When Fernando Lopez came to Los Angeles from Oaxaca in the early '90s, he opened a restaurant for people from Oaxaca homesick for their native cuisine. That restaurant was — and still is — Guelaguetza, a vibrant center for Oaxacan culture in Los Angeles.
Last year Lopez moved back to Oaxaca, in southwestern Mexico, leaving Guelaguetza in the hands of his children Bricia and her younger brother Fernando.
Too young to retire, Lopez cast about for a project in Oaxaca.
“Every day he’d wake up with a different idea,” says Bricia. He thought about opening a bike tour business, an alkaline water shop, maybe importing restaurant equipment from the states.
In the end, he settled on a burger joint for Oaxacans who’d returned home from the U.S., but missed American food. "His idea was to serve a really great classic burger like In-N-Out Burger or the Apple Pan, his two favorites in L.A.." says Bricia.
Initially, Lopez wanted to call it Santa Monica Burger, but that name was already taken. California Burger, too. And then the word pink popped into his mind. Pink! Like the famous hot dog place on Fairfax Avenue. But this would be a burger joint.
Located in Mitla, a small town at the site of the important archeological site about 45 minutes outside of Oaxaca City, Pink Burger stands out with its cream-and-pink building and vivid logo.
The menu features the signature Pink Burger, which comes with the usual lettuce, tomato and onion, queso Americano (American cheese) and a special sauce for about $3, or $4.25 with a drink and fries. The fries are hand-cut, just like at In-N-Out.
Having tried it, I can say Pink Burger nails the classic burger. It really does taste just like home. Variations include the Twin Burger with two beef patties, or the Chipotle Burger with Swiss cheese and a smoky chipotle sauce.
And — get thi s— Pink Burger delivers, which is something of a novelty in Oaxaca. When I was there recently, Lopez’ daughter Monica was whizzing around town in a tiny moto-taxi (like a three-wheeled golf cart) painted with Pink Burger’s logo.
Pink Burger, Avenida 5 de Febrero #5, San Pablo Villa de Mitla (Oaxaca, Mexico); 011-52-951-568-0306; pinkburgeroax.com. Burgers about $3 to $4.25.