Beefed-up scene

Prodigious patties for the post-grad set


Do demons like burgers? For Graffiti Junktion's sake, I really hope they do. A long line of restaurants ' Thornton Park Café, Luciano's Terrace, La Fontanella da Nino, Rocco's, even Jephanie Foster's Midnight Blue ' have all succumbed to the mean-spirited phantoms cursing this attractive locale. Perhaps an extreme makeover (or extreme makeunder as the case may be) was in order for a proper exorcism; the changes to the once-slick interior are nothing short of dramatic. The style is in marked contrast to Midnight Blue's cool refinement, resembling an abandoned building taken over and decorated by squatters. Doors have been ripped off their hinges, windows removed, graffiti sprayed onto the walls and comfy furnishing swapped out for doodled-on picnic tables. All of it fosters a scene tending toward backward-baseball-cap'wearing post-grads and their girly-girl strumpets, right down to the Jokerman font on the small, simple menu.

It's a lively scene, but I confess I had a better time observing the random T-shirts on diners than I did downing a spoonful of their Texas-style beef chili ($5). The overly seasoned hash caked my tongue with a pungency reminiscent of chili powder from a grocery-aisle packet. The fact that it was served lukewarm with limp, unmelted cheese didn't help salvage the starter. A wasabi chicken Caesar salad ($8) with spicy Caesar dressing seemed intriguing at first, but you wouldn't have known the Japanese condiment was even present had there been no mention of it on the menu. One consolation: The nicely seasoned chicken strips were warmer than the chili.

But the meat of Graffiti Junktion's matter lies in their patties. For the most part, the burgers (all tagged with city nicknames) are thoroughly gratifying ' beefed-up rounds with homemade buns to boot. Yeah, they initially forgot the jalapeños in my Austin City Limits ($10) burger, but the well-trained staff was quick to replenish the peppers and offer an apology. Pepperjack and chili underscored its Texas-manwich status, and as far as the fries were concerned, the skin-on, seasoned strips were entirely laudable, though my dining partner, a self-professed French fry authority, thought them a tad soggy and lacking in crisp. The Fog City ($10) turkey burger, layered with tomato, pepperjack, avocado and sprouts on a whole-wheat bun, proffered the gastronomic yin to the Austin City Limits burger's yang. It's a hefty sandwich, no doubt, but it just seems better suited to a beef patty rather than turkey ' an option that is available if you're so inclined. Desserts, on the other hand, aren't an option and likely won't be for a few weeks, but that doesn't seem to bother the regulars, who seem content with the straightforward fare, full bar and sportive conviviality.

For all its burger-worthiness, Graffiti Junktion does seem to be more about the scene than the food. The din can be uproarious and patrons delightfully vainglorious, so there's nothing else to do but plant your seat at a table, grab some grub and enjoy the show. If you can't join 'em, watch 'em.


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