The search for the perfect green-chile cheeseburger is serious business in the Land of Enchantment. Green Chile Cheeseburgers began showing up on menus at roadside joints in New Mexico during Route 66’s heyday (the middle of the 20th Century) and have been going strong ever since. Everyone has an opinion on who makes the best one; in 2009 the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail was born. Sponsored by the state’s Tourism Department, it’s a voting contest. People can nominate and then vote for their favorites. In case voters miss any iconic cheeseburgers, a panel of experts weighs in, too. Here are the Santa Fe restaurants that made the list for 2011.
Atrisco, a fairly new addition to the Santa Fe dining scene (run by a family who’s been serving New Mexican food for years) made the list for the first time this year. Their green chile cheeseburger, a six-ounce version, is made in-house from grass-fed beef.
Bert’s Burger Bowl* (505- 982-0215) has been serving up burgers since 1954; that’s a lot of burgers flipped. This old-style stand claims to be the first spot in Santa Fe to offer green chile cheeseburgers, the Owl Cafe and Bar in San Antonio claims to be the first in the state. Bert’s burgers come with mustard, pickle, lettuce, tomato and onion. If you’re a purist and only want the cheese and green chile, speak up. The menu board notes that there is a twelve-minute wait for the made-to-order burgers. Short on time or impatient? Call ahead. If you’re tired of the same old beef burger or want to try something different, Bert’s also serves bison, Kobe, lamb, ostrich and pork burgers. There’s also a veggie burger if you’re not a carnivore. There are two sizes; quarter-pound and half-pound. They serve other things, but, come on. It’s the Burger Bowl and that’s what just about everyone orders.
One of the undisputed champions in the quest for the best is Bobcat Bite* (number three on this year’s list); they have been serving up burgers since 1953. The place is tiny and there’s usually a wait. Just add your name to the board on the porch and take a seat (if there’s a vacant one), they’ll call you. The meat for their 10-ounce burgers is ground fresh daily from a mix of chuck and sirloin. The hand-made monsters are thick and succulent (don’t order them well-done). There’s a choice of toppings, but the toppings of choice are cheese and green chile. They have a few other menu items, but most folks have a burger in front of them or are waiting for one. Make sure you bring cash; credit cards are not accepted.
The number one spot on the state list went to Blake’s Lottaburger, a New Mexico chain with five locations in Santa Fe. Their version starts with a frozen, pre-made patty topped with American cheese, chopped jalapenos and green chile, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and onions.
El Parasol, a small family-owned mini-chain has been serving up New Mexican food since the 60s, first in a taco wagon and then in a small take-out place on Cerrillos Road (they also own El Paragua, a restaurant in Española). They make their own 1/3 pound patties from already ground beef. Green chile cheeseburgers come with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mustard.
La Plazuela, in the historic La Fonda Hotel, is a great place to grab your green chile cheeseburger if you want more up-scale ambiance. Their version is made with freshly ground Black Angus beef grilled to order, topped with a choice of American, Swiss or smoked cheddar cheese and green chile. It’s served on toasted Telera bread (a traditional Mexican bread with a crusty outside). They only serve the burger at lunch; if you’re craving one for dinner, their La Fiesta Lounge serves them too and most nights they have live music.
What Santa Fe restaurants are you favorites for green chile cheeseburgers? Whether it made the list or not, let us know. We’re always on the hunt for the perfect one.
*Listed on the New Mexico Culinary Trail family-owned restaurants (often still owned by the founding families) in business over 40 years.
Authors’ note: As a former hotel concierges and owners of a travel concierge and trip-planning business in Santa Fe, the writers may have been guests of business or services mentioned in posts on this site. While these experiences have not influenced us in any way, this information is provided in the spirit of full disclosure.