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El Jefe says Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant (4050 Adams Avenue, 619-282-4413) has great hamburgers. He says they taste of the plancha, that it gives them that certain je ne sais quoi, like the one at Benny’s. Plus, he says it’s a neighborhood institution, since 1969 and counting.

El Jefe knows about this kind of stuff. He’s El Jefe, and basically the mayor of Adams Ave. Forget the fact that an actual San Diego mayor walks the length of Adams every morning. El Jefe is the man about town, and if he says Ponce’s is the tacoburger place, then Ponce’s it is.

He neglected to mention the chile relleno.

Ponce’s, not content with mere mastery of hamburguesas a la plancha, innovates the burger. They take the meat patty and tease it into an oblate shape, so that it fits on a torta roll. Then, they plunk a whole chile relleno on top. “Guero style” ($5.95) ends there, but “Mexi style” ($7.25) gets lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, and mayo.

Yeah, sure. Ponce’s makes a good “regular” cheeseburger, too. But the choice is crystal clear.

Without putting too fine a point on it, Ponce’s Mexican cheeseburger is everything La Fuente’s tries to be but isn’t. It’s a terrifying creation, to say the least. Just finishing one sandwich, never mind with fries on the side, tries a hearty eater’s gustatory prowess. Bottles of Cucapá (available at the bar) help to ease the stress of such a challenge, but the onus remains on the diner to forge ahead, and, bite by bite, consume this burgerbeast.

One does not simply walk into Ponce’s, order a Mexi style burger, and make short work of it.

Unlike Benny’s modest offering, Ponce’s chile relleno burger is not a meal for any given day. It’s an OMG-I-AM-SO-HUNGRY phenomenon. Both restaurants cook burgers in the same spirit, but the hole-in-the-wall and the thriving family restaurant take the the humble tacoburger to very different heights indeed.

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