I first ate P. Terry's some years back when I was staying up in Austin for a few days with a friend. He just so happened to have one right around the corner from his place, and we must have eaten there four times in three days. It wasn't a high point in my life, from a health standpoint, but it was certainly enjoyable from a gluttonous food lover's standpoint.
P. Terry's can only be compared to In-N-Out, the West Coast-based chain of burger stands that prides itself on never-frozen, delivered-that-day produce and meat. (This is the reason why their eastward expansion was so glacial; they insist on having distribution plants within a day's drive from the surrounding stores.)
In-N-Out has as simple a recipe as can be: all-beef patty, white bun, lettuce, tomato, "spread," which is what they call their special sauce, and your choice of with or without onions, all placed between white buns. You can get a single or a double, with or without cheese.
It's the same at P. Terry's. You choose whether or not you want pickles and onions, however, and you've got the added (Texas) bonus of jalapenos. It also features a special sauce, which is a mayo/Thousand Island-style mix, but it provides just the proper ring of velvety tang. I don't generally take mayo on my burger, but this stuff is the perfect complement.
P. Terry's is just outstanding. It really is. The buns get a turn on the griddle for extra crunch, and the toppings are fresh. The burgers are outstanding, the service is impeccable, the place is clean and modern... and the fries? They are a delight.
In fact, P. Terry's is so delicious, I'm going to go ahead and say it: P. Terry's is better than In-N-Out.
In-N-Out holds a special place in my heart. When I was 18, one of my best friends and I went to California for a few weeks and gorged upon In-N-Out almost every day. Reality trumps nostalgia, though, and for me the reality is that P. Terry's boasts one of the tastiest, freshest and most complete burger experiences you will find. It's also incredibly cheap.
P. Terry's menu features a Veggie Burger designed by a local chef, as well as a Chicken Burger, which my girlfriend had and enjoyed thoroughly. You can get any sandwich on a wheat bun, but let's be real: You don't eat at a place like this to avoid atherosclerosis. However, P. Terry's philosophy is what you want from a restaurant -- fresh food, never frozen, local and organic where available and, oh yeah, the beef comes from Nolan friggin' Ryan.
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I hope they bring a P. Terry's home to Houston. Austin's fine and all, but when it comes down to it, Austin can stay weird and Houston can stay home. I crave food from this place. There aren't a lot of restaurants that I just can't live without, but each and every time I travel to Austin, I must eat at P. Terry's
Mr. Terry, if you read this, know that you have at least one devoted, loving fan. A fan who will continue to return and enjoy your food whenever possible. Bring P. Terry's to Houston.