the spot: Republic Diner ATX 1401 E. 7th St. Austin TX 78702 (behind Kammok Gear Shop)
the eats: Slammer
the bucks: $6.75
the full nelson: a deceptive simple smashed burger that slips in umami and a 4oz patty for under $7
The promise of a local smashed burger/slider brought me to Republic Diner via a killer pic off Instagram but what will keep me coming back is Paul Sedillo. I was in a bit of rush when I met Paul. He was opening up shop at Republic Diner as I swooped in for a burger pit stop before meeting my family for dinner. Perhaps that sense of urgency allowed me to get to know Paul and get the low down on his burger philosophy fast. His advice and pending dinner plans allowed me to zero in on this:
The bare essentials for the diner/drive thru burger experience: American cheese, pickles and a well griddled burger. You can go bigger by way of a double patty or even throw an egg on there. No matter how gluttonous your concoction may become, it will always be sandwiched between a Martin’s Potato roll; the very same bun of choice for another rather famous and successful burger operation: Shake Shack.
Like Shake Shack, going bigger at Republic Diner will cost you. The double patty with bacon send your burger price soaring into double digits. To be fair, these patties are a whopping 4 ounces each, so half a pound of beef + egg, cheese and bacon is a lot for your wallet, your arteries and a Martin’s Potato Roll. And the point of a smashed burger to replicated the thrill of burger eating from the days of yore. When meat cooked medium rare was for men in suits hovering over plates of Prime Rib and the biggest drink decision wasn’t between IPA or double IPA, but rather coke or cherry coke. Your order at Republic Diner should mirror the order your 8 year old self would make.
That’s not to say that this truck’s sole purpose is to drive you down memory lane. Paul Sedillo, the man behind the lady on the food truck, took his burger inspiration from the diner style burgers of Oklahoma which draw maximum Maillard reaction from beef patties cooked on top of onions on the flat top. Though he hails from New Mexico, the land of all foods spiked with Hatch chili, and once helmed a fried chicken restaurant in Houston, old school Midwest diner burgers that are subtly turned up a notch are his true obsession. That’s the best way I can describe anyone who makes a burger that looks like this:
. . . and also incorporates Worcestershire and Fish Sauce into the patty. The former may not be that surprising, but the latter seems like something out of the Soursop, Au Cheval or the Umami Burger playbook. Now keep in mind, just because there is Fish Sauce in here doesn’t mean your burger is gonna taste like Pad Thai, but it will have taste, the 5th taste, Umami that is.
There’s a lot going on behind those eyes and even more going on in this food truck. Take my advice and try the Slammer, keep it under budget($6.75) and taste one deceptively simple but compelling smashed burger that for a quick burger fix before meeting one’s family for dinner, covers some solid Bang for your Burger Buck.