Mighty Fine Burgers – Austin, TX

We’re doing a repeat this week. It’s been three years since we first visited a Mighty Fine Burgers location, and we figured it might be time to go back and check up on them.

With five Austin locations, now, it’s not hard to “Keep Austin Mighty” by visiting this place when in town. We’ve only been to the University Oaks location, but it has been consistent every time, over a period of several years. that counts for a lot in our dining considerations.

There are three dining areas at this location – indoors, indoor patio, or outdoor patio (dog friendly). The indoor areas are filled with long trestle tables, benches and chairs, family style. The outdoor patio has picnic tables with umbrellas, presided over by a monstrous spreading oak. There’s also a play area for the kids beneath that ancient tree.

A refresher on the simplicity of the menu:

Not counting the kids’ menu, the burgers only come in two patty sizes – 1/2 pound and 1/4 pound. You may, of course, double up, but that’s up to you and your stomach. There’s also a crispy chicken breast available to grace your bun if you prefer.

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Half Pound Cheeseburger

Burgers are alternately available on a gluten free bun for a dollar more, or in a bowl without a bun at all at no extra charge. The place can get a bit noisy around the lunch and dinner rush times, so be sure they hear you if you ask for these options.

Burgers or chicken come with your choice of shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced onion, crinkle cut dill pickles, and grilled onions. Condiments are known simply as Red (ketchup), Yeller (mustard), or White (mayo) so don’t get confused when the person taking your order uses those terms. For a little extra you can have cheese, jalapenos, bacon, chili, or avocado added.

They offer crinkle cut fries and light and crispy onion rings deep fried in 100% trans-fat free peanut oil. Either may be ordered with cheese or chili.

 

DSC_0476Hand-dipped shakes come in the standard vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. The lemonade is fresh squeezed on site either original or strawberry. Specialty bottled sodas and beer are available. Fountain drinks and tea have unlimited refills, and depending on what you order you may need them.

 

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Half Pound Chili Cheeseburger with extra pickles.

Don’t forget the napkins. Lots of napkins.

If you are wanting some nutritional information, I suggest checking it out after you’ve tasted their food. A PDF containing the relevant statistics is available online.

About those pickles? My money is on them being the fat cut kosher dills from the Mt. Olive line.

On the 1-5 scale, Mighty Fine gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5
Mighty Fine Burgers
201 University Oaks Blvd
Suite 1380
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 381-3310

–Ann Cathey

Author Info

Just for grins and giggles, I thought I would let our readers know that the authors on this blog are writers of more than just blog entries. All of the Wandering Texans have been published in volumes produced by Lone Star Bookworks, a Texas-based, small-press publisher. LSBW also maintains a page on Facebook, where information on current publications and author interviews may be found.

LB Clark, Erin McGowan, and Ann Cathey are part of LSBW’s current stable of authors and all have accounts on Facebook. They are available for contact there and through LSBW. Check out the Books section of the LSBW website for a complete listing of their writing currently available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other online outlets.

— Ann Cathey

Texas Renaissance Festival – Part 1

The Texas Renaissance Festival is a major attraction for the Magnolia area, bringing over 30,000 visitors a weekend for eight weekends in October and November. There is so much to see and do there that it’s often difficult to see the amount of work that goes into the details and background elements. Just as with a movie, the settings are a powerful addition to the experience.

The Newmarket Village offers more than just busty chests and pirate flags to entertain you visually. Below are some examples of things to feast the eyes upon.

DSC_0696A stucco bell tower containing huge wind chimes that bell a deep and resounding set of tones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0673A Gypsy caravan, the likes of which few Americans ever get to see without leaving the country. Gypsies are present, but this mode of travel, drawn by horses, apparently never became popular here as it did in Europe.

DSC_0674Ever wondered what a ball and chain really looks like? This one was found in a piratical shop.  It certainly looks as though it held a miserable prisoner on board a humid ship at least once.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0803This is the original TRF chapel. The framework is of heavy treated lumber, and the greenery is maintained year-round to offer a structure that is part of the land to those wishing to be married, or to those who wish to sit and enjoy a peaceful moment.

