Sliced pork hisses on the flat top. Mario Moya emerges from the kitchen in his own restaurant’s uniform: a firetruck-red cap, the letter “M” surrounded by a white circle on the crown and a red-collared shirt with the same logo. Moya’s got a classic mustache, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the pipe-hopping Nintendo character. He’s got a kind and bright smile under his Super Mario mustache, and he makes animated gestures with his hands as he describes how he mixes the beef for the burger patty.
Moya’s family is behind the counter to support the restaurant; this has been a Moya joint for four years. Business is fine, he says, nodding his head. Tacos de trompo is the house specialty — the slow twister of pork churns on the spit — but the hamburguesas regias are pure, unrestrained happiness. They are each a dinosaur-sized amusement park of meat and ham.
Once it lands in front of you, you’ll feel the urge to rub your hands together in anticipation. Where will you start? Simply crane the sesame seed bun upward toward mouth entry — use both hands to maintain structural integrity — and push toward face. From any angle, you’ll find slices of this pork, marinated with chiles until it’s as red as Mario’s hat.
Before it reaches the cheeseburger, the pork is shaved off the cliff-side of the trompo-nado. It’s a joy to watch this process: The taquero slides the panes of pork onto the griddle until the edges char. Then the beef patty flips and gets cloaked with cheese. They slide ham over melting cheese, which is a very good thing. No bad things are topped with griddled ham. Shredded lettuce, a good tomato slice and onion are dressed with oil and vinegar and seasoned.
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The bottom bun is smeared with guacamole, ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard, the holy triad that’s often used for street dogs in Mexico. The trompo rests over the condiments, then goes the cheeseburger, griddled ham slice and crown of shredded lettuce, tomato and onion. The only thing missing is a good breeze and a cold beer. The bun is sesame seeded, soft and glistening with oil. For $7.49, you’ll get a bag of chips and shout-a-god’s-name-with-delight Styrofoam cup of frijoles charros.
In the back of the restaurant, the tables are empty and waiting. The salsa cart is pristine, like some dreamed-about, yet-to-be-touched buffet of taco toppings: There’s chopped white onions, various hot sauces and homemade green and red salsas. With an icy Topo Chico, it feels like special treatment. The burger shows up in a plastic basket. The charro beans steam.
On the way out, the Moyas drop softened onions over the trompo tacos with tongs. Then, the shower of cilantro comes. This is a midnight burger. It’s a true food-lover’s sandwich. Ignore what’s likely a stun grenade of a sodium count. It tastes big and bright, not heavy and oil laden. Let the condiments mix and the toppings fuse together between bread. Your mood will improve behind the wheel of this sandwich.
Mario Bros Tacos, 5942 Abrams Road