Hamburguesas El Gordo is not an assuming establishment. It’s a counter with a digital menu above it and a couple of big glass containers sitting behind it. One container is filled with horchata and the other with an agua fresca made with lime and cucumber, a perfect oppositional pair to spice and meat.
It’s that juxtaposition of opposites that Hamburguesas El Gordo, located in St. Paul’s Plaza del Sol on Payne Avenue, seems to have mastered. Its signature burger, the Hamburguesa El Gordo de Res ($9), comes with ham, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, jalapeños, bacon, mayonnaise, tomatoes, ketchup, lettuce, and mustard, among other things. It’s a massive, flat, charred patty, practically entombed in all the toppings it carries. But here’s the thing: Together, they’re pretty balanced, a nice blend of bready, charred, meaty, salty, and crisp. And then, here’s the REAL thing: The burger comes with a grilled hot pepper on the side. One bite of that, and all the weight and power of the burger is blown apart by a blast of spicy heat. They’re a dynamic duo.
We also tried the restaurant’s Hot Dog Norteño, which came loaded with toppings, cutting a surprisingly sophisticated and imposing presence considering its $2.75 ($2.75!) price tag. That’s a price that’ll barely fetch you a miserable gray-water mystery wiener at a Skyway counter, but here you’ve got a dog with mayo, avocado, cilantro, and onions. In terms of flavor, it was every bit the equal of the burger.
The Taco ($2.25) was no afterthought, either. The meat was moist and savory, the onion and cilantro were present in comforting proportions, and the tortillas were tender.
And to top it all off, there’s that agua fresca, which you really shouldn’t miss with all the heat and grease going on. And a word to the wise: Consider splitting that hamburguesa with an amigo, as it’s a serious monster.
Hamburguesas El Gordo
Mexican Hamburgers in St. Paul
990 Payne Avenue
St. Paul, MN
Tue-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri-Sun 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: No
ENTREE RANGE: $3-$9
NOISE LEVEL: Quiet
PARKING: Ample street parking