scream could be a dentist drill, but it's actually the shake machines being run by employees who think metal against metal is a good thing.
The burgers are small, with very thin patties. I ordered a triple ($3.99) with cheese (39 cents), bacon (99 cents), and grilled onions (49 cents). The beef tasted good, but there was quite a puddle of grease afterward. The cheese is processed, and I could have read my newspaper through the bacon. They put less than a tablespoon of grilled onions on my burger, so I asked for more, receiving another half tablespoon of the precious allium. Fries (free with burger plates) are battered and slightly bigger than matchstick potatoes – too thin and too processed. Onion rings ($1.25) seem battered, with a pankolike coating – not bad. The mocha shake ($2.99) is excellent: a high-fat, hand-dipped ice cream actually made with a shake machine. Next time, I'll be the one wearing my Bose noise-canceling headphones, and I'll order triple grilled onions and triple bacon. – M.V.