New Mexico’s Green Chile Cheeseburger TrailBy Todd • Dec 10th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog
I’m a sucker for regional culinary quirks, those unique little twists that some places put on certain foods. In Pittsburgh, for example, they have this insanely tasty habit of putting French fries directly on their sandwiches. There’s a stellar mayonnaise-based white barbecue sauce that’s practically unheard of outside of northern Alabama. In my home state of Indiana, there’s this almost unnatural obsession with the deep fried pork tenderloin sandwich, something I’ve never even seen anywhere else. And now, I have a burning desire to visit New Mexico to try their state pig-out dish: the green chile cheeseburger.
There are conflicting stories about who first took the basic cheeseburger and added the locally-plentiful peppers to ratchet up the smoky spiciness. But every diner and burger joint in the state jumped on the chuckwagon, and now, grabbing a green chile cheeseburger in the Land of Enchantment is as much a must-do experience as chowing on a cheesesteak in Philly or diving into a deep-dish pie in Chicago.
The New Mexico Tourism Department figured this out, and has now launched a major initiative called the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail. After scrutinizing 200+ nominees and fielding over 8,000 votes, a total of 48 establishments from all corners of the state were chosen to appear on the Trail. Sure, you’ll find stalwarts like Bobcat Bite, The Owl Bar & Cafe, and Blake’s Lotaburger. But you’ll also find some out-of-the-way surprises, like the Laguna Burger, dished out at a Conoco station along I-40, and the green chile burgs served up at a take-out trailer in a parking lot near the Zuni Pueblo Tribal Headquarters. And you’ll be introduced to some newcomers, like Badland’s in the city of Grants:
That bad boy from Badland’s took top honors at the inaugural Governor’s Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge at the New Mexico State Fair in September, beating out 19 others from across the state.
How seriously do they take the green chile cheeseburger in New Mexico? When a San Antonio, NM hotspot trounced Food Network cover boy Bobby Flay on his own “Throwdown” show, the governor saluted the winners by declaring “Buckhorn Tavern Day” statewide. Need more proof? Take a look at this $18 monster that’s on the menu at the Peppers Cafe inside the Double Eagle in Mesilla:
So point and click your way over to the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail. You may be inspired to search out one of these spicy little numbers at a burger joint near you. You may be inspired to hit the grocery store and whip one up on your own backyard grill. Or you may be, like me, inspired to make a new friend in New Mexico so you have an excuse to go visit.
(Thanks to Cheryl Alters Jamison for turning me on to this story. Cheryl, my bags can be packed in 20 minutes. I’m always hungry for a trip…)