Mike and I went on a little road trip this summer and while seeing the National Parks was inspiring and all, the real reason we hit the road was: green chile cheeseburgers. Have you heard of them?! Maybe not because they’re a New Mexico thing, through and through. Think: regular cheeseburgers but with smoky, slightly spicy, roasted green chile on top. Green chile is the ultimate burger topping that you never knew you were missing out on.
They’re a Southwest invention and in New Mexico, they’re a source of state pride. Green chile cheeseburgers are practically a state symbol and now, when I see the New Mexico flag, a red sun symbol in a field of yellow, I imagine the yellow as cheese and picture the red sun as a green chile. I’m officially obsessed.
Green chile cheeseburgers are such a big deal that the New Mexico tourism board created a green chile cheeseburger trail. That’s right, you can road trip up and down the state and eat your fill of green chile cheeseburgers. Mike was the one who came up with the idea of traveling the green chile cheeseburger trail and I have to admit, at first, I was like, okay but not especially enthused. Mike has been talking about green chile cheeseburgers for years now but they never really hooked me. Until this trip, that is.
Now, we’ve eaten 15 plus GCCs (what I’m calling green chile cheeseburgers from now on) and we can’t stop, won’t stop. Actually, we have stopped to eat chile rellenos, carne adobada, breakfast burritos, and sopapillas, but my heart keeps returning to GCCs.
In the world of GCCs, it seems like there are two camps: the green chili cheeseburger with veggies or without veggies. Generally they also do veggies on the side, so you can add them or not, but the main difference I feel is a smothered style, a la an enchilada or burrito and a regular cheeseburger style. Really though, Mike and I agree, the smothered style GCC isn’t really a GCC at all. After all, of you can’t pick it up with your hands, is it really a cheeseburger?
Now that we’ve eaten our way through New Mexico, I think we can both definitively say that we’re somewhat versed in what makes a great GCC. We rated all the burgers we ate on a five point scale: green chile, patty, cheese, bun, and vegetables. And because I will forever love food graphs and things a little bit nerdy, Mike and I came up with these spider charts of the results. Read on to find out which green chile cheeseburger reigns supreme. And let us know if we missed anything essential – we’re definitely heading back to NM, I’m so addicted to green chile, it’s not even funny.
Side note: green chile cheeseburgers are not the prettiest burgers on the block. To be honest, we had trouble photographing them, that’s why we don’t have clear photos of each burger >__<
This was the order we ate the burgers in:
The Burger Stand at Taos Ale House
This was the first GCC we tried and it did not disappoint. The fire roasted green chile was spicy and good (although I thought there wasn’t enough of it), the patty was a proper medium rare with a good crust and the cheese was a melty pepper jack cheese. I didn’t care too much for the bun but Mike thought it was one of the best buns we had: a buttered toasted brioche. The veggies were also really fresh – a thick slice of white onion, a juicy generous tomato and spicy arugula. All in all a very good burger.
Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe, Taos
This was recommended to us by a local and true to what he said, there was a line out the door even when we arrived right when they opened at 5pm. It’s a classic New Mexican place and while there was a standard green chile cheeseburger on the menu, I went with the Sloppy Bro: an open faced burger with red and green chile. It’s not really fair to compare this to the other green chile cheeseburgers we had on the trail but it was really good! There was an excellent patty to cheese to chili ratio. The patty cooked a juicy medium rare and the chile was plentiful. The cheese was a regular shredded Mexican mix and there were no vegetables and the bun was obviously soggy, but the chile and cheese and burger patty were excellent.
El Parasol, Española
This was by far one of the best green chile cheeseburgers on the trail. The original location is a tiny little takeaway shack in Española, but they’ve expanded to multiple locations, including Los Alamos and Santa Fe. The burgers come wrapped in foil and white wax paper held together with a wooden toothpick. Unwrapping the burger is a little bit like unwrapping a delicious present.
Their hand formed patties are big and juicy, cooked smash and scrape style and the green chile was verdant and piquant – sometimes I felt the like green chile in other burgers weren’t spicy enough, but the green chile in El Parasol’s burger was just right. The bun was buttered and crispy and the American cheese was just the right amount of melty. The vegetables were nothing to write home about, but all together this was a burger that made you want to eat more than one. We actually did eat more than one, basically stopping at every El Parasol in the State. They’re good at all the locations guys.
And bonus: their crispy chicken and guacamole tacos are AMAZING, don’t skip out on them if you go.
Atrisco Cafe & Bar, Santa Fe
This was a big burger cooked medium rare, with a little bit of browning, but not super charred. The green chile was good but somehow got muddled in the burger. On it’s own the green chile was amazing but maybe the ratio of bun to vegetables masked it. The bun was a standard toasted and buttered sesame seed guy and the vegetables were pretty standard too with red onions instead of the white we’d been seeing a lot of. The cheese was a melty cheddar which I think works on some burgers, but kind of got slightly congealed here. All in all a solid GCC but not one of our favorites. That being said, I’d eat this in a heartbeat if it was right here in front of me right now.
