During the month of August, the McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group (MMHG) is hosting a burger challenge. This is not a paid advertisement nor do I have an affiliation with MMHG but I’m completely fascinated by the marketing the group is using to promote their restaurants and it seems like I’m not the only one. During the first week alone, 2,437 burgers were sold and 117 people completed the challenge. Why are so many people participating? Well MMHG is essentially paying you to eat burgers. Here’s a quick summary of the rules: Eat all six burgers during August and you’ll get $50 to spend at MMHG restaurants. That equates to about a 50% discount which isn’t bad, but wait it gets better. Eat all six in a week and they’ll give you a $250 certificate. Easy money! And if you’re man or woman enough to eat more burgers than anyone else over the course of the month, they’ll give you the “friends and family” discount for a year — that’s 25% off. Here’s my round up and what you need to know if you decide to tackle the MMHG Burger Challenge.
Elizabeth Street Cafe
The flavors from Elizabeth Street’s Asian-inspired burger worked harmoniously together. Griddled ham lended saltiness and the Japanese mayo a rich creaminess, while spice and acidity from kimchi pickles balanced these flavors. There was no cheese, but it wasn’t necessary or missed. The finished burger was skewered with shrimp toast which didn’t impart a ton of flavor but when sandwiched between the buns added great texture. The juiciness I associate with a burger was lacking and the server mentioned the kitchen was specifically cooking the patties to medium-well temperature.
What you need to know: The burger is an off-menu item and is served during brunch, lunch and dinner. Be sure to specify your desired doneness or it will arrive cooked through. The burger comes alone so if you’re looking for a side you’ll need to purchase it a la carte.
Clark’s Oyster Bar
Clark’s is known for serving fresh seafood, but the best item on the menu might arguably be beef. I am still blown away thinking about the burger and it was by far and away my favorite of the six. The burger was a six ounce angus patty and was pan-roasted and butter basted which added incredible flavor, juiciness and richness. The outer crust was perfectly browned while the interior a juicy medium-rare as requested. Melted gruyere and sauce gribiche only added to the burger’s decadence. I was offered a choice of cole slaw or shoe string fries and would normally choose fries, but because of my burger binge, chose the slaw which was creamy and crisp. For $8 during happy hour, this may actually be the best bang for the buck for a burger in all of Austin.
What you need to know: The $16 burger is available during brunch, lunch and dinner but is 1/2 price during happy hour.
Jeffrey’s of Austin
Jeffrey’s is serving an upscale burger in an upscale setting. The patty was made from dry-aged prime wagyu beef and served juicy and pink. Creamy cambozola added a mild blue cheese flavor and oozed down the sides onto bitter mustard frisee greens. Carmelized onions added sweetness while the caper and horseradish mayo was needed to cut through the burger’s assertive flavors. Thick steak fries were stacked in a cross patch pattern on the side but would have benefited from another minute in the fryer.
What you need to know: The burger is only available off the bar menu and Jeffrey’s is only open for dinner. During regular hours the price is a steep $24 dollars but only $12 dollars during happy hour. Unlike the other restaurants, happy hour is also available on weekends and lasts all night on Mondays so plan accordingly. The bar area is small and fills up fast.
Josephine House serves two versions of their burger. Both are dressed with harissa aioli and served on a home-made toasted bun. During lunch and dinner service melted Grafton cheddar and grilled onions top the patty. I ate mine during brunch and a perfectly fried egg and bacon were substituted in place of cheese and onions. I really liked the interplay between the harissa aioli and smokiness from the bacon. The meat was juicy and cooked medium rare. I’m one of those people that thinks a runny yolk makes just about everything better. Overall the brunch version was a solid burger.
What you need to know: The burger’s toppings vary between brunch versus lunch and dinner service. The price is $18 and no happy hour discounts are applied. Weekend brunch is busy and it’s a small space so I’d recommend making reservations.
Behold the double cheeseburger from Perla’s. The portion was sizable and consisted of two thin burgers cooked on a flat top with gooey melted american cheese layered in-between. Their special sauce, which was reminiscent of a mayo-heavy thousand island dressing, drizzled down the side of my hand as I took my first bite. Crisp lettuce and a ripe tomato added freshness and raw onion bite. A mound of crispy fries was served on the side. Overall the burger was tasty and well cooked but didn’t differentiate itself from most other burgers in the city. In fact, it reminded me of an upscale In-N-Out burger which is a fraction of the price.
What you need to know: The price is $18 and no happy hour discounts are available. It’s a big portion so come hungry.
Lambert’s Downtown Barbecue
Lambert’s serves an all-American cheeseburger. There’s no fancy bells or whistles, just an all beef patty grilled over oak coals. It was served on toasted sesame bun slathered with mayo and spicy mustard. Lettuce, tomato and red onion rounded out the garnish. It arrived medium-well instead of the medium doneness as I requested. Addictive seasoned waffle fries served on the side made up for the burger’s level of doneness.
What you need to know: The burger is available during lunch or from the bar menu at dinner. There is a bar both downstairs and upstairs. It’s normally $16 but only $8 during happy hour. Monday happy hour lasts until 9 pm!
Here’s my ranking from best to worst:
3. Josephine House
4. Elizabeth St.
So I completed the challenge and ate six burgers in seven days. I ended up spending $76 (without tax and tip) since I had three of the burgers during happy hour. I walk away with a $250 gift card and $174 in the green. Now it’s your turn.
*****Update! Since this was originally posted, MMHG has changed the rules of the challenge and are no longer offering burgers at a discounted rate during happy hour. Please check out MMHG’s website for full details*****