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They Have a Nayarit-Style Smashburger! El Sereno’s Best New Burgers Are Made By A Latina Couple

8:00 AM PDT on July 28, 2020

Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.

Drive into the hilly streets of El Sereno and look for a house with a bright yellow sign, there’s a strong chance burgers are nearby. Especially if that sign has an arrow and a burger on it. 

This elusive sign belongs to Hangaburs, a great new smashburger pop-up by Alicia Lopez and Cecilia Ledezma. The burger stand’s name is a verbal estimation of the word hamburger, a play on how a child would say the word. 

The married couple decided a pandemic was the perfect time to unveil their burger concept outside of their El Sereno home. It began when Lopez was furloughed from her graphic designer job at Disney because of COVID-19. Suddenly with extra time and no excuses, she decided to debut her recipe for a smashburger she had been developing for three years.

Before their first pop-up, the Hangaburs team was intimidated by how male dominated the smash burger scene was (and continues to be). 

“It made us question if being women would somehow keep us from being taken seriously or from succeeding in the space,” Lopez tells L.A. Taco, “but add onto that [we’re] POC and gay. We really weren’t sure if our sexual orientation would be a factor in people trying our food.”

The larger than expected reception from the El Sereno community has answered most of Lopez’s concerns. And her take on smashburgers hold their own against her contemporaries. The technique of a proper smash is evident in the first bite. Additionally, she also has a few personal tweaks, like the way she slices pickles lengthwise so there is pickle in each bite.

Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.

The Smashburger

Hangaburs only sells two burgers, the original smash and the Tepic. Both are stellar. 

All burgers here start with a roughly shaped sphere of ground chuck, lined in a 9x9 formation -  patiently waiting to be smashed. 

The original is prepared with cheese, thinly shaved onions, pickle slivers cut lengthwise, and hangabur sauce. The last ingredient tastes similar to spread from In-N-Out but with flavor tweeks to appease their palates. 

“We like a little more mustard,” says Lopez. Mustard plays an important role in both burgers.

Grilled onions can be added to any burger at no extra cost, and you definitely want those. Lopez uses a similar technique you’d find in George Motz’s fried onion burger, where the onions and burger are cooked together. The idea is that the onions cook in the beef fat, which results in jammy onions that melt together so the line between onion and beef blurs. Again, you want these.

The Tepic burger. Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
The Tepic burger. Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.

The Tepic Burger

The Tepic burger draws inspiration in name and spirit from Tepic, Nayarit. On a trip to Tepic the couple tried a burger called a tortuga. The burger was prepared with tomatoes, cheese, panela, and ham. 

Lopez’s version is similar but varies in preparation. 

The burger has the same crispy meat lace you’d expect from a smashburger and already comes with grilled onions. But Lopez’s version opts to grill the panela and ham. “Grilling those enhances and helps marry the flavors,” argues Lopez. It’s topped with sliced tomatoes and a squiggle of spicy mustard crema.

The business of a Tepic might remind you of a torta cubana but the Tepic is an elegant package. You get the crispy thin patty of a smashburger, with the sweetness of the tomato, the saltiness of the ham and panela, and the tang of the mustard crema.

Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.

Three Years in the Making

Smash burgers have dominated the burger scene for the last three years. Coincidentally that’s how long Lopez had been developing her recipe for these burgers. The couple drew inspiration from a burger chain called Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers. The patties are thin and scraggly, reminiscent of a smash. They visited the Victorville location often, especially as a pit stop on the way to Vegas.

But Hangaburs does offer something different than the others, each burger is carefully tailored and curated by the tastes of Lopez. Smashburger spots tend to serve burgers plain and you can dress with whatever your little heart desires. (Usually onions, pickles, condiments, love, etc). But Lopez believes each burger should be fully dressed and ready to party. That being said, they do offer ketchup, mustard, and modifications. If that’s your thing, you nerd.

Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.

The reception has been a little overwhelming for the team. In just its first few pop-ups, designed to “test the waters,” Lopez and Ledezma said the turnout was far bigger than they expected. 

They attribute the increased attention to Evil Cooks, who posted about their first pop-up on Instagram. Hangaburs also consulted the group for advice on how to maneuver through the difficult world of pop-ups. 

“We went through a lot of the little details that you find on your way to being a street food vendor/pop-up,” explains Alex Garcia, one half of Evil Cooks, “but we gave them the most important advice: ‘If you really want to do it, just do it, don’t think about it.’”

The team has no prior cooking or hospitality experience, but they seem energized by the reception. “I’m still learning, I’ve never taken orders before,” says Ledezma, “But I like it. And I’m happy that she’s finally doing it.”

 “We even had burgers catered for our wedding, ” Ledezma offers as a convincing piece of evidence for the couple’s dedication to hangaburs.

For pop-up dates and location follow Hangaburs on Instagram.

Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Erwin Recinos for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
Photo by Cesar Hernandez for L.A. Taco.
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