Union Square West (SW corner, near Staples), New York, NY 10003 (map)
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Peruvian truck makes a great burger by any standards
Want Fries with That? None on the menu, though they might throw you some fried plantains if you ask
Price: Poor Man's Burger, $8
Often times, burger joints make up for a mediocre product with extensive menu options. Excessive toppings and unconventional meats (elk, anyone?) attempt to obscure the truth: this burger is lame and despite our best efforts it will remain lame until we hang up our spatulas and open up a taco joint. Morocho, the Union Square-based Peruvian food truck, does not suffer from this affliction. Instead, like April Bloomfield's Spotted Pig, the cart offers only one hamburger...one that makes all other food truck burgers quiver in their buns.
The Poor Man's Burger ($8) is an all-around excellent hamburger, from the beef to the toppings to the look it evokes in those who enjoy it. Unlike many New York trucks, Morocho doesn't tout its sourced ingredients or special blend. Instead, chef Miguel Samanez simply does everything right and lets the quality ingredients, including some ultra fresh veggies, speak for themselves.
When the cooked-to-order hamburger flies out of the window, you'll receive a large styrofoam container—take your first bite (or five) over this feeding trough or face a shirt covered in burger. The massive, coarse-ground, half pound patty is well-seasoned and cooked just right on a flat-top with a dark, crusty sear on both sides. I ordered the burger medium rare, and it came out an incredibly juicy medium that, while looking a bit dark, was not the least bit dry or unsatisfying—they might not be using a LaFrieda blend, but their fresh patties have plenty of fat and beefy flavor.
Sure, a half pound of beef with some incredibly fresh tomato slices (red, sweet and juicy), marinated red onion (salsa criolla), and lettuce would be a perfectly satisfying, but Miguel does not stop there. An expertly fried egg (over easy) graces the top bun, as well as a few strips of fried plantain. This ingredient combination is known as "hombre pobre" (poor man) in Peru—hence the burger name. The yolk breaks immediately, saucing the burger, plantains, and the container, which becomes a makeshift sauce tub.
Speaking of sauce, the burger's biggest surprise was its unique mayonnaise. Combining mayo, vinegar, and rocoto peppers, the sauce is simple in its conception but quite complex in flavor. Working like a sort of Peruvian Shack Sauce, the rocoto mayo proves a perfect compliment to beef. It has both tart mayo qualities and a bit of added heat from the peppers. My burger was effectively slathered with it, which didn't bother me one bit since the patty was so thick.
Finally, there's the bun. Perhaps the weakest part of the sandwich, it was still perfectly serviceable and [sigh of relief] not brioche, like some other truck burgers. The bread is light and somewhat eggy, kind of like a challah bread. It's about the right size and stands up to the insides for a few minutes before disintegrating in a pool of egg and mayo—the faint of heart may opt for the fork-knife approach.
There aren't any formal sides on Morocho's menu, but the best accompaniment for the Poor Man's Burger is an Inca Cola ($1.50 for a can), a super-sweet Peruvian soda that reminds me of melted down Cream Soda Dum Dums. I wouldn't drink it every day, but as a sugary break from a fatty patty, it's about as good as it gets.
The Poor Man's Burger is a shining example of successful fusion cooking and well-executed burgercraft. As I've begun to find in my New York truck adventures, a perfectly rounded burger is tough to find. Fortunately, I can safely say that Morocho's burger is a resounding success with its high quality elements and balanced construction. By food truck standards, this burger is top of the line. By restaurant standards, it's still pretty great. If you work in the Union Square area and like your burgers delicious and messy, get to Morocho as soon as possible.
About the author: Sam is an intern, college student, food TV enthusiast, and he's a zit, get it?