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Q Burger – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Q Burger on Central Avenue in Albuquerque’s Downtown

“Q.” It’s the seventeenth letter of the English alphabet, a consonant. Only two letters (“X” and “Z”) occur less frequently as first letters of words found in the English dictionary. It’s the only letter not to appear in any of the names of the fifty states of America. As with its 25 alphabetical colleagues, it’s an onomatopoeia. It’s both the name of an omnipotent entity in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the title given to the nerdy-techy head of the British Secret Service who comes up with all the cool gadgets used by James Bond to thwart rottenness. If a former mayor of Albuquerque had had his way, “The Q” would have also been yet another city sobriquet, joining Duke City and Burque as nicknames on which to hang our hats.

Several years ago, then Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez attempted a commercially-driven re-branding of the city, an effort which was (to put it mildly) very unpopular with the citizenry. Some surmise that “The Q” reminded people of “queue” as in the seemingly interminable lines at the Motor Vehicle Department and Social Security office. Others opine that “The Q” made the spelling-challenged among us feel patronized for abbreviating the city’s name to “ABQ” just as the Albuquerque International Sunport does. Whatever the reason, the backlash against “The Q” was likely the impetus behind the nickname “Burque” regaining a firm foothold on the hearts and minds of Albuquerque’s populace.

The Q Burger Dining Room

Several Burque businesses either embraced Mayor Marty’s whimsy or they delighted in the concept of fewer letters equaling cheaper billboards and marquees. One of the businesses opting for the re-branding sported the vowel-deprived, consonant-rich name of bRgR. While a great mnemonic for a license plate, the name bRgR seemed to confuse some of the geriatrically advanced among us who haven’t mastered Twitter shorthand. The upscale burger restaurant retained the name bRgR from its launch in July, 2012 through its re-branding in June, 2012—about the length of an average Hollywood marriage.

It wasn’t solely the name which experienced a remake. When it was bRgR, large pictures of sad-eyed cows (obviously cognizant of their fates) festooned the walls, evoking not the pangs of hunger, but feelings of guilt among soft-hearted diners. Where the most corpulent cow once dominated the wall now hangs a picture of two comely, long-limbed women flanking a large letter Q. Perhaps if Mayor Marty had employed similar pulchritude in promoting his vision for “The Q,” at least those of us sporting the XY-chromosome pairing would have embraced it…much as we embrace the flat screen televisions suspended over the bar and tuned to sports channels. Most men won’t even notice the chandeliers hanging from the vaulted ceiling unless it’s to appreciate the quality of the chains holding them in place.

Dark Chocolate Red Chile-Dusted Milkshake

There’s one more “Q” relevant to this review.  It’s called the “Q Score” and it represents how familiar and appealing a product is.  The higher the Q score, the more highly thought-of the item is among people familiar with that product.   Were it to be polled, perhaps no product in America would receive a higher score than the All-American hamburger.  Hence Q Burger should receive a very high Q score for having some of the most appealing burgers in the Duke City…er, The Q.  There are fifteen burgers on the menu, including a build-your-own option.  To the ire of spellcheckers everywhere, the letter Q is incorporated into the spelling of every burger on the menu.  You’ll find, for example, a “steaQhouse burger,” a “saganaQi kobe burger,” a “burQueño burger” and a dozen more. 

As you peruse the menu, you might want to indulge in dare-to-be-different milkshakes.  Anyone and everyone can make a strawberry or vanilla shake and both are available on Q Burger’s menu, but why not try something else?  Why not try the dark chocolate red chile-dusted milkshake, more evidence that in New Mexico chile can be incorporated into everything.  To be honest, there’s not enough chile to suit this volcano-eater, but it might traumatize most Texans.

SteaQhouse Burger with Red Chile Onion Rings

Q Burger takes great pride in using New Mexico raised, grass-fed beef (not available on the occasional kangaroo burger special) seared medium. There’s no charge for substituting chicken, turkey or blaq bean.  Brioche buns are baked daily at the House of Bread bakery on Carlisle. Whole wheat and gluten-free buns are also available.   Local pride is also evidenced in the use of seasonal area produce and fire-roasted green chile from Hatch.  All burgers are served with one side, among available options being sweet potato tots, green bean fries, calamari fries, fried pickles, bacon cheese fries and more.  Yeah, who needs plain, boring fries when you can have wasabi coleslaw with ginger garnish. 

