HARLEM — The most popular cheeseburgers in the neighborhood cost $2 and come from a cart on Lenox Avenue.
Every day at lunch time, a line of people queue up at Mo’s cart for burgers and hot dogs — most of them lured by the smell of freshly grilled patties.
"It's just like going to a summer BBQ but it's right here,” said Ashley Banks, a Harlem resident who had her first Mo’s cheeseburger 16 years ago.
The smell of Mo’s burgers is so tempting that when Banks is on a diet, she walks down Seventh Avenue to ensure she doesn’t fall victim to delicious temptation.
Stephanie Martinez stops before picking up her niece from school across the street. She makes sure to get there early.
“I come before the line gets too long,” she said.
Since 1990, Maurice “Mo” Robinson has been feeding people on Lenox Avenue between 117th and 118th streets. The venture started out with him selling fruit punch in front of a laundromat on 151 Lenox Ave. that he used to own.
When a customer said he wanted a hot dog to go along with the punch, Robinson bought a small grill. In the '90s, Robinson sat directly in front of his laundromat on a chair with a grill on the floor and punch by his side.
Over the years, city regulations forced Robinson to move from the front of his store to the edge of the sidewalk and face the buildings. He also had to get a cart and registered it with the city.
Robinson has had the cart for 10 years and keeps it in a barbershop on the block. The grill man has been using the cart so long that it "speaks" to him, telling Robinson when it needs to be cleaned or have a tune up, he said.
Between April and Halloween, Robinson grills burgers and hot dogs seven days a week between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. It’s not uncommon for him to cook 300 burgers, 120 dogs, and 100 hot sausages in a single day.
"I feed these people," said Robinson, 57. "I like what I do. It keeps me busy and it keeps me out of trouble."
Robinson owned 151 Lenox Ave. but sold it a couple of years ago because of rising property taxes. The laundromat was replaced with a coffee shop that sells $4 coffees and condos with million dollar mortgages.
Robinson now lives in The Bronx but said he’ll cook burgers until his body doesn’t let him because it's too much fun being a part of the community.
Mo’s isn’t on Yelp or Facebook. The sign just has prices and the words “100% beef” written on it.
Robinson likes that people know exactly where he is and that prices rarely change. People have called him crazy for charging $2 for a cheeseburger and $1.50 for a hot dog. But he said the high volume still earns him a profit in a gentrifying neighborhood with new restaurants charging more than $10 for a burger.
"One thing about this neighborhood, customers aren't dumb,” Robinson said. "They know what they want."