Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





What I Ate: October 10, 2009 (P. Terry's Burger Stand, Nordstrom's Cafe Bistro)

Posted 10 October, 2009 at 10:06pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

Lunch: We were going to Costco, so we decided to try the P. Terry's Burger Stand (4228 W William Cannon Dr., Austin, TX‎ - (512) 358-0380) just across the street from the Costco shopping complex. I ordered "The Double" (2 100% all natural black angus beef pattys, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, special sauce) with fries and a drink. I had the burger with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles. When my order arrived it was all wrapped up.
P. Terry’s Burger Stand - Cheeseburger, The Double, Fries

Once I unwrapped it, I found that it looked remarkably like an In-N-Out burger, so I got my hopes up. Unfortunately, it wasn't as tasty as I had hoped. The meat patty was actually quite bland - applying salt helped quite a bit. We tasted each other's burgers and felt that neither one had patties that were browned enough to bring out that extra beefy flavor we look for. Tina examined her patty and saw coarsely ground bits of white and black all over the patty. It didn't look like it was just black pepper (plus we couldn't taste pepper or any other discernible spice) so we wondered what it was. I looked up to see if anyone was not busy so I could ask, and noticed that the guy manning the flattop was grilling a whole lot of burger patties and then stacking them to one side of the flattop. I pointed it out to Tina and we both wondered if the burgers were cooked to order or precooked and allowed to sit there. So, we watched and waited. We finished our burgers and there was still a small tower of hamburger patties next to the flattop. I grabbed my camera and decided to take a picture.
P. Terry’s - The Double and Fries

This was when one of the employee's asked me why I was taking pictures. I mentioned I wrote a daily blog where I posted what I ate. She asked, "Why?" Not having a good answer to this, I just said that people were interested and it was a fun thing to do. By this time, I lost my opportunity to take a picture of the flattop because other employees were in my line of sight using up the burger patties to build burgers to send out. I took a few pictures, but didn't get the tower of patties. I went back to my seat to eat the remaining fries. When there was another lull in customers a few minutes later, I approached the counter and asked what was seasoning the beef patties. I was also planning on asking what their definition of "fresh" was (there are signs telling you that you are eating "fresh" and I wanted to know if that meant nothing was ever frozen), but I never got there. When I asked about the seasoning, the person behind the counter warily said, "We only use salt and pepper. I'm not sure I'm supposed to be answering this." She then directed me to a coworker of hers who was on her cell phone with someone and I heard snippets: "I don't know why - now he's asking what's in our burgers… I couldn't reach him, so I called you… taking photographs… asking questions…"
P. Terry’s - Burger Assembly in the Open Kitchen

Tina later told me she heard someone asking someone else if they were "investigating" them. From my perspective, I'm just a food blogger who takes pictures of his food and, in this case, the open kitchen which is in plain view (from the public area), asking a few inquisitive questions about the food he just ate. From their perspective, I could have been anyone - a corporate spy (albeit an obvious one), investigative journalist, or something worse that they hadn't thought of yet. The person on the phone finished up and politely asked me to not leave while she called Patrick Terry (the founder and owner) because "we were taking pictures and asking questions".

After three or four minutes, she came to our table and told us to e-mail Mr. Terry (the owner) with any questions we had and "because [we] had taken pictures and all". I thanked her and we left to complete our errands. Once I had a free minute, I wrote an email on my phone and sent it to Mr. Terry asking him the questions I had about the seasoning, the P.Terry definition of "fresh", and whether or not they made all burgers to order. Since it is a Saturday and it was late afternoon, I didn't think I'd get a response before I posted my daily "What I Ate" entry. I haven't received a reply yet, but I'll leave a comment on this entry when/if I do.

This was just a case of the employees not knowing what to do when someone takes pictures of their hamburger stand. Not wanting to vex them further, I didn't take pictures of the menu (like I normally do for record keeping) or of the dining area (it reminded us of In-N-Out except with light blue instead of white). The three pictures I posted are the only ones I took.

Dinner: In the evening, we finished some errands at Barton Creek Square and found that we were hungry. We decided to eat at the Nordstrom Cafe Bistro (which was about to close for the night - we didn't realize it, but they let us know and then welcomed us in). I ordered the special - bacon wrapped scallops. The scallops were perfectly cooked - velvety and rich (almost like a sweet seafood custard) and the bacon was flavorful but didn't overwhelm the scallops. The cheesy orzo was flavorful and paired really well with the scallops.
Nordstrom Cafe Bistro - Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

Tina had the Salmon with Gazpacho Salsa. The salmon was a bit overcooked but nicely flavored. It did need a bit of extra salt, but once that was sprinkled on, the dish worked really well. The potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The haricots verts were perfectly cooked - retaining just enough snap. Not a perfectly executed dish, but pretty good and certainly not bad for the price. We're always pleased with the quality of Cafe Bistro especially since if you're stuck at the mall you don't expect to be able to get satisfying food as well as friendly service.
Nordstrom Cafe Bistro - Salmon

3 comments to What I Ate: October 10, 2009 (P. Terry's Burger Stand, Nordstrom's Cafe Bistro)

Nate, October 11th, 2009 at 12:33 am:

  • I hope you gave them your card and told them to come visit your site!

Michael Chu, October 11th, 2009 at 10:36 am:

  • Oh, yeah - I forgot about that part. I did hand them my card when I told them I was a food Blogger. The woman on the phone got a little more agitated at that point and repeated "Cooking For Engineers" a few times over the phone to whoever she was talking to. Usually, handing the card out has the opposite reaction - people become more relaxed and ask about the site and the tiramisu recipe on the back of the card. In this case, I think it just added fuel to the imaginary fire.

Michael Chu, October 14th, 2009 at 11:55 pm:

  • It turns out Mr. Terry emailed me back the very next day (but my spam filters set the email into bulk along with a few thousand other messages). He says P.Terry's adds salt and pepper to their hamburger patties, the food is never frozen, and burgers are cooked to order but the grill station is permitted to drop a few extra patties to keep up with his orders. They should not have been sitting around for five minutes though - he said he'll address that with the manager of the William Cannon P.Terry's.