Ostensibly, steak burgers should evoke memories reminiscent of large, flavorful burgers constructed with the type of meat used in traditional steakhouses.  That generally means meat of a higher quality or leaner variety than the usual ground beef and condiments such as steak seasonings and barbecued meats.  Steak burgers are traditionally grilled or broiled over a fire.  Q Burger’s SteaQhouse Burger has many of those qualities, especially the high quality beef, but what really elevates it is the umami (a strong meaty taste with a long lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue) it gleans from the sauteed mushroom demi-glace.

BlaQ-N-Bleu Kobe Burger with Green Bean Fries and White Cheddar Queso

Turophiles who prefer their fromage on the fetid side and believe bacon is on top of the food pyramid will love the BlaQ-N-Bleu Kobe Burger, a bleu cheese and bacon-stuffed behemoth served with a burnt butter sauce on the side.  It’s one of the very best bleu cheese burgers in Albuquerque…and believe me, I’ve searched high and low.  To add mustard, ketchup or mayo would be to desecrate this meaty, cheesy, bacony beauty.  It’s a burger meant to be enjoyed exactly as it’s delivered to your table.  My only nit about this burger (and the SteaQhouse burger, too) is that “medium” translates to “medium-well,” robbing an otherwise near perfect burger of the juiciness a lesser charred burger would bestow. 

While Albuquerque may have found it whimsical and outlandish that the city needed another nickname, savvy  Duke City diners believe “The Q” as a burger is an excellent idea.

Q Burger
301 Central Avenue, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 224-2747
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 8 August 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: BlaQ-N-Bleu Kobe Burger, SteaQhouse Burger

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Kathy’s Carry-Out – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Kathy's on Isleta Boulevard

Kathy’s on Isleta Boulevard

In 2001, the Alibi staff declared Kathy’s Carry-Out the “best hamburger in the Duke City.” Surely, nay-sayers retorted, this had to be a mistake. How, after all, they reasoned, could a ramshackle garage sized building with a kitschy purple facade and garish orange trim possibly compete with the flamboyant chains and their glitz and glamor or even with the anointed local purveyors in the more well-beaten, well-eaten paths throughout the city?   Kathy’s Carry-Out lived up to its name, emphasis on the “carry-out” portion of its name.  Carry-Out was the only option available for the phalanx of diners eager to bite into those bodacious burgers.

Ensconced in an Isleta Boulevard neighborhood seemingly zoned as much for more residential than commercial purposes, Kathy’s Carry-Out certainly wouldn’t win any awards for esthetics and it probably violated every feng shui principle for harmony, not that hungry diners noticed.  Savvy burger aficionados from the South Valley frequented Kathy’s for its wonderful New Mexican cuisine and a burger so good it’d convert staunch vegans.  It took one visit to convince us you can’t judge a burger by the dilapidated facade of its place of origin. Kathy’s did serve one of, if not THE best burger in town.

The original Kathy's Carryout on Isleta Boulevard

The original Kathy’s Carryout on Isleta Boulevard

It’ll take one visit to this South Valley neighborhood to gain an appreciation for a neighborhood unabashedly bedecked in an ultraviolet spectrum of colors.  It’s part of the charm about this area that I love  It’s also the utter charm of holding on to a rural neighborliness amidst an urban sprawl sometimes lacking the spirit of community lived daily in the Isleta area.  This is a neighborhood which defies the abobe-hued homogeneity which has claimed so much of the city.  It’s a neighborhood which dares to be different, to express its individuality.

And when color isn’t what your eyes are drawn to, it might be a marvel of architectural ingenuity such as the single-wide trailer which sits on top of a stucco building to the immediate north of Kathy’s Carryout.  It’s a tribute to this area that the zoning Nazis haven’t come down on such inventive architectural expression. Or, your eyes might be trained to the skies because of an inordinate number of pigeons fortunate enough to call this neighborhood home.