The Pantry, Santa Fe
The Panty is a beloved Santa Fe classic with a retro neon sign and a cute diner counter serving up New Mexican comfort food. We went with the Pantry Burger, smothered in chile, cheese, and grilled onions served open face. In retrospect we probably should have gone the make your own burger route and added green chile on top, but hindsight is always 20/20. We got this guy Christmas style (red and green chile) and it was absolutely smothered in chile. The chile was amazing but the burger itself was just standard and the bun was nothing to write home about. The curly fries were awesome though. But, El Parasol is across the street, so…
Rustic on the Green, Albuquerque
There’s a cute little container park type thing in Albuquerque that has a bunch of restaurants, stores, and places to get drinks called Green Jeans. We grabbed a burger at Rustic on the Green, the brick and mortar shop of a very popular ABQ food truck, Rustic 505. Rustic makes a beloved city favorite and this was one of Mike’s favorite GCCs. The veggies were super fresh and crisp and there was plenty of green chile which added a nice layer of heat. The bun was not my favorite and I felt like there was a touch too much mustard but the patty was cooked well and the cheese was nice and melty.
Blake’s Lotaburger, Multiple Locations
Blake’s has been around since the 50s and is beloved in New Mexico, kind of like their version of In-N-Out. Mike and I both were excited to try Blake’s and it didn’t disappoint. We got a double and it was just loaded with certified green and red fire roasted hatch chiles that actually had a bit of spice. The patties were thin and charred, the cheese was American and melty and the whole thing tasted like what you would think a really well thought out delicious GCC would taste like. The inside was pure 50s all red chairs and white formica tabletops and it was nostalgic and retro and cute. Lotaburger was one of our only repeats, possibly because they’re readily available all across the state.
Duran’s is an old fashioned drug store with a cute little New Mexican restaurant in the back. They’re known for their adobada and not their green chile cheeseburgers, but we soldiered on – we were on a GCC crawl after all. The good thing about Duran’s: unbelievably fluffy and flaky house made tortillas. The not so good thing about Duran’s: the green chile cheeseburger. It wasn’t anything special – the bun was kind of stale and the patty was slightly over cooked. There was a moderate amount of green and red chile but other than that, it should have been skipped. But, the tortillas were totally to die for, so go and get the adobada plate and extra tortillas, you won’t regret it.
Garcia’s Cafe, Albuquerque
If it seems like there are a bunch of Albuquerque staples for New Mexican food, it’s because there are – all with good reason. Garcia’s – it was featured on Breaking Bad once – is one of the places most mentioned with people are looking for classic, good, New Mexican food. Mike got a combination plate but I got a GCC of course. The bun was nicely buttered and toasty, the patty was extra charred which highlighted the smokiness of the chile, which was plentiful. The cheese could have been a bit more melted but it was a solid burger.
MÁS Tapas y Vino, Albuquerque
There’s a green chile cheeseburger smackdown in Santa Fe every year and last year, the Greene Chile Honey Bun from MÁS won. The bun was a house made milk bun and there was a thick slab of honey bacon on top too. The green chile was smoky and on the spicy side. This one one of the rare burgers that didn’t have any vegetables. The patty was thick and super flavorful with a lot of char, but despite asking us how we wanted it cooked (medium-rare, always), it came out on the well done side and was kind of a bit dry, to be honest. The cheese, which was a local cheddar, wasn’t quite as melty as I would have liked.
La Plazuela at La Fonda, Santa Fe
This was another really well regarded New Mexican restaurant. The green chile was good, but kind of on the skimpy side. The patty was excellent though, thick, juicy and a nice rosy medium rare capped off with a melty cheese. Nothing makes me sadder than a cheeseburger with unmelted cheese and so this one definitely passed the test.
Frontier is an all day line up and order at the counter diner that spans a whole city block. It’s right next UNM and there are a ton of students, families, and tourists that head there to eat at all times of the day. Even if the lines are long, they move quickly; there’s a board that flashes with your order number when your food is ready. The burger was standard college fair, that is, cheap and somewhat tasty, but when there are so many other excellent GCCs in town, not something that I’d recommend. The only redeeming quality was the amount of green (and red) chile.
The Owl Bar and Cafe
The Owl is a listing on the official New Mexico Tourism board approved Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, but to be honest, we weren’t planning on eating there. Our intention was to hit up the Buckhorn, a super well known GCC. The Buckhorn was closed (it’s supposed to reopen with new owners) so we headed right across the street to The Owl. It’s a super old bar that’s been slinging burgers since the 50s. We got a double meat double chili as a consolation burger for The Buckhorn being closed but we were so blown away that we ordered a second burger after demolishing the first. The patties were thin in the classic smash and scrape style, the bun was toasty, the veggies fresh, the American cheese melty, and the chile was just the right amount of smoke and spice.
Rocking BZ Burgers, Alamogordo
We stopped in White Sands National Park for a night of camping but before we set up our tent, we headed to Alamogordo for a GCC at Rocking BZ Burgers, winner of the Green Chile Cheeseburger Champion at the New ME. We tried the winning burger, “The Champ,” which is a half pound patty, grilled onions, American cheese, green chile, lettuce and tomato. The patty was cooked to a juicy medium rare, the chile was plentiful, and the white American cheese was beautifully melted.
The Burger Nook, Las Cruces
The Burger Nook was another entry on the official GGC highway so of course we had to stop in. It was empty when we got there but it filled up quickly with locals having not one, but two burgers each. They have two sizes, so if you’re feeling particularly hungry, the large will more than satisfy. This was one of the last GCCs that we had and already, Mike and I were waxing nostalgic about how the green chile and cheese went so perfectly with the smash and scrape patty. The bun left something to be desired, but really, it’s all about the chile.
Whew, that was A LOT of green chile cheeseburgers. And the thing is, we definitely missed some that we wanted to eat too. Do you guys have a favorite green chile cheeseburger? Have you every had one? Also, can you answer the eternal question: green chile on top of the cheese or under the cheese?
I can’t wait until we go back to New Mexico. Truly the land of enchantment and chile 🙂