Little Red Hamburger Hut – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Little Red Hamburger Hut on Mountain Road

The Little Red Hamburger Hut on Mountain Road

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
– J. Wellington Wimpy

Cultural shock!  It’s been oft repeated that the United States and England are two nations separated by a common language.  I had no idea how much the two nations are separated by more than language until 1979 when stationed at Royal Air Force Base Upper Heyford just outside of Oxford, England.  Cultural differences were especially evident in dining experiences.  Back then American fast food restaurants were as scarce in England as fish and chips restaurants were in the United States. McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut had just starting to make inroads in the megalopolis of London.  In smaller cities, if we wanted an American hamburger, the only option was a chain of England-based hamburger restaurants named Wimpy’s.  During my first visit to Wimpy’s there were many reminders we were not in America.

First, service was on New Mexico time (and I say that with the utmost affection); the concept of fast food was apparently lost on the wait staff.  Secondly, portions were parsimonious.  The burgers weren’t the size of a frisbee the way American servicemen liked them.  Soft drinks were merely eight-ounces, not the barrel-sized cups we were used to.  Worse, we were charged for refills.  Last, and most important, the burgers were–as most English food tended to be at the time–bland and mediocre (or worse).  Give us McDonald’s any day!

Little Red Hamburger Hut Dining Room

As those of you old enough to remember the characters might have surmised, Wimpy’s was named for Popeye’s friend J. Wellington Wimpy, an erudite and manipulative glutton.   Wimpy was, in just about every way,  Popeye’s “foil,” a living contrast to the “strong to the finich” sailor man.  Where Popeye was prone to wild antics and explosive blow-ups, Wimpy was the consummate “straight man.”  While Popeye had the stereotypical, albeit G-rated vocabulary of a sailor from the Bronx, Wimpy was highly intelligent and well educated.  Popeye loved to “eats me spinach” while Wimpy was never seen without a hamburger in hand.

Interestingly, Albuquerque’s Barelas neighborhood has a restaurant staking a claim to being the home of the “original” Wimpy Burger.  Founded in 1922, the Red Ball Cafe which closed in 2015 was a Route 66 mainstay for more than three-quarters of a century.  McDonald’s single-sized Wimpy burgers with cheese are still available on the menu for under a dollar.  The irascible Popeye and his supporting cast of characters festoon the restaurant’s walls while comic strips under glass decorate the table tops.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

In 2008, a restaurant by the name of Wimpy’s was launched just minutes north of Old Town.  Though not affiliated with the Red Ball Cafe, the name engendered obvious confusion among diners (and reportedly some contentiousness between both ownership parties).  Wimpy’s has since been renamed “The Little Red Hamburger Hut,” a name that just fits (though regulars still call it “Wimpy’s.”  It is situated on the intersection of Mountain Road and Sawmill, which back in 1900 was considered beyond the Albuquerque city limits.  In the early 1900s a giant sawmill operated in the area and many workers built adobe and/or frame homes in the area.  There were also a couple of grocery stores serving the little community as well.  I believe Wimpy’s is located in one of those.

The timeworn edifice has charm to spare.  The solidity of distressed oak plank flooring heavily trod upon by generations speaks to the quality of construction.  On the corner of the main dining room stands a hand-painted fireplace, the symbol of hospitality and warmth.  The ceiling is bamboo matting (which in New Mexico is a multi-purpose utility used as flooring, ceiling and even fencing).  The Little Red Hamburger Hut provides diners with a nostalgic trip back to a carefree, more innocent time before the infestation of chain restaurants.  Even if you’re not old enough to remember it, you’ll appreciate the sundry bric a brac from the Fabulous Fifties and Swinging Sixties.

A Large Little Red with French Fries

A Large Little Red with French Fries

Diners queue up before the restaurant opens so they’re first in line to place their order in a room adjacent to the main dining room. The menu enjoys you to “enjoy New Mexico’s famous burgers.”  Burgers are the primary draw here, but not just your standard, conventional burgers on a bun.  Burger options start with the “Little Red” which you can order in small, medium or large sizes.  The Little Red is available with either red or green chile (both complementary as well as is cheese).   A combo meal includes fries and a large (barrel-sized) beverage of your choice with free refills. You can also have your burger on a tortilla.  There’s even taco burgers and hot dog burgers which are just what their names indicate they are.

