The Phoenix Rises
As some of our more loyal and long-suffering readers may have noticed, it has been a long spell since our last post. This delay has been caused in part by our inherent laziness—we like eating burgers more than writing about them, and in part because we are running out of burger joints here in San Antonio that we haven’t already reviewed. We’re not entirely sure if our readers want to hear about our latest trip to Fatty’s.
Fatty’s, by the way, is still excellent. I really enjoyed the Heisman burger I had there yesterday. And while we’re on the subject of Fatty’s, we thought we’d take this opportunity to suggest that everybody head out to the “All American Burger Festival” which is going to be held at Fatty’s on July 10th from 11am-7pm. There will be feats of eating as well as burger-cooking contests, so it sounds like it should be awesome. More info is at http://www.saburgerfest.com/.
But I digress. We were running out of burger joints, and had even begun considering reviewing chains like smashburger or the flagship burgers at non-burger joints (La Tuna comes to mind) when we discovered that Billy T’s is back.
For those who may be newish to San Antonio, Billy T’s was quite the institution. Generations of kids grew up eating his burgers and rooting around in the sandbox at his Austin Highway location. Then, a few years ago, Billy T’s closed its doors and transformed into a restaurant called “Purple Garlic.” I’m not sure what they serve there, but given the suspicious sounding name and its proximity to Pizza Hut, I suspect it may be one of those medical marijuana dispensaries. Oh wait, I’m confusing “purple garlic” with “purple haze.” My bad—Purple Garlic may be a delicious restaurant. Of course, I wouldn’t know because it isn’t a burger joint. There, I said joint.
But I digress yet again from the main point of this article, which, believe it or not, is Billy T’s. Which is back again. In case I didn’t mention that. So Billy T’s is back and in an all new, much more upscale location at 1826 Nacogdoches, San Antonio, Texas 78209.
We were excited to try this new version of the old restaurant to see if, among other things, 1) it was as good as it was before, 2) you could still order the “Rhino Burger” and 3) whether it was still under the same ownership. Not to give anything away, but the answers to 1 and 3 were yes. The answer to two is a bit more complicated, and has generated what we are calling the “Hunt for the Rhino.” (And no, we are not out searching for Olympia Snow).
Burger-7 out of 10
Mr. T’s burger (to avoid confusion with another Mr. T., I’ll refer to him as “Billy” from now on) was solid. My fellow Americans and burger reviewers noted that it was “heavy on the condiments, decently seasoned and ultimately quite satisfying.” The burger reminded another reviewer of “something you might make on an outdoor barbecue grill—I’d gladly eat this burger again.”
But enough about the burger, I think we should focus on the “Hunt for the Rhino.” A little background may be needed for those who haven’t been to Billy T’s. Back at the Austin Highway location, you could order a little off the menu item called the Rhino Burger. This consisted of two beef patties, a grilled chicken breast, a fried chicken breast, bacon and cheese between two buns. Apparently, it was quite popular with the local athletes who felt that, in addition to protein, they also needed clogged arteries.
When we arrived, we noted that the Rhino was not listed on the menu, which was no surprise whatsoever. It had always been an off-the-menu item. We asked the guy behind the counter if there had been any Rhino sightings lately. It turns out that he knew all about the Rhino because he used to work at the old Billy T’s. But he said we couldn’t order it at the new Billy T’s. We asked why and he was more than a little bit evasive. Almost as if this Rhino was the “burger that shall not be named.”
"Curiouser and Curiouser!" Cried Burger Boy (he was so much surprised, that for the moment he quite forgot how to speak good English).
You can bet this was curious, and a topic of conversation during our meal.
Eventually, the owner came by to talk with us. Turns out he owned the old Billy T’s and sold the land to pursue other business ventures but eventually decided to open a new Billy T’s. We figured he would know all about the Rhino, so we asked. To our surprise, he professed ignorance of the Rhino. How is this possible? Was the Rhino a secret burger prepared covertly by the staff? We’d love to hear your memories of the Rhino Burger as well as theories about its untimely demise.
Here are our favorite conspiracy theories:
Fry Daddy-Fry Daddy swears he has a friend who used to eat Rhino Burgers all day long. Fry Daddy thinks the owner denies its existence because it was too expensive to make, which drove the owner into bankruptcy and forced him to sell the old location.
Where’s the Beef-Mr. TheBeef was intrigued by talk of the “off menu” Rhino Burger. He notes that “The employee we asked seemed scared to even talk about it, and the owner denied its existence. My theory is that the Rhino Burger killed a patron, and as part of the ensuing settlement, Billy T’s is prohibited from selling the Rhino Burger or even mentioning the Rhino Burger’s former existence.”
Flying Dutchman—The Dutchman is our newest reviewer, so he writes like he is in kindergarten. I hope his grammar and thought-density improve over time. I quote him verbatim: “I just moved here from Wichita. I don’t know anything about Rhinos. I like San Antonio. It is better than Kansas. And also too, I love it when people say ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore.’”
Ambiance-5 out of 10
To be honest, ambiance was a little disappointing. The old Billy T’s was definitely a burger joint—by which I mean that it was dirty, dark, and the walls were covered with random crap. The place had real “lived in” feel. The new Billy T’s, by contrast, is well lit, clean, and somewhat sterile.
We discussed this with the owner, who agreed that the place needed a little work in the ambiance department. He assured us that over time he’d get more paraphernalia for the walls and that the place would soon have a more “broken in” feel to it.
Sides- 7.5 out of 10
The reviewers like Billy’s sides. I thought they were good, but could have used some more salt.
Flying Dutchman— I thought the fries were delicious (once you added a bit of salt). They also had a wide variety of offerings. They’ll put cheese on anything, which is a requirement of any dive burger peddler.
Where’s the Beef— I liked the fries, albeit with a little salt added. The tots were great, and they had an option to add cheese to any side. A very nice feature indeed. They had onion rings too, but none of us tried them.
Fry Daddy— Unlike most tater tots we get which have the living daylights fried out of them, the tater tots were not overdone but were light and crispy. The fries were okay but needed salt.
Reminder—If you can confirm the existence of Billy T’s Rhino burger, please sound off in the comments section below!