ACL Food Fight 2014: P. Terry's vs. Hat Creek

By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 10.04.14
 P. Terry's Burger Stand — Cheeseburger ($4) and hand-cut fries ($4): Patrick Terry and company had the ACL burger game to themselves last year. It’s hard to compete against fresh beef, bright red tomatoes, cool lettuce and a mix of ketchup, mustard and relish on a decent picnic bun with American cheese for $4 at a mega-festival. It’s no different from the walk-up P. Terry’s experience, except for the breeze, the bugs and the bass. Same with the stand’s hand-cut french fries. They were thin as desert rovers, just as tan and rustic on the outside, just as tender-hearted on the inside.
 Hat Creek Burger Co. — Cheeseburger ($5) and sweet potato fries ($4): It made sense when Hat Creek returned to ACL this year, this time bringing the cheeseburger they inexplicably left at home last year. The Hat’s zesty Happy Sauce works well with grilled onions, even if “grilled” in this high-volume environment means “slightly warmed on the flat-top.” The burger leaned heavily on tender beef, melted cheese and a better-than-average soft white bun. Flavors to smile about, but more of a toothless grin texturally, because of the burger’s uniform softness. The textural payload came from long-cut sweet potato fries ($4) in the lurid colors of a sunburst Les Paul. They were crisp along the edges, firm and earthy and honeyed inside, with salt to set the sweetness in bright relief.
 Burger winner: P. Terry's.  Both started with well-cooked beef on similar buns, but along the beige middle ground required to pump out festival food at top speed, a little fresh lettuce and tomato go a long way toward brightening the canvas. The fact that it’s also 20 percent cheaper is a bonus.
 Fries winner: An even draw. P. Terry’s Idaho spuds and Hat Creek’s sweet potatoes were each perfectly cut, cooked and served. So it comes down to whether you prefer starchy or sweet. I ordered both, and that makes me the winner.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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