A large Kathy Burger

In 2007, the dwarfish ugly duckling which served nonpareil New Mexican food and life-changing burgers was transmogrified into a spectacular swan with a broad wingspan. The charmingly garish exterior facade of its first location and its anti-esthetic curb appeal were gone as were any claims to “Albuquerque’s best burger served here.”  That honor didn’t go very far; it now belongs to the restaurant next door.

Kathy’s Carryout left that utterly charming old edifice and moved next door to a beautiful restaurant with seating for dozens of diners. “Carry-Out” now applies to the drive-up window, not to the way diners used to order and take away their orders.  In Kathy’s Carryout of old, separate windows were used for placing and picking up orders. You had to feel sorry for the cramped quarters in which Kathy and her staff filled orders; there wasn’t much room to move and the heat of the stoves seemed stifling.

Rolled tacos and hot sauce

Rolled tacos and hot sauce

The old location had a couple of picnic tables where you could sit and wait, but most patrons seemed to either wait by the pick-up window or taxed their cars’ air conditioners while waiting in relative comfort within the confines of cars of all makes and models. Most were packed with hungry family members waiting for a designated parent to return with a bagful of deliciousness.What they waiting for is not only one of the very best green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico (ergo, the universe), but excellent take-out Mexican and New   Mexican food. Waiting indoors is much better!

Kathy’s new digs are completely antithetical to its predecessor. It’s almost antiseptic in appearance with pristine denim colored walls, sixteen-inch tiled floors and comfortable seating.  No one is happier to be in the new restaurant than the staff and cooks who love the large kitchen in which they can ply their skills in climate-controlled comfort.  The larger kitchen also means an expanded menu which now includes burritos, tacos, enchiladas burgers, stuffed sopaipillas and much more. Daily specials are offered every day of the week.

Chips and guacamole

Chips and guacamole

27 July 2015: The most popular item on the menu is probably still the green chile cheeseburger extraordinaire called the Kathy Burger (formerly known as the Cuca Burger), a double-meat masterpiece that will kick sand on the so-called Big Mac and other chain claimants to size.  With two behemoth hand-formed patties prepared to medium-well, Kathy Burger and its tongue-tingling green chile, onions, lettuce, bacon and cheese is a phenom. It takes two hands to handle this leviathan, five napkins to wipe yourself off while consuming it and phenomenal willpower not to order another one, great as it is. With red chile, the Kathy Burger is not quite as incendiary but might even taste better.

24 July 2015: Terrific tacos are an excellent alternative to the Kathy Burger. The rolled tacos (order them with guacamole instead of salsa) are cigar-shaped, deep-fried corn tortilla treasures stuffed with a chile emboldened ground beef. Only in the city of Espanola, New Mexico will you find better rolled tacos than at Kathy’s. The guacamole, by the way, can be purchased by the pint (pictured below). It’s good guacamole, buttery and creamy in texture and delicious in flavor.

Bean Burrito with Red and Green Chile

24 July 2015: Several burrito options are also available and they’re not your run-of-the-mill burritos. The carne adovada burrito, for example, comes with fried potatoes and a fried egg. It’s absolutely delicious with red chile blessed pork chunks as tender as Mother Theresa’s heart.  Now, if you really love burritos, but you like bargains even more, you can have both by visiting Kathy’s on Fridays when the daily special is three bean burritos for an inflation-beating cost just barely over five dollars.  The burritos are engorged with frijoles so good you’ll be reminded why pinto beans are, along with chile, New Mexico’s official state vegetable.  The accommodating staff will indulge you with both red and green chile if you ask.  While both exemplars of deliciousness and piquancy, the green gets my nod, but just barely.  

27 July 2015: The term “cheap eats” sometimes has connotations not of inexpensive fare, but of rock-bottom quality.  At Kathy’s cheap eats represents excellent fare at very reasonable prices.  If the exorbitant price of tacos has you wondering if restaurateurs believe taco shells are fashioned from spun gold, you may experience a bit of sticker shock at the low, low, low price of a la carte tacos at Kathy’s.  Nestled within hard-shelled repositories of deliciousness are beans, ground beef, lettuce and cheese with salsa on the side.  These tacos are terrific, a reminder that tacos shouldn’t cost as much as your mortgage to be great.

