See this update about gluten-free offerings at EZ’s Brick Oven and Grill.
“A Hamburger is warm and fragrant and juicy. A hamburger is soft and nonthreatening. It personifies the Great Mother herself who has nourished us from the beginning. A hamburger is an icon of layered circles, the circle being at once the most spiritual and the most sensual of shapes. A hamburger is companionable and faintly erotic.” (Tom Robbins “The Genius Waitress” )
“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun. Yet, is it any more unusual to find grace in the texture and softly curved silhouette of a bun than to reflect lovingly on the hackles of a favourite fishing fly? Or the arrangement of textures and colours in a butterfly’s wing?” (Ray Kroc, Grinding It Out)
When Mr. Kroc affirmed the inherent beauty in a hamburger bun he was, of course, referring to the traditional hamburger bun in all its wheat and gluten-containing glory. The truth of his statement takes on philosophical depth, however, in the life of a gluten-intolerant individual destined to struggle with the task of keeping bits of bacon, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, and onion balanced on bites of cheeseburger, all of which must also stay balanced on the fork as it travels to the sad individual’s mouth. The task of eating a burger in this manner is made all the more arduous when the hapless individual needs ketchup – and sometimes even special sauce – to perfect the loaded bite of hamburger. Sure, many restaurants (such the local Austin chain P Terry’s) offer the option of lettuce-wrapped burgers, but for people who believe a burger is complete only when it has “everything” on it, the slippery, flimsy lettuce wraps become more of an obstacle than an aid. Better to eat the burger with a knife and fork; at least one has a chance of getting a little of the “everything” in each bite. For the gluten-intolerant, burger loving person, chasing that most delicious burger – submerging one’s self in the warm glow of comfort found in the well-dressed, deliciously juicy, perfectly cooked cheeseburger – becomes an exercise fraught with disappointment and emptiness.
One can get a pretty tasty gluten-free burger at P Terry’s. P Terry’s advertises its natural angus beef as vegetarian-fed, and hormone and antibiotic-free. It serves a chicken burger and a veggie burger in addition to beef burgers and fries: nothing else. This limited menu selection means that this business puts its effort into ensuring the quality of the few menu items it offers. Since P Terry’s doesn’t offer fried, breaded food, the fryers in which the French fries are fried are by default dedicated fryers. Herein lay the one advantage that P Terry’s has over EZs: gluten-free fries! And P Terry’s fries are perfectly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. What more can a Celiac ask????? But just try eating a cheeseburger
with pickles,tomato, and onion – with ketchup and special sauce – without a bun. The wise gluten-intolerant individual will eat at this restaurant only with people whom she knows well; eating these burgers without a bun is at times a sloppy, awkward affair.
Enter EZs, with its gratifying gluten-free burger bun. The bun is nearly the same size as a regular, gluten-containing bun. It’s a nice height: not flat, as are many gluten-free breads and buns. It has the flavor and texture of a bun made with wheat flour. It’s nicely golden brown in color. A regular size hamburger patty fits on the bun. Best of all, the bun stays intact. One can order any of the burgers on the EZs menu, with all the toppings, and the bun will hold the entire thing together from start to finish.
My favorite EZ’s burger is the classic bacon cheddar burger, with everything. It comes with mustard; I add the ketchup at the table. Lots of ketchup. Load up that gluten-free baby with ketchup, Sweetie; it can hold up to the goopy burger challenge! Moreover, it has a tiny, nice touch of old fashioned grill fried greasy flavor, but without being greasy. The flavor takes me back to the days when my parents would take my sisters and me to the A & W drive-in restaurant for dinner. We would always order the hallmark A & W root beer to drink with our meals. The root beer arrived in frosty glass mugs, sometimes with thin sheets of ice that would slide down the glass as it warmed on the tray that sat on the open car window. I always ordered a cheese burger with everything. “Everything” included pickles, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and onion. The onions were always chopped up into little squares. I added plenty of ketchup, of course. Those burgers had a bit of grill fried flavor to them that I haven’t tasted for years. Somehow (perhaps not surprisingly, given EZ’s over-all theme of the nostalgic), EZ’s has captured that delightful, old fashioned drive-in, grill-fried burger flavor. The only drawback to having a burger at EZ’s (a drawback one can live with, to have such a delectably satisfying cheeseburger fix) is that the fries are eat-at-your-own risk. A gluten-free menu near the door of the DeZavala Rd (San Antonio) EZ’s warns that although the potato and sweet potato fries are in themselves gluten-free, the fries at EZ’s share a fryer with the fried breaded foods. Super sensitive Celiacs will want to fore-go the fries in order to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.
EZ’s also offers gluten-free flat-bread pizza, as well as gluten-free brownies and a gluten-free brownie sundae. I have yet to try the gluten-free pizza. I did try a gluten-free brownie on a recent visit. Sadly, the brownie disappointed. It had a nice enough chocolate flavor; however, the texture was somehow off. I find it difficult to describe just what gave the texture such an odd mouth-feel. It seemed to feel both dry and moist at the same time, almost as if the brownie aspired toward chewy-ness, but attained merely sticky-ness. At my request, Phillip sampled the brownie. In his opinion, the brownie had a gritty texture. We both decided that the brownie is probably much better as part of the brownie ice cream sundae. Underneath ice cream, the texture may not seem so disconcerting.
I have eaten a classic bacon cheeseburger on a gluten-free bun at the EZ’s locations on DeZavala and Bitters Rd in San Antonio, and on N Lamar in Austin. The experience has been uniformly satisfying. Not only have the burgers on their gluten-free buns lived up to my expectation, but the service at these locations has been exemplary. Employees regularly stop by the tables and ask restaurant patrons if their meals are ok, and if they need anything else. The people who work the cash registers and take orders are always friendly and helpful. I have vowed to myself to break with my cheeseburger habit the next time I eat at EZ’s, so that I can try a gluten-free flatbread pizza. I hope it will measure up to the standard EZ’s has set with its gluten-free hamburger bun.
A brief nod to P Terry’s mission: P. Terry strives to run an ethical business. It pays its employees significantly above industry standards (average salary for P Terry employees is $11 hourly). The company donates throughout the year to organizations such as Manos de Christos, the Austin Children’s Shelter, the Austin chapter of Big Brothers / Big Sisters, Foundation for the Homeless, and many other such local charities. The company also uses produce from local farms, and cruelty, chemical free meat. The mission carried out by this particular restaurant chain is worthy of supporting, even if eating at the restaurant means that, occasionally, one will have to use a knife and fork to work her way through the cheeseburger with everything on it.
UPDATE: I finally gave the gluten-free pizza crust at EZ’s a try. The verdict? Simply delicious. I ordered a pepperoni / mushroom pizza with extra cheese. The crust is flavorful, and has a nice, crispy texture – but not that rather hard texture that some frozen gluten-free pizza crusts have. And again I have to complement the employees at EZ’s. I tried this pizza at my favorite EZ’s location (on DeZavala Rd). Before I ordered the pizza, I asked the young girl who took my order what flours are used the make the pizza crusts. She answered that she didn’t know, but she would find out. She went to the back and returned with a box of pizza crusts, which she handed to me so that I could read the ingredients. She was super helpful, as these young employees at the DeZavala EZ’s always are! And hey, ya’ll! You can actually feel good about eating this pizza crust! Among other flours, the crusts contain teff flour, a healthy, high protein, high fiber flour!