It was a humble beginning for Hamburguesas el Gordo.
“What I always tell everybody when they want to hear this story is: It wasn’t our intention to start this business at all,” Claudia Gutierrez says. “When I started doing this, I started doing burgers only, at home. I started selling them out of my house.”
Just one day a week -- Friday -- Gutierrez would fire up the grill and open her doors, giving people a taste of the street-food style burgers she loved growing up in northern Mexico. She had a job at a corporate office and didn’t plan to leave it; the idea was to go back to school, work a few hours during the week, and cook on weekends to help her husband pay the bills.
But word of the burgers spread quickly. Gutierrez was selling out in less than two hours. Adding Saturday service only helped for a little bit: “We had people knocking on our door on Sundays,” she laughs.
This thing was getting a little out of control -- there was some side-eye from the neighbors -- so eventually school and work went on the back burner, and Gutierrez’s Hamburguesas el Gordo officially set up shop in St. Paul’s Plaza del Sol.
“In Mexico, street food is big, and burgers are very, very popular, especially on the streets,” she says by way of explanation. “But nobody here in Minnesota sold them.” She estimates that close to 70 percent of Hamburguesas el Gordo customers are Hispanic -- but many of them live in Minneapolis, so she’s been looking to open a second space across the river for about a year.
At last, she annouced last week that she has one at 42nd Street and Cedar Avenue.
What sets these burgers apart? For one, they’re big. They’re very big. (“That’s how we make ‘em back there. We don’t make ‘em small.”) The flagship Del Gordo Burger is piled high -- the buttered, toasted buns come packed with a half-pound handmade patty, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, grilled ham, bacon, avocado, pickled peppers, tomato, fresh-cut onions, and lettuce, along with sauces and a side of grilled onions and peppers like you’d get in northern Mexico.
If that’s not enough, you can also get the Del Gordo with doble carne or topped with pineapple.
The rest of the ‘guesas menu is still pretty small, but it’s growing. They’ve since added hot dogs (“dogos”), which have been a hit, and there are tacos, too, served with handmade tortillas in the Norteño style.
Gutierrez says Hamburguesas el Gordo is shooting for a middle or end of November debut in Minneapolis.
Until then, get your burger and taco fix at 990 Payne Ave. in St. Paul.
More from Food & Drink