 

 

 

 

DSC_0837This mermaid statue is hidden on the garden paths running along the creek outside of Sherwood Forest. She originally served as a fountain in the water garden, and more recently as a statue in the green grottoes.

 

 

DSC_0711The Gryphon is an amazing bit of costume creation. The leather and feather portions of the outfit are cunningly wrought to give the impression of a beast that walks among the patrons of the Faire.

 

 

 

 

DSC_0787All’s well that ends well. This is an example of the fantastic patterns on the coat of a zeony. That’s a cross between a pony and zebra. This little dun beauty is part of a children’s pony ride at the Faire. He is amazing to behold. Truly a mount worthy of the children of royalty.

 

 

 

 

We hope you enjoy this little tour of visual treats that are often overlooked. When next you visit the Texas Renaissance Festival, be sure to look for the little details that surround you once you are inside the gate – you may find the background just as interesting as the main stage!

— Ann Cathey

Mighty Fine – Austin, Texas

We were introduced to this place (which we might otherwise have never found) by a good friend who lives in the area. Mighty Fine was a gamble, but it was indeed, a mighty fine burger.

Burgers here come in two sizes: the Classic (1/2 pound re-cooked weight), and the 1/4 pound (no special name). Either way, it comes with your choice of lettuce, tomatoes, crinkle dill pickles (strip cut), sliced onion or grilled onion, and includes Red, Yellow or White condiments. That would be ketchup, mustard or mayo for the uninitiated. Cheese, jalapenos, bacon, chili, and/or a gluten free bun may be added for an additional charge. They are cooked medium-well unless you request otherwise. We did, and the medium was nicely pink.

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Burger #1 – Bacon, Cheese, Pickles, Lettuce, and White

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Burger #2 – Bacon, Cheese, Lettuce,
Tomato, Pickle, Red and White

The only sides they offer are French fries and onion rings, which are also available with the same add-ons as the burgers. I can’t speak for the fries, though I did see them. They are a thin crinkle cut, and are apparently quite popular. The onion rings are an absolute delight. The breading is thin and crispy, and the onions sweet and tender and don’t slide out of the breading when you bite into one. Even if the burger had been crap, the onion rings would have made the trip worth it.

Insanely Good Onion Rings

Insanely Good Onion Rings

There is also a children’s menu that offers burgers and dogs, grilled cheese, drinks and shakes, and ice cream by the scoop.

The regular run of drinks are available, as well as sweet and unsweet tea, fresh squeezed lemonade in original and strawberry, and hand-dipped shakes in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. They also offer a variety of bottled sodas and beer by the bottle. A far cry from some other minimalistic burger joints we’ve experienced.

The shakes, while not nearly as thick as Katz’s, are a nice consistency. The flavors we tried – chocolate and vanilla – are rich and smooth on the tongue. There is no powdery texture in the chocolate as is prevalent with a lot of Hershey’s based shakes. These shakes would get a 5 all on their own for being rich and smooth and creamy.

A burger alone at this place is a meal, though if you are a big eater, or sharing with a friend, be sure to add a side of fires or onion rings.

My Cohorts in Burger Exploration

My Cohorts in Burger Exploration

On the 1-5 scale, Mighty Fine gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5

-Ann Cathey

In-N-Out Burger – Austin, Texas

I’ve heard a lot of hype about In-N-Out Burger from various friends and reviews. It is not a franchised chain, but a privately owned and operated one. Does this make a difference? I don’t think so.

DSC_0726In-N-Out started back in 1948 in California, a fact they are extremely proud of. They have manages to keep prices pretty low, and the menu pretty skimpy, but it seems to be working. We lucked onto a location in Austin, Texas, that had just opened a week or so before. To say it was packed is an understatement. The drive-through was more than 30 cars long with orange comes keeping them in order while they waited to place an order. Inside was even more crowded. The line to order was split into three, and each one was a minimum of 8 people deep. The rest of each party were haunting the indoor and outdoor  dining areas looking for seating. Some of them gave up and started picnicking on the grass, at the large planter boxes holding trees along the sidewalk, and tailgating on pickup trucks in the parking area.

