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Aug 14, 2011 09:49 PM

Review: Old School Grill

Old School Grill
6301 W. Parmer Lane 
(Plaza w/Chipotle's and Little Woodrow's)
(512) 722-6353

2 out of 5 stars = "Meh"

I was really looking forward to this place.
It's right down the street from my house and office.
There are very limited non-chain places here in Northwest Austin, a.k.a. Land of the Bland.
As an uptown girl going on 5 years now, I make it a point to try all the new non-chain places.
Reading several articles beforehand just made me even more excited.
They never responded to my email asking about the opening date.
But, I just chalked it up to being crazy busy before the grand opening.

Sadly, my experiences have not lived up to the excitement and expectations.

Considering the neighborhood, the casual space and comfort food, the prices are way too high:
$9 for a hamburger, with $1 a topping, including cheese.
One $5 appetizer (veggies with dressing), three in the $8 range and the last four for $9-13.
Two vegetarian pastas available for around $10; the rest skyrocket to just under $20.
$29 for a ribeye with mashed potatoes and black beans-- that's
Note, some of the prices on the website are less than those on the menu.
For instance, it lists the burger at $7, with $.75 for toppings, which is incorrect.

My burgers were burnt beyond recognition, resembling black hockey pucks.
Even the fried egg was coated in black, which usually means a dirty grill.
No moisture of any kind remained in the meat, and it crumbled apart.
Given the description of a daily ground sirloin blend, this is a sin!
They also lacked the usual lettuce/tomato/onion set-up.
However, that may be due to the Texas Two Thep.
They use mass-produced bread, as I could see the rack of it.
The fries were mealy, lukewarm, and oversalted with some kind of seasoning.
Usually, I'm a starch fiend and eat the fries first but I had to leave these behind.
They were also the dregs of the batch, most of them being broken off or crumbs.
The owner was sitting behind me at a table, so he definitely wasn't in the kitchen.
Sadly, the person in the kitchen today needs to learn how to cook properly.
I decided against sending my food back because I was hungry and pressed for time.

I did feel a bit rushed to order at the beginning.
My waitress ended up being enthusiastic and attentive.
She filled up my water glass a few times.
There were more staff members than patrons.
A large group of them gathered at the bar, talking.
It was an off time for a meal so it wasn't that big of a deal.

They kept some previous elements, like the metal walls, but distressed them.
There are no booths, just 4 and either 6 or 8 top tables (can't remember).
The artwork was muddled; faux vintage prints for Lillet and sardines, then some paintings.
They were psychedelically colorful, and perhaps from a local artist, which would be a great if they were.

Since I didn't drink any adult beverages, I have no idea about their bar.
It was oo far away for me to read, but it looks like they have at least 8 beers on tap.
It's a big bar with three tvs, so it can definitely support hanging out with a drink.
The bathroom was relatively clean, and the kitchen is open so you can see the cooking.
There is a lot of parking, but if this place and Woodrow's is busy, you may have to walk.

Overall, it's all about inconsistency. Inconsistent pricing. Inconsistent cooking. Even inconsistent decor.
I would like to come back in a few months, which will give them time to work on all of this.

Convenient location
Happy Hour food and drink specials
Full bar (with tvs, if you are into that)
Kitchen hasn't found its groove
High price points

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  1. Thanks for the review. Was looking forward to trying the burger. Will probably wait a few weeks as well.

    5 Replies
    1. re: cstrombe

      We stopped by for a quick bite and had a positive experience. We shared a cheesesteak which was good... steak was tender, good flavor and the bread was right. Also, we enjoyed the fries enough to ask if they are twice cooked and we were told yes.... they are blanched before frying and seasoning. Only thing, the pricing seems a bit out of whack and on the high side.

      1. re: Rene

        i had read about the twice-cooked fries, and was really looking forward to them.

        in the yelp reviews (i know, i know), the experience is either 50% mine or 50% yours.
        whoever manned the kitchen yesterday is probably the culprit for the inconsistency.

        another funny thing about the yelp reviews, which i read after i wrote mine--
        i had an awful headache with cottonmouth for the rest of the day.
        it usually only happens when i unwittingly ingest MSG. ***
        someone else posted the same thing on yelp.
        the owner insisted he did not have any MSG whatsoever in the kitchen.
        i'm wondering if maybe it's in the sriracha or the fry spice blend.

        *** please, let's not get into the MSG debate here :-)

      2. re: cstrombe

        there aren't that many options for a good old burger in this neighborhood.
        i'm not a fan of moonie's (183 and anderson mill); the burger and the fries don't do it for me.

        in the buns is pretty good (183 and lake creek) but it's a cheese on the inside burger.

        riata bar and grill (riata trace) usually has a very tasty, thick and juicy burger.
        the bun is slightly sweet though (sheila partin?), which i know some people hate.
        plus they have curly fries right out of the freezer, which some people also hate.

