Even though I’ve forgotten much of my more recent life leading up to and during my stroke, there’s one thing I clearly do remember and will never forget: that I had a pretty darn good hamburguesa a few days before I nearly went to that big greasy spoon in the sky.
It was sometime in May when I finally made it down to Hamburguesas El Pariente, 2109 S.W. 29th St. The bones of the place held a bit of special resonance with me because back when it was a locked and loaded Del Rancho, it was one of the first local eateries I was sent to cover and cover hard. And now, a couple of years later, the beloved chicken fried steak restaurant has been blissfully reborn into an inventive Mexican hamburger joint.
Most of the makeover was really just fresh signage and some spiffy menus– the new owners surprisingly decided to gracefully leave up the Del Rancho memorabilia of years past, including the glowing red and blue neon mascot in the back of the dining room. But that’s pretty much where the savory memories of the Del Rancho stops and the new Hamburguesas El Pariente ones justifiably begin:
With a flaming hot menu that takes the cold, staid world of a hamburger patty and two slices of bread and gives it a much-needed shot of pasión carnosa to create some of the most deliciously interesting, if not mostly original takes on these old classics, Hamburguesas El Pariente is a desperately needed eatery that amicably tries to bridge the gap between Mexican grub and American chub and, in my case, pure life and sudden death.
Serving everything from chicken nuggets and hot dogs to chilaquiles and filete empapelado, I knew going in to Pariente that I was going to order their oro estándar, the Hamburguesa with a side of papas fritas. But first, I found myself really wanting to try something that I’ve never had before, something that spoke to me as a Mexican-American, something that said luchar contra el poder with a mighty raised fist; and in that fist was the righteous little ditty called the Chicano Sandwich.
Something somewhat of a breakfast dish, the Chicano Sandwich ($7.00) is a piece of toasted bread deliriously covered in eggs and cheese with some long, lingering strips of hearty jalapenos heating this pequeño monstruo up. Armed to the nines with a piece of sausage and a fried potato cake, I just went against all protocol and put it all together like so, spraying on some of that homemade red sauce (located at every table) and utterly devoured it in a few heated bites.
Even though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting—I’m still not entirely sure why it’s called a Chicano Sandwich, to be fair—it still did its job of not only acting as a breakfast food, but lunch as well, two meals I had lazily skipped that day, as I am wont to do. A mandom size to be sure, yet compact enough to leave me plenty of room to, at the very least, sample about half of my much-enamored (from the pictures on the menu) hamburguesa.
What could have been a trifling meal of a little ol’ hamburger and fries became, in a matter of seconds, a meat-filled reckoning before both man and God. The Hamburguesa ($7.00) was a beautifully contained thing of greasy reverence; besides the massive all-beef patty, a jumbo pork salchicha was sliced and diced along with a fat messy slice of ham, all aided with the typically delicious burger-missives such as lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese, mayonnaise and even more of those fiery jalapenos that paired mouth-cooingly with a butter-toasted bun.
I could only do a couple of bites of the borderland burger however, lamenting as I boxed up the goods, wiping the dribbling smear of mayo off my lips with my freshly washed shirt-sleeve. And even though I eventually finished it the next day, a few days later…well, you know. And while for the time being these sexo puro hamburguesas are, sadly, off the market for me, do yourself a favor and order two of them—one for you and one for my betrayed hamburguesa-loving soul. Cómpralo ya!