Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Burger Smackdown

After reading a post on Austin Chowhound on the best burgers in Austin, I thought that it's time for me to venture beyond my lifelong favorite--McDonald's cheeseburgers.

Just so you don't worry about my health, my compilation of burger tastings span a whole year, not just this summer. ;-)

P. Terry's
P.Terry's is definitely a local favorite. The drive-thru lines always leak out onto the street on Lamar. My McDonald's allegiance prevented me from ever contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions on this Lamar burger joint until today for this self-assigned burger taste test task.

P. Terry's drive-thru; Cheeseburger

The menu is simple and too the point: hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger, or veggie burger, which made ordering a no brainer. The cheeseburger is tasty and the veggies definitely make the burger experience slightly healthier than a McDonald's cheeseburger. The patty is what I would rate medium juicy and flavorful. The quality of the meat is excellent compared to the who-knows-what's-in-there patties of burger chains. The fries, however, are not good. It's a shame because they use fresh potatoes. Unfortunately they turn out limp and forgettable.

P. Terry's cheeseburger, fries, and iced tea

Rachel, yet again, introduced me to another Austin establishment back in college-Sandy's Hamburgers.

Sandy's drive-thru

I have no particular love for Sandy's, but an occassional hankering does creep under my skin once in awhile. The Bacon Cheeseburger is ok to bad on a normal non-crave day and tastes good to me on a crave day. I can't explain it. I feel that any McDonald's burger tastes better than Sandy's and probably prepared more properly. The fries (with or without the chili cheese) are even worse than P. Terry's because they're not made from fresh potatoes AND they're limpier.

Bacon Cheeseburger and Chili Cheese Fries
I guess the real attraction to Sandy's is the frozen custard. Try getting the custard sundae with pineapple topping. It's awesome.

Frozen Custard

Steak 'N Shake
I always see the highway food signs on long drives around the U.S. with Steak 'N Shake's emblem, but I would either stop at Cracker Barrel or of course McDonald's. I finally went to the Steak 'N Shake at the Southpark Meadows strip mall. Burgers are supposed to be warm right? These shooters (2 chipotle and 1 A1) were room temperature. Look at the photos below, the cheese didn't even melt and the patties were light brown...I felt queasy by the time I finished the second shooter. The fries were also served room temperature and were like nails. I really don't recommend these shooters and fries.

Chipotle Shooters, A1 Slider, and Fries

The one excellent item I came across was the banana strawberry side-by-side milkshake. It's hard to come by a slurp-able milkshake that doesn't have a watery consistency, and even harder to come by artificial banana flavoring that doesn't tickle my gag reflex.

Banana and Strawberry Side-by-Side Milkshake
That's right! Maiko serves up some awesome Kobe Sliders with with with avocado, white miso slaw, and white cheddar on their happy hour menu. It comes with yam fries and Japanese pickles. These sliders are juicy, creamy, and packed with flavors. The yam fries are delicious and the Japanese pickles are a perfect component to tie everything together.

Kobe Sliders with Yam Fries

I see they now have green tea milkshakes! Eeeeks! I'm so there!
Shuggie's Burgers and Fries
Shuggie's used to have seafood items, but they now concentrate on making just burgers and weekend brunch. I would've hated them for nixing the catfish po boy if not for the excellent burgers. I will even go on to say that the Rambler (with smoked Gouda cheese, grilled onions, chicken fried bacon, homemade BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, and mayo) the best burgers in Austin. C'mon...CHICKEN FRIED BACON! The patty is thick and juicy, and the ingredients are fresh. The fries are great and taste better plain with ketchup than with the green chile cheese topping.

The Rambler and Green Chile Cheese Fries
Root Beer Float

Five Guys
My first Five Guys experience was in D.C. before my addiction to photographing food. There's now a Five Guys in Austin close to campus, and I got a couple of my friends hooked on their burgers. Some claim that their Cajun fries are the best, but I find the seasoning doesn't quite go with these fries. I love cajun or spicy fries like at Popeye's, but somehow, the seasoning used here just doesn't work. The texture of the fries is perfect and certainly beats P. Terry's and Sandy's.

Peanuts, Cajun Fries, and Sweet Tea

The burgers are delicious. Its patties are tastier than P. Terry's, but P. Terry's lettuce and tomato portions are better.

Bacon Hamburger
There are still quite a few places I want to try:

Mighty Fine Burger
Phil's Icehouse
I would gladly take suggestions!

Here's an interesting NYTimes link about making the perfect burger.


  1. Oooh, when you go to Phil's, be sure to get the sweet potato fries. Serious nom.

    Maybe add Hut's to the list? They're the front-runner in my great-Austin-burger-search.

  2. Nice roundup! Right there with you on P. Terry's fries, though... too bad. Apparently, I need to get my happy a** to Five Guys. And man, is Shuggie's good.

    We actually went to Hill-bert's last night, and I can't recommend them - but we've always liked Billy's burgers. Hut's kinda makes me shudder... about the best thing you can say about them is that they sure give you lots of choices on the toppings. Well, and the place itself is a lot of fun.