Their burgers are legendary, the venue world-famous, the chile just right. I had always overheard glowing reports of the little pink adobe joint off of Old Las Vegas Highway, but somehow in 17 years had never made the trip (probably due to its off-kilter hours).
This past Saturday, I am finally crossing Bobcat Bite off my to-do list. The excursion happens to double as a date with Tobias, also a Prep senior, but unlike me, not a complete stranger to Bobcat Bite. After nearly driving past the inconspicuous, one-room restaurant, we enter tentatively and snag spots at the counter. Customers sit quietly at a handful of tables, savoring the cavern shielded from the first real snow drifts, icicles and powdered trees of the season.
Green chile cheeseburgers are advertised as the kitchen’s specialty, so with one glance at the menus, our order is a no-brainer. Sitting at the counter on spindly iron chairs, we have a perfect view of the brown, white and red-streaked birds darting into the feeders capped with mounds of soft-serve snow. A baseball-capped tourist beside us snaps photos of the Santa Fe wildlife in action—chickadees have to suffice, since the bobcat is only a word in a painted name—and to clarify that the ruddy bird on the right is actually a towhee.
Dimly lit, hung with faded denim cropped curtains, the rustic room seems to clash with the Nutcracker soundtrack wafting from the sizzling kitchen. On the other side of the counter, shelves are lined with lollipop trays, Hershey’s bars and mints (for the little kids only, as it turns out). But most of the shelf space is dedicated to innumerable ribbons—blue, green and yellow—golden cups, trophies and plaques commemorating the celebrity food item we are about to receive. Open boasts of such an impressive track record in the suspense of awaiting the burger itself really set the standards high. No pressure.
We’ve marveled at the awards and appreciated the coziness. We’ve heard the crackling, tantalizing sounds of grilling, sautéing and plating in the room next door. Then, finally, the quintessential red plastic baskets lined with protective wax paper slide over to us. Bottom bun, browned meat and hearty green chile strips topped with gooey white cheddar cheese squat on the left side, as tall alone as any lesser plebeian burger, next to the potato chips. Tomato, lettuce and puffy brioche top bun wait on the right side.
Now the feat remains of putting the two together and attempting to fit the whole ensemble in a bite. After nibbling away at the bread, I let the juices of perfectly medium-rare beef leak onto the addictive potato chips (they don’t need those stiff ridges anyway) and dribble down my thumbs, trying to contain a burger that practically bursts its seams. Each mouthful of succulent meat disintegrates deliciously. The green chile’s roasted sweetness doesn’t overpower the grease and melty ooze of the cheddar. I find it difficult to put down the sandwich for fear of its coming unlayered.
Now I know what the world has been talking about. Beats me how an adobe room off the beaten path in Santa Fe was pinpointed as the international magnum opus of burgerdom, but I’m not about to complain about my close proximity. The dozens of restaurant guide prizes and Santa Fe’s Best ribbons don’t lie, nor do the forks and knives knowledgeably provided for those last few sopping bites. We aren’t disappointed—except in that we can’t finish off the last bite.