Austin Rocks: Dazed and Confused at Top Notch

Top Notch Burger in Austin TX a Dazed and Confused movie location (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Drive in or dine in at Top Notch Hamburgers on Burnet Road in Austin, Texas – a “Dazed and Confused” movie location (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

(Part of the Austin Rocks series of posts by a local about things to do and see in Austin, Texas)  

People who create coming-of-age movies need a decade or two to process everything before they shoot their film. For example, American Graffiti came out in 1973, but it portrayed the 1950s and 1960s California Central Valley youth of director George Lucas.

The 1993 movie Dazed and Confused is about the last day of school at a Texas high school in 1976. Although director Richard Linklater shot the film in Austin, it is not set or based there, contrary to legend. Linklater says it’s supposed to be “everyman” experiences in a small Texas town (he spent most of his own high school years in Huntsville, in eastern Texas.)

Still cooking up its famous burgers and fried chicken, Top Notch is probably the most recognizable of the many Dazed and Confused movie locations. Open since 1971, it serves up an extensive menu seven days a week, until 10 p.m.

You can walk inside, order at the counter right in front of the grill, and eat at the tables inside, or drive in and order from your car at a speaker box. Here’s the menu at one of the drive-in stations:

One of the drive-through menu stations for cars at Top Notch Burgers in Austin TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Pull your car up to one of the drive-in stations, read the menu, and order through the speaker box at Top Notch in Austin TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

See the “1971 Weight Watcher Special?” It’s two broiled patties, wheat bread, a salad, and a drink. The only thing that would make that more 70’s authentic would be to add some ghastly canned fruit salad or a scoop of cottage cheese.

No way I’m eating at a place like Top Notch while deluding myself about diets.

The night we were there, I didn’t feel like juggling food in my lap in the car (guess I’m getting OK Boomer old) so we ate inside. The flame-broiled burgers were tasty, the milkshakes were thick and malty, and contrary to a snarky comment in the movie clip below, the fries were NOT soggy.

Burger and fries at Top Notch in Austin TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Same as always, for decades, and that’s the charm. Cheeseburgers and fries at Top Notch in Austin, TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Even though I’ve driven past this Burnet Road location a bunch of times, I’d never stopped in. With the loss of Austin stalwarts like the Frisco Shop and Night Hawk, Hut’s Hamburgers, the late lamented Las Manitas Avenue Cafe on Congress Avenue, the Conan’s Pizza near the UT campus, and many others, I feel as though I need to make food pilgrimages as soon as possible before special places are gone forever.

Iconic sign at Top Notch in Austin TX a Dazed and Confused movie scene (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The iconic sign at dusk – Top Notch in Austin TX, a “Dazed and Confused” movie scene (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Do you have a favorite movie location that’s still pretty much intact in your town? Let us know about it down in the comments….

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  1. Chantae November 22, 2019
    • Sheila Scarborough November 22, 2019
  2. Kerry Dexter November 22, 2019
    • Sheila Scarborough November 22, 2019
  3. Kerry Dexter November 24, 2019

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