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Casino El Camino

After watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives last night, my mouth was seriously watering during the Casino El Camino segment.

I searched the board and find mention of Casino in many threads, but didn't find one dedicated to it.

I have never been, but will definitely be making a visit shortly. What do you guys think? Does it live up to the hype as one of the best burgers in Austin?

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  1. I think it does. The place has a very particular feel, and it will certainly not appeal to everybody (it's primarily a bar), but I think their burger is delicious. Lots of other people do, too, and you will WAIT for that burger if you get there at a busy time.

    1. Yes, it lives up to its hype. 12oz (3/4 lb) of seasoned ground chuck griddled to medium rare and served on a bun just sturdy enough to hold up to all the juices unless you let it sit too long. All for less than $7, though I don't think it comes with fries. It's an excellent burger, but it wouldn't be so legendary if it cost $10.

      The toppings can be hit or miss. I don't care for the Buffalo-style burger, covered with bleu cheese and hot sauce. But I do like the one with pepperjack cheese and a bunch of serranos.

      When you go during non-peak hours, there are usually decent drink/beer specials, too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: KPeff

        Funny, the Buffalo-style is my favorite.

          1. re: brattpowered

            Double ditto.

            Scarfing one of those things at 1:00 in the morning with a large beer buzz is pure joy.

      2. I'm glad that everyone else has had great experiences. FWIW, the last time my officemate and I went there, we both got burgers and we both had some harsh indigestion problems afterwards.

        Of course, my other officemate loves the place.

        2 Replies
        1. re: pwang

          The BF and I have been salivating at the thought of the serrano pepper burger and the fries with the chile verde. Cannot wait to have a super weak moment and go try this place after watching the show!

          1. re: chowinginaustin

            That's the amarillo burger and it is excellent, although occasionally the serranos need a more thorough seeding or something, I've occasionally had my burger go from enjoyably hot to blindingly, hiccup-inducingly magma hot, which kind of ruins the meal. I usually ask for easy serranos to try to prevent that. If you have vegetarians in tow, they have a veggie sandwhich and a roasted eggplant sandwhich respectively that are usually pretty good. And yes, it's a rocker bar. If you are offended by having to listen to loud Voidoids and AC/DC while you eat, get it to go. Also, wait times can be an hour or so depending on how busy they are.

        2. Dang, missed that episode. Will have to see if my Tivo catches it on the repeat. I wonder how they possibly filmed in there. They must have turned the lights way up? That place is DARK. Dark meaning you can barely see your food dark.

          I think it's really funny that they chose that place to - it's a gothic-esque vampire bar with devils on the walls...generally the guy at the bar next to you was wearing either a nose ring or giant loop earings that stretch your ear lobe out. Now it's going to be Ken and Muffy from Tulsa who just had to go there after watching the food network special.

          The good thing is - Austin is a pretty hospitable place, and I know when I walk into the place wearing a polo shirt and jeans and order a blue moon at the bar, nobody looks at me funny.

          5 Replies
          1. re: LakeLBJ

            It was also featured in a few scenes of Friday Night Lights, and it definitely looks different with some lighting.

            1. re: cibodivino

              I've not seen the episode of Diners,Drive-ins and Dives that recently featured Casino El Camino but the effect was writ large on the sidewalk outside the bar last night.

              A group of about 6 folks were gathered around the entrance daring one another to go in.Madras shorts and lots of flax,helmet head hair dos,buzz cuts,Sperry Topsiders.Ann Taylor was there in spirit if not in form along with her good friend Tommy.

              We stroll in past the gawkers,get carded[!] and make our way back to Hell's Kitchen.There's been a kerfuffle in the cook staff,the old-school guys are gone and there's some new bucks chopping and frying.There's still plenty tattoos[de rigeur]and piercings and the lads look good and bitter.Some things never change.

              It's midnight-ish which in Casino's heyday would've meant a good hour wait.Since the heyday has been done for a 6-7 years or so the wait is right at 20 minutes.

              I order for our group who are all from out of town and excited to be eating at the legend.I've always enjoyed the "Chicago"which is Casinos take on the classic Bacon Cheeseburger.Standard topping are Romaine Lettuce,Tomato, Bacon and Cheddar.I love the Shallot mayo and always order it on anything I eat here.It makes a great dip for the House Cut French Fries as well.

              This rendition is fine.The beef is properly cooked med rare and is of good quality.The bacon was probably good when it was cooked this afternoon but is plumb tuckered at this point in the evening.The tomatoes and lettuce are decent enough pub level toppings.

