Steam is the Theme

Mari Vees has its own way of making its burgers
Published on Mar 6, 2024

Is there anything like the sizzle and smell of burgers grilling over an open flame, juices dripping? And those charred edges on the patty? 

No matter how you like your burgers,  a burger cooked with flame, or on a grill is pretty much unbeatable, right?

Okay, not so fast, cowboy.

Roger Valdez, owner of the new Mari Vees eatery in nearby San Marino, might have a different opinion. His burgers are cooked with pure heat and steam. 

He first got the idea while watching a YouTube video about Ted’s, a popular restaurant in Connecticut that has cooked theirs that way since 1959.

And while the cheeseburger itself was of course, “invented” in Pasadena by young Lionel Sternberger in 1924, the steamed cheeseburger is believed to have been invented at a restaurant called Jack’s Lunch in Middletown, Connecticut, in either the late 1920s or 1930s

In any case, Roger saw the Ted’s video, and thought, “I can do that.” He set up his home kitchen as the lab, and sporadically invited friends and family to partake in the creations. 

That led to his own burger truck in the Bay Area about a dozen years ago or so, and after a miss or two, he was soon operating one of the most popular mobile burger joints in the city and surroundings. In fact, he actually won a “LA vs Bay Burger Battle” on a cable food show. 

Relocating south and enlarging his fleet, he found a restaurant space on a main commercial drag in San Marino, and began serving up his specialty to a hungry clientele that seems to be steadily growing. (You saw it here first).

While he is reluctant to discuss his own methodology, he does reveal that his burgers are placed into a rack and then subjected to the steam treatment. (No, not every spot that steams its burgers does it the same way. Pete’s, in Wisconsin, for example, pours about a half inch of water onto a hot grill and plops the patties down into the drink.)

Roger goes one better, serving his steamed Champion Burgers on a Brioche bun with pastrami and avocado, and a thick slice of cheese. Yes, the cheese melts, it just melts differently.

And yes, it’s delicious. We had ours with some terrific French fries, which are also worth bragging about. 

Steamed, not grilled. Watch for them at next year’s Cheeseburger Week.

Mari Vees Breakfast Lunch Café is at 2150 Huntington Dr, San Marino, CA 91108.  (626) 234-2085.

Make a Comment

  • (not be published)