the burger:“The Classic” 1/2 lb Meyer Ranch Angus hormone/antibiotic free natural chuck, shredded Iceberg lettuce, off the vine tomatoes, sliced white onions, crinkle cut pickles, “white”(mayonnaise) and “red”(ketchup) on a standard issue hamburger bun
the bucks: $6.29
In the year 2016 . . .
For those of us old enough to marvel at hearing those words being said out loud, we know that our present is in many ways the very exciting future of our past imaginations. Just watch an episode of the original Star Trek, on your smartphone, and have a trippy existential kind of moment when Captain Kirk flips open his tricorder as you think to yourself “there’s an app for that ” . . . which brings me to the latest find for Bang for your Burger Buck: Mighty Fine Burgers, and a growing realization that burger chains are being reinvented in very very good ways in the 21st century. You best believe this is one burger that even Spock and Bones would agree is a solid deal.
Let’s start by getting this out of the way: Mighty Fine Burgers is about as corporate as a burger joint can get, it’s like being inside a TV commercial. When you walk in you are inundated with propaganda. Flat screen TVs placed strategically by the counter where you order, informs that the burgers are cooked individually per customer order. See through display refrigerators show off the fresh ground beef along with a sign that tells me that ground chuck I’m eyeballing, was ground today. Giant jars of mayonnaise and jalapeños tell me that they have plenty of mayonnaise and jalapeños. They line up t-shirts and hats along a slinking ordering line borrowed from the TSA security check at an airport. They have Heinz 57 and A.l. steak sauce. I can’t remember the last time I saw those two bottled sauces on a table, let along together, but I can imagine someone filling out a corporate comment card where they indicated a passion for overpowering brown sauces like Mother used to serve. But there it is if I want to get all nostalgic on the days when my steak fix was cured by Ponderosa and that smoky tart magic of Heinz 57. Mighty Fine Burgers might come off kinda strong at the first in the marketing department but there ain’t nothing wrong with being proud of this:
Bang for your Burger Buck is all about identifying what you absolutely need in order to achieve burger bliss. The philosophy is about removing the extraneous for the sake of price while still pleasing the palate. Aside from the occasional gimmick like those 50/50 burger-bacon blends, this means that the bucks should first and foremost go to the beef. At Mighty Fine this involves sourcing their beef from Meyer Ranch in Montana and grinding the chuck on premise each day. While organic and grass fed are qualities we tip our cap to at Bang, long time readers here know that hormone/antibiotic free/vegetarian fed ain’t nothing to sneeze at, and the step of grinding meat on premise is HUGE when concerned about encountering contaminated meat. Medium to Well Done is the temp range at Mighty, but when tested at Medium, a juicy burger was discovered along with some supporting ingredients that would make me wear a Mighty Fine baseball cap. Get it? Ok let’s just move on to the burger . . .
God is in the details when it comes to the toppings at Mighty Fine Burgers. The crunchy stuff(along with that gorgeous tomato) is cut on premises and the effort shows in the burger assemblage as well. It isn’t so much that Iceberg or Hellman’s mayonnaise is a new discovery in the burger world but a reminder that many try to get away with less at this price point. And a ripe tomato is always an appreciated thing, even if it is almost summer. What you might notice missing is the cheese. Whether it’s American or Cheddar, you will need to drop a whole damn dollar for that piece of queso. It was enough for me to roll the dice on a cheese-less experience and an experience it was. A purist hamburger one. When the beef is the star of the show, you can afford to skip out on the cheese or overcompensate with a sauce. And while Mighty Fine insists that the lowest temp they will go on a burger is medium, they serve up enough pink to make Hannibal Lecter crack a half smile.
The obvious uneven doneness should be noted, but with a cooked temp promise of “no less than medium” given, I was happy to get a juicy burger, and juicy it certainly was. “Yellow”(mustard) was also an option that could certainly move this burger from a rich and tangy direction to something more considerably tart, but in any saucey scenario, I know the beef would still shine through. No fries necessary here: at a 1/2 lb for $6.29 before tax, this burger is a one and done meal. I did wonder about the 1/4 lb option, which could be doubled, and suddenly a vision of a Shake Shack/P. Terry’s/In-N-Out experience entered my burger obsessed brain. The vision remained as I walked out of my first Mighty Fine Burger visit and as I pushed the door out into the sun soaked parking lot, I turned and looked back at the menu and said in my very best Schwarzenegger dialect “I’ll be back”.
the burger:“The Cheesy Beast“, two 1/4 lb Meyer Ranch Angus hormone/antibiotic free natural chuck patties, shredded Iceberg lettuce, off the vine tomatoes, sliced white onions, crinkle cut pickles, “white”(mayonnaise) and “red”(ketchup) on a standard issue hamburger bun
the bucks: $7.29
Meet the “Cheesy Beast”. Pretty much the same deal as the Classic but with two 1/4 lb patties and two slices of cheese, but for a dollar more. And yeah, this beast sure is a sight to behold: burger porn, pure and simple. I went with American cheese as an accident but the primetime melt Mighty Fine puts on really didn’t have me missing their cheddar option.
As was the case in The Classic 1/2 lb, the requested medium came out with an uneven pinkness but a juicy burger nonetheless. The same fine produce and fine assemblage came through and this burger captures the pure fun one expects of the double cheeseburger experience, but worth the extra buck? Nope. That salty punch from the gooey American Cheese is necessary for some, but not requisite for Bang for your Burger Buck. The beef at Mighty Fine doesn’t need cheese, and I found it to be just a bit of a distraction. Also a true double cheeseburger really shouldn’t weigh more than five ounces, even the six at Shake Shack is pushing it, and Mighty Fine is clocking in at eight. That’s just a little too excessive. If you are looking for a textbook double cheeseburger experience, save yourself $3 and head to P. Terry’s, In-N-Out or Steak ‘n Shake. Finally, the most important reason to go with the Classic over the Cheesy Beast is that you will get a much better char on the 1/2 lb patty. Because the patties are thinner on the Cheesy Beast, they have less time on the flat top which translates into less of that tasty charred crust(In-N-Out when cooked medium rare suffers from that very same problem). That alone makes the Classic the move to make at Mighty Fine, and sans cheese, you’re bringing in a big ‘n juicy burger lunch for under $7. Now that is Bang for your Burger Buck.
That also means that more and more, chains are bringing it with Bang for your Burger Buck. Mighty Fine Burgers is just one of a growing list that includes P.Terry’s, In-N-Out, Shake Shack, Fatburger, and Smashburger. Does that also mean that the Bang for your Burger Buck revolution has been sold? It seemed for too long that corner cutting and the corporate restaurant culture were inseparable. But this century seems to be offering up a delicious trend that proves otherwise. To say the words “the year: 2016” still sounds so futuristic to me yet it is also the here and now. And I do believe that in some cases, burgers are leading us to a more utopian rather than dystopian future. I imagine Spock and Bones from Star Trek arguing about whether corporate restaurants are being well intentioned in this regard. And then I imagine Captain Kirk silencing them with “Damn it gentlemen! Can we just eat our lunch in peace? And please pass the Heinz 57”. Kirk always was an optimist. And so am I.
Mighty Fine Burgers
Locations in Austin, Texas