First we went to Hut’s, the acclaimed “Best Burger in Austin.” Then, we went to Chili’s. Though it ended up being somewhat of a tasting: a “burger-off” if you will, this wasn’t the original intent. Our intention was simply to feed our weekly hamburger craving, and while we were at it, why not feast on a juicy, delicious, highly acclaimed burger. Unfortunately, this highly acclaimed burger joint left us heavily disappointed, and out twenty bucks: Chili’s was an act of desperation.
Upon first entering Hut’s Hamburgers, one is instantly transferred off of a downtown city street, and into an old-time, dimly lit burger joint, with a sport’s bar feel and a smattering of sports, and Texan ephemera, cluttering the walls. It’s almost magical, the way this restaurant can transport you to another era, one with malt milkshakes and pink-lemonade by the liter. Unfortunately, it didn’t have transformative powers on the food.
My husband ordered a Hut’s Favorite with Buffalo meat, which he paid an extra 1.75 for. I ordered Mel’s #2 with Grass-Fed, All American Beef, which I also paid extra for. I was surprised to learn that for 7.25, these burgers do not come with fries. An order for 2 is exactly the right amount of fries for 2 people. However, I only ate one – the one with the large black hair attached to it. My husband flat out despised them, and he’s usually not picky at all. This was quite uncharacteristic of him, but he shoved them to the other end of the table.
The burgers were disappointing. The toppings were sparse. The one long sliver of bacon on my husband’s patty was so thin, I could have flossed with it afterward. The buns were sad, large white saucers encasing silver dollars of meat. We were both starving at the end of the meal, and with 1 beer included, out 20.00 dollars.
On the somber drive home, the neon glow of the Chili’s logo beckoned in the distance. It only took a second to decide that yes, we who hope to explore every unique and original restaurant Austin has to offer, we who shun chain restaurants, were veering into the left turn lane and then plopping down into a cold pleather booth.
At this point I should mention that my husband’s definition of “Quality” in a meal, is quite different from mine. It’s worth considering both sides. I calculate the quality of my meal based on the sum of price, portion, ambiance and freshness/creativity/authenticity of the food. The price is always felt in regards to how satisfied I was, and how good the food was. No price is too high for a truly amazing meal. However, a bad meal isn’t just a bad meal because the meat was dry, in my opinion. This is, however, the standard of my husband. For him, the overall sum of a meal boils down to a simple fact, how well was the food cooked. Perhaps it is the former chef in him (We are well aware that he is the chef, I am the foodie, and that there is a gap between the two).
“You can have me for dinner and stare at my head while you do.”
So, for what it’s worth, he preferred his burger at Hut’s. Yes, the burger was too small, the bun and fixings were sad, the fries horrible and the price expensive. However, his meat at Hut’s was juicy and perfectly cooked to his liking. At Chili’s, for 1 dollar more, he was slid a towering column of hamburger aside a mound of hot, crispy french fries. Yet the price-to-portion ratio quickly lost its glimmer when the young waitress informed us through her braces that Chili’s will not cook his meat any rarer than “Medium.” For my husband, he preferred Hut’s tonight, but in the end, he won’t bother going back; He’d rather try 5 guys next time. As I pulled my thighs from the pleather in one ripping motion, I thought, why even try? Why not get a grill like all normal Texas folk, and make our own. The true burger lovers here probably know better.