From a shop with a tattooed sense of humor and goofy architectural nods to the Texas flag comes a half-pound burger stuffed with chorizo and pepper Jack, finished with a fried egg. Grease stains are so metal.
That burger is the Frida Kahlo ($7.75), and the shop is Your Mom's Burger Bar. We'll assume the Frida is named for the chorizo's Mexican influence and not for the pallette of juices that flow from it. The juices paint a flavor portrait that feels like a nod to the old-school Las Cazuelas Mexican restaurant next door. It's a protein trifecta of chile-infused ground chorizo, fatty beef and the over-the-top glycerin cascade only an egg can pull off.
Your Mom's is a good fit on the East Side, adding burgers to a stretch of road that's already embraced vegetarian (Mr. Natural) and seafood (Shuck Shack) to supplement a steady Mexican-food presence. Your Mom's also stands out for burger stuffing, taking two patties of ground beef, throwing something between them and sealing the edges. The stuffing — whether it's cheese or pulled pork or boudin sausage — disperses flavor from the inside and adds moisture. Everybody wins.
The shop is run by Gina and Ryan Blackmore, who has full-sleeve tattoos and stretched-lobe piercings in both ears. The effect could be menacing, but it's softened by old-fashioned customer service: eye contact, patience, explanation. When we asked about sauces, the kitchen sent out a cup with a fried wonton strip for a sample. There are 15 sauces, some self-explanatory (garlic-Parmesan, spicy ranch), others more oblique (Goodfellas, B.B. King, Wasabinger). Ask for help.
The John D. Rockefeller ($7.50) is another player on the name-dropping burger roster, playing off the notion that a little green improves everything, from oysters to this burger topped with chopped spinach, artichoke and Parmesan, stuffed with pepper Jack then topped with more cheese, plus lettuce and tomato. It's a mouthful to say, a handful to keep from falling out of the bun on the first bite. And whatever subtleties that spinach mixture had were lost in the hot mess of the rest of it.
I'm using ‘hot mess' as an endearment, because I like Your Mom's rough edges. Your mom probably won't. The screened-in porch where most of the seating lies is at the mercy of the seasons (symbolized by the tree growing through it) and doesn't entirely keep out little winged guests. Also, this isn't fast food, neither philosophically nor chronologically.
And I couldn't find a side I liked as much as the burgers. Hot but not crisp, a half-order of fries ($1.50/$3 full) had the stippled darkness and bitter edge of oil past its prime. If I compare the small bowl of serviceable mac and cheese ($2.75) to the baking dish of it at Red's Porch for 50 cents more, Your Mom's falls more than half a dollar short. And hate me for wanting less, but the fat-to-sauce-to-meat ratio we love about chicken wings is thrown off when those wings are full-size chicken legs. But three of those monsters with Buffalo sauce for $3? That's lunch right there.
Rough edges are for polishing, and Your Mom's makes up for it with personality. The names, for example. But I wonder: Do Willie Nelson or Patti LaBelle know they've lent their names to cheeseburgers? Is Mack Brown aware that part of his anatomy has been co-opted for fried macaroni and cheese? For now, these are secrets best kept among ourselves, at least until we've tried them all first.
Your Mom's Burger Bar
1701 E. Cesar Chavez St., Suite B. 474-6667, www.yourmoms.net .
Rating:6.1 out of 10
Hours: 11 a.m.to 10 p.m Sundays-Thursdays. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.
Prices:Starters $1.50 (half-order of fries) to $3.75 (full order of onion rings) to $7 (Irish nachos). Burgers $7.25-$7.75. Vegan patty $1.85 extra. Kids' menu available. Notable lunch specials (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.): On Monday, burgers are $6. On Fridays, fries are free with a burger.
Payment:All major cards
Alcohol:None. BYOB allowed until the shop gets its liquor license.
What the ratings mean:The 10-point scale for casual dining is an average of weighted scores for food, service, atmosphere and value, with 10 being the best.