Friday, April 27, 2012

Head to Head: MightyFine vs P. Terry's

Austin has never suffered for want of burgers and fries. We've had Dirty Martin's since 1926, and places like Dan's, Sandy's and Top Notch followed, serving up mega-greasy, super delicious burgers of unknown provenance.

Now there's a new crop - led by P. Terry's and Mighty Fine - that have taken the I-know-the-guy-that-grew-that-tomato ethos and applied it to the formula that worked so well for the classic burger joints. Tiny menu, cooked to order, fresh made everything.

I can't afford the calories for a full run down of the Austin Burger scene, and I don't want to invite the hate mail that would come from comparing the new guys to classics. But I do have the completely subjective data to support a head-to-head throwdown for the new big dogs in town: P. Terry's and Mighty Fine.

The Place

P Terry's Wm Cannon Location
Mighty Fine is run by the same folks that run Rudy's, and it shows. Mighty Fine is just this side of a warehouse on ambiance. Folding metal chairs line long tables with plastic red-check table cloths. Oddly, it works. Though it's bare-bones, there's something appealing about the function before form approach.

P Terry's couldn't more different. Each of their locations shares an early-60's modern vibe, underscored by exposed wood, clean lines, and high-style architecture. While some details fall through the cracks (the sign on the trash at the Arbor Trails location is in Comic Sans, standing out like a half-empty can of bud light floating in an infinity edge pool) - the place in general holds together beautifully.

Advantage: P. Terry's.

The Burger

Mighty Fine Junior Cheeseburger Yeller
I have eaten many a Mighty Fine burger and each is identical, down to the orientation of the bacon and the size of the tomato slice. They are also delicious. The burger itself is thick and fresh, simply spiced, and each topping they do is right on the money - especially the crisp bacon. I like the Junior size best - the full burger is a lot to handle.

P Terry's Cheeseburger
P Terry's burger? Not so much. While the toppings are great (especially the tomatoes), the meat is thin and cooked to a well-done char. Together with the sometimes compressed spongy bread, there's just not a lot of burger to this burger. In the immortal words of that old lady from my childhood: "Where's the beef"

Advantage: Mighty Fine

The Fries

Mighty Fine Fries
Mighty Fine has the best crinkle cut fries I've ever had. This is not saying much, since most crinkle cut fries come from a a freezer bag and taste like frost bite. These are cut fresh, and they're not bad at all. My main complaint is the crisp - cooked to beautiful color and well salted, they're just a little floppier than I like to see in a fry.

P. Terry's fries are better on good days and worse on bad days. More conventionally cut, these are thin little bundles of joy when they're hot that lose their charm quickly as they cool down. Still, good stuff on both counts.

Advantage: Mighty Fine

The Winner: Mighty Fine. P Terry's has a lot going for it, but you can't eat a pretty little mid-century knock off chair. For the stuff you can eat, fries, burgers, even shakes, it's a clear victory for Mighty Fine.

That said, both have place at the table, and I am happy they both exist. I like that cheap fast food is made with attention to detail and serious consideration of where it's from and how it's raised. And I like that our local places, even in this little wisp of a niche market, still knock the socks off of the national competition.

Mighty Fine: Mighty Fine Burgers on Urbanspoon       |      P Terry's: P. Terry's Burger Stand on Urbanspoon


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