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DINING

Tiny burger joint serves Colombia's finest patties

Junior's hamburgers are a crunchy, meaty, juicy, saucy revelation

Photo: Aldrin Capulong, License: N/A, Created: 2011:05:26 20:00:29

Aldrin Capulong

Hot mess - Be sure to grab extra napkins before you bite into these overloaded beauties


Junior Colombian Burger

5389 S. Kirkman Road
407-745-9216
$

For years, Luis Garcia and his wife kept CityWalk stragglers, insomniac tourists and cabdrivers on breaks stimulated, satiated and satisfied on the seedy streets of the Kirkman-Vineland corridor. No, they didn't run a massage parlor: They operated a burger cart - a very popular one - that provided enough happy endings for Garcia to move operations into a more permanent space.

That space, Junior Colombian Burger on Kirkman Road (directly across from Hooters), may not be anywhere near as ample as its neighbor, but its bright, hot, cramped quarters packs 'em in anyway. They come for Garcia's special brand of Colombian hamburgers - hand-formed patties blended with onions, seasonings and spices, then piled high with lettuce, tomato, white cheese and onion, as well as a disparate mix of fried potato chips, pineapple sauce, "pink sauce" (mixed ketchup and mayo) and Garcia's secret, and ever-so-delectable, garlic sauce. Of course, there's the grilled bun as well - durably doughy and hardly an afterthought.

The place draws a mixed crowd that tends to loiter in front of the counter after ordering, but apart from that sliver of a shelf that runs the length of the restaurant, five-and-dime luncheonette-style, there's really no place to await your food. When it does arrive, diners sidle up to the narrow ledge for some uncomfortable side-by-side seating before getting in touch with their inner J. Wellington Wimpy. Naturally, there's a lot of chomping, grunting and moaning in between passing napkins to your neighbors, and as I devoured my triple cheeseburger ($7) in all its crunchy, meaty, juicy glory, I made a mental note to bring a beach towel to wipe off the inevitable saucy mess the next time I dine here. There are no French fries available, but with the heap of chips in your burger, who needs them? My only complaint was that there was too much meat in the triple cheeseburger. The double cheeseburger ($6) provided a better all-around taste of the Colombian burger.

There are a few other items available on the menu, but none compare to the burgers. The special hot dog ($4), loaded with pretty much the same ingredients as the burger, was good but unexceptional. The beef skewer ($5), grilled medium-well, was flavorful, but a little tough and in need of a dip in the green sauce, which was akin to chimichurri with a kick. The noteworthy mixed arepa ($6) was served like a pizza, the cheesy corn cake supporting sizable morsels of beef and chicken. It's the sort of comestible that has you bursting at the seams after a couple of bites, but the thumping dance music seems to do wonders for digestion. Colombian and South American sodas are available, but enjoying your meal with some fresh mango or passionfruit juice ($2) is the best way to go.

The overwhelming consensus among my dining party was that the burgers were Junior's raison d'être and the sole motive to return. Sure, we debated its degree of exoticness and whether or not it was the best burger in the city, but with a mouthful of chuck, the last thing we wanted to do was mince words.

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