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Shake Foundation – Santa Fe, New Mexico

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The Shake Foundation in Santa Fe (side view)

If it seems there’s a glut of restaurants brandishing a much-hyped and often self-glossed as “best” version of New Mexico’s fabled green chile cheeseburger, it won’t surprise you to read that yet another purveyor of the Land of Enchantment’s sacrosanct sandwich entered the fray in January, 2014.  What might surprise you is its most worthy motto and raison d’etre:  “Dedicated to the preservation of the original green chile cheeseburger.” Just what exactly does that mean?   

If, like me, your initial inclination is to question why at its pinnacle of popularity, the green chile cheeseburger needs to be preserved, you’re missing the point.  Likewise, the motto has nothing to do with  mimicking the burgers crafted by New Mexico’s two claimants to being progenitor of all green chile cheeseburgers: The Owl Cafe & Bar and Bert’s Burger Bowl.  The Shake Foundation is all about preserving and honoring the inviolable traditions and impeccably high standards of the green chile cheeseburger.  It’s about crafting the type of green chile cheeseburgers that trigger memories of unforgettable burgers past while creating new memories that will have you eagerly anticipating your next great green chile cheeseburger.

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The Shake Foundation in Santa Fe (front view)

Despite its “mission statement,” the Shake Foundation isn’t based solely on green chile cheeseburgers as proffered throughout the Land of Enchantment, but also on founder-owner-chef Brian Knox’s boyhood memories of eating cheeseburgers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Milwaukee, as burgerphiles everywhere know, is famous for slathering its burgers–both bun and beef–with butter: lots of gooey, unctuous, calorific butter.  Milwaukee’s butyraceous burgers are the quintessential five napkin (or more) burger.

For nearly three decades, the name Brian Knox has been synonymous in Santa Fe with fine-dining.  Prior to launching the Shake Foundation, Chef Knox owned and operated Aqua Santa, a contemporary American restaurant which helped pioneer the city’s slow-food movement.  He’s been wanting to make high-quality burgers widely accessible and affordable in a fun and welcoming venue for several years.  The Shake Foundation is the culmination of those dreams.

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Shoestring Fries and a Lavender Shake

Built on a site which previously housed a gas station for fifty years, the Shake Foundation isn’t much bigger than a roadside stand, but offers an ambitious menu belying its Lilliputian size.  This burger hop is strictly a walk-up operation with a number of picnic tables for seating.  A number of stately deciduous trees provide seasonal shade and help block New Mexico’s winds.

Burgers are the featured fare: cheese burgers with or sans green chile and the classic burger, both available as singles or doubles.  A number of free and optional toppings are available, the latter including such revolutionary items as whipped lardo (seasoned, cured pork fat), house-brined pickles and jalapeños and garlic mayo.  The menu also offers a turkey burger, a portobello burger and a New Mexico Shepherd’s Lamb Burger as well as a fried oyster sandwich with red chile mayo.  Green chile stew and a Caesar salad round out the food menu.

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Double meat green chile cheeseburger with bacon

If for no other reason than we’re in America and we like to super-size our burgers, you’ll want to order a double meat burger.  The single is all of three ounces (just an ounce shy of the quarter-pounder), but by all appearances doesn’t look much bigger than some “sliders.”  A better reason to order a double meat burger is the beef’s healthful deliciousness.  The beef blend is a combination of sirloin and brisket with no hormones or antibiotics.  All burgers are cooked to medium unless otherwise requested.  True to Chef Knox’s heritage, buns are buttered though not dripping in butter as you’d find in Milwaukee. 

The menu warns that “Our New Mexico green chile is hot!”  That’s hot with an exclamation point.  Frankly, most New Mexicans won’t wince at its piquancy (or relative lack thereof), but we’ll certainly appreciate its roasted flavor and fruity nuances.  A few strips of bacon are a perfect, salty complement to the green chile as is the rich, gooey Monterey Jack cheese.  Even with a double, you might want to order two of these burgers.  With a bun not more than four inches around, they have a subliminal effect of appearing small even though with double meat, they tower above most chain burgers.  The Shake Foundation’s burgers are juicy and absolutely delicious, well worthy of New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail consideration. 