Unless you specify otherwise, the burgers are cooked well done, but as you’ll happily realize, that doesn’t mean charred to a desiccated mess.  Though the beef patties are fresh and delicious, they aren’t as juicy as burgers done to a lesser degree of “doneness.”  It’s a likelihood that their desiccation may also be the result of the heinous spatula press (for which cooks should be shot).  The burgers are hand-formed each morning from freshly ground beef.  They’re available in medium (quarter-pound) and large sizes.    It’s very evident that freshness is a hallmark of the burgers and that’s all ingredients, not just the beef.  All produce is purchased daily to ensure the optimal freshness and flavor.

The Little Red Tortilla Burger fully dressed

14 March 2010: The Little Red is constructed much like other burgers in town–lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese, green chile–but like any classic structure, it’s built very well and it’s built to order–to your exacting specifications with your satisfaction guaranteed.  The buns are lightly toasted, the beef is wonderfully seasoned and hand-pressed into a thick patty, the ingredients are fresh and the green chile (spelled “chili” throughout the menu) is about medium on the piquancy scale.  It takes just a bit longer (not quite English time) but it’s worth the wait.

3 September 2010: A New Mexico alternative to the Little Red may one-up its more popular brethren between buns. That alternative would be the tortilla burger, a large tortilla dressed any way you want it.  Impressively, the beef–a large patty cut in half — spans nearly the entire length and breadth of the tortilla.  It’s best fully dressed–green chile, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cheese and is available in small, medium and large sizes.

Hot Dog Burger with Fries

3 February 2016: The Little Red Hamburger Hut solves the dilemma as to what you should have when both a hamburger and a hot dog sound good but you don’t have the funds for both.  By combining a hot dog within a burger, you have the best of both worlds.  The hot dog burger special (medium burger, 20-ounce beverage and fries) is proof that hot dogs and burgers can coexist in harmonious deliciousness under the same canvas.  That canvas is a bun that’s probably not much more than three-inches around.  When ingredients are piled on, the burger is nearly that tall, too.  The buns are hard-pressed to hold in all the ingredients and will probably fall apart after a few bites, so make sure to have plenty of napkins because you might be eating with your hands.

3 September 2010: New Mexico’s contribution to Health.com’s “50 Fattiest Foods,” a state-by-state hall of infamy, was our ubiquitous Frito pie.  The version low-lighted in the article contained a pants-popping 46 grams of fat and 14 grams of saturated fat.  Still, it’s hard to resist the Land of Enchantment’s most egregious fat-offender, especially since it looks like a healthy lettuce, tomato, cheese and onion salad when it’s delivered to other tables.  Underneath the salad ingredients, however, is a mound of ground beef covered in chile and cheese surrounded by Frito’s corn chips.  The Little Red Hamburger Hut crafts a classic New Mexican Frito pie.  The chile is likely Bueno brand red chile, a made in New Mexico chile which means it’s good and has a piquant bite without no canned or cumin aftertaste.  The chile is slathered on generously.

A large Frito pie

The fries are strictly out-of-the-bag and nothing special other than they’re served steamy and hot.  It takes a lot of ketchup and a lot of salt to make them palatable, but that’s the only downer to a meal that’s otherwise quite memorable.

The Little Red Hamburger Hut is the antithesis of the Wimpy’s chains in England. It’s an excellent purveyor of New Mexico’s green chile cheeseburger and one of the friendliest restaurants in the Duke City.

Little Red Hamburger Hut
1501 Mountain Road, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 304-1819
Web Site| Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 3 February 2016
1st VISIT: 14 March 2009
# of VISITS: 3
RATING: 19
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Large Little Red’s Combo, Large Tortilla Burger, Large Frito Pie, Hot Dog Burger

Little Red Hamburger Hut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A & B Drive In – Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

A&B Drive in in Truth or Consequences

Michael Newman, the charismatic and ebullient host of New Mexico True Television and Melinda Frame, the show’s brilliant producer-director have the very best jobs in the world.  Though not expressly stated, their true job titles should be “Ambassadors for the Great State of New Mexico” because that’s what they really are.  Every Sunday (8:30AM on KOB-TV Channel 4), they showcase the Land of Enchantment in all its magnificent splendor and incomparable beauty.  With the flair of gifted raconteurs, they know just when narration is necessary and when it’s best to let spectacular backdrops tell the story.  New Mexico True’s thematic episodes truly feed the soul and capture the imagination.

