Little Ola’s and Gimme Burger Are Stand Outs at Butler Pitch & Putt
The historic golf course’s culinary offerings are curated by James Beard Award finalist Michael Fojtasek
My favorite new restaurant is … an old golf course? Yep. Lately, I’ve had some terrific meals at the ol’ Butler Pitch & Putt concession stand. But if you’re thinking rubbery hotdogs and a bag of chips, think again. Butler has upped its culinary game to complement its snazzy renovated clubhouse.
Now there are warm homemade biscuits, hot-off-the-grill smashburgers, first-rate sandwiches, fresh-baked cookies and an impressive selection of craft beer and seltzers. And best of all, you don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy a meal there. Whether you play a round or not, everyone’s welcome to grab a tasty al fresco bite while enjoying the sweeping views of Austin’s skyline rising above the manicured fairways. Come one, come all.
For the uninitiated, Butler Pitch & Putt is an Austin institution. Built in 1949, this nine-hole, par-three golf course sprawls across eight acres of downtown Austin, hugging the south shore of Lady Bird Lake. Over the past 75 years, Butler remained a constant as Austin mushroomed around it, encircling the course with glistening skyscrapers and luxury condos. Family owned and operated, the course didn’t change much over the years and was starting to show its age. But in 2019, the Pecan Grove Golf Partners, a team of mostly Austin natives, took over and gave Butler a much-needed freshening up, retaining the course’s unique charm while restoring its vintage mid-century luster.
Another upgrade included Butler’s concessions: three- times James Beard-finalist Michael Fojtasek was hired to handle the food. Fojtasek, the chef behind such lauded Austin restaurants as Olamaie, Maie Day and Little Ola’s, happens to be a Butler regular, and his MaieB Hospitality group now oversees two dining options at the golf course.
The Clubhouse offers drinks, snacks and fresh food items like biscuits, sandwiches and desserts sourced from Fojtasek’s casual café, Little Ola’s. Fojtasek’s buttermilk biscuits have achieved cult status around town, especially his sandwich-sized honey fried chicken biscuit stuffed with a crunchy, breaded chicken thigh and drizzled with Texas honey. There are several other biscuit sandwiches stuffed with fillings like eggs, sausage, tomato and cheese, plus a plain version simply served with butter and jam. They’re all baked and delivered fresh each morning, wrapped and kept warm near the register for easy grab-and-go.
For lunch, Little Ola’s provides ‘Master’s-style’ sandwiches, a nod to the celebrated concessions at Augusta’s renowned golf tournament. Similar to those offered at The Masters, Butler’s sandwiches are served on white bread and offered in classic flavors like pimento cheese, egg salad and chicken salad. But Little Ola’s elevates them with gourmet ingredients like artisan bread, roasted jalapeños and fresh tomato garnish.
There’s also fresh-baked gourmet cookies that’ll give you a sugar buzz to last all nine holes. Traditional snacks like chips and candy are also available, plus an impressive selection of cold beers, seltzers, wines and sodas. For five dollars, you can rent a YETI cooler to cart around your bevvies, keeping them ice-cold.
Another dining option is Gimme Burger, a permanent food truck next to the clubhouse serving terrific burgers, hot dogs, French fries and … fried okra?! Not something found at most golf courses, but something you absolutely should order at Butler. These crunchy, tender nuggets of sliced okra are some of the best I’ve ever had. The French fries are just as good, served piping hot and dusted with zippy spices. But the Gimme Burger is the star: a double smash patty on a sesame seed bun, topped with oozing melted cheese, shredded lettuce, onion, tomatoes, pickle and special sauce. It’s one of the best burgers in town and made with top-quality local beef from Ranger Cattle Ranch. For smaller appetites, there’s a single-patty Kiddie Burger, and if burgers aren’t your thing, there are also hotdogs and a vegetarian option.
Although you can take your food to go, I recommend enjoying it on one of the picnic tables or retro lounge chairs on Butler’s pleasant courtyard, overlooking the putting green, rolling fairways and dazzling Austin skyline. After your meal, work off the calories with one of the complimentary yard games like cornhole, fine-tune your stroke on the putting green or, of course, play a round of golf. Scattered throughout the grounds are big-screen TVs streaming major sporting events and, being Austin, speakers cranking out great tunes throughout the day.
Keep in mind that these aren’t your typical restaurants, and they don’t keep typical hours. If the weather’s bad, then the golf course closes and so do the concessions. So check before you go. And although Butler’s not your typical golf course, it’s typically Austin: fun, funky and friendly. There’s no country club attitude here; only genuine Texas hospitality and Austin inclusiveness. No membership is required, and a round of golf will cost you less than $15. If you don’t own gear, you can rent clubs and balls for a buck. There are no tee times: first come, first serve.
At Butler you’ll find a true cross-section of Austinites enjoying the scene: families, couples, bachelorette parties, business buddies, old geezers, dads with toddlers, grandmas with grandkids and bros with six-packs. So break out your best “Caddyshack” attire, channel your inner Bill Murray and bring your friends, date, kids or pet (on a leash) for Butler’s quirky vibe and great food. It’s your meal ticket to Keeping Austin Weird.