The patrons came in all flavors! We saw your typical range of hippies to well-to-do folks, Longhorns fans, Japanese fashion plates, families, old, young, walking, biking, driving, with at least six different states represented in the parking lot other than Texas. There were kids everywhere, in spite of there being no children’s menu options.

You would think the crowd would be an indicator that the food was just that good. We had high hopes. While my partner stood in line to order, I hunted up a table. I was lucky enough to find a table for four that the current occupants were willing to share. We later did the same for another couple.

The restaurant itself is very light, bright and white with accents of red and yellow. The noise of so many people was definitely noticeable, but not obtrusive. Bathrooms were relatively clean and neat for such heavy usage. It should be noted that no smoking is allowed – neither regular or e-cigs, and they will prosecute.

The menu is very limited: french fries, drinks, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and the “Double Double” cheeseburger. Lettuce, tomato, and “spread” come with any burger; onions upon request. While the veggies are very fresh and hand torn/cut, there are no other options – no pickles, no avocado, just the basics. The “spread” is… well, I won’t blow the surprise, but it’s easily recognizable.

The entire other half of the menu lists drink options from the soda fountain, tea and sweet tea, and lemonade. There are shakes, though we did not try them during this visit. There is also bottled water for those who prefer it.

There was about a half hour between the time we walked in the door and the time we picked up our order. The crowd made getting drinks and ketchup an adventure. The olfactory and visual appeal was immediate and favorable. The bag smelled of burger and fries before we took anything out.

DSC_0725We ordered double doubles with fries.They were hot and fresh when our to-go bag (rather than the signature red tray) hit our table.

The burger was a nice surprise. The bun was butter grilled and crispy, a nice additional texture to the experience. Veggies were very fresh and colorful. The meat patties were on the thin side and well-done, but had great flavor. The cheese was a good melting cheese, even if it was of an individually wrapped processed cheese food type. In spite of being FDA portion sized, the burger was a very tasty experience.

The burgers were individually wrapped in brown paper, a practice that In-N-Out has used since it opened. If they think this makes them environmentally friendly, they are right but only to a point. The amount of grease that collects in the wrappings makes the paper ineligible for recycling.

The fries… what can you say about fries. They advertise that the fries are cut daily from Kennebec grown potatoes. I’m not sure that helps or hinders. The fries are slender, square cut, and moderately dusted with a salt/pepper combination. The thinness means they go cold quickly. They have a flavor like canned potato strings which was a nice discovery. They would have been vastly improved by the addition of chili and cheese, neither of which was an option.

My table companion was pleasantly impressed with the burger but found the fries to be “uninspired” at the least.

On the 1-5 scale, In-N-Out Burger gets:
Cleanliness – 4 (in spite of the crowd)
Service – 3 (because of the crowd)
Quality of food – 3
Flavor – 3
Pricing – Moderate to Low
Overall experience – 2.5

-Ann Cathey

Wendy’s – Austin, Texas

This blog is not just about new and exciting places. It’s also about the tried and true.

Wendy’s is a national chain out of Georgia that’s been around for years. Some of it’s locations are aging badly, and it sadly reflects in the atmosphere and employees. The old saying, “If you’re going to do a thing, do it well,” has gone by the wayside at a particular Wendy’s location in Austin.

We chanced to visit the location at 6428 South I-35 at William Cannon recently. It was disappointing in so many ways. Our order was rung up properly only after several repetitions. The cashier was cute, but her brain must have been on hold.

When the order was ready, we picked up a tray that was missing a few things. I was forced to go back and ask for the chili I had ordered with the cheese and crackers. After receiving the chili, I had to ask again for the cheese and crackers. I received the cheese and a vapid look. I had to ask yet again for the crackers.

