Chasing Cheeseburgers is run by Lindsay Gillenwater and Justin De La Rosa. The blog is dedicated to the pursuit of love in cheeseburgers. We spotlight the numerous cheeseburgers throughout the state of New Mexico and the restaurants that create them.
Some gastronomic experiences in life are carried with you forever. They are those unexpected trips to a restaurant where you’re expecting something good and you’re served a religious experience in the form of a cheeseburger.
It was one of those experiences.
For numerous reasons, our trip to San Antonio, N.M. had been put on hold several times in the weeks leading up to it. When we finally got it together and headed down to the now-famous Buckhorn Tavern, the desert could barely contain our excitement. We drove in silent anticipation an hour south of Albuquerque to the one-street town on NM Highway 380.
Upon arriving in San Antonio, before the GPS can even be pulled out, you see the sign for the Buckhorn right there on the highway, next to a tiny log building and a parking lot packed with cars. It is a long awaited and happy sight.
The Buckhorn Tavern is a slice of the Old West, set aside and preserved for all the cheeseburger lovers out there who would like a side of authenticity with their meal. A sign just inside the door lets you know that, although the Buckhorn is a burger joint, it is not fast food.
As we waited we read the numerous articles on the wall boasting of the Buckhorn’s achievements – and there are quite a few of them. The menu proudly states that GQ Magazine named the Buckhorn Burger seventh best in the country. Photos and banners from the famous Throwdown with Bobby Flay episode (in which the Buckhorn beat the world-famous chef) seem to be the most prominent of the memorabilia adorning the walls.
As we were led to our table, we were giggling with childish excitement. Once seated, chef and owner Bobby Olguin walked by – floor shaking as he passed – while we reverted to childhood and stared at him in awe as though he were Santa Claus.
The menu was full of items like chili cheese dogs and burritos – something to satisfy every hungry stomach – but we, of course, were there for the one and only Buckhorn Burger.
Our order consisted of two Buckhorn Burgers (green chile, cheese and the usual garnish), taco burgers, fries and one Rio Grande Special (a plate of fries complete with ground beef, red chile, beans, lettuce, tomato and cheese). In other words, afternoon food comas were imminent.
After a few minutes of sipping on our Tecates, five Styrofoam plates of San Antonio’s finest were delivered to us.
Let us preface this by saying the burgers at Buckhorn should be served with lots of napkins and a box of tissues.
Beyond the mouthwatering balance of heat and flavor contained in the roasted green chile, our eyes were watering from gratitude and thankfulness. The big man himself came over to ask us about how we were enjoying the burgers – all we could do was look up at him and apologize for not being long-time regulars of the place.
The Buckhorn’s burger patties are composed of an 85/15 mix of ground beef Bobby purchases and has ground each morning at San Antonio’s local supermarket. Olguin has perfected his method of cooking the hand-portioned burgers to ensure they are thick enough to retain a euphoric juiciness that doesn’t leave you with a soggy bun.
It seemed as though the burger was constructed bite by bite, ensuring the perfect medley in your mouth. Lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and mustard are in a happily harmonious proportion to each other, complementing the patty and lightly toasted bun. Each taste was like a bit of New Mexico served lovingly on a bun.
As the end of the meal approached and we regretfully got ready to head back to Albuquerque, we stopped once more to talk to the chef. We thanked him for his talents, we shook his hand, even hugged him. The tears in our eyes were accompanied by smiles on our faces and laughter from our bellies. The Buckhorn Burger gets a ten-star rating. There was not a single element about the burger that was not delicious.
Ok folks, we’ve met our soul mate – it is a burger that has been served right here on Route 66 since 1922.
Though we arrived as Red Ball Café was about to close, one of the ladies sweeping the restaurant noticed us and gladly seated us at a table with smiles and no notice of the time – she was just glad to serve another hungry customer the best burger Route 66 has to offer.
The atmosphere is historic and Southwestern. Murals of New Mexican landscapes, articles about the restaurant, awards and memorabilia decorated the walls while a black and white checkered floor was decorated with wooden booths and tables whose tops were lacquered with newspaper articles and artifacts from the restaurant’s history.
Complimentary chips and salsa are a great way to start any meal, and make sense as the Red Ball Café serves mostly New Mexican menu items. Though it is home of the Wimpy Burger (a red chile slider), we stumbled upon the Red Ball Burger – a new favorite.