Tacos

The Alibi was right about Kathy’s Carry-Out so many years ago.  So are the hundreds of discerning Duke City burgerphiles and aficionados of New Mexican food who frequent it!

Kathy’s
823 Isleta, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 873-3472
LATEST VISIT: 27 July 2015
# OF VISITS: 8
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: Kathy Burger, Rolled Tacos, Bean Burritos, Carne Adovada Burrito, Beef Tacos

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Rustic: A Divine Food Truck – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Rustic: A Divine Food Truck

Pop culture’s most famous exemplar of teenage angst may have been Napoleon Dynamite, a socially awkward daydreamer constantly tormented by bullies. Napoleon frequently lamented his ineptitude: “I don’t even have any good skills. You know, like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” Napoleon’s best friend Pedro, on the other hand, possessed skills Napoleon coveted: “Well, you have a sweet ride. And you’re really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you’re the only guy at school who has a mustache.”

In a previous review I bemoaned my lack of skills in the manly art of grilling (though not nearly as much as my dear Kim bemoaned my having ruined thousands of dollars of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables). Despite voracious absorption of the collected works of Bill and Cheryl Jamison, America’s foremost grilling and smoking gurus, my grilling skills are probably not even at the equivalent of Napoleon’s nunchuck skills. It got so bad, my saintly Kim confiscated my treasured “kiss the chef” apron (which admittedly I set afire numerous times).

The Rustic Menu

Unlike Napoleon who doggedly persisted in his indefatigable efforts to develop skills, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that you either have them or you don’t…and if you have skills, you can ply them virtually anywhere. How else can you explain all the virtuosos and prodigies who coax sheer, unbridled deliciousness in the motorized conveyances we not long ago chided as “roach coaches?” The food truck revolution has unleashed upon the fruited plain, a phalanx of peerless purveyors of the gourmet arts. These folks have mad skills.

Rather than envy them, it’s been my multi-year obsession to explore strange new dining opportunities, to seek out new eateries in all forms, to boldly dine where I haven’t dined before. Food trucks are indeed the final…or at least, the next frontier. Several of them undertake a weekly voyage to Talin, the largest international grocer in the Land of Enchantment. There they congregate in pods, converging in the sprawling parking lot every Wednesday at around high noon. Diners seem preternaturally drawn (in a sort of pied piper fashion) to Rustic: A Divine Food Truck.

The Sacred, Rustic’s version of the green chile cheeseburger

Perhaps it’s divine intervention or (more likely) the enticing aromas emanating from Rustic’s mobile kitchen, but I found myself queuing up with the teeming masses yearning to be fed.  You might think it wouldn’t take much deliberation or time to choose from among only four burgers on the current menu.  You’d be wrong.  Each of the four burgers is constructed from freshly ground chuck, local Fano brioche buns and a creative array of ingredients which ostensibly go very well together.  Burgers are always made to order.

Curse my advancing geriatric progression as I forgot which burger Thomas Molitor, a very discerning diner and good friend of this blog, recommended (it was the Divine Intervention: bleu cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary Balsamic reduction, Romaine lettuce and tomato).  Oh well, that just means I’ll have a Divine Intervention next time.  The Sacred (Wagner Farm’s green chile, American cheese, Romaine lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard), Rustic’s version of a green chile cheeseburger is hardly a consolation prize.  It’s a beefy behemoth with a lot of flavor.  Even though the beef patty is thick and nicely seasoned, it doesn’t obfuscate the piquancy and roasted goodness of the green chile. 

Rustic: A Divine Food Truck can be found hanging around Talin on Wednesdays from 11AM through 1:30PM though hours can change without notice.  Make sure to visit Rustic’s Facebook page for more information on the Duke City’s only divine food truck.

Rustic: A Divine Food Truck
Location Varies
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505)
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 1 April 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET:The Sacred, French Fries