Dirty Martin’s Place: 95 Years of Austin Burgers

For those familiar with the Austin burger scene, Dirty Martin’s Place is no secret given its long history. Considered by many to be a tradition, Dirty’s has continued operation since its opening adjacent to campus in 1926. Its continued existence and, indeed, growth over those years is a testament to the quality of its ownership. Anybody craving Austin burgers whose recipes have remained virtually unchanged in 95 years can rely on Dirty Martin’s Place.

An Austin Joint Since 1926

Displayed proudly on many of its signs is the number 1926, the date of the restaurant’s establishment. At the time, the joint consisted of only a small drive-in and humble kitchen with some barstools. Regulars would affectionately give its nickname of Dirty’s on account of the dining area’s dirt floors in early years. The restaurant’s (tastefully) painted fence displays its full name: Martin’s Kum-Bak Hamburgers.

The gradual changes to the architecture of the building over the years happened on an as-needed basis. A recent renovation of the space has enclosed the patio once exposed to the outdoors, adding televisions and more seating. Additionally, the restaurant’s obtainment of a full liquor license has expanded its cocktail menu with a myriad of tasty drinks. Many events have been hosted at Dirty’s over the years, including vintage car shows and weddings held on-site. Martin’s Kum-bak Hamburgers was conceived as a meeting place for the Austin community to meet and eat.

Guests wanting to dine-in can have their burger needs met starting 11AM any day of the week except Monday. Entrants to the building can form a line to make their orders, or take a seat at the beautiful full-service bar. Many of the decorations are old photographs, signs, and news articles, proof of the restaurant’s history. It’s hardly a surprise to see a lot of burnt orange around these parts, given the neighborhood…

Full Bar Service & More

 I took a seat at the bar and was immediately impressed with the range of drinks on display. I had assumed that the restaurant was much more focused around just burgers, and the full bar threw me for a loop. My excellent bartender David explained the recent renovations, then proceeded to pour me the best Michelada I’ve ever had. The Momo’s mix used is non-tomato based, with much more emphasis on the lemon and spice flavor.

I wanted to order the favorites, so I asked the staff what they thought best showcased their menu. The Dirty Totchos were amazing – tater tots smothered with ground beef, queso, and homemade Pico de Gallo. My biggest regret in that moment was that, if I wanted to keep trying food, I couldn’t eat all of them. It would end up being the right decision for the task to come.

The next appetizer I ordered, personally recommended to me by my bartender, were the Corn Nuggets. For those curious, it is possible to freeze and then deep-fry clumps of creamed corn in nugget form. This is the basis for this dish, and they are absolutely delicious; like bits of sweet, creamy corn goodness.

Another cocktail sounded nice with my appetizers, and I asked after some of the original recipes. I had the opportunity to try a Spicy DT Margarita, a cocktail of fresh jalapeno-infused mango puree, 03 Orange Liquor, and 512 Tequila. The Chamoy Tajin rim similar to the one on my Michelada was the (figurative) cherry on top. I’d highly recommend it – if you can handle the heat.

A Place for Burgers

The time had come to address the elephant in the room and order one of Martin’s Kum-bak Hamburgers for myself. I proceeded to do the opposite of a hamburger and order Val’s Chicken Sandwich. A marinated grilled chicken sandwich topped with Swiss, fresh avocado, and Chipotle mayo sounded too good to pass up. The hand-breaded onion rings, the recipe for which has existed since 1926, were a great side to my sandwich. The cherry limeade served in an old-fashioned glass was a refreshing beverage to wash it all down with. I would leave that day feeling completely satisfied, not realizing the horror of the situation until I got home.

I had eaten and gotten completely full without getting to really dig in to one of their burgers! So, I went back a few days later to fulfill my original task, as well as get another one of their excellent Micheladas. Setting aside what is probably my personal health, I decided upon the Large Chili Cheese Burger with a side of Chili Cheese Fries. I could tell on my first bite that this was a recipe that had remained unchanged for years. The grilled onions and jalapenos I added were fresh, and Z’s chili was on point.

With my appetite and my craving for burgers now taken care of, I decided to end my visit with an old-fashioned malt. I always take the opportunity to turn my shake into a malt if it is offered, so to see it on the menu was a real treat. Like the limeade before, it was served in a glass and topped with whipped cream and a (literal) cherry.

I may have been late to the party in my personal discovery of Dirty Martin’s Place, but that is often the case when finding new restaurants. The important thing is to share those restaurants who deserve their recognition with others. Dirty Martin’s Place has been cooking the same great Austin burgers for 95 years, and I hope to see them continue for many more to come!