It's been six short months since Ernesto and Alfredo Pena opened their family's burger hut.
In restaurant years, five months and change is primordial. It's still at the cellular level, a tender and fragile age when the slightest predator could gobble it up. The baby-blue joint is huddled against Gus Thomasson Road on the fringe of Mesquite.
Across the street, a Little Caesars sits with an empty parking lot. You'll find Porky's in the strip mall, with a welcoming, unstressed amount of parking, flanked by a commanding Auto Zone and Dollar General. Ignore the big brand chains — Porky's is a family joint.
Miros Pena is behind the register, next to a towering burger ornament, and she greets each customer who jangles through the door brightly. Behind the register, the griddle gets scraped clean of burned bits. It's a slower afternoon, so there's nothing else hissing on the flattop. One of life's treats as a consumer of burgers is this moment: At an empty restaurant after the lunch rush, you can hear the fresh beef crackle on the griddle.
Porky's knows exactly how to handle beef. The patty gets a deep sear — a thick cap of crust that eclipses the burger's horizon. It's salted and peppered generously. The crust is visible beneath a tangle of fresh, heavy-grilled vegetables: On the Full Moon, you'll find thin-sliced mushrooms, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, pickle and diced onion. Molten American cheese, a lava flow of the white kind, binds the toppings together like a bubbling cauldron of queso fundido. The cheese magmas into the charred beef. They spread each half of the bun with mayo and yellow mustard.
In the Boulevard strip mall on Gus Thomasson Road, one of the area's best new burgers.
Here's the point: Where is everybody? Let's meet at Porky's Burgers and Wings, a family joint on the cusp of East Dallas, and skip the fast-food line.
No Whataburger, none on the menu, can top the deep char of the beef at Porky's. A Big Mac's chemical addiction that fires into the lobes of your brain like shrapnel is empty, hollow food.
Porky's is rich, salty decadence. The burgers are immense half-pounders, piled just high enough with toppings, to awe-strike you for the price (less than eight bucks for each sandwich).
It's a giant meal, stupendous and mustardy and cheesy. In other words, it's a cheeseburger you're imagining when you think you want a cheeseburger.
It's been less than a year, but Porky's knows exactly what they're doing.
Freshly cut potatoes are usually duds when they make it to french fries. There's another surprising factor about this East-East Dallas joint: Most inexpensive burger joints bungle the fresh-cut fries scene. Porky's pops and crackles with seasoning. The crusts of the potato skins are crunchy and salty.
So, listen: Let's all meet in Mesquite. It's just past the sprawl. There's plenty of parking.
Porky's Burgers and Wings, 4612 Gus Thomasson Road, Mesquite