Building a Better Burger

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Building a Better Burger

Owner and chef Frank Macias with the Trump’s Burger Wall, piled high with American and Mexican flavors representing the cultural mix of South Texas. (VBR)
Owner and chef Frank Macias with the Trump’s Burger Wall, piled high with American and Mexican flavors representing the cultural mix of South Texas. (VBR)

Frank Macias at times seems a bit surprised by his success. All the while, he is confident in the skills and vision that took him down a road from food truck operator to restaurateur with a plan for the future.

The owner of Frankie Flav’z in Harlingen, Macias’s first job was flipping burgers at McDonald’s when he was 16. He bounced around from eatery to eatery until he was 22, when he switched gears to become an assistant golf pro at a small course in the Rio Grande Valley. It was there he got hooked on watching the Food Network.

It was during this period he met his wife Cindy. Her career as a nurse got Macias thinking about the healthcare field and he started taking prerequisite courses for the nursing program at Texas State Technical College. But his love of food was never far from his heart. When he began fixing nice lunches for Cindy, other nurses began asking if he would cook for them, too.

Hamburger buns are made by a local baker and then branded with the Frankie Flav’z logo. (VBR)
Hamburger buns are made by a local baker and then branded with the Frankie Flav’z logo. (VBR)

What started as fixing a few lunches every Friday quickly grew as his food gained a following at the hospital. “All of a sudden I was doing multiple floors and cooking lunches for doctors,” Macias said. “It started with about 20 orders every week and went to 120 orders. And most of what I was doing I learned from watching the Food Network at the golf course.”

The pursuit of a nursing degree was pushed to the side and Macias enrolled in the TSTC Culinary Arts program. From there, he teamed up with his brother-in-law, Chris Ramos, and decided to open the Frankie Flav’z food truck in 2015.

“I decided to open a food truck because there really weren’t any true food trucks here at the time,” he said. “A lot of people were opening food trucks but unfortunately many of them faded away.”

The popularity of his food truck grew and he was invited to Waco as an entrant in a large food truck competition. “We were lucky enough to be invited,” Macias said. “We didn’t place but it was great to put my food up against others. I met a lot of talented people and some of them are good friends today.”

Chris Ramos is described as the “backbone” of Frankie Flav’z by his brother-in-law and owner Frank Macias. (VBR)
Chris Ramos is described as the “backbone” of Frankie Flav’z by his brother-in-law and owner Frank Macias. (VBR)

Running a food truck is a tough business, and Macias knew he had to find other ways to make a living from his food. “There were weeks we didn’t make a dollar, just break even, break even.” In May 2017 he opened the Frankie Flav’z restaurant in downtown Harlingen, still with his brother-in-law, whom he calls his “backbone,” at his side. “We wouldn’t have made it this far without him.”

Macias designed the restaurant’s menu around the food truck’s most popular item, his El Jefe Cubano sandwich, added more varieties of Frankie Flav’z burgers and folded in appetizers, tacos and other sandwiches to round out the offerings. With his food truck reputation preceding him, business took off. “I didn’t know we would blow up like this,” he said. “I just wanted to make a good burger.”

Today, he is working on Frankie Flav’z Craft Burger House, a new eatery in Harlingen specializing in hand-crafted burgers with an expected opening date in mid-January. That’s when he will also expand the menu of the downtown location beyond burgers and sandwiches to include dinner plates like pan-seared teriyaki salmon and Korean glazed pork chops, along with other seafood and steaks.

“I think we are ready for it. Everybody likes a good burger but we want to branch out. With this menu we can do that.”

And Macias’s vision doesn’t stop there. “I want to mold it and build it into a chain,” he said of the burger house. “I don’t see why I can’t have three to five more in the next few years.”

The sandwich that put Frankie Flav’z food truck on the map, El Jefe Cubano, features braised pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. (VBR)
The sandwich that put Frankie Flav’z food truck on the map, El Jefe Cubano, features braised pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. (VBR)

George Cox is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years experience as a newspaper writer and editor. A Corpus Christi native, he started his career as a reporter for The Brownsville Herald after graduating from Sam Houston State University with a degree in journalism. He later worked on newspapers in Laredo and Corpus Christi as well as northern California. George returned to the Valley in 1996 as editor of The Brownsville Herald and in 2001 moved to Harlingen as editor of the Valley Morning Star. He also held the position of editor and general manager for the Coastal Current, a weekly entertainment magazine with Valleywide distribution. George retired from full-time journalism in 2015 to work as a freelance writer and legal document editor. He continues to live in Harlingen where he and his wife Katherine co-founded Rio Grande Valley Therapy Pets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising public awareness of the benefits of therapy pets and assisting people and their pets to become registered therapy pet teams.

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