              Paul,the owner is from Buffalo New York and takes pride in the Buffalo Wings being the genuine article[Franks Hot Sauce].These do not disappoint.Crispy from the hot fat,nice and vinegary and no drumettes which is how I prefer it.The Celery has been nicely sliced but the carrots are behemoths that've just been sort of hacked at here and there.The Bleu Cheese dressing is good,not Pure Luck by any stretch but tart and fresh tasting.

              The Blackjack is Casinos nod to the vegetarian units among us.It's a gargantuan hunk of Eggplant,marinated and grilled with a slab of cheese on top. It's served on a bun with olive tapenade ,lettuce and tomato.I take a bite for the sake of eating the occasional non meat item and it's good enough for a sandwich with no meat.

              The housecut french fries are their normal near-perfect.The fat in the fryers has some miles on it and that's good as the potatoes are crispy and mealy at the same time.An ode to the double dip is the standard here.

              You should consider getting an order to go and walking down to Parkside.Order a very tasty "bar steak" [Sirloin Tri-Tip]and enjoy it with some Casino Fries,measurably superior to the ones served by Parkside.

              Service.Service at the bar is non-existent.The three bartenders manage the neat feat of looking really busy and accomplishing little.Our cocktail girl on the other hand is dynamite.A bleach-y headed rockabilly vixen she's all smiles and years and years away from being jaded.She approaches chirpy but crests just shy.

              Mid-meal,local icon Leslie joins our group and he's feeling philosophical.I've never had meaningful interaction with this gentleman before so it is nice to hear him weigh in on the topics of the day.His ruminations on plotting one's life course and heaving yourself through the rough stretches sound carefully thought out.

              Then he leaped through the air in his Houston Cougars cheerleader outfit and did a pretty respectable Chinese splits on the tiles of the patio.

              Knowing that that's going to be the highlight of the evening we make our departure.

              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                Thanks for the great post! I really enjoyed the colorful descriptions!

                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                  Great review. That's an interesting factoid about the wings. CEC is the ONLY place in town I will eat wings and they are the best in Austin, IMHO.

                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    Too funny! My only question is, did the madras and Ann Taylor set ever overcome their fear and come in?

                    Because of economic changes in the diva household, I've been on the home cooking board a lot and haven't been eating out much except for bahn mi and inexpensive tacos, but I pop my head in here once in a while. Good to see there is still some witty commentary here.

              2. Really? So many good reviews over this place? I had heard for years how good they were and finally got a chance to go with friends last year. Total disappointment. I can't believe this place is touted as having the best burgers in town. Yeah, maybe after you're drunk and looking for greasy food they do seem pretty good. But as far as I'm concerned you can get a better burger at The Roaring Fork. Or P. Terry's. Or Sandy's. Or Dirty Martin's. Or . . . you get the point. The serve is so Soup Nazi-ish but the food isn't worth the attitude to me.

                5 Replies
                1. re: italyvespa

                  P Terry's is quite possibly the worst, most pathetic, sad little burger I've ever had.

                  1. re: amysuehere

                    I second that emotion. What's the deal with P Terry's? I will say I've never tasted a better hockey puck in my life, but it wasn't what I ordered, namely a burger.

                    1. re: eldog

                      I'll take the homemade mayos and fresh meat at Casino over the thousand island dressing that gets splooged over every little gray patty at P. Terry's any day. Sounds like someone got spurned by one of Casino's surly cooks.

                      My second favorite burgers in town are oddly from the go-bites food stand next to Emo's on red river. Blue cheese and leek sliders. So good.

                    2. re: amysuehere

                      Re: P. Terry's. i agree totally. We went there with some friends for a 'burger and I had a very pronounced "wtf" attack.

                    3. re: italyvespa

                      Not a fan of P. Terry's either, nor of Dirty Martin's, nor of Sandy's - but those are a different breed. I like the Roaring Fork's B.A. burger and love CEC's - don't need to be drunk to crave it.

                    4. OMG, that episode made me drool. I've only had the plain CB at casino and loved it. Now I have to try the buffalo. To me, Casino is the epitome of Austin. Stick your head in the kitchen window and tell the surly chef what you want. Then try to hear your name called when it's ready. And the decor, what is that, Yucatan meats Austin? But still, I absolutely love the place. A good friend drug me to Kenichi and I spent the whole time wishing I was at Casino.

                      1. Yes, SlickTheCat, it does live up to the hype. I've tried several burgers there and seem to always go back to the Chicago. Their veggie version is awesome. Be prepared, though, as the kitchen only accepts cash and will only very, very reluctantly arrange for your order to be placed on your tab. The kitchen crew is cranky (I would be too, working in that heat) but I overlook their surliness because the burgers ROCK. The wings are fab, too.

