Clay McPhail is no stranger to Austin, where he, along with Doug English, owned and ran El Arroyo between 1975 and 2012. After selling The Ditch, he moved to the Mile High City where he teamed up with Don Redlinger to open up 5280 Burger Bar in downtown Denver. After debuting two more outlets in the Land of the Broncos, McPhail has returned to Austin with 5280 Burger Bar & Taphouse in, poetically enough, the former location of El Arroyo’s outpost at 7032 Wood Hollow Drive off of Far West Boulevard.
5280 serves up gourmet burgers, salads, and sides carefully concocted and prepared by a chef (he kindly greeted us during our first meal). “Burgers” include a lobster roll, a few chicken choices, tuna, the Impossible, and a house-made black bean and quinoa patty in addition to Colorado black angus which can be subbed with Texas-raised prime wagyu (+$3). They have bartop, regular, and outdoor seating.
On our first trip, I went with the namesake, The 5280 (Angus beef, American cheese, tomato, shredded lettuce, red onion, kosher dill pickle, house-made 5280 Sauce; $11) while The Bride chose The Fly Fisher (sushi-grade ahi tuna, arugula, coconut scallion ginger marinated vegetables, and sesame sriracha aioli; $16), both accompanied with a small basket of hand-cut fries ($4) and a cup of the green chile ($4). On a second trip, after being told The I Can’t Decide (two jumbo sliders of your choice; $14) was not available in Austin (despite being on the menu…), I went with The Texican (Angus beef, red chili, sharp cheddar cheese, diced red onions, and fritos; $14). The staff were noticeably friendly and engaging. Mask-wearing by staff was spotty at best.
The Fly Fisher (photo above) was amazing, a tower of perfection with a thick juicy slab of expertly grilled tuna and a buzzy burn from the sriracha. We are not ketchup people, but the chef convinced us to try it since it was housemade, and, indeed, it delivered a pleasant, almost seafood cocktail tang. I tried to order green chile for my cheeseburger, but the waitress talked me out it, and thankfully so. What 5280 calls green chile is really a green chile and pork soup (which you can also get in red but with ground beef). Regardless of what those crazy Coloradans think is green chile (speaking as a former New Mexican), it was marvelous: toasty warm with deep, savory flavors.
The burgers I had were good, but, being something of a burger snob, I wasn’t blown away. 5280’s basic burger was, well: basic. Nicely executed, but not memorable. The Texican was fun—and a good burger—but nothing that would have me galloping back for another one. Perhaps unfairly, I compare gourmet burgers to patties provided by Dai Due and Justine’s. To be fair, those burgers run $22 and $30 (with fries), respectively, so perhaps you get what you pay for.
The menu deserves more exploring, and maybe that’s where the chef’s touch is most noticed. The aforementioned Lobster Roll ($market), green chile queso fries, blackened ahi nachos, cheeseburger egg rolls, and The Double Bypass all look interesting. We’ve not been there for drinks, but 5280 sports Texas and Colorado draft brews (with flights), wines, draft cocktails, and shaketinis (boozy frozen custards). The strawberry-rhubarb sour looks enticing!
If you are wondering about the name, it sources from the number of feet in a mile, a reference to Denver, the Mile High City, about 5,280 feet above sea level. The part-time geography professor in me kinda wishes that, as they expand, they reflect the local elevation, which is 800 feet above sea level at the Stone Hollow location, or perhaps the Texas Capitol, which rests at 545 feet above sea level. But neither of those are exactly wuthering heights.
I wrote this review for the Allandale Neighbor.
web&where: interwebs; 7032 wood hollow drive; (512) 580-6016
what’s the deal? gourmet burgers and sammiches (sit down with outdoor seating)
overall: ** (food**; atmosphere**; service****; instagrammability***)
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best] each $ = $10; cost is based on a typical dinner entrée and appetizer (no drinks)
each $ = $10; cost is based on a typical dinner entrée and appetizer (no drinks)