The baby of owner and chef Brian Knox of Aqua Santa and Café Escalera fame, the burger shack in the 600 block of Cerrillos Road has been a couple of years in the making. For months, its website has remained devoid of any concrete information and has featured only a video of Andy Warhol chowing down on a hamburger along with the slogan “Dedicated to the preservation of the original green chile cheeseburger.”
Though accidental, the move, Knox says, created expectation in a city known for its thriving food culture—even when it involves a burger and milkshake joint opening in late December.
“It wasn’t a consideration,” he told SFR on Sunday, the restaurant’s first full day of operation. “The consideration was to open up, no matter what day it was.”As for the name, Knox came up with it after an extensive round of upgrades to the space, which at one point served as a filling station. “It turns out, instead of a simple renovation, I had to go below the foundation,” he says. “We also make the green chile cheeseburger the foundation of the menu.”
The menu’s centerpiece determined, the end product is straightforward and is listed on a board under the message “You can kinda have it your way.” It’s heavy on the burgers, with your choice of free toppings (green chile, cooked onions, garlic mayo), and premium ones (guac, pork belly, whipped lardo) at $1.50 a pop; hand-cut shoestring fries ($3.75 single order; $5.50 for a double) and a couple of other bells and whistles.
“The point is to go old-school with it: a thin patty of very good beef that we source from Kansas—all natural and hormone free—and claim along with that beef, the iconic green chile cheeseburger,” Knox says of the resto’s mainstay. Local Monterey Jack cheese and Hatch green chile seal the deal.
The “Adobe Mud” milkshakes ($5.75 each) are in beta and are set to make their big debut next week, with flavors ranging from “Pie Town”—a Mora Ranch raspberry and pie crust bits-infused concoction—to the self-explanatory and oh-sotempting-especially-around-elastic-waistbandseason, “Natillas y Biscochitos.”
With eyes like pinwheels, I attack the menu head on and order the layman’s green chile cheeseburger ($3.95), fried oyster sandwich ($5.50), green chile stew ($3.50 for a small) and round it out with an order of signature fries.
The burger is delightfully compact (you can double up for $2.50 more) and the Jack cheese along with the perfectly smoked chile on a lightly buttered Martin’s potato roll make for a spectacular treat. The oyster sandwich slapped with a hint of chipotle aioli is superb and something you’d expect at a fine-dining establishment. “It goes back to my sit-down, formal restaurant days,” Knox says.
The stew is a definite standout. Hearty potato cubes and generous ground beef make it a meal in itself, perfect for the wintery months.
As for the thin-cut fries, they also deliver. “The secret is the oil you fry them in, which is proprietary, the potatoes and the way you cut them,” Knox explains. “I think potatoes need to have a different kind of treatment at 7,000 feet, because you can’t crisp ‘em and you can’t cook ‘em too long or they absorb too much oil.”
Delivering “more than just burgers,” the restaurateur hopes it eventually becomes a staple.
Because of its location and down-home concept, Knox expects for it to become a destination during community events like Santa Fe High Weekend, Harley-Davidson Weekend and the Santa Fe Concorso.
In the meantime, Knox continues on his pursuit of “the right raw ingredients and the right technique.” Judging by the constant trickle of customers experienced over the weekend, his Field of Dreams approach just may pay off.
“It was a very long while in the making. I kept on—I’m proud to say—running out of money every six months or so,” Knox says with a laugh. “But most dreams require that perseverance.”
631 Cerrillos Road
Open daily, 10 am-8 pm