Fried Oyster Sandwich with Red Chile Mayo

Having lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for nearly eight years, I consumed oyster po’ boys by the boatful, my favorite being the behemoth bivalve sandwich from Cafe Maspero in New Orleans.  In New Mexico, it may be easier to find a prize pearl inside an oyster than to find an outstanding oyster po’ boy or sandwich.  The Shake Foundation’s version, a Gulf Coast meets the Land of Enchantment sandwich may be changing that with its fried oyster sandwich with red chile mayo.  The oyster is moist and delicious and the red chile mayo is slathered on generously.  The combination of flavors is a winner.

Hand-cut shoestring fries, available in single or double portions, are a nice accompaniment to your burgers.  Made from potatoes grown in Colorado, they’re fried to a crispy, but not potato chip-like texture and don’t require desalinization as do so many other fries.  They’re also not quite as greasy as conventional fries.  Being shoestring thin means they’re also not as moist as other fries. 

True to the name on the marquee, shakes are a point of pride. Rightfully so! These are not the cloying, syrupy, made-from-a mix shakes the chains dispense. You can actually taste the ice cream with which these shakes are made…and it’s great ice cream made from Taos Cow ice cream (one of the “ten best ice cream parlors worldwide” according to Fox News.  It’s a rich, creamy, smooth ice cream available in “viva la differencia” flavors such as lavender and piñon caramel.  Even better is the Mexican Chocolate shake which my Kim calls the best shake she’s ever had.  Unless you’ve got the suck power of a vacuum cleaner, you’ll need a spoon because a straw just won’t cut it. 

It could be debated that the Shake Foundation isn’t as much about “the preservation of the original green chile cheeseburger” as it is taking it to a new level with the type of creativity which made Chef Knox one of Santa Fe’s most acclaimed culinary minds.  

Shake Foundation
631 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 988.8992
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 4 October 2014
1st VISIT: 31 March 2014
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 23
COST: $
BEST BET: Double Meat Green Chile Cheeseburger with Bacon, Fried Oyster Sandwich with Red Chile Mayo, Double Meat Hamburger, Shoestring French Fries, Lavender Shake, Piñon Shake, Mexican Chocolate Shake, 

Shake Foundation on Urbanspoon

Bodega Burger Co. & Lounge – Socorro, New Mexico

Bodega Burger Co. & Lounge in Socorro, New Mexico

“A Hamburger is warm and fragrant and juicy.
A hamburger is soft and non-threatening.
It personifies the Great Mother herself,
who has nourished us from the beginning.
A hamburger is an icon of layered circles,
the circle being at once the most spiritual
and the most sensual of shapes.
A hamburger is companionable and faintly erotic:
the nipple of the Goddess, the bountiful belly-ball of Eve.”

~Tom Robbins

Hamburgers have long been the apotheosis of comfort food deliciousness and the favorite food of the masses.  Regardless of socioeconomic strata, burgers are enjoyed by nearly one and all–to the tune of some 38 billion per year in the United States alone.  That’s three per week on average for every man, woman and child.  Add in the burger consumption outside the fruited plain and burgers are in rarefied company, placing them among the most popular food phenomenon in the entire world. 

Culinary experts will tell you the reason for the popularity of burgers can be attributed to three factors: simplicity, convenience and diversity (there’s no limit to how you can dress a burger, if you choose to dress it at all). Shouldn’t great taste factor in there somewhere?  Apparently we don’t love burgers because they taste great?  What about cost? Burgers have traditionally been a relatively inexpensive food affordable to most diners.

The Bodega Burger: American Cheese, Smoked Bacon, Locally Grown Chile Served on a Brioche Bun

As the downtrodden economy seems to have shown, burgers might truly be “recession proof.”  Though Americans may deny themselves many of life’s other luxuries, we won’t give up (or cut down on) our burgers.  Nor will we settle on cheap, inferior burgers.  The burgers which have made the most significant inroads in the 100 billion dollar a year burger market are the pricier, premium patties and their sundry upscale ingredients.  It’s what carnivorous Americans crave.