In Season 3 (Episode 4: El Camino Real Part I), the New Mexico True cast (really just Michael) and crew  spent time in Truth or Consequences, but saved any time they may have spent indulging in the city’s salubrious thermal waters (reputed to cure “anything that ails you”) for another episode.  Because New Mexico True also celebrates the Land of Enchantment’s bold flavors and culinary culture, the focus of the T or C segment was on one of the city’s most popular eateries.  Within easy walking district of the spas and bathhouses, the A & B Drive-In is not to be missed.

Place your Order at the Window

If you’re of the mind that drive-ins are anachronisms, chronological misplacements in a time to which they don’t belong, you haven’t been to the A & B at meal time.  That’s when you’ll find motorized conveyances of all types and sizes parked under metal canopies.  The experience is described by one Yelp reviewer as right out of American Graffiti, the coming-of-age movie in which teens spent much of their free time at a drive-in similar to A & B.  After you park your vehicle, you’ll walk up to a window at which you’ll place your order (the menu takes up an entire window panel) then you’ll wait for your name to be called.  You can either eat in your vehicle or on one of the picnic tables provided.

When Michael walked up to the window, he ordered a green chile cheeseburger and fries.  In his warm, casual style, he also did much of my research for me, discovering that the drive-in was named for Anthony (A) and Barbara (B), offspring of the drive-ins founders.  The drive-in was started because the siblings’ mother’s loves to cook.  Her dream was to feed her guests and have them enjoy their experience.  In that regard, the A & B is a dream-come-true.  The drive-in remains a family-owned, family-operated venture.

Green Apple Hawaiian Shaved Ice and Chocolate Shake

Though we didn’t get to meet Barbara as Michael did, the employee taking our order shared in our enthusiasm for New Mexico True having highlighted the drive-in.  She recommended the New Mexican food (burritos, tacos, tostadas, flautas, enchiladas, etc.), all of which are prepared with cumin.  The menu also includes several burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and even gizzards.  Likely because of balmy summer temperatures, Hawaiian shaved ice is also featured fare.

The Hawaiian shaved ice (green apple) is a coarse, granular ice concoction texturally similar to a snow cone.  Similar to a snow cone, much of the “flavoring” tends to settle near the bottom which means chewing on rather flavorless ice for a while.  Much better is the chocolate shake which can be made to your exacting specifications for thickness.  It’s a chocolaty delight made with real (and really cold) ice cream.

Double Green Chile Cheeseburger with Fries

For the most part, I live vicariously through Michael whose daring exploits on New Mexico True show a much more fit, athletic and daring man than this geriatrically advanced blogger.  Though I can’t hope to duplicate his exploits in biking, running and square-dancing, I, as he did, ordered a double meat green chile cheeseburger at A & B.  You know it’s going to be a great burger when thick beef patties extend beyond the five-inch buns and when those buns practically collapse when you squash the burger down so you can get it in your mouth.  This is an excellent burger–moist, well-seasoned, dressed with fresh ingredients and skyscraper tall.  If we didn’t know better, we might have thought we were in Socorro county, New Mexico’s epicenter for behemoth burgers.

A & B’s version of a green chile Philly is a good one.  It could be a great one with a better sandwich roll.  The chopped steak, peppers and green chile work very well together, but they’re nestled in a bread home that just doesn’t cut it.  Dry and chewy, it detracts from ingredients that are otherwise moist and delicious.  My Kim took to extricating the ingredients from the bread with a fork and cutting up the bread for some birds nearby.

Green Chile Philly

The A & B Drive-In remains open longer during the day than other restaurants in Truth or Consequences, but that doesn’t account for its popularity.  It’s a solid dining option with genuinely good food and one of the best green chile cheeseburgers in southern New Mexico.

