photo credit: Taylor Hannan
Casino El Camino
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in Austin for a week or your entire life, at some point you’ll find yourself on Dirty Sixth street downtown. And when that moment comes, there’s one place that feels like an escape from the raucous festivities of Austin’s famous nightlife district: Casino El Camino.
Casino El Camino is essentially a dive bar that slings out excellent burgers, hot dogs, and wings. It feels a little bit like somebody stuck a giant cave into the middle of Sixth Street, occupied mostly by inhabitants that haven’t left in decades. It’s dark in here—don’t be surprised if it takes your eyes a few minutes to adjust. You’ll probably spend that time waiting in line to order anyway, because the former “secret” that is Casino El Camino’s phenomenal burgers isn’t such a secret anymore.
All of the burgers here share the same basic format—a massive ¾ pound patty with toppings inspired by various cities across the country. So whether you find yourself taking down a Buffalo burger, covered in spicy wing sauce and bleu cheese, or a Pitts burger, topped with Guinness and sherry sautéed mushrooms, the thing to remember is that the beef is the star of the show here. It’s incredibly thick, with a char-grilled crust and a pink center—this is the arch-nemesis of the smashburger. The rest of the menu is very good, if you’re not in the mood for a burger, but it’s hard to shine when you find yourself in the shadow of a towering mound of ground Angus beef.
The drinks play by dive bar rules—heavy, cheap, and simple. Ask for a cosmo, and we’re pretty sure you’ll get kicked out, or politely asked to leave. But show up in the afternoons and they’ll make you an excellent bloody mary, covered with enough garnishes that you could probably make a light meal out of it.
Make your way to the back, and you’ll find a small patio that kind of feels like a tiny tropical resort, complete with saltillo tiled floors, fountains, and a vibrant Aztec mural on the wall. It’s one of our favorite places to go for a break from the streets outside. If all of this doesn’t give you enough reason to make a visit to Dirty Sixth, we don’t think anything will.
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This is probably the most classic “cheeseburger” on the menu, topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce, and tomato—and we’re not really sure how that ties in with Chicago. We typically like to go with some of the more adventurous toppings, but this doesn’t disappoint.
Super classic Buffalo wings that can be ordered anywhere from mild to explosive. They’re not joking–these get hot. Whatever spice level you get, you can expect them to coat some juicy wings with perfectly-crispy skin.
Lemon Pepper Chicken Sandwich
Usually when we order a grilled chicken sandwich, we feel like we’re making some kind of compromise. Here, it just feels like we’re deciding between two (almost) even choices. It's juicy, and perfectly seasoned. If the burgers weren’t so good, we’d come here just for this sandwich.