In Socorro county, two eateries–the Owl Cafe and the Buckhorn Tavern–have had the burger market cornered for generations.  While the Owl Cafe and the Buckhorn Tavern have established reputations across the fruited plain for their no-frills but extremely high quality and thoroughly delicious burger offerings, the Bodega Burger Co. & Lounge which launched in 2011 is giving Socorro area diners an alternative burger with no compromise in quality or deliciousness.

Mountain Man Burger: A blend of Venison, Buffalo, Wild Boar, Antelope and Elk Topped with Barbecue Sauce, Smoked Jalapeños, Cheddar Cheese, Tomato, Lettuce

Calling itself an “upscale burger joint,” a seeming contradiction in terms, the Bodega Burger Co. is taking a gourmet twist approach to its burgers, serving an impressive array of unique specialty burgers all crafted with  New Mexico Angus beef.   Perhaps the most unique is the Green Egg and Ham burger made with green chile, fried egg and bacon with chorizo con queso on a brioche bun.  The burger line-up also includes three non-beef burgers–black bean veggie burger, smoked salmon burger and crispy shrimp burger–in addition to a low-carb burger on which a large portobello mushroom cap takes the place of a conventional bun.

If you’re the mad scientist type who likes to experiment with unique ingredient combinations, the Bodega’s “create your own burger” option truly lets you “have it your way.”  You can choose your patty, bun, sauce, cheese and toppings.  All burgers come with lettuce, tomatoes, onion and pickle as well as your choice of fries, side salad or one of the menu’s sides (which include two rolled-up enchiladas).  There are four fries options, too: shoestring fries, fat fries, buttermilk zucchini fries and sweet potato waffle fries.  If you’re not in the mood for burgers, sandwich options are plentiful.

Prime Rib Sandwich with Housemade Potato Chips

15 June 2012: The restaurant’s signature burger is the eponymous Bodega Burger (American cheese, smoked bacon and green chile).  It becomes immediately obvious why a brioche bun is used instead of a conventional burger bun.  This is one juicy burger, emphasis on moist in a very good way.  The patty is a well seasoned and thoroughly delicious slab of New Mexico beef.  The locally grown green chile isn’t especially piquant, but it has a nice roasted flavor that complements the smoked bacon especially well. 

15 June 2012: The featured burger special during our inaugural visit was the Mountain Man Burger, a blend of venison, buffalo, wild boar, antelope and elk topped with barbecue sauce, smoked jalapeños, Cheddar cheese, tomato and lettuce.  The lean, full-flavored meat blend is unique in New Mexico and not something I thought would be especially flavorful considering the heavy lean to fat ratio, but this turned out to be a very good burger even though the smoked jalapeños and barbecue sauce may have detracted from the flavor of the beef just a bit.  It’s a burger that deserves a permanent place on the menu.

Smoked Salmon Quesadilla

28 September 2014: Perhaps even better than the aforementioned burgers is the Bodega’s Prime Rib Sandwich, thinly-slices steak topped with Provolone, caramelized onions and creamy horseradish served on a Ciabbata roll with au jus.  The combination of eye-watering creamy horseradish and sweet caramelized onions complement the whisper-thin steak and salty Provolone perfectly.  The au jus is formidable enough to allow liberal dipping into the au jus, a thin, meaty broth with great flavor.

Bodega, a Spanish word for wine shop, lives up to its name with offerings you don’t have to be an oenophile to appreciate.  New Mexico wineries–St. Clair, Lescombes, Black Mesa and Gruet–are showcased, but wines from France, Chile, Australia and California are also available in such varieties as reds, whites, sparkling to dessert wines.  

If your inclination is to turn your nose up at the prospect of or to be skeptical about burger and wine pairings, you need not be.  Food & Wine advises that the type of meat determines the best wine match (unless the burger is smothered in strong-flavored condiments).   Don’t fret if you’re still not sold on burger and wine pairings.  Bodega’s menu is no one-trick pony.  In fact, it’s got one of the most delightfully diverse menus you’ll find in the Socorro area, comparable in diversity to that of the Socorro Springs Brewing Company

Tapas, soups and salads occupy the first page of the menu.  The tapas are an array of the type of starters popular throughout the Land of Enchantment, some with a gourmet twist: smoked salmon quesadilla, buffalo-lime chicken wings, cheese steak empanadas.  Your soup soiree can consist of either lobster bisque or a soup-of-the-day.  Salads range from the inventive (prickly pear) to the classic Caesar and a garden salad. 