                        Casino has it's own brand of charm. And by "charm" I mean a Polynesian-dungeon-gargoyle themed bar. You'll see lots of quirky Austinites sitting at the bar drinking a cold one watching the occasional lost sorority girl puzzle her way through to the restrooms. The bartenders are pierced, tatted and fast with your order. And it seems to have the coldest a/c in downtown.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Kaya_n_Austin

                          The kitchen doesn't only accept cash, you can start a tab at the bar and put your food on the tab.

                          1. re: wwiggins

                            Yes, you can but they really hate doing it so they're very reluctant. It's much easier and less attitude if you bring cash.

                        2. Well, I'd never consider myself an expert on burgers, especially since I just started eating meat again after a 14 year absence. I recently had a burger @ casino, along w/ fries. I thought it was really good, but the fries were aweful. Those fries used to be my go-to veggie snack after a bender, but not anymore. They were pretty flavorless and tasted frozen. The burger was juicy and pretty good.

                          The pinnacle by which I'll hold all other burgers for now was my experience at Houston's with the cheeseburger and tiny shoestring fries. OMG, was that medium rare juicy heaven. I ate the whole thing (which is pretty hard for me to do). I think the meat is so flavorful because they grind it fresh each morning and grill the burgers. It was $13, but well worth it. I think I might get another tonight.

                          If anyone knows of a place better than Houston's please comment!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: tokyomonamour

                            Good luck finding a better burger... not around here and I've been looking for fourteen years! I am so considering a visit tomorrow, or maybe Saturday as their Saturday chili burger is so good!

                            1. re: tokyomonamour

                              Congratulations on lifting the shroud of 14 years of darkness.

                              Welcome to the clearlight.

                              I enjoy Casino's burger but would not recommend it to a recovering vegetarian.At 12 ounces of grilled beef I think that's just too big of a step.

                              You're a meat toddler and you need to take baby steps before you can stand on your own.

                              Have you been to Poodies in Spicewood?It's as good as Casino's and much more in the traditional style;i.e cooked on a flattop and more like a third of a pound in weight.

                              I recommend the Hatch Chile Burger w/Monterrey Jack Cheese.It's the star of Poodies show.They also have a good handle on Fried Foods so bear that in mind when you're perusing the menu.

                              Be aware that they've went way up in prices in the last year or two.It's not the bargain that Casino's is plus it's a 25 mile hike into the hill country[used to be a gorgeous ride but now it's heartbreaking,no need to belabor the point but those meddlesome trees that were in the way are long gone]

                              I'm sure there's an online menu out there somewhere.Check it out and/or type Poodies in the search box right here and read what some other folks think about it.

                              1. re: tokyomonamour

                                Those tiny shoestring fries at Houston's are indeed wonderful.

                                1. re: tokyomonamour

                                  They seem to have recently switched from hand cut fries to frozen bag-o-fries. I asked them about it last time I ate there and they seemed pretty sheepish about it. I don't know if this is just an occasional occurance or permanent.

                                  1. re: wwiggins

                                    You can ask for either, I prefer the fresh cooked while eating there. The frozen fries stay crispy longer, though, making them better for to-gos and early morning hangover reheats (and soaking up chili and queso). And yeah, even with the Food Network aftereffects, it's still the same burger. (Should let you know I worked there, per Chowhound posting guidelines).

                                2. I have tried nearly every burger in town, and Casino's tops the list. You CANNOT compare it with P. Terry's and Sandy's burgers. IT's like comparing a burger to a thin piece of cardboard. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for both, but Casino...I dream about those burgers.

                                  FYI for folks who've never been, be prepared to wait almost an hour at rush times. Grab a Blue Moon pint and chill on the patio while you wait because, yes, it's worth it.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: duttweid

                                    The burger at Casino el Camino is mind-blowingly good. Comparing it to such inferior burgers as P. Terry's is heretical. For me, burgers are rarely so good as to require interludes between bites for savoring and shaking your head in delightful disbelief before resuming. I typically reserve that type of appreciation and reflection for BBQ (recently did this at Snows) or haute cuisine.

                                  2. Casino has the best burgers in town! Big and medium rare. And that buffalo burger is solid. YUM. I do prefer Casino to Roaring Fork, but they're both good. And Casino has ms. pacman to play while you're waiting for your burger.

                                    When I want a petite flat-style burger, I much prefer Mike's pub to Sandy's or P. Terry's. Points to P. Terry's because of the natural hormone-free beef, but well... like others have said... it's gray, tasteless and leathery.

                                    1. I have been to Casino twice in the last month and have experienced an alarming trend. The burgers were not even close to medium rare, they were WELL done, to the point of being far too dry. The first time I thought it was just a fluke, but I experienced the same thing again last night. I hope this isn't their new policy...

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Madcap

                                        I had the same experience, and it was my first time there. Asked for them medium rare and got well done. Ruined the burger. Felt like the meat had been overhandled, too. Wings were decent.

