Stroll into Marino’s Mob Burgers and Ice Cream parlor and you are not likely to escape the eye of General Manager Esther Mendoza. Elegantly bedazzled in sequence and jewels reminiscent of the Roaring ’20s, Mendoza will have an endearing nickname and a “we’ve-known-each-other-forever” greeting that draws you in.
Nevermind the hand-pressed fresh, never frozen, beef patties or the irreplaceable Thrifty ice cream that make this a local hangout, the secret ingredients that keep guests coming back are the respect, kindness and love that Mendoza and the costumed staff serve up in generous helpings.
“It’s kind of like going into a ‘mom and pop’ place. From the time you walk in the door, you’re treated with a fun time. I like to joke around with the customers, we have names for everyone and we want to play with them. They have names for me, too, like ‘Pearl’ because of the pearls around my neck, or ‘Mama,’” she said.
With all the unbridled spirit of the Old West, Mendoza hands out silverware and cautions diners to be careful with their “weapons.” She trains servers to come to work to play, as well. Dressing the part is in the contract for the front of the house. Mob Burgers provides dresses, jewelry, bow ties, suspenders and fedoras, but Mendoza has learned that staff members enjoy owning and wearing their own costumes.
Dave and Sherry Marino, the owners who previously opened Marino’s Corner Bistro, have enjoyed much success with the restaurant in its five years of operation. “If you believe in God, it was meant to be,” said Dave. “Every door was opened every time we’d come up against an obstacle that would be a show stopper.”
“It’s been fabulous! We have great employees and great food. Esther puts her heart and soul into this place,” said Sherry.
Mendoza, like many locals, grew up enjoying burgers and shakes under the same roof, when the establishment was known as Kendall’s Famous Burgers and Ice Cream. “It brought back so much history when I was a young girl of 13 or 14 years old coming into this location after school.”
Now, at age 40, Mendoza wants to repeat the same joy and warmth she felt with today’s kids. “We have a big clientele of students. You should see Fridays and Wednesdays! They write us notes telling us this is their favorite place.”
Before opening, the Marinos renovated the building. “We took down the low ceiling and found the 1900s’ version of the dining room. Everything in there was more than 100 years old. The original tin ceiling had too many holes in it from the old stove that used to heat the building, so we replaced it.”
They found a company on the East Coast that could match the old tin ceiling, complete with the Prescott stamp. They also removed walls, installed a new floor and exposed the brick. During the renovation, they found evidence of the Home Bakery owned by the Hume family from the 1860s. The Marinos are considering bringing back the bakery.
“We love the history of the town and we have the biggest desire to preserve it, not cover it,” said Dave. “We love our customers. Some, who are in their 70s and 80s now, came here when they were kids.”
Marino’s Mob Burger and Ice Cream is located at 113 S. Cortez Street, on the square in historic downtown Prescott. The Mob’s gang is planning to celebrate its fourth anniversary on the Fourth of July in classic all-American style with an ice cream bash. For more information, call 928-515-1690. QCBN
By Bonnie Stevens, QCBN