Let’s go back to the 1930s in Edinburg. At that time, Edinburg College was founded as a two-year community college and the arrival of the “talkies” had generated an interest in Spanish-language cinema. Now, let me tell you about an interesting fact: Dr. Kay Teer Crawford as a young high school student from Edinburg came up with the brilliant concept of putting together a “drill team,” which is now a part of the American scene. There was also a neighborhood Dairy Queen which later (1948) became …… the one and only “HAMBURGER KING.”
Current owner/manager Jose Enrique Alejos, a loyal and hard working employee, has been there since 1958. He has seen this venue survive decades and trends in order to become an institution.
My “Edinburg” connection was my oh-so sweet friend Marty Pereyra (an Edinburgite) who promised to take me to her favorite down home fried chicken joint. My daughter Odette and I showed up before she did (we had been preparing ourselves for this moment) late one evening. As I drove up to this establishment I thought to myself … this looks like a scene from “La Bamba” or “The Outsiders”; you must see … to believe.
The minute you step inside Hamburger King you’ll find yourself in a restaurant outside of time. The smell of the chicken bathing in hot oil was making my stomach turn (in a good way) the minute we sat down in one of their vintage ‘50s booths. Our waitress greeted us with a friendly smile and handed us the limited menu which, of course, had their famous fried bird, fried shrimp and fried fish. I ordered their chicken basket ($6.50) which comes with three pieces of chicken, (thigh-leg-wing) home-style French fries, sliced onions, a spicy jalapeno and a slice of white sandwich bread on top. My daughter and I thought it would also be a good idea if we tried their classic cheeseburger ($2.69) with all the trimmings and a side of fries ($1.35).
As we waited for Marty and our food to arrive, my daughter and I noticed what seemed to be a combination of neighborhood folks and newbies savoring their chicken with not a care in the world. The décor here is … kitschy; and makes an ideal setting for a road film. There’s also an old Pedro Infante (legendary Mexican actor/singer) photograph hanging on the wall which made me feel as if my father Belarmino Castellanos (they look alike) was present.
Moments later, Marty walked in and I thanked her for recommending this landmark. Our baskets arrived and we put aside our lady like etiquette because we … were on a messy mission! The cheeseburger looked identical to the hamburgers Wimpy from the Popeye comic strip (filmed in the 1930s) sings about while he is working at “Bluto’s Restaurant.” I had only taken two delicious bites, when … like magic, my little one made the rest disappear. Then along came mi pollito. Wow … it was crunchy yet moist all at the same time. I realized the three pieces that came with my order was not enough.
The fried chicken here is the main attraction! It was juicy inside and had a gorgeous crust. For those who have not had this treat in a long time … try to remember the craggy crust that crackles resoundingly when you bite into it. This classic is cooked with the skin on, and offers a basic, satisfying amount of salt, fat, and crunch. Marty and I laughed when we agreed — the onions and the jalapeno (that was our salad) made us feel like we are eating healthy. Ha!
Their fries are similar to the one’s you might find at a bowling alley. Not too crispy or too thin, but just right. I loved their ketchup (it tasted like the ones from Mexico) because it had a sweeter taste. I was glad to see they also sell “Joya” sodas (85 cents). I grew up with these Mexican fruit carbonated soft drinks when I lived in the Valley back in the ‘70s so, I asked for a Manzanita (apple flavor) to refresh my pallet. On that historic evening, I left with a full belly, a smile on my face, and the essence of fried food on my clothes.
It tastes like chicken,
Hamburger King, 524 W. University Drive, Edinburg. 956-383-9091. *Has a walk-up window!
“Feliz dia de Gracias” — Happy Thanksgiving!