The Burger Bar at the JW Marriott opened about a month ago. I wait at least two months to review restaurants, but since this is a burger bar, and one that has drawn regular lines in nice weather, I thought I’d dip in and share my thoughts.
The sleek building, open-air kitchen and high-dollar real estate might lead some to believe this is a gourmet burger bar on the level of Hopdoddy (down the street). That would be an incorrect assumption.
The offerings at Burger Bar are simple and the ingredients pedestrian (sidewalk pun intended). You can get a single cheeseburger for $4.50 or a double for $6.25. You can also order a turkey burger ($4.50/$6.25), chicken sandwich ($4.25/$5.95) or a specialty Big Mouth Burger (double patty for $6.25). Oddly missing: a veggie burger. Those prices are quite reasonable, until you start adding to the order. Bagged, pre-frozen French fries run $2.25 and sodas $1.95. So, if you want to create your own double combo meal, you’re looking at more than $11. Compare that to a double combo meal from the vastly superior P. Terry’s ($6.90), coming soon to Sixth Street and Congress Avenue, and the value recedes. And, yes, comparing Burger Bar to Second Bar + Kitchen and Swift’s Attic is apples to oranges in terms or cost, it is bold for a burger bar to plant its flag between restaurants serving two of the best burgers in town.
And, if you’re ordering a burger, you’re going to want the double if you have an appetite. The thin patties, grilled on a flat-top in plain view, are small. They’re also on the dry side and need salt. They come on standard issue floppy white buns. The burgers are dressed with lettuce, tomato and onion, but today they were out of raw onions, quite strange given the fact that the JW Marriott has two more restaurants inside. We added pickles, which were confusing overly sweet bread-and-butter style. The Big Mouth Burger needed less assistance, arriving with (a muted) jalapeno jam, crispy bacon, a special sauce and blistered peppers (although the shishitos were about as blistered as Jessica Chastain’s porcelain skin).
Burger Bar applies the mayonnaise for you, but if you want mustard (like any red-blooded American), you have to add it yourself using little sachets offered at the end of the counter. While not an unforgivable sin, it is inconvenient, and it takes us to our next problem: the lack of seating or counter space. You will likely be juggling your burger while you try and add condiments. There are plenty of sidewalk benches, but nowhere to place your burger. For a place presumably trying to appeal to the afternoon business crowd, it is kind of a messy proposition. And Austin isn’t a city with a eating-while-walking/eating on the corner culture. Maybe Burger Bar assumes many will simply take their burgers back to their nearby offices, an assumption that would make sense once the temperatures get into the 90s.