JerryBuilt Burgers Are Anything But

Categories: Restaurant News

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Photo by Groovehouse
I didn't learn the phrase "jerry-built" until I married [and later divorced] an Englishman. In America, we use the phrase "jerry-rigged" instead, but they mean the same thing: something that's poorly planned, hastily built or just generally thrown together. It's curious that JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers should choose to name itself after the expression, because its burgers are anything but jerry-built.

The name actually comes from co-owner and founder S. Jerry Glauser, a white-haired man with Marvin Zindler-blue glasses who owns both a Mercedes Benz dealership and a good sense of humor. The fact that the burgers at his signature restaurant -- the first location of which opened this past Saturday in West University -- are painstakingly put together instead of jerry-built, possesses a type of irony that seems to amuse him. He hopes it will amuse his customers, too.

"We are looking to attract a more intelligent consumer," he said of the new burger restaurant. "We're not trying to be McDonald's." What Glauser means by this is best explained with a list of what goes into a typical JerryBuilt meal:

  • A 50-50 blend of Niman Ranch "bovinely-raised" beef brisket and chuck, ground twice a day
  • Produce that's organic and/or produced locally, where possible
  • Buns baked fresh daily by Three Brothers Bakery
  • Organic condiments, including mustard, ketchup and mayo
  • French fries and/or sweet potato fries that are cut and fried on site, every day
  • Shakes made with Blue Bell ice cream and real strawberries
  • Gingerbull cookies baked by Three Brothers

And the list goes on.

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
The Monday after opening, JerryBuilt was packed for lunch.
Instead of a chicken breast on its chicken sandwich, for example, co-owner Brooksy Smith explained how JerryBuilt has created a proprietary blend of chicken to make a ground chicken patty that's better than a basic breast by reassembling chicken parts, Six Million Dollar Man-style.

"First, we remove the skin," Smith said. That "good" fat is set aside, while the rest of the chicken is stripped of its tough intramuscular fat. Then, the breasts, thighs and drumsticks (but not wings) are all ground together -- and the skin added back in for just the right amount of binder -- to create a ground product that cooks evenly on the grill and doesn't suffer from an oblong shape that's difficult to fit into a sandwich.

Smith's favorite way to enjoy the final product is to order a chicken sandwich topped with bacon and a jalapeño cream cheese that was inspired by the popular My Brother's Bar in Denver. But he also concedes that JerryBuilt's Ernie sauce is a favorite, too: a blend of ketchup, Duke's mayonnaise and Wickles Pickles relish that's equally good on the chicken sandwich.

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Photo by Groovehouse
A chalkboard lists the purveyors that JerryBuilt buys its ingredients from.
Products like Duke's and Wickles Pickles -- while not local -- show Glauser and Smith's commitment to supporting smaller businesses and shifting traditional paradigms which state that fast food must be brutally cheap and without redeeming value. Your burgers are built fast at JerryBuilt, but are uncompromisingly good. The meat is good, the buns are good, the produce is good -- and none of it costs too much more than a traditional fast-food meal, despite JerryBuilt's somewhat tony interior.

Glauser's dream is to one day have dozens of JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers spread across the city and perhaps even the nation, all of them supporting local bakers and food producers, and all of them -- like this initial store -- supporting local charities, too.

For all of this goodwill and the warm fuzzies created by the often abstract concept of "supporting local" or "buying organic" (remember: even in America, the definition of "organic" can be blurry) and the many euphemisms that go along with the slow food movement, JerryBuilt isn't perfect.

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
A bacon cheeseburger with Ernie sauce (which is quite good on fries, too).
Only a few days old, it's still figuring out the right cooking methods for its crinkle-cut fries, which are currently cut, brined, steamed and then fried on-site, but still suffer from a soggy consistency. The two burger patties I've tasted -- while well-seasoned -- were both overcooked. And Smith (who has an extensive restaurant background of his own) admits that sourcing local produce has been much more difficult than anticipated because of the drought.

"I usually buy Texas sweet potatoes," he told me last Thursday, gesturing to a pile of fat, stocky-looking tubers near JerryBuilt's entrance, where produce is kept in Central Market-like wooden bins to greet guests. "But I've had to buy them from Louisiana this year."

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Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
Kids are kept busy by giant chalkboard walls while their food is cooked.
On the other hand, just the fact that JerryBuilt is trying -- and being honest about struggling to create a more enlightened fast food restaurant in the process -- is enough for me right now. I'm curious to see if and how the restaurant will adhere to its emphasis on quality ingredients in the future, especially as it has already planned its second location near the Waterway in The Woodlands.

After all, if Shake Shack can become a national phenomenon for going green, there's hope that one day a place like JerryBuilt can become the standard-bearer for fast food that's also slow.



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21 comments
mazz
mazz

Major fail.  Very disappointing.  I didn't know about the bad reviews it just looked promising and I have never really had a bad burger in Houston especially at a place that looks that nice and highlights its "Fresh" and "organic" ingredients.  If the burger is bad it negates all the other cute and interesting things about the restaurant.  Mr. Jerry needs to find someone who knows how to make a burger and get them quick.  I was shocked.  After my first bite I thought that it tasted like something I'd get at a highschool cafeteria.

