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Broadway 50 50 is more than a high-class honky-tonk

Open Broadway 50 50's door on a weekend evening and you'll be greeted by an effigy of Elvis, the acrid smell of cigarette smoke, and the dull roar of conversation and music amplified by concrete floors and hard-surface walls. But somehow, after about 10 minutes, the smoky odor is no longer an issue, the din appears to diminish, and only the insistent click of pool balls remains. With servers in "I love my badass attitude" T-shirts and an almost unconscious decor, the 50 50 seems to exist outside of time - and outside of '09 if a tattooed dude and his dog-collared date are any indication. Gaggles of guys in gimme caps and tables of sweet young things from Trinity also comprise a portion of the crowd, some waiting for the band to begin, others leaving with Styro boxes of meals too big to be consumed in a single sitting. Yes, there is food in this high-class honky-tonk, once the occasional home to legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, and that food is far better than it has any right - or need - to be.

Broadway 50 50's Vincent Vega burger with "mucho quacamole" is served with a mound of shoestring fries. (Photos by Mark Greenberg)

At noon, when the service is more fast and friendly than badass and surly, a Vincent Vega burger with "mucho guacamole" is a tonic against the remainder of the workday. The elongated sesame-seed bun (suitable for the deluxe dog as well) perfectly cradles a rectangular patty. The beef is well-seasoned and crusty from the grill, the guacamole is fresh and tastes ripe and rich. And the shoestring fries, though they do tend to cool quickly, are irresistible. In short, the 50 50 has just shot to the top of my best burger list.

In the interests of serious research, I returned to sample another burger in the evening, but not before a quick two-step through the appetizer list. (It would have been a waltz, but our slightly harried waitress forgot one of the orders, which turned out to be serendipitous due to the size of the other two.) The house-made potato chips are crisp and taste of potato, not grease; all they need is a little salt and some discretion on the part of the eater. Oh, and a good, cold beer, of which there are about two dozen on draft and nearly another three dozen in bottles. The beer - and/or a shot of Herradura or Sauza tequila - also works well with the chicken fajita nachos. Individually assembled, a big plus in my book, these babies may be a tad short on chicken, but the package is good nonetheless, a lot better than at many Mexican restaurants, in fact. The chips aren't soggy, the refrieds are genuine (though without the desired lard flavor), there's adequate cheese, and the center of the platter is mounded with scoops of sour cream and guacamole, plus pico de gallo and a passel of pickled jalapeños. Two of us couldn't finish the plate (or figured we shouldn't).

Broadway 50 50

5050 Broadway
Price range: $5-13
Credit Cards
Bathrooms not wheelchair accessible

Good thinking, as it happens: The platter bearing what "might be the best Chicken Fried Steak you ever had" was nearly groaning with gravy and battered beef, mountains of garlic mashed potatoes, and a serious side of sautéed green beans with mushrooms. The gravy could have used a little more black pepper, and the crust of the prodigious piece of pounded meat was more shell-like than lightly crisp and crackly, but all in all, it was a classic CFS - not the best, but worthy of some bragging rights. The potatoes are so real (though not as garlicky as might be hoped) that big chunks of unmashed spud spangle the serving. The al dente green beans and fresh mushrooms would do a much flossier place proud. After all this, the Big Kahuna mushroom-and-Swiss burger seemed shy and retiring - more cheese, please - but it was good enough to bolster the best burger bid.

We didn't save room for dessert, we just stuffed it in: A single serving of a very gooey brownie a la mode with piles of frothy whipped cream and a couple of maraschino cherries. Admittedly, nobody needs to eat this, but it's got to be less debilitating than a shot of Jaegermeister dropped into a glass of Red Bull, one of the many specialty-drink options. By the way, the 50 50's house wine is a decent Carmenet and there are some reputable single malts on the whiskey list, so the management hasn't altogether ignored its '09 audience. Maybe they come late.

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