Burger bonus days: Three without meat

 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 10.09.11
 
During the bacchanalia of beef and bacon that was 50 Burgers, 50 Days, I found less-saturated ground with three burgers brave enough to go without either. The veggie burger at P. Terry’s I already knew from my Statesman story about five of the city’s best, but it was my first taste of the all-beet patty at 24 Diner and the Hot Dang at Hat Creek. Order them to declare your embrace of a meat-free doctrine. Or because they taste good. Either way. (Top: P. Terry's. Left: 24 Diner. Right: Hat Creek.)
 
Hat Creek Burger Co.
5400 Burnet Road. 452-2025, www.hatcreekburgers.com. Also at 4407 Bee Cave Road.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
 
According to the code of Martha Pincoffs: "Our bodies want to work through the food we eat; that is how we get our energy and all of the nutrients." The Austin creator the Hot Dang grain burger lays out that creed at thehotdang.wordpress.com. Here's the thing about food with a code: Sometimes it tastes more like freshman philosophy than actual food. But the Hot Dang sounds its Whitmanesque yawp with crunchy long-grain rice and meaty pieces of cashew bound together by oats and barley and eggs, with mustard and salt for exposition. At Hat Creek, the Dang (if I can call it that, now that we're friends) gets the full complement of red onions, tomatoes, pickles and iceberg. It's $5.29 with cheese
 
24 Diner
600 N. Lamar Blvd. 472-5400, www.24diner.com.
Hours: 24 hours, seven days a week
 
I always feel good being in here. It’s full of squirrelly energy, morning, afternoon and night, even when you’re almost alone. The furniture is the color and grain of a new football, most everything else is slate or wood, and there’s always something interesting on tap, like Brother Thelonius or Ommegang Rare Vos or what I’m drinking now: Avery 18, a rye saison that’s fruity, almost sour and a sure sign that we’re making the turn from summer to fall.
 
24’s veggie burger is a weave of beets, mushrooms, lentils, rice, pumpkin seed and golden flax on a brioche bun with arugula, goat cheese, roasted tomato and lemon vinaigrette for $12.95. That’s the menu talking. Texturally, it shares lineage with the back bean patties that kick-started the veggie burger movement. The movement left that one-note wonder behind long ago, and we’re spoiled by veggie burgers that can stand up to a hot sear and cleave together with force and fiber rather than just primordial proximity. I’m grateful for the mindful bite of lentils and the occasional grain of rice, but the other elements meld together into a patty whose Oklahoma red-dirt aurora suggests the dominance of beets, without the sweetness. I taste something roasted here, and I wonder if it could be an echo of the soft-roasted Romas on top that lend a strong, acidic profile and the textural slide of blistered peppers. Dress a conventional burger with this ultra-smooth goat cheese, these roasted tomatoes and arugula you can smell as the dish hits the table, and I’d line up for it. But its veggie incarnation at 24 is a one-time lark for me between plates of chicken and waffles, meatloaf and deviled eggs.
 
You get a choice of sides, from fries to mac and cheese to mashed potatoes. Thoroughly anointed with canola, peanut, vegetable and olive oils at the end of 50 days of fries and onion rings, I opt for green beans. Braised in bacon, because as they say on the new “Charlie’s Angels,” I may be an angel, but I’m no saint. They’re done in that Southern style, overcooked to let everything soak in, snap sacrificed for savor, and the bacon really dances through the bean patch.
 
P. Terry’s Burger Stand
3311 RM 620, Lakeway. 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.
 
Still one of the best veggie burgers in town ($3.80), made fresh locally from rice, bulgur wheat, cheese, black beans and mushrooms, which dominate the dense flavor profile. It holds together well and browns to a pleasant tone. In addition to the iceberg lettuce leaves and tomato that come standard, ask for onions and pickles with a real cucumber character to round out the deal, plus a wheat bun for an extra 20 cents and an extra reason to feel virtuous.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)