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In the Great Burger Battle of 2020, it appears San Antonio’s hamburger lovers are the winners.
The war began in late September, when an attorney for Longhorn Cafe, which operates several restaurants in San Antonio, Boerne, and New Braunfels, told Mr. Juicy owner Andrew Weissman that he did not have the right to use the word “juicy” for his latest restaurant concept.
A cease-and-desist letter states that Longhorn holds trademarks on “Big Juicy,” “Original Big Juicy,” and “Home of the Original Big Juicy” – phrases related to the burger that tops its menu.
You can read the letter here.
A search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s filings show Longhorn Cafe applied for those trademarks on Sept. 24 – the date of the attorney’s letter to Weissman – but the application has not yet been considered.
Weissman posted to social media a photo of the letter written by attorney John Cave on behalf of Longhorn owners Paul Weir and David Wynn, adding that he would “die on this hill.”
The chef-owner is refusing to change the name of his restaurant. “In no way, shape, or form will I stop using it,” Weissman said. “Mr. Juicy is a name, not a descriptor.”
Call it what you will, but both burger joints have fans.
On recent weekend days, cars were lined up at the Mr. Juicy drive-thru at San Pedro and Hildebrand avenues for 10 hours straight, Weissman said. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere.”
At almost noon on Monday, customers in a dozen cars were waiting to pick up their orders at the “home of the wet burger.” The San Antonio Report was one of them.
After a 10-minute wait, handed to us in a white paper sack was a steaming hot No. 3 burger-and-fries combo, priced with a drink at $8.66. The burger came with all the fixings and the restaurant’s “secret sauce.”
The burger patty was thick and, yes, juicy; the condiments and sauce were thick, drippy, and slightly sweet, and it was all held together by a fresh and warm yeast bun, topped with poppy seeds.
Mr. Juicy opened at its Olmos Park location on McCullough Avenue in 2019, then closed temporarily when Weissman was forced to consolidate his staff to serve growing demand at its second location, a former Jack-in-the-Box on San Pedro. It reopens Oct. 15.
The Longhorn Cafe has been open in San Antonio since 1985 and grown since 2002 into a string of seven locations across town.
The lunchtime crowd at its original Blanco Road restaurant Monday was steady, with all available tables inside and picnic tables outside full of couples, families, and co-workers digging into their baskets of burgers and fried sides.
We ordered the Longhorn’s signature, one-third-pound burger, The Big Juicy, which is priced at $5.29, and waited about 15 minutes for our name to be called.
The burger is aptly named “big,” and, freshly made and tender, it certainly was savory. A generous helping of mustard gave the classic hamburger, topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion, a tangy flavor.
The recent trademark war began when Longhorn Cafe owners were being asked by customers who spotted Mr. Juicy if they were opening a new restaurant on McCullough, said Cave, a partner in Gunn, Lee & Cave. He said Longhorn Cafe has been using “the Big Juicy” for 35 years, which he said gives the owners rights to the name.
“My client has nothing against Mr. Weissman or whether or not he’s got burger restaurants in town,” Cave said. “Their intent with a cease-and-desist letter was to start a dialogue … in order to try and resolve this issue and protect their brand.”
In recent years, the city that’s home to Whataburger headquarters, and known more for its tacos of every kind, has seen a fair number of burger restaurants and chains enter the market or expand, raising the stakes in an already competitive field.
Along with In-and-Out Burger, which has had its own trademark battles with Smashburger, Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Shake Shack came to town and Burger Boy opened another location. Austin’s P.Terry’s Burger Stand is scheduled to open its first San Antonio store this fall.
A San Antonio native and French-trained chef, Weissman opened the five-star Le Rêve downtown in 2001 and later two of the Pearl’s first restaurants, The Sandbar and Osteria Il Sogno. In 2012, Weissman opened an outdoor eatery along the River Walk, The Luxury. He also owns Signature, is part owner of Big’z Burger Joint, and has owned others, including Sip Coffee & Espresso Bar and Moshe’s Golden Falafel.
All the attention that the beef between Longhorn and Mr. Juicy has brought, however, isn’t what Weissman was hoping for.
“This is a big enough city for everybody to thrive, especially during [the coronavirus pandemic],” Weissman said. “So yeah we are getting publicity and, yes, the lines are even longer. But … people are having to wait in line longer, my staff is about to blow a gasket. [And] I just want to get back to serving people, making them happy, trying to do the best job that we can, and that’s pretty much it.”