                                        1. re: Madcap

                                          I've also had the a similar experience 3/5 times in the past two months--medium-well or well instead of medium rare. One time they admitted it and were apologetic about it and gave me an extra basket of fries. The other two times they didn't say anything.

                                          Things that seem to result in disappointment are ordering more than one burger at a time especially if you don't mention that both are medium rare. If one is unspecified and one is medium rare, they tend to cook them together. Going during peak times (Thu-Sat) is also a bad idea for other things too. I seem to have the most luck Mon-Tue night.

                                          1. re: nk.

                                            Admittedly it's been a few years since I've had a burger at CEC, but I know I've only had the buffalo and know I've loved it in the past.

                                            However, I would be remiss if I didn't bring to light the burger at Jackalope. HOLY COW. Seriously, it's one of my top burgers ever eaten in my life. In OKC, we had a place called Johnnie's that did a Caesar burger (burger with Caesar salad in it), and I'd never seen it again. Until I went to Jacakalope one night and realized I hadn't eaten all day. I went to the back, saw it on the menu, ordered it and waited (they have an epic CEC type wait). I got the burger, along with seasoned waffle fries that rival Chick-fil-a.

                                            Seriously, this burger was insane. This is a picture of it. Behold greatness:

                                            1. re: foodiegal71

                                              Oh, I hate to say it since I really wanted to love this place based on the reviews. However, the bun absolutely ruined it for me. I mean seriously crappy cheap bun. I felt like I was eating sawdust with my burger. The fries were great, but hey they were swimming in cheese and chilies, of course they were good!

                                              1. re: chowinginaustin

                                                Well, anyone who complained about the good, toasted wheat bun that could stand up structurally to the sandwich, thanks a lot. They've now replaced it with what tastes like an untoasted glob of wonderbread. There goes my favorite hamburger in Austin.

                                                1. re: TroyTempest

                                                  i saw the same thing but you beat me to it!

                                        2. WOW! This place really did put the Dive in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives....in a really good way. I'm an old guy, not tats, no piercings, no spikes in my hair (what's left of it that is). But I know a great burger when I taste one, and the Buffalo Burger was just that, GREAT. I ate one early last night and can't get the love out of my mind. The meat was ethereal and the sauce and blue cheese mixture was the proverbial icing on the cake. The place is a dive, no way around that. The workers are a hoot. The bar keep, the one with the metal in his ears, is scary nice. We had Shiner Bocks on tap for $2.50 during happy hour. After a couple of brews it was time to order, and I opted for the aforementioned Buffalo Burger. I can't recommend it highly enough. Its huge and full of flavor. The frys were, in my opinion, good. Not great, but serviceable. But it wasn't about the frys, it was about the burger. I ordered mine hot, next time I'm opting for explosive. Hot was great, but I can't wait to see if Casino can really dole out the heat. I'm betting they can. I want the burger with serrano peppers also, but it will be hard to pass on my new favorite next time I come downtown. For you fans of fast food I say avoid the place, it will ruin the $2 burger experience for you for life. If you fancy yourself a foodie I urge you to run, don't walk to this dive. Live life on the edge for a change and then let us know what you think. I think I'm heading back downtown this evening for one more Buffalo Burger!!!

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: gntlmn6464

                                            This place has run its course. its over. not good anymore.

                                            1. re: ieathereforeiam

                                              I've been there a few times burger is unremarkable and the service was bad. I saw some un hygenic behavior last time was there. I won't return. But the chili cheese fries are excellent. Really good chili. If you are up to date on your shots go there just for the fries.

                                              1. re: ieathereforeiam

                                                It's the same burger as before. It's just not hip or trendy anymore to you. Now, the lines are at Hopdoddy or P. Terry's or whatever the latest gimicky place is. In a few years something else will come along....

                                                1. re: LakeLBJ

                                                  I went to Casino El Camino several years ago when it was all the rage and I thought it was awful then. It was never my idea of trendy, cool or good. I'm in to good, quality food and good service, not the latest gimick.

                                                  C.E.C is beyond gimick, it's just bad.

                                                  1. re: LakeLBJ

                                                    Hopdoddy and P. Terry's are really different products. Both are popular, but for different reasons and at different price/quality points.

                                                    1. re: LakeLBJ

                                                      It is funny how everyone's experience varies so much. I had went there several years ago and everything was excellent. The armadillo burger, verde chili fries and the chili dog were all great. I went last year and everything was mediocre at best. I couldn't believe how much it had changed. I hope it was an really off day somehow but I have seen others with the same experience.

                                                      1. re: TexasJeep

                                                        Obviously the quality is speeding down a hill fast. A shame too if they put in some effort it could be a real gem.