Mama Burger is located at 112 E. Route 66 in Flagstaff. For more information, call 928-226-0616 or visit www.themamaburger.com.
© Paul Markow
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Mama Knows BestLooking for the mother of all burgers? Make your way to Mama Burger in Flagstaff, where the patties are made with pure Angus chuck and pressed with a steak weight as they sizzle on the griddle. And then there are the fries.
By Roger Naylor
FLAGSTAFF Bernadette Chavez says she believes in doing only a few things, but doing them well. Fortunately for chowhounds, that short list includes burgers, fries and shakes. Chavez owns Mama Burger in Flagstaff, a joint that began as a tiny hole in the wall and has grown into a bigger hole in the wall. Hey, you don't eat ambience.
Mama Burger opened in February 2009 with four stools lining a window-front counter. Right from the start, crowds wedged through the door, after being drawn in by the wafting perfume of grill-kissed beef. The eatery was hailed as a Flagstaff version of the cultishly famous In-N-Out Burger, with its limited menu and adherence to fresh ingredients. Soon the space was expanded to include several tables to accommodate the ravenous throng of locals, students and food-savvy tourists that gathers each day to tuck into a deliciously simple meal.
If you love burgers, it's probably because of Mama Burger, or a place just like it. Before society's need for speed corrupted the process, this was how we got our burger fix: someone in an apron tossing a ball of fresh meat onto the flattop. All Mama Burgers are made with pure Angus chuck and pressed with a steak weight as they sizzle on the griddle. The process creates a rough-hewn patty with a delicate crispness haunting the edges and juices seared inside.
Swabbed with a tangy sauce made in-house and stacked with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles so crisp you'd swear there's a garden out back, the burger nestles on a cushiony bun, a retro masterpiece of comfort food. This is the essence of a grand burger, a joy bomb of tender beef, enhanced by the varying textures and flavors of the add-ons. Cheese it if you want, there's no extra charge. You can also double up the patties or throw on some bacon, jalapeños and even a heap of fries — yes, fries directly on the burger. Genius! By this time you'll have created a sandwich so towering you'll need Sherpas to hoist the final pickle.
A perfect burger requires a perfect sidekick, and the fries at Mama Burger — slivers of hot, salted bliss — more than qualify. They start the morning as potatoes, are blanched twice, then hand-cut and cooked in rice oil, leaving them lively and brash — and sinfully addictive. The milkshakes are whipped by hand using premium soft-serve ice cream. Besides the usual suspects, the frosty roster includes taste sensations like root beer and the devastating orange creamsicle.
A burger, fries and a shake made right in front of you. There may be only a few things that Bernadette Chavez has mastered, but they're a few of our favorite things. If all mamas tried that, nobody would ever leave home.