There's a new high-end burger joint on South Atherton Street in State College, where the old Panda Chinese restaurant used to be, next to the North Ridge motel across from Hills Plaza. It's called Back Yard Burgers, and would seem to be a new franchise, or at least new to the Northeast. I drove over there yesterday after hearing an ad for the place coming into work that morning. Who said advertising doesn't work?
I got a mushroom & swiss burger with waffle fries, but since I don't particularly appreciate lettuce and tomatoes on a burger, I got it stripped down. It was OK, but not really excellent. It was lacking in the nutty-gravy sauce that really makes a good mushroom-and-swiss burger. This was just a burger with mushrooms and swiss cheese on it. Not at all the same thing. Hardees really does an excellent mushroom-and-swiss, but the closest Hardees are in Dauphin and Bedford, far too damn far to drive for fast food, no matter how tasty.
Anyways, Back Yard Burgers. The meal cost me about six-and-a-half, seven bucks, which is acceptable for their sort of high-end fast food. They confused the hell out of me, because they've got a drive-through, but at the counter they give you a number and tell you to go sit down and wait for your food to be brought out to you. Since the food was delivered, and not in a wrapper, both of my criteria for tipping had been met. But it was a fast-food joint! Argh! In the end, I didn't tip, since you also had to bus your own "dishes" - actually a little plastic basket - and I doubt the right people would have found the tip, even if I had left it. The waffle fries were waffle fries - not particularly brilliant, but not noxious.
All in all, not a terrible place to eat, if it were someplace convenient. Since it's a good twelve mile drive from work, and fifteen mile drive from home, I don't think I'll be making my way out there that often. Even if I were to go down that way, the Ponderosa down the hill serves lunch buffets for about the same price.
Update: Not only are Hardees burgers excellent, they were comping free meals to reservists down in Florida for a few days during the Hurricane Charley cleanup. I wish I agreed with van Steerwyk that Hardees is going to eat Burger King's lunch, but my experience is that they keep losing franchises in Pennsylvania. I don't know what drives it, but they seem to have difficulty maintaining competitiveness around these parts.