28 September 2014: The Smoked Salmon Quesadilla (caramelized onions, chipotle peppers, Jack cheese inside a grilled tortilla) is one of the more intriguing of the available tapas.  Alas, the penurious amount of salmon (guppy-sized) and the crispiness of the quesadilla make this sandwich more reminiscent of the “cheese crisps” which are so popular in Arizona’s Mexican restaurants.  The very best quesadillas aren’t necessarily engorged with fillings, but what they’re stuffed with is more plentiful than we found on this smoked salmon quesadilla.  The accompanying salsa was quite good with a nice level of piquancy to it.

Upscale applies to the dinner menu, (served after 4PM) too.  Steaks, fish, chicken and chops are featured fare for dinner, all reasonably priced.  It especially does my heart good to see another restaurant serving fried chicken.  The Bodega’s rendition is flour-dusted, pan seared poultry with a creamy pecan sauce.  Steak options include prime rib, a boneless ribeye, aged New York strip and Angus Filet Mignon.

In May, 2012, Travel & Leisure magazine rated America’s best burger cities.  As is often the case, the list included mostly medium to large population centers which offer a large variety of burger options.  Had the burger rating been based on burger greatness per capita, Socorro county might have well been in the mix, especially now with the addition of the Bodega Burger Co. & Lounge.

Bodega Burger Co. & Lounge
606 N California Street
Socorro, New Mexico
575-838-2087
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 28 September 2014
1st VISIT: 15 June 2012
# of VISITS: 2
RATING: 18
COST: $$
BEST BET: Mountain Man Burger, Buttermilk Onion Rings, Bodega Burger, Housemade Potato Chips, Prime Rib Sandwich, Salmon Quesadilla

Bodega Burger Co & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Vick’s Vittles Country Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Vick’s Vittles on Central Avenue just east of Wyoming

Possum shanks; pickled hog jowls; goat tripe; stewed squirrel; ham hocks
and turnip greens; gizzards smothered in gristle; smoked crawdads.  
“Ewwww Doggies!,” now that’s eatin’. 
~The Beverly Hillbillies

Guests at the Clampett residence always seemed to recite a litany of excuses as to why they couldn’t stay for dinner when Granny announced the mess of vittles she’d fixed up.  Not even the opportunity to dine at the fancy eatin’ table (billiards table) and use the fancy pot passers (pool cues) under the visage of the mounted billy-yard (rhinoceros) was enough to entice the sophisticated city slickers to stay for dinner with America’s favorite hillbillies.

For the generation who grew up watching The Beverly Hillbillies, the notion of eating vittles elicits a broad smile and a warm heart.  Those sentiments were rekindled when we drove east on Central Avenue just past Wyoming and espied a new restaurant named Vick’s Vittles Country Kitchen.  Not only did it conjure memories of “heaping helpings of hospitality” from Jed and all his kin, the name “Vick’s Vittles” seemed so familiar and comfortable.

Main dining room at Vick’s Vittles

That’s because several years ago a restaurant named “Vick’s Country Vittles” plied its chicken-fried specialties for about an year on Central Avenue where  Kasbah Mediterranean currently sits.   Despite the similarity in names, there is no affiliation between the two restaurants.  Vick’s Vittles Country Kitchen is named for proprietor Robert Vick who’s got a passel of credentials and awards in the hospitality industry.

An affable gentleman, Vick earned “Executive of the Year” honors in 2010 from the International Food Service Executives Association for his leadership at Kirtland Air Force Base’s food services.  Before being launched as a restaurant, Vick’s Vittles excelled as a contract company that continues to operate the Thunderbird Inn Dining Facility at Kirtland.  Under Vick’s auspices, the Thunderbird Inn earned two Hennessy Food Service awards signifying the best dining facility in the Air Force.   Transforming a “chow hall” into an outstanding dining facility is no easy feat.

