50 Burgers, 50 Days: Mariana's Kitchen

 
A burger a day all around Austin, plus an answer to the pressing question: Fries or rings?
 
Day 43: Mariana’s Kitchen
UPDATE: Mariana's Kitchen is now at 5510 S. Interstate 35 (map), 512-382-2105
Hours: 8am-10pm Mon-Sat; 8am-8pm Sun
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Waling | 09.22.11
 
The burger: If you didn’t already know that Mariana’s was a place for hamburgers along with standard Tex-Mex, you might skip right past it. Hamburgers are on the sign outside but not on the menu. The only proof you’ll have they exist is a specials board that lists five or six, including the Mexican Girl and a hickory burger. The reason I knew? Almost three years ago, a co-worker told me about Mariana’s, about this great stuffed burger he had with chorizo and serranos at a little Mexican place on Burleson Road. So, at a loss for words, I asked for that. “Yeah, the Chori-Burger,” the waiter said. It exists only when you ask about it. You’re welcome.
 
I’m glad I had the inside track, because this is an extraordinary burger, on a white bun toasted on all sides to a crackle. The patty is a rustic blend of beef and chorizo and searing jalapeno peppers. It seethes a burnt orange, seared mahogany on the outside for real texture, ready to challenge your notions of how much peppery heat you can take. Imagine the hottest breakfast sausage patty you’ve had, triple its size and turn up the burn and you’re there. It’s finished with tomato, shredded lettuce, sliced onion, standard-issue pickles and a sweet ketchup-mayo blend. ($7.95 with fries.)
 
Fries or rings? Mariana’s does a full roster of Tex-Mex sides: rice, beans, queso, guacamole, chips and salsa. No onion rings, but if you’ve already broken the burger code, it unlocks the special french fry badge. It’s like a roadside restaurant video game. Fries come with the burger, and chips are free, with a thin tomato salsa that brings big heat on the back end. The fries are obviously cut by hand, thrown in the oil right off the cutting board, skins and all. The result is a mix of hard crunch, parchment-like skin and soft potato flavor. French fries with the character of all that time spent underground, literally and figuratively.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
 
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