The carpet was just gross, being obviously old and quite dirty. The tables had not been wiped down – we had to do that ourselves.  We spread napkins out as place mats. The cashier came out to clean up tables, picking up napkins and straw wrappers left on tables and straightening a few chairs. There was no sweeping, no wiping down tables or chairs, and no consistency in straightening the chairs. She seemed to get distracted and leave the dining area after just a few tables.

Don’t me going about the bathrooms. I’ve seen cleaner bathrooms in truck stops. The roll of toilet paper on the floor between the stalls in the women’s was likely a good indicator of the upkeep on the location. In the men’s room the hand dryer was broken, and the toilet paper was propped on a hand rail.

They were out of things like sweet tea and the little cups that hold ketchup, and made no move to replace them even after having it called to their attention.

The dining area was warm enough to be uncomfortable. This was called to their attention by another patron, but it was quite some time before the air conditioner came on. Whether that was due to human delay or old equipment, I don’t know.

I am happy to report that the food was good, hot, fresh and tasty. I dread to think of what condition the kitchen was in, and don’t want to know about the number of health code violations. My stomach was happy and i didn’t get sick – that’s enough for me at the moment.

On the 1-5 scale, this Wendy’s location gets:
Cleanliness – 2 (including the bathroom)
Service – 2
Quality of food – 3
Flavor – 3
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 2

-Ann Cathey

Conroe Farmer’s Market – Conroe, Texas

Conroe, Texas may still be a pretty small town on the big city map, but it hides a lot of interesting things in its borders. One of those things is a Farmer’s Market. Rain or shine, hot or cold, all year round, local produce growers and other artisans gather every Saturday morning to share their wares with the public. They start setting up around 8 am and are ready to greet all comers by 9am.

The Conroe Farmers’ Market is currently located in the large parking lot behind the theater on Main and Collins under a series of pop-up sun-shades. The vendors offer an interesting variety of goods from locally grown organic fruits and veggies, pickles and preserves, hand-made soaps, and baked goods, to jewelry, and other treats that await those who venture out to visit this little known venue. Each Saturday brings different surprises!

The first time I visited the market in person, I found all the vendors to be friendly and helpful without being pushy. They were even welcoming to the potential for competition in their market niches. All the prices are reasonable considering that none of the goods are mass produced and the creators are generally on hand to answer questions and offer information about their products.

The folks at PEAS Farm were offering jalapenos and other peppers, sweet tomatillos, squash, tomatoes, and plenty of other organically grown veggies. They also had eggs, honey, and several varieties of peppers pickled, in salsa, and in sauces. Want to know if they have something available in advance? Contact them on Facebook. They are friendly and knowledgeable about everything they grow!

Creekwood Creations offers a wide selection of baked goods, from cookies and brownies to breads of all kinds. Marli is available for just a snack, or for corporate gatherings. Standard sugar and white flour are available, though the baker prefers natural ingredients. She is also available for low-carb and gluten free goodies. For more information, contact Marli at red_necked_cowgirl@yahoo.com if you don’t catch her at the market.

The Black Bear Soap Company offers a lovely variety of scents and applications in their hand-made cold process soaps. They even make a shampoo bar just for dogs. All the ingredients are listed on the label for each bar – and you can easily pronounce every ingredient! They are located in Montgomery, Texas, and if you don’t catch these guys at the market, look them up at Black Bear Soap.

Off Your Rocker Jewelry, created by the lovely Nancy, offers a delightful selection of neck, ear and wrist adornments. All of the work is hand-made as befits the rules of the market. Many of the pieces were built around antique beads and findings, and is quite suitable for period re-enacting and steampunk wear. If you don’t see Nancy at the market, look for her on Etsy.

There are more vendors who come out on various weekends, but these are the lovely folks I was given the opportunity to meet and chat with. For advance information about which vendors will be out on a given Saturday, check them out on Facebook.

Come on out on any given Saturday morning to the Conroe Farmers Market and see for yourself some of the hidden treasures in this corner of Texas!

–Ann Cathey