From a truck to a brick-and-mortar location, Loco Burger’s owners have big dreams

With their Mexican-influenced burger, the company has amassed a devoted following.

This story is jointly published by nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Salt Lake Community College, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.

Ever since a Loco Burger opened a location less than a block from Salt Lake Community College’s South City campus in January, locals have been eager to try its Mexican-fusion burger.

Before the brick-and-mortar opening at 1702 S. Main St. in Salt Lake City, and the overwhelming support from the community, founder Fernando Cano and his wife, Maria Cano, had a successful food truck that still operates at 5454 S. 4220 West in Kearns.

“On the first three to four days — sold out.” Fernando Cano said about the truck’s opening in 2020. “We were selling around 300 to 400 burgers a day.”

(Tyffton Bowman | The Globe, SLCC) The offerings at Loco Burger include the signature Loco Burger (top right), chicken tenders and fries.

The new Loco Burger is attached to Manny’s a classic Salt Lake City dive bar. It offers a lively environment, nearly always packed with customers ready for a tempting burger. The sounds of sizzling meat from the kitchen accompanies the Latin music coming from behind the counter.

Each burger at Loco Burger has a base of lettuce, tomato, beef patty, avocados, and two cheeses. The crazy twist, Fernando Cano said, comes from the different varieties of pork added to the burger.

“Americans say hamburger, but they don’t have ham on it,” he said.

Cano said his favorite, the “Chapo” burger, is made with a thin slice of pork chop. The name is based on his nickname, a colloquial Spanish word for a short person, given to him by his kids as an affectionate joke about his height.

Cano’s kids also named other menu items, including the Salchi burger (with grilled franks) and the Porky burger (which includes three thick slices of bacon).

“I’ll try to involve my kids in this business because I think that’s good business,” he said. “You have to do something if you want something, nothing is free.”

Cano said he has told his three children that the business is theirs if they work for it. He acknowledged that his two sons and daughter — ages 14, 12 and 7½ — might have their own aspirations. If they want something different, he said, they need to work for that, too.

The business, Cano said, is family-oriented by design. Even the original recipes for the “Loco” burger and the spicy “Loco” sauce are from his mother. She’s amazed, he said, that her burger is being sold in the eatery.

The yellow storefront in Salt Lake City is the beginning of the company’s brick-and-mortar growth, Cano said. He has two locations under construction and two more in the works. The new locations are in Kearns, South Jordan, Herriman and Salt Lake City’s Rose Park neighborhood.

The new Kearns location, he said, will feature a collection of Mexican hot dogs and milkshakes, Cano said.

Ultimately, Cano said, he would like to see Loco Burger grow into a national chain. His first goal, though, is to open 20 locations across Utah.

Maria Cano said she has even bigger dreams for the company.

“My vision of Loco Burger is definitely bigger than just the states, because of its uniqueness,” she said. “We want to share it with everybody.”

The Canos said they believe in investing in themselves and investing in their team. They said they know they couldn’t do it alone, and are grateful for the opportunities they’ve had in Utah and in the United States. Fernando Cano emigrated from Mexico in 2003. He later met Maria, and the two married in 2008.

“I give my life for this country because this country gives me everything,” Fernando Cano said.

Tyffton Bowman wrote this story as a journalism student at Salt Lake Community College. It is published as part of a new collaborative including nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune.