50 Burgers, 50 Days: Casino el Camino

Day 33: Casino El Camino
517 E. Sixth St. 469-9330, www.casinoelcamino.net.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 09.12.11
The burger: Should I worry that I feel so at home in a place designed to look like Hell? Walls black like a mineral cave, skulls and flames and red lights and vaguely Gothic stone arches. Even in the daylight, it feels like Dante’s lunch counter, if Dante’s Inferno had included a jukebox full of punk, country, Latin and sturdy pop. Neil Diamond, Black Joe Lewis, the Undertones, old Bowie, the Replacements. The red team definitely has better music, plus $3 Blue Moon and other drafts until 7 p.m. The kitchen window in the back? That’s where you order and pay for your food, and that’s the window through which you’ll catch a glimpse of your three-quarter-pound burger on the grill, in no particular hurry to wrap things up. Casino treats the beef with respect, which is what makes the Amarillo Burger ($7.50) so good, with that pink-hearted beef rolling in chopped serranos and jalapeño Jack cheese on a dense brioche bun scored with the signs of the beast inside.
Fries or rings? As long as we’re in a figurative Hell, let’s sprout some hot Buffalo wings to match, because while there might be circles in the Inferno, there are no rings. Mild, medium, hot or explosive? Yes, that last one, just to round out the capsaicin carnival. An order of eight wings and drumettes is $6.75 with carrots and celery. No, you don’t get them free if you finish them before that Marty Robbins song ends. Hot enough to make my eyes water, but not cruel enough to make me cry. Fat and crisp and hot, the skin-on fries ($1.50 for a side order) are a minor miracle in timing, given how long it takes to cook a beef patty that size. Something starchy to soak up all that extra heat. 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)