50 Burgers, 50 Days: P. Terry's Burger Stand

A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer to the pressing question: fries or rings?
 
Day 18: P. Terry’s Burger Stand
3311 RM 620, across from Lake Travis High School in Lakeway. 512-263-9433, more locations at www.pterrys.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 08.28.11
 
The burger: Cheeseburger ($2.25). I’ve written about P. Terry’s plenty of times. But the good thing about the Austin chain’s march of progress is that I’ve been able to write from a different new location every time. This time it’s in Lakeway, where the shop opened across from Lake Travis High School Aug. 16.  I’m drawn to this burger for its simplicity: whole iceberg lettuce, twin tomato slices, real pickles with cucumber crunch, beef that’s humble in size but substantial in taste, cheese that’s a step above fast-food American. Combined, it makes for a classic local drive-in burger with a price more in line with big-chain fast food. I like to spring for chopped jalapeños and a wheat bun, each a 20-cent upcharge. That was my only issue with the newest P. Terry’s crew: where’s the wheat?
 
Michael Hsu, the same architect that brought the high-end bistro Olivia to life on South Lamar, is behind this new P. Terry’s. Truth is, he’s behind the look and feel of P. Terry’s in general. But this shop could house an urban bistro as easily as a fast-food counter. Oval skylights break through knotted slats of wood on the ceilings, rough-cut Tennessee stone invites you to reach out and touch, panes of glass match the deep angle of the ceiling on three sides, mahogany-slat tables make sure the giant wooden sail of a patio out back will be ready when Lake Travis High gets in full swing. The patio comes inside every time the front door opens, like a vortex sucking the hot air into the dining room like a scirocco wind.
 
Fries or rings: I’ve cut fries for P. Terry’s, so I’ve seen the working end of the science that goes into making these long, elegant beauties brown and crisp. Factors like harvest conditions, truck temperatures, relative humidity, pre-soak ratios, oil temperature. How they come out so precise and snappy is both a mystery and a simple application of physics. $1.45 an order. This singular devotion also means no onion rings. Console yourself with tart lemonade ($1.85) or a shake swirled with Hershey’s syrup ($1.85).
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)