First Dish: Hamburguesas y Cervezas

Nikki BuchananMarch 1, 2023
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Señor Al Pastor burger with onion strings | Photo by Nikki Buchanan 

You’ve surely heard of Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers, the Arizona-based chain of neighborhood burger joints/sports bars dedicated to — you guessed it — cold beers and cheeseburgers. Well, Terry and Randy Bortin, brothers who have long been in the restaurant biz here in Phoenix, have put a fun Mexican spin on that simple, straightforward concept, opening Hamburguesas y Cervezas on First Avenue just south of Roosevelt in late February.

Terry, you may recall, is husband and business partner to America Corrales of America’s Taco Shop, a popular quick-service Mexican restaurant with two locations in metro Phoenix. The two of them still operate the America’s in Old Town Scottsdale. Meanwhile, Randy opened his own Mexican-inspired pizza joint called My Slice of the Pie in Arcadia in 2016. The place recently made No. 18 on Yelp’s Top 100 Phoenix Restaurants. Randy sold it last year, however, and approached Terry about the Mexican burger idea they’d been letting percolate for a while, and soon after, the brothers decided to act on it.

Hamburguesas y Cervezas is open, airy and more upscale than I was expecting, a cool little spot to hang out at the bar over specialty margaritas or beer. Naturally, there’s a good bit of the latter, including all the popular Mexican brews, a few locals and a few oddballs, including Topo Chico’s strawberry-guava hard seltzer and Great Divide’s strawberry-rhubarb sour-style beer. For the teetotalers, there’s tart lemonade, and for all, a front patio to relax and enjoy life as balmy spring weather approaches — fingers crossed.

Horchata cheesecake | Photo by Nikki Buchanan 

Although the menu specializes in burgers, it also offers appetizers, salads, two tortas and a Sinaloa-style hot dog. Many of the preparations are based on America’s recipes, culled from her mother and her hometown in Culiacan, Sinaloa. For a first visit, my compadres and I concentrated on the burgers — big, juicy half-pounders stacked with loads of ingredients on puffy Noble brioche burger buns.

If pressed to pick a favorite, I’d choose my own Señor Al Pastor burger, the thick patty fashioned from Angus chuck and ground pork (amped up with a pastor marinade to give it that distinctively bright, citrusy “pastor” taste), then topped with grilled pineapple, a schmear of guac, white onion, cilantro, lettuce and chile de arbol salsa for a pop of earthy heat ($18).

Beyond that, I couldn’t claim to love one more than the other between the J Chew and the Chorizo burger. Okay, twist my arm and maybe the Chorizo burger, just because I love its salty, savory robustness. It combines Angus chuck with Schreiner’s chorizo, the patty topped with smashed tots, roasted poblanos (diced), sliced white onion, mustard, lettuce and pepper jack cheese ($17).

It’s a damned close call though because the J Chew, named for a burger-loving friend of Terry’s, is awesome, too. It just happens to be more traditional: a classic pepper jack cheeseburger smeared with chipotle aioli and topped with habanero maple bacon, guac, tomato and fried egg ($16).

Hamburguesas y Cervezas interior | Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Burgers come with a choice of sides, including a mini salad, crispy fries and average tater tots. I paid a tad more for wispy crisps of onion strings, and they were worth it, the best of the lot.

We finished up with horchata cheesecake (an item you can also find at America’s Taco Shop, $7), a thing so rich, creamy and cinnamon-y that I was prompted to ask myself, “Where have you been?” It’s wonderful. Next time, I’ll try the jamaica cheesecake, also offered here and at America’s.

Everybody’s cranking out a burger these days, but with America’s help (the woman, not the country) the Bortins offer a fun, inspired twist on an American classic. I’m already hungry for more.

888 N. First Ave., Phoenix, 602-237-5146,