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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

NM Rodeo Burgers – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

NM Rodeo Burgers In Rio Rancho

“Traveling with the rodeo
It’s the only life I’ll ever know
I started in New Mexico
Must have been a thousand years ago.”
~Lyrics to “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” by Paul Davis

Although my friends and I were all fairly accomplished horse riders in the svelte and carefree days of our youth, Peñasco didn’t have a high school rodeo team so we couldn’t show off our skills in the arena of competition.  Instead we entertained ourselves with such non-sanctioned “rodeo” events as hand-fishing for bottom-feeding suckers and tossing them into a chicken coop where a frenzied take-away melee would ensue with feathers and fish entrails flying.  We also enjoyed tossing wet bailing wire into electrical wires overhead.  if done right, the bailing wire returned to earth a smoldering ashen heap reminiscent of snake fireworks. 

Risking life and limb with thousands of volts of electrical current was child’s play compared to riding rambunctious young bulls who would invariably toss us to the ground with impunity.  My days of bull riding ended when a recalcitrant bull was spooked by a horse who aimed a kick at my flank, leaving me no recourse but to jump off into a fresh, fetid pile of horse and cow sh…er, excrement.  Memories of walking home to face my mom covered head-to-toe in manure were rekindled when a Burger King commercial for its new “rodeo burger” aired.  It wasn’t the brawny beef on the hoof we rode I associated with that commercial, but the dung pile into which I fell.  That’s the “appeal” chain restaurants seem to have with me.

The Rodeo Burgers Menu

I did a double-take when first spotting the NM Rodeo Burgers restaurant in Rio Rancho.  My first thought was of the maverick rodeo days of my youth then of America’s eagerly litigious society and its affinity for copyright infringement lawsuits.  A quick Google search revealed a number of Rodeo Burgers throughout the fruited plain and even Canada so copyright shouldn’t be an issue.  Side note: Even though Rio Rancho can’t claim the very first Rodeo Burgers restaurant across the fruited plain, the Land of Enchantment is one of several claimants to having held the very first rodeo in America.  That rodeo transpired in Santa Fe some 65 years before New Mexico joined the Union. Take that Texas!

The NM Rodeo Burgers is more a “joint” than a “restaurant.”  There are no indoor sit-down amenities save for a handful of concrete picnic tables where you can dine al fresco (or “al viento” on windy days).  To place your order, you can either drive up or walk up to the counter at the front of the edifice which once housed a  Weinerschnitzel (which long ago misplaced its “Der”).   While its address (900 36th Place, N.E.) may sound residential and unfamiliar, look for it off Southern Boulevard in the same cul-de-sac which is home to the Turtle Mountain Brewery.

The Rodeo Burgers Unique Hamburger Menu

The Rodeo Burgers menu (pictured above) may be limited in terms of sheer numbers, but for sheer variety look within the burgers themselves.  The Cowboy Burger, for example, includes spam and green bell peppers, two ingredients not often found in burgers around these parts.  The 8 Second Burger is even more uniquely adorned.  If you’re inclined to think these burgers were designed by a rodeo clown, you really need to lasso one before passing judgment.  

You’d think that with my personal rodeo experiences, my inaugural burger would have been the 8 Second Burger (in the rodeo vernacular, eight seconds is the length of time a rider should remain on a bucking bull for it to be considered a good ride).  Even cowboys start with baby steps, ergo the Cowboy Burger.  What caused me most trepidation is actually one of the best aspects of this burger.  That would be the Spam (ukuleles playing Home on the Range in the background) which, though a bit salty, complemented the beef very well.  The green chile, described as mild chopped green chile, actually has more bite than found in most green chile cheeseburgers.  The beef patty extended beyond the sesame seed buns and the burger was made fresh to order.  On the debits and credits side of the ledger, these were the credits.

The Cowboy Burger

On the debits side, the beef is prepared at medium-well, a degree of doneness which almost always means desiccated beef (no napkins necessary).  The green peppers are sliced into rather thick ribbons which makes them more prevalent an ingredient than all but the most ardent green pepper lovers would enjoy. The lettuce was a bit wilted.   Still, this is a burger I’ll order again if only to confirm how good Spam can be on a burger. 

The same can’t be said for the Rancher, a hot dog whose composition isn’t described on the drive-up menu.  Certainly the ranching profession is far from glamorous, but a restaurant creative enough to add Spam to a burger can certainly gussy up a hot dog with exciting and innovative ingredients.  Alas, upon wrapping the Rancher at home, it was nothing more than a toasted bun with a sliced hot dog.  No mustard.  No onions.  No relish.  No sense of rodeo adventure.  If the ordering protocol is to stipulate the ingredients with which you want your hot dog prepared, it certainly wasn’t described anywhere.  Grrrrr!

The Rancher

Rodeo Burgers shows some imagination and creativity in its menu, but must perform well on every single order or discerning diners won’t return.

NM Rodeo Burgers
900 36th Place, N.E.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 892-8386
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT:  5 September 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET:Cowboy Burger

Nm Rodeo Burgers on Urbanspoon