The classic New Mexico green chile cheeseburger is a work of culinary art
With last week's surprising news that the iconic Santa Fe Bite will close next month, it's a good time to take a look at other restaurants serving great green chile cheeseburgers. We will miss this legendary eatery, but we can take comfort in knowing that New Mexico's culinary treasure can be found in many acclaimed Santa Fe restaurants, in as many versions as there are restaurants serving it.
No one knows for certain who first put green chile between a grilled burger and a bun but the green chile cheeseburger became popular during the heyday of Route 66 in New Mexico's roadside eateries. The combo is sublime. The heat and earthy notes of freshly roasted green chile complements the flavor of a juicy burger in a way that nothing else can. Add in the melted cheese and a toasted bun, and you don't need a single condiment. The dish is perfect just as it is.
Of course, you can change things up by using blue cheese instead of American or cheddar, and throwing some sauteed onions into the mix. You can also substitute beef with bison or lamb or even a veggie patty, depending on your tastes. But the classic New Mexico green chile cheeseburger is a work of culinary art, and people are willing to travel here from around the country just to savor it. There's even an official New Mexico trail devoted to green chile cheeseburgers, listing the very best burger joints across the state as chosen by New Mexicans. So let's set out on our own trail to explore some of the venerable Santa Fe versions of this beloved burger.
We'll begin with a few eateries on that famous Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, including the family-owned Atrisco Cafe & Bar, where the Green Chile Cheeseburger Deluxe is made with lots of local ingredients. It starts with six ounces of New Mexico grass-fed ground beef, covered with your choice of melted cheddar, Swiss or American cheese. Then fresh roasted New Mexico green chile is heaped on top, adding the final layer of flavor. If you want fixings, tomato, lettuce and onions are served on the side along with perfectly cooked house-cut fries. You can't go wrong with this plateful of deliciousness.
Did you know the original Route 66 once ran right by the historic La Fonda on the Plaza? It sure did, from 1926 to 1937, so relishing a green chile cheeseburger in the hotel's La Plazuela restaurant gives you a big bite of history. Plus, La Plazuela's burger occupies a coveted spot on the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, too, making it a double dose of goodness. This burger is made with fresh-ground Black Angus beef and topped with green chile and a choice of smoked cheddar, American or Swiss cheese. The delightful combo is served on toasted Telera bread, a traditional crusty Mexican bread.
Out in Madrid, the Mine Shaft Tavern's green chile cheeseburger is so outstanding that not only is it included on New Mexico's Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, it also won a People's Choice award from the Santa Fe Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. This Mad Chile Burger is made up of a half-pound of Black Angus Chuck with fresh with two kinds of green chile—roasted chopped Hatch green chile as well as a battered and fried whole Hatch chile. In addition, there's aged cheddar cheese and chipotle Dijonnaise, all piled high on a brioche bun. You'd be mad not to finish every bite.
When fierce hunger beckons, head over to the Cowgirl BBQ for the Mother of all Green Chile Cheeseburgers, which you can simply order as “Mother.” Another winner of the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown's People's Choice award, this whopper is made from a secret blend of grilled beef and local buffalo, applewood smoked bacon, melted brie, truffled green chile and heirloom tomato. And everything is heaped on a cheddar-green chile bun. Hand-cut truffle fries are served on the side, if you've got room.
Joe's Dining, which relies on local ingredients, offers an impressive array of flavorful burgers made with local grass-fed beef. There's the Hawaiian take with pineapple, ham and teriyaki sauce and a Pizza Burger, topped with grilled pepperoni, pizza sauce and house-made fresh mozzarella. There's also a Greek Lamb Burger with Tucumcari feta, calamata olives and tzatziki. But when you order the green chile cheeseburger, you'll be pleased to find that it's made with local La Mont's buffalo, full of rich and hearty flavor, and topped with local green chile and sharp cheddar cheese. And it's served on a toasted brioche bun, made locally by Fano. Of course, you can order your green chile cheeseburger with grass-fed beef, too. Either way, you'll get one heck of a burger.
Like Joe's, Boxcar's burger menu is comprehensive. You could, for instance, have a bison burger, a Black & Blue Burger with smoked bacon, blue cheese and black pepper aioli, or an R.I.P. Burger with a jalapeno popper, guacamole, onion rings and cheddar cheese. But when it's green chile you're craving, go for the burger, with the winning combo of New Mexico Hatch green chile and melted cheddar cheese. Throw in some Parmesan truffled fries and you've got a match made in heaven. You might also enjoy the house-made deep-fried pickle chips served with a spicy ranch dipping sauce because...fried pickles!
At Maize, you can indulge in an upscale green chile cheeseburger made with Wagyu beef. It's topped with green chile, cheese and caramelized onion, and served with yucca or house-cut fries. The menu also offers a different take on the classic—bison sliders, served with bacon, chipotle mayo and tomato jam. If you're there for the daily Happy Hour, from 4:30 to 6 pm, you can enjoy them both at a discount, along with a drink from the bar.
Del Charro Saloon at the Inn of the Governors offers a decadent take with its Stuffed Green Chile Cheeseburger. You'll get a combo of local ground beef seasoned with house-made chipotle BBQ sauce and stuffed with applewood-smoked bacon, green chile and Gorgonzola cheese. You'll also get house-made green chile relish to go with it. But if you're in search of the traditional, go for Del Charro's New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger, made with local grass-fed beef, Hatch green chile and local cheddar cheese. Whatever you choose, you'll end up stuffed.