The past year or so has seen some comebacks on the Fort Worth-area food scene. Paco and John’s Mexican Diner, which had closed in 2015, came back as Paco’s Mexican Cuisine this fall. Former Little Lilly Sushi chef Jesus Garcia returned to town to open Oni Ramen. Revolver Taco Lounge never went away, but overcame lease problems at its West Seventh Street location and bounced back with a move to Forest Park Boulevard.
And then there’s Fuego Burger, from the former owners of Salsa Fuego, the acclaimed west Fort Worth restaurant. Salsa Fuego closed in October 2015, with owner Carlos Rodriguez tweeting that he was “Just taking a much needed R/R.” A month later, Rodriguez quietly opened 5ive Spice Kitchen next to a Rendon convenience store — so quietly, in fact, that we didn’t find out about it until a reader posted about it on Facebook — in April.
The restaurant has since changed its name to Fuego Burger, and its namesake burger — a green-chile cheeseburger surrounded by a fried cheese ring that looks like it was inspired by Saturn — is back on the menu, as are several other burgers that made Salsa Fuego an unlikely but strong contender in DFW.com’s 2015 Battle of the Burgers.
Tacos, tortas and quesadillas are also on the menu, as well as some breakfast options. But the emphasis has switched from a Mexican restaurant that does good burgers to a burger restaurant that does good Mexican food.
Unlike the most recent iteration of Salsa Fuego, Fuego Burger is small. Real small — like about six tables small. It’s all counter service, and if you want a drink, there’s a convenience store next door. If they have time, chances are Rodriguez and his wife, Christie, will chat you up while they work the grill and counter. It’s the kind of thing Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives needs to stumble on.
When the Fuego Burger ($8.84) is at its best — and as someone from El Paso who spent three years in New Mexico, I don’t say this lightly — it is the best green-chile cheeseburger I’ve ever had (but then, Rodriguez is also from El Paso). I introduced it to a friend who’d never had it, and it came out just about perfect, the cheese ring almost exactly circular, the green chile spicy and flavorful but not palate-blowing, the half-pound patty well-cooked, the cheddar-jack melty and gooey. Crinkle-cut fries ($1,85) were well-seasoned but otherwise outshone by the burger.
I went for the bacon blue burger (also $8.84), a messy thing that aside from the marquee ingredients includes barbecue sauce, caramelized onions and mayo. The bottom half of the Hawaiian-roll-style bun began falling apart the moment I picked it up, quickly turning it into a forkburger, but the punch of the cheese, the pepperiness of the medium-cooked patty and the crispness of the bacon made up for the quick bun breach.
A side of onion rings ($2.82) was thin-cut and flimsy in texture, yet big in flavor, flecks of salt and pepper in a battered coating that carried surprising crunch. In the battle of fries vs. rings, rings win at Fuego Burger.
The restaurant, nearly 5 miles east of I-35W, is a road trip from anywhere in Fort Worth north of, say, Sycamore School Road, but there are many reasons to return. Though we skipped the Mexican side of the menu on this trip, if the chile verde here is as good as it was at Salsa Fuego, that’s reason enough to come back. There’s also brisket and chicken sandwiches, as well as a sort of off-the-wall choice: a Greek gyro.
As we drove back, we passed by Rendon’s General Store Burgers & Shakes and Myrtle’s Burgers, two other off-the-beaten-path joints that do good burgers, all within a few miles of each other on Farm Road 1187, aka Rendon-Crowley Road. Like Fuego Burger, they are awaiting Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives discovery. Where’s Guy Fieri when you need him?