There's a new burger in town, and it's different: How does a slice of mango on your burger sound?
The signature burger itself at Mango Restaurant is fine, though it's not a hand-formed patty. It's tender enough, and there are a few crisp bits around the edges from grilling (which is a good thing). So we're starting with a decent burger, but the condiments really elevate this one.
The menu says it comes with mango salsa, but just ignore that. What you'll get instead is fresh slices of mango tucked between the bun, along with fresh onion, chopped pickle, and a sweet and spicy blend of mayonnaise and ketchup. Believe me, you'll have nothing to complain about, and the simple substitution of a patty gently formed by hand, one that's a bit looser, could get this baby on burger lists all 'round town.
Never heard of Mango? It's in plain sight but easy to miss, located next to a Cricket store in a small strip on Getwell, just a bit south of American Way and no more than 30 seconds off I-240, if you don't catch the red light.
Think of it as four restaurants in one. There's a menu of items such as the burger, along with chicken wings (not bad, not great), fried fish and so on -- pretty typical fast-food fare. But then there's a Middle-Eastern menu, and a Mexican one, too. To top it off, there's an ice cream counter where you can even get a milkshake.
On our first visit, we pondered whether to try the tacos or the gorditas. It was an easy decision when the very friendly young woman behind the counter explained that the gorditas take longer because the cook makes the shells to order. Sold.
She also makes the empanadas, we were told, but it turns out she doesn't make those every day. The ones we were served were previously frozen, though the quality was good, and it was made clear when they were delivered that they weren't "Mom's" (in quotes because the cook isn't really the mother of the counter girl, though she calls her that). Tamales, huge ones in husks filled with spicy beef or chicken, are made in-house. Everything is served with house-made salsas, red and green, and if it's hot, you'll get a verbal warning ahead of time.
All of the food was good, and the gorditas were excellent. Each was just a bit smaller than a taco in the numerous taquerias around town, but the fresh shells were split open, similar to a pita bread, and stuffed with bits of grill-fried beef that were deeply flavored with spice and by caramelization. Lettuce, onions and slices of avocado topped the order of two.
We left too full to even contemplate the ice cream counter, but were back a few days later with a mission to take on the Middle-Eastern menu and the ice cream.
Mexican and Middle-Eastern are my two favorite go-to foods on nights when I don't want to cook and I'm not dining for work. If I haven't tried all of the good ones in town, it's because I don't know about it or it's on the short list of places I still need to go. Yet I've never seen hummus topped with grilled meat, and all I can say is it's a shame.
The hummus, a creamy mix of chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil and spices, is good alone. It's tangy with lemon, smooth and with just enough garlic to flavor it without overwhelming it. If you don't want meat, you can still get good hummus.
But unless you're a vegetarian, treat yourself. The meaty version isa plate of hummus topped with seasoned ground beef, sprinkled with sumac (the tart purple spice you see on many Middle Eastern dishes) and drizzled with olive oil. It's the deep caramelization on the meat that provides so much flavor; a dinner guest said it was the best thing he'd ever tasted on a review with me.
We chose the gyro salad instead of the sandwich. The meat was good, the tzatziki was flavorful and cooling, and the greens were fresh. The chicken on the Mango plate (kifta, or ground meat kabobs, gyro meat and chicken, served with salad and hummus) was especially tender and flavorful. The falafel was a disappointment, as it was dry and tough.
We did save a bit of room for ice cream: single cones of the butter pecan; bear claw, a very deep chocolate with caramel; coconut (excellent, with bits of coconut throughout), and even a bite of the cinnamon bun ice cream. They're not made in-house, but all were good, much like hard-packed ice cream you'd find in a Baskin-Robbins.
The staff at Mango is friendly, the little place is clean as a pin, and the prices are very low. Dishes are served on foam or paper plates, and the plastic forks and knives are unfortunate, but Mango has earned a spot on my go-to list.
-- Jennifer Biggs: (901) 529-5223
Mango Restaurant and Ice Cream
Address: 2733 Getwell.
Telephone: (901) 369-4334.
Hours: 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.
Reviewer's choices: Reviewer's choice: Hummus with ground meat ($6.99); gorditas ($6.99); Mango burger ($5.99).
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars