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Trailer Treasure: Hat Creek Burger Co.

Matthew Odam

2209 Rio Grande St. 732-2025, Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Thursdays through Saturdays.

Traveling the country as a reserve guard for the University of Texas men's basketball team, native Austinite and former Longhorn Drew Gressett had ample opportunity to search for the perfect burger.

But after graduating and splitting his time between Washington, D.C., and China working commercial real estate ventures, Gressett decided to stop looking and just make his own burger.

Thus was born the Hat Creek Burger Co. trailer.

Capitalizing on the public's growing interest in responsible eating, Gressett takes pride in the fact that his all-natural Angus beef is raised humanely, fed a 100 percent vegetarian diet and can be traced to its ranch of origin.

Don't let the beef's heady pedigree fool you. Hat Creek's Big Hat Burger ($4.99 with cheese, a hand-formed two-fifths of a pound) is a mouth-watering double, dripping with cheese and just the right amount of greasy goodness to evoke visions of the most rewarding of backyard barbecues. The juicy meat is topped with mustard, crisp lettuce, tomato and pickles. For the easily intimidated, the Little Hat Burger ($3.49 with cheese) offers the same delights in a single-patty package. For a more personalized burger, grilled onions and jalapenos can be added for free, with bacon and mushrooms carrying a small charge.

Salty, fresh hand-cut fries ($1.99) complement the burgers, which can be finished off with a sinfully thick, hand-dipped Blue Bell shake ($3.99).

Hat Creek, named in part as an homage to Larry McMurtry's 'Lonesome Dove,' opened last October in a West Sixth Street parking lot behind the Star Bar, which closed in July. The good thing about trailers is they have wheels, allowing Gressett to relocate to a parking lot near UT earlier this month. With an array of picnic tables and college-friendly hours, Hat Creek's new location gives discerning burger lovers an alternative to bloated fast-food rivals.

For those who dread the labyrinthine infrastructure of the campus area, fear not. Gressett is building off the success of his trailer operation and has opened a brick-and-mortar location at 5400 Burnet Road (in the old Arby's building) that serves dine-in and drive-through customers.