A & B Drive In
211 North Broadway Street
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
(575) 894-9294
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 21 December 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Double Meat Green Chile Cheeseburger, Green Chile Philly, Chocolate Shake

A & B Drive In Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yo Mama’s Grill – Socorro, New Mexico

Yo Mama’s Grill in Socorro

Such was my bumpkinly naivete that my virgin ears weren’t subjected to a “yo mama” joke until shortly after my 19th birthday.  The site was the Non-Commissioned Officer’s club at Royal Air Force (RAF) Upper Heyford in England.  The event was an irreverent ninety-minute show featuring brazen comedian Redd Foxx whose explicit brand of humor both shocked and thrilled the American-culture-starved audience.   Foxx’s repertoire included lampooning nearly every ethnic group in the audience, invective-laden raunchiness that would make a stripper blush and a unique take on virtually every social taboo of the time.  It was truly the antithesis of political correctness.  Still, it was the “yo mama” jokes that shocked me most.  As an unabashed mama’s boy, it rankled me that anyone would mock the sacred institution of motherhood

Subsequent research revealed that “yo mama” jokes have been fashionable almost since time immemorial.   Several sources confirm that the oldest “yo mama” joke is approximately 3,500 years old.  The progenitor to Redd Foxx was a student in ancient Babylon who inscribed six riddles on a tablet.  Although the riddles lose much in translation, one of them certainly poked fun at the promiscuous proclivities of someone’s mother.  After Stephen Colbert failed to decipher it, I consulted my friend Schuyler, an amateur anthropologist,  for his interpretation.  His analysis: “in terms of syntax and clarity it resembles some of Bob of the Village People’s comments on this blog.  Isn’t Bob of Babble-on-and-on-ian descent?”

Harvester Burger with Fries

It wasn’t a “yo mama” joke my friend Carlos shared when recommending a relatively new restaurant in Socorro.  He swore Yo Mama was the real thing, as good a restaurant as you’ll find in Socorro county which has in recent years become the domicile of delicious burgers.  Yelp readers gave it mostly four and five (out of five) stars.  As for the name, owners Diedra and Jason Vinson believe “the name just feels good,” and that “you can’t stay angry when you say ‘Let’s go eat at Yo Mama’s.”  The Vinsons opened Yo Mama’s Grill in July, 2015, the culmination of nearly two decades working toward the goal of owning their own restaurant.

Situated on heavily-trafficked California Street, Yo Mama’s Grill is just a mile off Interstate 25 and operates out of the Economy Inn.  Open for lunch and dinner, it features a rather ambitious menu that belies any stereotype you might have about a restaurant named Yo Mama’s.  In addition to burgers and sandwiches, the menu offers several steaks, all hand-cut in-house from USDA choice aged beef.  A number of seafood and chicken dishes also festoon the menu along with soups, salads and a Mud Pie (Oreo cookie crust, coffee ice cream, and fudge topping topped with whipped cream and toasted almonds) reputed to be worth the drive from Albuquerque.

Patty Melt

All burgers are served with your choice of housemade potato chips or French fries, and are adorned with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion. For a pittance you can add cheese, bacon, green chile, avocado, onions or mushrooms.  Constructed with an eight-ounce beef patty, they’re the type of burgers that in a short time have made Yo Mama’s Grill a local favorite and in time, perhaps a dining destination.  The Harvester Burger (queso, grilled onions, mushrooms, and bacon) certainly warrants a visit or ten.  Though we’ve had mushroom as a topping on many burgers, none have been as suffused with umami, that savory taste sensation that ingratiates itself upon taste buds.  In combination with queso, grilled onions and bacon, this is one of the most memorable burgers we shared in 2015. 

My Kim will opt for a patty melt over a burger seven times out of ten, but that’s about the ratio of her disappointment with the patty melts she’s ordered.  Yo mama’s version stacks up with the best she’s had in New Mexico.  This patty melt (hamburger, sautéed onions, mushrooms, bacon, and Swiss cheese served on toasted rye bread) doesn’t just leave well enough alone.  With the addition of mushrooms and bacon, it takes a standard patty melt and elevates it to rarefied status.  The lightly toasted light rye bread is the perfect canvas for a genuinely terrific patty melt.  The housemade potato chips are a wonderful accompaniment, much better than the blase fries. 

Redd Foxx would probably not have found anything disparaging to say about Yo Mama’s Grill. He would have been too busy enjoying his meal.

Yo Mama’s Grill
400 California Street
Socorro, New Mexico
(575) 838-3962
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 20 December 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Harvester Burger, Patty Melt, Potato Chips

Yo Mama's Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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