I swear. Thought I knew Barrio Logan. I’m wandering down Beardsley to where it gets more industrial. Right where Newton Avenue crosses, by Perkins Elementary School, I spot a sandwich board. Huh. A kind of gringo food place. Board says “Burger, fries and local beer, $13.99.”
When you think about it, that’s not too bad.
So let’s see how gringos are doing, here in the heart of Aztlan. Place is called MishMash. It’s a small but cool space with a wood-board fence around its patio. Fits more the industrial vibe than the Mexican.
They have tightish outside seating, and also a bunch of tables further inside the belly of the beast. But hey, Han Solo today, so I set up at the bar. It’s low-ceilinged and mostly taken up with work tops, a kitchen in back, with a couple of cooks working the deep friers and spreading something savory — aioli? — on toasted buns. Lots of glasses upfront and nitro cylinders. One of them’s for a nitro stout called Nut Farm by Silva Brewing, out of Paso Robles. Of course, I totally forget that sign outside with its $13.99 chew’n slurp deal, and just ask the muscled guy behind the counter, Manny, for a taster. And it’s a sweet milk stout that’s the opposite of the usual IPA. Reminds you of what the British call a “mild ale.” Nary an International Bitterness Unit in sight.
“We used to be up on César Chávez next to the Northgate Market,” says Manny.
“No big deal, some problems, but we’re better down here,” he says.
“Even though you’re kind of far from the main boulevard?”
“There’s a lot of small businesses around here,” he says. “And we do a lot of social media. We’re doing fine.”
Manny leaves me a bright green, single-page menu. Joss Stone’s wailing “Super Duper Love,” folks are congregating at the tables, talking manufacturing, trade wars. Manny’s caught up taking orders and incoming phone calls. This is a busy little place.
Front and center on the menu is burgers, ten bucks and up. Should have taken that lunch deal. The basic MishMash burger ($9.75) has an “all natural” 1/2lb beef patty with mozzarella and crunchy onions on top, all in a Sadie Rose bun “smothered in garlic aioli.”
But the Clinton Burger (also half-pound. Is it named for Hillary?) is more interesting. Its patty is actually stuffed with goat cheese, and is topped with an over-easy egg, plus bacon, mozzarella, and crunchy onions. Bun’s also “smothered in garlic aioli.” Costs $13.
A parmesan mushroom vegetarian burger’s $12, and a 1/2lb Goober Burger topped with PB&J and thick-cut bacon costs $12. Cheapest is Cheese Louise. Lots of cheese and raw onion, $8.25. Or 1/3lb burger with fries and lemonade is $9.99.
It’s not all gringo. They start showing a bit of Cuban influence with a Medianoche Sandwich with braised pork and sweet Cuban bread for $14, or a pulled pork sandwich for $11.
A whole bunch of fries ($7.50) includes duck fat “Triple D” fries with duck confit and duck gravy, or Hangover Fries, which come with two over-easy eggs, bacon and garlic aioli. But the most interesting is the chala mata ($12), pork shoulder with frijoles on a nacho-style pile of fries. Made sexier by guac, pineapple, crema, and cilantro.
Salads look good. Cranberry spinach salad with goat cheese costs $9.50. And yes, they do have tacos: rolled ($12), or vegan tempeh tacos ($12). Also, “pterodactyl wings” ($10) come bone-in.
So it has to be Clinton burger, partly because I’ve always felt Hillary got a bad rap, and partly because of the goat cheese-stuffed patty. Even though I’m maxo-tempted by the chala mata.
All I can say about the burger is: lavish! It’s lavish with its tongues of bacon, its spidery crunchy onions on top, the oozy egg, and that patty stuffed with goat cheese. It’s gonna mess with your face, but who cares? They’ve put it on an aluminum tray with paper on it. Surrounding the tubs of aioli and thousand island and burgers is a log-jam of fries heavily coated in parmesan. Healthwise, okay, a week of salads after this. But the combo is so generous and tasty I handle the guilt in about 30 seconds.
And guess what? A Tale of Two Sittings! I’m back next week. Just got to try the chala mata. Looked too good. Before it comes, I notice another beer on tap, Boo Koo, by Mother Earth, in Vista. Oh yeah. “Bookoo” was a big Vietnam word with the GI’s, imitating the mama-sans, using French beaucoup for anything that was over the top. Guess they have a vet creating beers up there. I get one. It’s a take-no-prisoners lemony IPA.
James the chef brings out my chala mata. “This should keep you going.”
Oh man. It’s a mountain of pork belly chunks, frijoles, guac, crème fraiche, cilantro, and a spicy salsa. All on a big base of fries. A mishmash, basically, a new take on nachos. And total bellyfiller for $12. This should be a sharing plate. The guac and the seasoned pork are really good together, and the cilantro tangs it up a little. But the biggest pleasure comes with the sweetness of the pineapple chunks scattered all over it. Even once you get down to the fries, they’re there to sweeten the remnants.
1805 Newton Avenue, Barrio Logan
Whew. I waddle out, a couple of pounds heavier. Luckily, it’s downhill to the trolley.
The Place: MishMash, 1805 Newton Avenue, Barrio Logan, 619-955-8544
Hours: 10am – 9pm, daily
Prices: MishMash burger, 1/2lb beef patty, mozzarella, crunchy onions, $9.75;Clinton Burger, patty stuffed with goat cheese, over-easy egg, plus bacon, mozzarella, crunchy onions, $13; parmesan mushroom vegetarian burger, $12; 1/2lb Goober Burger (with pb&j, bacon), $12; Cheese Louise burger, $8.25; 1/3lb burger, fries, lemonade, $9.99; Medianoche Cuban sandwich (braised pork), $14; duck fat “Triple D” fries with duck confit, duck gravy, $7.50; Hangover fries (with two over-easy eggs, bacon and garlic aioli), $7.50; Chala Mata (pork shoulder, frijoles, guac, pineapple, crema, cilantro, $12; vegan tempeh tacos, $12; cranberry spinach salad, goat cheese, $9.50; “pterodactyl” wings, $10, bone-in
Buses: 901, 929
Nearest Bus Stops: Main Street and Beardsley (929); National Avenue and Beardsley (901)
Trolley: Blue Line
Nearest Trolley Stop: Barrio Logan (Harbor Drive and Cesar E Chavez Parkway)