Eatery has been serving Lake Travis since 1979
A tradition in the Lakeway area for more than three decades, Sandeez Hamburger Hut has kept customers coming back for years to the old-fashioned, mom and pop–style diner where the staff knows most orders by heart.
Imre Szekelyhidi has lived on Lake Travis for more than 20 years and has been eating at Sandeez just as long.
“They have the best hamburgers in town,” Szekelyhidi said. “I recommend them wholeheartedly.”
It wasn’t hard to find others like Szekelyhidi as owner Sandy Lairsen pointed out several longtime customers during a recent lunchtime rush who were either dining inside or at picnic tables located out front. The diner also serves breakfast and dinner, and offers call-in orders and drive-thru service.
“We have a pretty steady clientele,” Lairsen said. “The burger business has been pretty good to me.”
The business first opened in 1979 and was simply called Hamburger Hut. It was a small walk-up location on the lake not far from the current location on RR 620 near the Mansfield Dam, where it relocated to in 1984.
When Lairsen bought the diner in 1994 from the original owners, it became Sandy’s Hamburger Hut. It was eventually renamed to avoid confusion with a different local business, Sandy’s Hamburgers, located on Barton Springs Road.
Lairsen moved to the area from Dallas in 1981 with her then-husband, and together they owned Lake Travis Lodges Marina. She also had a special-events business, where she made cakes for the Hamburger Hut’s original owners, who let her know they were moving out of town and would be selling the business.
Lairsen said she has bought other real estate in the area, and the popular eatery was in a great location.
“I knew it was a great piece of real estate and had good burgers,” she said.
When Lairsen took over, she made several much-needed upgrades including adding air conditioning.
“I don’t know how they did it—the cooks were back there in 115-degree heat,” she said.
But one thing she left unchanged was the menu, including the award-winning burgers, which can be ordered with all the fixings in a small, one-sixth pound portion or the large portion, which is a quarter-pound. Customers can add traditional sides such as homemade, hand-cut french fries, onion rings and fried okra.
Lairsen insists on all fresh ingredients and said she has come from a long line of Southern aristocratic women who threw events and luncheons with incredible menus, including her grandmother, who provided invaluable cooking advice.
“It’s the ‘old-timey’ way of making it,” she said. “It’s pretty much like a diner or café—a little bit of homemade touch.”
The menu also includes items such as breakfast tacos, chicken-fried steak, grilled chicken breast, along with the option of “a low-carb patty with cheese.”
While the old staples have remained, the menu has expanded with the help of Lairsen’s son, Travis, who became general manager in 2007.
Travis has a business degree, and Lairsen has credited him with doubling her business by finding smart ways to cut costs, expanding the store’s hours, adding beer to the menu as well as more food options, which are often offered on a seasonal basis, such as buffalo chicken sandwiches and hot wings.
While the business has done well, Lairsen said it has not been bulletproof due to a number of factors, including more competition in the growing area, higher taxes, and in particular, the drought.
“I’ve been through droughts and the lake being low, but nothing like this drought,” she said. “We need the lake to be full—not just us, everyone needs the lake to be full.”
In addition, the poor economy has also negatively affected business including high fuel surcharges resulting in significantly higher supply costs.
Overall, however, Lairsen is not worried.
“We really do make a great burger and have great people working for us,” she said. “We’ll still be here—even if I have to put on an apron and start cooking—which I do love.”
Sandeez Hamburger Hut, 113 RR 620 N., Austin, 266-1524
Mon.–Sat. 7 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m.
Fridays at noon: Classic car show in the Sandeez parking lot