Fresh cut fries come with this delicious bite of heaven, as does the warm and fuzzy feeling of meeting an old friend. At the gorgeous price of $5.55, this cheeseburger is just waiting for you to make the trip down and meet it in person. Resting within a warm sesame bun, two 4 oz. patties, each topped with melted cheddar and chopped green chile on a bed of shredded iceberg and a slice of tomato, it wasn’t too much or too little of anything.
The first bite was what cheeseburger dreams are made of. A light crispness to the outside of the patties was a delightful contrast to the juiciness contained within them. The still-melting cheese and tasty green chile were fundamental in completing the euphoric texture and taste of the best burger we have had to date. Honestly, words can’t do it justice.
Our first 10-star burger was so good that we ordered one to go. We’d stockpile an arsenal of them if we could. To complete the experience, the owner of the restaurant enthusiastically offered to take a photo of us outside the restaurant’s historic storefront.
Thank you, Red Ball. We love you dearly and can’t wait to return.
Red Ball Cafe
1301 4th St. SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102
This week, Chasing Cheeseburgers decided to venture slightly farther from our usual haunts and head up to the Village of Los Ranchos in Albuquerque’s North Valley. A friend of ours who works in that area had recently brought a new burger joint to our attention, so we met him for a tasty lunchtime treat.
Papaburgers is a locally owned and operated mom-and-pop shop — and you know that from the moment you enter. Next to the jukebox and arcade games (everyone appreciates a little Ms. Pac-Man every now and then) are photos of the owners, staff and happy customers enjoying burgers. You order at the register, next to a tall display of Hatch green chile, and there are little cups of green chile sauce to take to your table, if green chile is your thing (and why wouldn’t it be?).
The menu is a complete assortment of cheeseburgers and hot dogs, chili bowls and onion rings. Needless to say, we were ordering like children in a candy shop. With extremely reasonable prices (a cheeseburger and fries basket is only $4.85) one can easily stuff himself silly and not break the bank. Chopped onions are packed into the fresh ground beef to give the patties a little ‘umph’ and the buns are grilled to warm, crispy perfection. Avocado, bacon, or a strip of green chile can be added to any order at only a slight extra charge.
Of The Rose ordered the Chiara Burger (pickles, “long green chile,” swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and mustard) for $4.25.
Lindsay G Rocks had an Andre Burger, which is a burger that — in addition to American cheese, mustard, pickles, lettuce, and tomato — comes with a sliced, grilled hot dog and chili on top. Oh yeah, and high cholesterol with a chance of afternoon naps. Also on special that day were sweet corn jalapeno bites, which were essentially delicious little sweet corn hush puppies with chopped jalapenos inside — a true delight to the tongue.
We decided Papaburgers was deserving of a 9.5 rating. The burgers are melt-in-your-mouth fantastic and the flavor of the patties is phenomenal. The all-beef weenie on the Andre Burger was so good it could easily have been a meal in itself. Needless to say, we will be returning to try the chili dog. The Chiara Burger’s green chile was not chopped or a chile sauce, but an entire slice of magical New Mexican chile with the perfect amount of heat and flavor. For those who enjoy things a little less spicy, the complimentary chile sauce had all of the flavor with less of the kick. The fries are cooked to a golden perfection.
After an enjoyable lunch and a little kickball conversation, we left — overly satisfied and slightly food-drunk. If ever you have the craving for a big beautiful burger head to Papaburgers and you won’t be disappointed.
66014th Street Suite P
Los Ranchos, NM 87107
Mon-Fri 11a.m. to 7p.m.
Sat 11a.m. to 6p.m.
When it comes to barbecue, Quarters has been Albuquerque’s staple since 1970 — long before either of us were born. Of The Rose has been going there with his family since he can remember. It’s some of the best barbecue one can find in Albuquerque. After 25 years of eating at Quarters, I came to the realization I had never tried their burger. I got so caught up with the barbecue beef sandwiches, hot links and ribs that I had forgotten about my first true love — cheeseburgers.
Upon this realization, we headed straight for Quarters’ original location in Southeast Albuquerque to get a late cheeseburger lunch. The atmosphere at Quarters is rustic and western. Worn, wooden tables and chairs are spread throughout the dimly lit restaurant and the smokey smells of barbecue fill the room. We were promptly seated and handed menus. If you want to talk about value, you should probably visit Quarters.