Affable proprietor Robert Vick

Robert Vick is a peripatetic presence at his restaurant, glad-handing and inviting guests to set a spell.  His wait staff mirrors his friendliness and is on-the-spot to replenish your coffee.  During our inaugural visit, we caught sight of several familiar faces–some of the same folks who frequented this familiar location when it was occupied by Roper’s Restaurant and before that, Milton’s Cafe

Vestiges of its former tenant are still in evidence in the form of  cowboy and western-themed accoutrements throughout the large dining room.  Country music plays in the background while you dine.  The menu also includes a few hold-overs from the Roper’s days, a melange of country cooking meets the Southwest.  It’s an ambitious menu, offering American and New Mexican comfort food favorites as well as barbecue all served in prolific portions.  Daily specials are available Monday through Friday with a daily lunch standard being green chile New England clam chowder in a sour dough bowl, a New Mexico meets New England treat.

Buttery cinnamon roll

The breakfast menu is extensive, offering pancakes, French toast and waffle plates for those of you craving a sweet start to your day.  A bounty of breakfast burritos includes several sure to elicit double takes.  There’s the corned beef hash burrito, for example.  Breakfast plates, served with your choice of potatoes (country, spuds or hash browns) galore and three-egg omelets round out the menu for the most important meal of the day. 

Vick’s Vittles also offers an extensive lunch menu with a number of appetizers, salads and soups available. New Mexican specialties, served with pinto beans and rice, include the “Lone Star Stack,” enchiladas layered with spicy beef and chile-con-queso, shredded chicken with green chile and melted Cheddar-Jack cheese with red chile.  Sandwiches and burgers, served with your choice of a garden salad, soup, French fries or onion rings, are also available.  Daily specials are displayed on a monitor directly above the greeter’s stand.

“The Cowboy,” a behemoth, belly-busting burrito

American novelist Lemony Snicket wisely noted  “Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.”  Though we arrived at Vick’s a little late for cinnamon rolls fresh out-of-the-oven, the hot, buttery cinnamon rolls were fresh nonetheless and delicious with a surfeit of sweet, rich icing tempered only slightly by the melting butter.  The cinnamon rolls are about the size of the disc shape conveyance which crash-landed in Roswell a few decades ago.  One of these calorific overachievers is large enough to share. 

Everyone’s (including 2 KASA Style host Chad Brummlett who calls it “arguably the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my life) favorite breakfast burrito, according to the menu, is the Cowboy Burrito, a tortilla-encased behemoth constructed from scrambled eggs, country spuds, Cheddar-Jack cheese and chopped chicken fried steak smothered in green chili (SIC) cream gravy.  While not your conventional New Mexico breakfast burrito, there’s much to like about this one.  The green chili cream gravy topped with melting shredded cheese is very rich and quite good though not especially piquant.  Texturally, the chopped chicken fried steak and country spuds (more like square tater tots than fried potatoes) are unexpectedly delightful.  Perhaps only Jethro Bodine, lovingly referred to as “the six foot stomach” by Granny, could polish off an entire Cowboy burrito in one sitting.

Carne Adovada and Eggs

For my Kim, seeing “carne adovada” on a menu means there’s no need to look any further at the menu. More often than not, she’s pleased with that choice. Sometimes, as in the case of Vick’s Vittles, she’s thrilled, calling the carne adovada “New Mexico quality.”  Tender tendrils of marinated shredded pork are served with two eggs and country spuds.  The red chile in which the carne adovada is marinated is only slightly piquant, but it’s got the time-honored flavor of well-made chile.

Robert Vick may not personally tell his guests they’re all invited back to this locality to have a heaping helping of hospitality, vittles, that is…Vick’s Vittles.  It’s implied in the way you’re treated at this unpretentious restaurant in that oh, so familiar location.  Vick’s Vittles Country Kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and for dinner on Thursday through Saturday.

Vick’s Vittles Country Restaurant
8810 Central Avenue
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 298-5143
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT:
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET:

Vick's Vittles on Urbanspoon