Restaurant News & Reviews

At T.J.’s, build the burger of your dreams

Diners can pick from 18 side dishes, including chili, sweet potato fries, French fries and mojo potatoes.
Diners can pick from 18 side dishes, including chili, sweet potato fries, French fries and mojo potatoes. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Want peanut butter on your burger, pineapple on your portabella or bacon on your veggie patty? Not a problem at T.J.’s Grill.

Sandwiched in between a bagel bakery and a sushi restaurant, this tiny spot opened in September 2011 at First and Spring Streets in Paso Robles.

There are only a handful of tables inside, and just a couple more outside, so it lends itself more toward takeout. If you do decide to eat in, however, you’re also welcome to bring food from any of the three establishments into any of the others — a laudable spirit of cooperation.

Originally, T.J.’s (which stands for Thick and Juicy) was going to be an Italian deli, explained manager Marissa Leal. However, not wanting to compete in any way with the existing bagel shop, the build-your-own sandwich model morphed into a build your-own burger (or salad) concept.

Ordering your custom burger requires quite a series of choices on your part. You’ll have to decide on the size (quarter-pound, half-pound or double), what kind of patty (and how you want it cooked if you order beef), if you want an ingredient infused inside your beef patty, which cheese, which toppings, what type of bun, and which sauces will top it all.

Beyond that, you can select from 18 sides (and season them yourself with several flavored salts) ranging from five kinds of potatoes to house-made chips, onion rings to soup of the day, and fried zucchini, green beans or pickle spears.

If you can’t wrap your head around all that, it might be easier to go for one of the several predefined specialty burgers.

There’s the T.J. Classic with cheddar and housemade Thousand Island dressing, Laurie’s Patty Melt, or the Roblan with cheddar, bacon, an onion ring and house-made barbecue sauce.

To go the no-beef route, order the Bella with a portabella mushroom and provolone cheese, the Save T.J. veggie patty with Monterey Jack and cucumber, or the Lola with chicken breast, pineapple and teriyaki sauce.

Not surprisingly, beef is the most popular choice, and Leal noted that “our beef is never frozen, and the burgers are all handformed from 100 percent Angus.”

Other patty options also include a turkey or salmon patty, eggplant, and crispy chicken. The eight cheeses range from cheddar to feta to pepper Jack, and your bun choice might be rye bread or a lettuce wrap.

Among the toppings are the usual tomato, onion, lettuce, etc. From there you can kick things up with jalapeños or pepperoncinis, cool things down with cucumber or coleslaw, or go for the gusto with sundried tomatoes or olives.

For an extra dollar, top things off with one of several “Ultimate Toppings” such as bacon, artichoke hearts or a fried egg.

The 18 sauce selections run the gamut from bleu cheese to chipotle cranberry, balsamic to teriyaki, salsa to spicy Thousand Island, and yes, even peanut butter. That unusual topping request came from a customer, explained Leal, as have menu additions like the veggie and turkey patties.

“We really want to listen to our customers,” she said, adding that T.J.’s is also starting a “BYOB Creations” commemoration. If your individual burger is deemed worthy of the honor, you’ll be immortalized with your name and the name of your burger on a mini-surfboard “plaque” inside the restaurant.

“If you think you have the vision, bring it!” said Leal.

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

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