Depending on your appetite, the burgers can be ordered in three sizes: The Big Q (10 oz., $7.95), Half Pound Burger (8 oz., $6.95) and Jr. burger (6 oz., $5.95). Once a size is chosen, you then get to choose three toppings from sauteed onions, mushrooms, green chile, chile con queso, bacon, cheddar, Swiss, or provolone. We opted for a half pound burger with bacon, mushroom and chile con queso — it was a heart attack we couldn’t wait to have.
The burger arrived just as we had ordered, sitting atop a sesame seed bun with a side of steak fries. Rather than smothering the burger with queso for us, a small cup of queso was sitting alongside the burger for us to add at our own discretion.
With the first bite of the burger, we could do nothing but smile at each other. It was delightfully tender and juicy. The hand-portioned patty was possibly the best-cooked burger we have found while chasing cheeseburgers. It had a nice crispness to the outside while maintaining the perfect amount of pink in the middle. Our choice of toppings were a perfect complement to the burger, giving a little extra crunch with the bacon and a smooth, creamy texture with the queso and mushrooms.
Oh, and just for the hell of it, we got a side of barbecue sauce and dipped the burger in it. It was definitely one of the better decisions we’ve made in life.
Quarters BBQ gets a 9-star rating from us. We love a restaurant that gives you portion options at a reasonable price and a choice of toppings for no extra charge. The hand-portioned burger was of perfect thickness, cooked to a perfect medium and was anything but disappointing. No matter where you are in Albuquerque, this is a burger you definitely can’t miss when you’re out chasing cheeseburgers.
801 Yale Blvd. SE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106
4516 Wyoming NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87111
3700 Ellison NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87114
Usually, the two of us are right at home at dive bars — especially those with excellent jukeboxes — but the Sunset Bar and Grill definitely threw us for a loop. Upon opening the door, a silence fell over the room and the entire bar turned to look at us. Who are we to ignore the spotlight?
We announced that we had come for the cheeseburger. The bartender, a spunky lady with a spring in her step, brought us two cold pints of PBR and told us that the kitchen closed at 3 p.m. (it was around 4:30 p.m. when we arrived). As we sat sipping our beers and listening to classically good music, we studied the place a little bit. An elderly gentleman next to us chatted us up and bought us another round. Plaques on the wall boasted of car shows and wonderful cheeseburgers. An entire dining room sat dark and abandoned behind us, complete with a stage and PA system. We knew we had to come back.
Two days later — at the reasonable lunch hour of 1 p.m. — we returned, receiving much the same reaction. Silence and stares greeted us upon walking in. Our bartender friend boomed from across the room, “You’re back for the cheeseburgers!” That, we were.
The menu is a varied assortment of lunch items, many of them sounding incredibly tempting such as the Grilled Turkey Sunset Ole sandwich (turkey, swiss, and green chile- just how Albuquerque likes it), but we were chasing a cheeseburger that afternoon. Of the Rose ordered Sunset’s Perfect Burger with green chile, cheese, bacon, or ‘the works,’ which all come at no extra charge on this ½ pound burger for $6.50 (fries or tots included). Lindsay G Rocks had the ½ pound Open Face Burger smothered with red chile and cheese, with red chile cheese fries for $6.95.
Delivered by the cook himself, the cheeseburgers started calling to us as soon as they exited the kitchen. It took us a moment to compose ourselves as we realized we were trying to speak to each other using grunts and moans of pleasure. The green chile on Of the Rose’s burger was flavorful, wonderful green chile from Hatch, New Mexico. Each bite was a treat, and the hand-portioned beef was so tender it almost chewed itself for us. The red chile on Lindsay G Rocks’ burger and fries resulted in an audible reaction with every bite. A valiant effort on her part, she was unable to finish the whole plate, so Of the Rose happily helped out.
Sunset Bar and Grill is unassuming from the street, but step inside for lunch and you will be life-long fans, just like Chasing Cheeseburgers now is. The atmosphere felt like home from the start, and the friendly staff really made it a wonderful dining experience. If ever in the area, or if you have an afternoon to sit, drink a beer, and enjoy one of the most delicious burgers we have yet encountered, this is the bar for you. We rated the cheeseburgers at a 9 for taste, chile, texture, fries, atmosphere- the whole thing.
Sunset Grill & Bar
6825 Lomas Boulevard Northeast
Albuquerque, NM 87110-6945
Serving food 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Beer and booze to midnight on weeknights, 2 a.m. on weekends