Woodlands Traveler
Woodlands Traveler

We've been twice now to the Jerry Built in The Woodlands - initially right when they opened and  again a few weeks later.  The best thing we can say is that they are consistent. Many places these days can seem quite different from one visit to another; JB remained the same but, that isn't always a good thing. http://thewoodlandseats.com/je...

Peter Nott
Peter Nott

People do tend to go for medium-cooked burgers, but I've always preferred them as close to rare as possible. I've had a lot of food poisoning but a lot of good burgers.

Not sure I'd like over-cooked burgers and soggy chips, hope they work out those kinks!

Tim
Tim

It was chaos, the food was okay, but the experience was unnerving, between the thirty employees, and the infernal computer screen coke machine. Hard to see how they are going to make a profit.

cafeluz
cafeluz

I don't see how this is ANY different from Beck's Prime. And that "thanks to our purveyors" sign makes a complete utter mockery of the sustainable & local sourcing movement. We call out our purveyors so that when someone tries our food and enjoys it, they know where to get it. They'll recognize it at the market or store, think twice and hopefully choose it over another brand. It starts off with Niman like its going to mean something and then boom, ridiculousness. These guys might as well have called out "thank you to Sysco" for being a local company that provides such, cough, excellent sourcing.

JT
JT

Great to be able to read the review and then the review of the review. Readers tend to keep it honest. I want a great burger for my $12, not a chalk board.

sickbassturd
sickbassturd

Becks burgers suck, these don't look too good either based on pricing comments. If you ever get outside the loop on FM 2920 just west of Rosehill try Larrys Tailgate Grill (yes it had the name before Christians).

Burger Wars
Burger Wars

I went to Jerry BUILT yesterday.  The 1/4 lb. burger was $5.50 on a delicious, homemade bun.  However, the bun-to-burger ration is too high.  At that price and with that size bun, the burger needs to be 1/3 lb.  My hamburger was thin and bit dry.  Any drippings came from the toppings and condiments.

The crinkle cut fries were great.  I enjoyed the way they were packed and they portion was very generous.

I loved the chocolate milkshake.  Thick, creamy and just enough chocolate.

The location is great for inner loop folks, but the burger needs some work.  My vote, Burger Guys.

Corey
Corey

He should buy my pickles, organic, Texas grown in my backyard and 100% made by hand.. Hmm......  Sounds interesting though, a classy burger sounds right delicious.

Donweav
Donweav

Very nice people and concept, but execution and prices were disappointing. Burger was rubbery, hotdog was tough. Buns on both fell apart. Problem with fries was their packaging. They were crammed into a deep box that steamed them. Bottled sodas made with sugar and milkshakes were a plus, but overall, Becks and Smashburger have more variety and flavor on main menu items. Don't mind paying for premium fast food, but at $30 for two, considering the flaws, this place didn't make it.

furioso ateo
furioso ateo

I love soggy fries, myself. Guess I need to check this place out.

Kelli
Kelli

Wow Katharine, I think this is going to be one of the few times we disagree.  I work not far from here and was delighted to try it today.   The good- The strawberry lemonade I had was extremely delicious with shaved ice instead of cubed.  I also very much enjoyed the crinkle fries with the Jerry fry seasoning. The bad-For the drink, burger, and fries it was damn near $12. The ugle-For that kind of money, I want a BURGER.  What I got was a very thin small dry patty.  The bun and produce while stellar simply could not dull the fact that the meat was so poor.  Not to mention they neglected to put the Ernie's sauce I requested.  There was no juicyness to it, and I am sad to say I used only one napkin for the entire meal. For the area, and personally for taste and value, I will pick Smashburger every time over Jerry Built.

SCH
SCH

 I'd love to buy your pickles if you happen to have any spicy dills and want to sell a few jars, like 2 or 3?

Kelli
Kelli

That's so funny, when I was describing the burger to my boyfriend, I used Annie's as a reference.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

It's funny; we were just talking about that the other night. Peoples' fry preferences range like their pizza preferences do: thin, crispy crust to thick, soggy deep-dish crust and everywhere in between. It's all good, right?

Charlotte
Charlotte

Chuck and brisket can be tasty, but brisket tends toward lean 'n' dry. No like lean burgers. Time fer some more Jerry-rig gin'

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I don't think we disagree as much as you think we do.  ;)  I agree with you that the beef patties aren't there yet. There needs to be a lot more juice and ooze there; for my money, I enjoyed the chicken a lot more than the beef, and I can't believe that I just wrote that.

I'm also the type to split an order of fries between two people, so some of my gauges of JerryBuilt's pricing are admittedly off. $12 is a lot for one meal.

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

Same price point as Becks, so you better be good.

Frank
Frank

Beck's isn't *that* good and they have soggy fries too.

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