San Antonio can claim the Tostada Burger as its own, a culinary creation as singular as the Philly Cheese Steak — often imitated, but less recognizable the farther afield you find it, and equally deserving of 15 minutes of fame on one of those Food Network shows. It’s related to another SA invention (that went a little astray up north in DFW), the Frito, a key ingredient in its immediate ancestor, the beanburger. Chris Madrid, whose Blanco burger parlor is the cradle of the Tostada Burger, says the beanburger — as sold and beloved at institutions such as Ringo’s and the long-gone Sills Snack Shack (where some legends have it, future Taco Cabana proprietor Felix Stehling invented it) — was the base model.
Madrid credits his lifelong friend Rick Wilson with telling him, “You’ve got to have a beanburger on the menu,” when he first opened his eponymous tacos and burgers joint in ’77, inspiring a round of experimentation in the kitchen. “We were making our own beans, and using, at the time, our mother’s recipe,” says Madrid. They didn’t want to use Fritos. “All of a sudden, we said, ‘What else goes well with beans?’” And much to the joy of cholesterol-lowering-drug manufacturers everywhere, the tostada burger was born. Cheddar cheese was added, and the whole thing was paired with Chris Madrid’s fresh salsa. While it was an instant hit, and has remained on the menu ever since, it’s still outsold by the Cheddar Burger, a puzzle that Madrid attributes to new customers confronting the “what?” factor. He challenges couples to order one of each, he says, and compare. In a head-to-head match up, the Tostada almost always prevails.