Editor's note: Today's review comes from James Boo of New York-based blog The Eaten Path. During his recent visit to Austin for SXSW he found reason to eat at the recently opened Terra Burger for the purposes of sharing his impression on AHT. Besides that he likes burgers.
My favorite line of The Omnivore's Dilemma is delivered just after Michael Pollan slaughters his first chicken: "The first rule of chicken killing is that if you ever feel anything on your lip, you don't want to lick it off." It's the punch line to a scene that, to me, best captures Polyface Farm's transparent, direct approach to raising livestock in stark contrast to the comparatively desolate feed lots and slaughterhouses of factory farming.
It's also the first thing I thought of when I heard a friend praising Austin's new Terra Burger as one of the best burgers he'd ever tasted. Terra Burger touts itself as "Fast Food for the 21st Century." It's a 100% organic burger stand that opened about a month ago on Guadalupe, the main drag running alongside the University of Texas campus. In homage to the mentality, if not the practice, of slow food, the restaurant displays the sources of each of its ingredients as marks of their authenticity. I'm not sure exactly how to navigate this claim, but in the end Terra Burger does make a tasty fast food hamburger.
Selling for $5.95, their sizable burgers seem to be shooting for a middle ground between grease and gourmet. It's a gamble, but the standard Terra Burger and Thousand Island Burger are satisfying payouts. The 1/3-pound beef patty in these burgers is hearty, lean, and well done, with a pleasant, subtle, meaty flavor that makes up for the fact that it's a bit dry. The produce (iceberg, tomatoes, pickles, onion) in the burgers—closer to In-N-Out's than Shake Shack's—is nice and fresh, but nothing to write home about. It's Terra Burger's bun—lightly toasted, slightly buttery and beyond fluffy—that really brings everything together and pushes the final product from regrettable to distinctive.
While Terra Burger does have a bit more work to do if it's going to compete with the Five Guys branch up the street, it's on the right track. After receiving initial feedback from Austin locals (in particular, complaints about the fries), the owners and managers of Terra Burger have been quick to respond online and in-store. By the time I showed up, the fries were well crisped, well salted, and full of rich potato goodness. If this turnaround is any indication, it looks like in a few months Austin could have a winner on its hands as far as taste is concerned. Whether or not Terra burger's higher price point and all-organic credentials translate to more responsible consumption is a story for another day.
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