New order

Manager Abe Teen serves a pair of burgers and an order of fries.

Manager Abe Teen serves a pair of burgers and an order of fries.

Photo/Allison Young

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Americans love hamburgers. Seventy percent of beef consumed by our red meat-loving nation is in burger form, making it our No. 1 favorite menu item. It’s no surprise one of the most-asked questions I hear is, “Where’s the best burger in town?” For me it breaks down to low, medium and high price. On the low end are the mass-produced “fast food” variety you can order and shove in your face faster than the time it takes to read this article. On the high end are burgers that cost 30 to 300 percent more—some of which are actually worth the price.

Finding a mid-range burger that satisfies both palate and wallet is a beautiful thing. My latest such discovery is MTO Fresh—Made To Order—a brand-new enterprise located in a building that has seen its share of burgers. There's a drive-thru window that's not in service. The seating and fixtures are 1980s fast food joint, though the colors have been updated. Full disclosure: I actually flipped burgers for the original chain burger shop located in this building back in the day. Déj&#;agrave; vu to the max.

Though this business is new, the operators are veterans of quick service food. In a desire to focus on key strengths, they’ve chosen a menu with fewer options than the average food truck. Although they don’t open until 10 a.m., they offer a Breakfast Burrito filled with fresh scrambled eggs, cheddar jack cheese, home fries, onion, bell pepper and housemade salsa ($3.99). For an additional 99 cents you can add ham, bacon, more cheese, mushrooms or avocado. I’m not generally big on breakfast burritos, but this big boy was better than average. Lots of flavor, fresh cilantro, and just enough kick to remind you it’s a burrito.

The fresh-cut fries ($1.99) were definitely just that. Irregular strips of peel-on russet spuds were lightly coated in a seasoned batter—perfectly tasty without condiments. Not greasy and a little floppy, though still crispy enough to be enjoyable. Battered fries aren’t generally my thing, but this batter does a decent job as a texture and flavor enhancer.

So what about the damned burger, already? The better burger ($3.99) is a quarter-pound seasoned patty—extra patty for $1.99—cooked thin and medium, combined with plenty of iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion on a sesame-seeded bun with “MTO Special Sauce.” Extra toppings are available for 99 cents each, including American cheese, bacon, mushrooms, avocado, fried egg and chili. My wife ordered a burger plus avocado and an extra patty. I ordered one plus cheese, bacon and mushrooms. My wife loved her burger, which included at least half a sliced ripe avocado.

My burger was equally good. The seasoning of the meat combined well with the special sauce (something like Thousand Island, sans relish, with a tang akin to barbecue). The bacon was super thin, but provided plenty of bacony goodness. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t order the sautéed mushrooms again. They added almost nothing in flavor, and their uniform size and thickness made me suspect they’d come from either a can or a freezer bag.

The staff is friendly and eager to answer questions. Although everything is freshly made to order, we waited less than 15 minutes before we got to munching. The manager said they may add more items to the menu in the future, but for now there’s a mid-range spot with a genuinely tasty burger less than 10 minutes from my house. I don’t want to let the national average down. I’ll be back, and soon.