        1. re: dinaofdoom

          Riata Bar and Grill and In the Buns are my go tos but another decent option is The Hideout Bar on the southbound mopac service road south of Parmer.

          Riata Bar and Grill
          12221 Riata Trace Pkwy Ste 100, Austin, TX 78727

          1. re: lixlix

            good to know.
            for some reason, i always forget about that place, and didn't realize they had food.

      3. I've been a couple of times and had a bit better of experience than you did. Maybe it really does just depend on who's cooking.

        Have had the wings (B-), cheeseburger (A-), and swordfish with dirty rice (B-). They were all about 2-3 bucks more than the Austin dining populace would be accustomed to. I actually thought the burger was perfectly seasoned and cooked to a perfect medium rare. Fries were great too.

        The service there I thought was great.

        My main beef with the place is the $5 pints of beers. That is heresy as I see it! :)

        3 Replies
        1. re: jwynne2000

          i really do think it's probably a rogue cook causing these bad experiences.
          that's why i want to wait it out and give them another chance.

          and yeah, what is up w/ the wonky pricing?
          they may have HH pints but still... $5 is a bit high, for austin and this nabe.

          a co-worker friend mentioned he experienced some badly cooked bacon and some dirty something or other (silverware?) so he sent them a feedback email.
          the owner actually responded and thanked him for the info, which i take to be a good sign.

          1. re: jwynne2000

            Agreed. I think you got a crappy cook in there. Though that definitely doesn't forgive the crappy food you got or the apparently dirty grill. He should be let go if he's bringing the place down after a month or two of being open.

            I hit them up for lunch a few weeks ago and got a burger with cheese. Burger was cooked to order and juicy with the standard veggie setup (though they committed the sin of providing a pickle spear instead of pickle chips). The fries were crisp and evenly battered, a bit garlicky too; I liked them more than Riata's curly fries. Given your experience and that review on Yelp, I bet the seasoning does contain MSG and the owner isn't aware...

            The pricing still sucks horribly though. Can't see how they justify the Texas Two Thep for $10 and a regular burger for $9.

            Also, I desperately wanted to take a red pen to their menus. Soooo many typos.

            1. re: verily

              hahahah yes, i had the red pen urges as well.
              were yours dog-eared color photo copies, too?
              i was hoping they were just temps until they figured out the menu and pricing.

          2. there was an article in eater, perhaps from elsewhere, that they were moving to 6th street.
            however, the expensive-looking new sign is up and it's been open every time i've gone by.
            so, i think maybe they are opening a second location rather than shuttering this new one.
            anyone have any info?

            2 Replies
            1. re: dinaofdoom

              OK, so we've been to Old School grill several times for lunch. I've found each visit to be enjoyable. Don't have time to write a review, so here's a synopsis"

              I've only been for lunch - they now have $7 lunch specials...a selection of half a sandwich and either soup or salad (the salad is a very generous portion).

              Everything has been consistent.

              Their fries are freaking awesome.

              My buddy really liked his hamburger. Huge.

              The owner is usually there and does check on each table.

              Maybe they worked out their kinks?

              1. re: rudeboy

                i went on a weekend about 6 weeks ago so perhaps it's a combination of both?
                i'm willing to give it another try, and intend to go to ajishin next door, too.

            2. Went for the first time for dinner last night. It was crowded and very noisy with th accoustics, but we were pleased with most of our food.
              We got the BBQ Shrimp appetizer $12 which came with fresh french bread and 6 jumbo shrimp. It was tasty and cooked correctly. We sat close to the kitchen so we were able to see most plates leaving and the portions were HUGE. The menus have been redone and I think the prices may be lower now (the TWO THEP mentioned in earlier posts was $8).
              I ordered the Seafood Diablo which was a giant serving of capellini pasta doused with shrimp, scallops and a cream sauce. Very tasty and way more than I could eat. It'll last us a while.
              The other entree was the Pork Medallions which was our only complaint. It was overcooked and bland. The waiter offered to bring another entree which my companion declined, he also offered a comp. dessert. My companion is not one to send food back so he didn't mind, just said he wouldn't order it again. The wait staff was attentive and the manager/owner (not sure which) checked on us. House wine was $4 and Ausin Amber pint was $5.
              The philly steak sandwhich we saw go by along with the T-bone were enormous.
              They are starting a Sunday Brunch with bloody mary's, mimosas, the regular menu and a new brunch menu featuring items like bananas foster french toast and eggs benedict. We'll definitely go back!

              1 Reply
              1. re: amykragan

                thanks for the update. i'm planning on trying the burgers again this weekend.