In the near half-century that the neon’s been buzzing on their marquis, Hut’s Hamburgers has seen a lot. From changes in ownership to changes on the block, from live music to menu additions — even partially “launching” Matthew McConaughey’s career — Hut’s has managed to stay relatively unchanged amidst Austin’s growth. An icon, and living relic, of Austin’s past, Hut’s slings the same classic hamburgers, hand-battered onion rings and decadent milkshakes that made it popular with our grandparents and parents.
The burger joint, originally opened in 1939 on South Congress by Homer ‘Hut’ Huston, took up residence on West 6th Street thirty years later. Current owners, Mike ‘Hutch’ and Kim Hutchinson took the reigns in 1981. From 1981 to 1990, Hut’s offered more than burgers – they held frequent concerts (even a festival or two) and had a full bar. Vintage photos of musicians who graced their stage cover the walls. In 1991, Hutch shifted the cut the music programming and full bar to concentrate on food and adding 20 burgers.
Otherwise, the eatery is largely unchanged. The walls, washed in a red hue, tell decades of stories. Vintage pennants, pinup posters, photographs, relics from old Austin, neons, animal busts in hats, vinyl booths and a checkered floor, lend comfortable, tried-and-true nostalgia to the joint. Hut’s is a beacon for straightforward, old school romance. Dennis Quaid allegedly fell in love with Meg Ryan over a Hut’s burger. It’s also an oasis for affordable family meals that don’t compromise quality, and lunch treat for Austinites wanting to escape corporate walls.
Hut’s proudly proclaims burgers as their specialty. And what a specialty it is. They serve up 30 burgers with options of beef, longhorn, buffalo, boneless chicken breast, or 100 percent vegan veggie burgers. (They also can accommodate gluten free and vegetarians). Though burgers are the draw at Hut’s, the menu offers something for everyone with salads, tacos, sandwiches, and chili. Handmade onion rings, malts and milkshakes, and a smattering of blue plate specials like meatloaf, catfish, and chicken fried steak keep a loyal following coming back for decades.
“Today, the menu’s a pretty good reflection of time,” says Mike ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson. “We used to be a beer joint that sold food. We’ve evolved to an eatery where young professionals, students, families — anyone, really — can feel comfortable. We’ve kept a lot of classics, but added things to the menu to make it approachable to all diets. The Dagburger is a carry over from the original Hut’s menu. I mean you can’t nix something that has double meat and cheese – it’s what a lot of kids grew up on.”
Hut’s has a long established commitment to using fresh, never frozen, all natural, Texas-raised beef. For decades longer than buzzwords like ‘locavore” and ‘locally sourced’ have studded restaurant vernacular, Hut’s has sourced from Texas providers. Johnny’s Meat Market in South Austin provides the beef, Bandera Grassland provides longhorn beef, and Thunderheart Bison supplies the buffalo. Both Bandera Grassland and Thunderheart are AGA Grassfed and Animal Welfare Approved Seal recipients.
Not only is the Hut’s vibe unbeatable, you are hard-pressed to find more affordable quality in Austin. Nothing on the menu is more than $10.95, and Wednesday nights draws crowds with their two-for-one burger night (two of the same beef or veggie burgers for the price of one).
“Now, with more than 30 burger/sandwich options, enormous onion rings, and classic milkshakes, this old-school burger joint is serving great eats with a side of nostalgia.” – Thrillist
• Hut’s is the only seller of longhorn beef in Austin.
• Sports memorabilia made its way to Hut’s walls as people sent their team’s pennants over the years. The tradition started and continues to this day.
• The 30’s art deco of Hut’s is one of the last remaining examples in the state.
• Dennis Quaid claims he fell in love with Meg Ryan at Hut’s Hamburgers.
• For decades, Hut’s and Katz Deli were the only food stops in West 6th.
• In the 50’s, the area was all car dealerships.
• “Longtime Hut’s employees will tell you that they feel partially responsible for Matthew McConaughey landing his first major role in 1993’s Dazed and Confused. The story goes that the actor’s girlfriend at the time worked at Hut’s, and one afternoon while waiting for her to get off her shift, he bumped into the film’s director, Richard Linklater, at a nearby hotel bar. If you’re curious, McConaughey’s favorite burger is allegedly the “Arnold’s Best.” – Eater Austin
• Hut’s is one of the few places with original ketchup bottles.
• Root Beer floats are the lesser known rival of Hut’s Old Fashioned milkshakes & malts.
• The 20 burger additions are named after musical icons.