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Holy Cow – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Holy Cow! East Downtown has another great burger restaurant.

During his 40-year career as a radio and television broadcaster for the York Yankees, Phil Rizzuto made “Holy Cow” his trademark exclamation.  Similar to Yogi Berra, another legendary Yankee personality, Rizzuto became beloved for his  snafus and humor: “Uh-oh, deep to left-center.  Nobody’s gonna get that one!  Holy cow!  Someone got it.”  In 1985 when the Yankees retired his uniform number 10, they paraded  a live cow with a halo propped on its head onto Yankee Stadium.  During the ceremony the “holy cow” knocked Rizzuto to the ground, an encounter he described thusly: “that big thing stepped right on my shoe and pushed me backwards, like a karate move.”

The comedic broadcaster’s “Holy Cow” catchphrase became further cemented in pop culture during a 1997 episode of Seinfeld when  Yankees owner George Steinbrenner gave George Costanza a key chain with Rizzuto’s likeness in honor of his induction into the Hall of Fame.  When Rizzuto’s head was squeezed, it uttered (that’s uttered, not uddered) “Holy Cow.”  Predictably Costanza lost the key chain while jumping over a pothole which was later paved over by construction workers.  Every time a vehicle ran over the patched street, the key chain exclaimed “Holy Cow!”

The interior of Holy Cow

When I first heard a new burger restaurant by the name “Holy Cow” would be built in Albuquerque, it instantly called to mind the live cow the New York Yankees adorned with a halo prop on its head.  The restaurant’s affable owner Chris Medina, a veritable “lifer” in the culinary business didn’t name his restaurant “Holy Cow” in honor of Phil Rizzuto’s catchphrase, but it sure would have made for a great story if he had.  Chris named his burger enterprise Holy Cow because he wanted it to have a memorable name, something catchy.

A memorable and catchy name may draw curiosity-seekers to a new restaurant, but it’s the end-product which will keep them coming back.  Sure, hamburgers have been called “recession proof,” but the American dining public is comprised of finicky eaters who won’t put up with inferior burgers, especially in a downtrodden economy.  Surprisingly it’s not the cheap, fast food burger purveyors which have made the most inroads in the 100 billion dollar a year burger market.  It’s the pricier, premium patties and their sundry upscale ingredients which carnivorous Americans crave.

Green Chile Cheeseburger: Cheddar Cheese, Roasted Green Chile, Caramelized Onions

When you think about it, hamburgers are practically sacrosanct in America which must then mean the bovines from which the beef is acquired are beatified (true holy cows).  Americans practically worship great hamburgers, a fact that hasn’t been lost on entrepreneurial restaurateurs.   To beef up sluggish sales in a down economy, even fine dining chefs and celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay  are turning to the ubiquitous burger.

With a fine-dining background that includes a stint at Geronimo, quite possibly the most highly esteemed restaurant in  New Mexico, Chris Medina could have launched another fine-dining enterprise in Albuquerque, but he chose to open a premium hamburger restaurant instead.  Holy Cow is located at the long-time site of Bob’s Fish and Chips, an Albuquerque institution which closed in 2006 after more than fifty years of serving Albuquerque.

Holy Cow Burger: Pecanwood Smoked Bacon, American Cheese, Thousand Island Dressing, Fried Egg

There are a few vestiges of the previous tenant, but you’ll have to visit the restroom to find them.  The most prominent is the familiar yellow sign with the black lettering.  The part of the sign which reads “Bob’s” hangs over the toilet in the women’s room while the “Fish & Chips” portion of the sign hangs over the men’s room toilet.  The open and airy 1,600 square foot main dining room with seating for 100 looks nothing like its predecessor. 

From the outside the restaurant still resembles a 1950s style drive-in eatery with two expansive porches, one on the restaurant’s frontage.  The interior befits the premium hamburger concept with solid maple planked flooring and wooden chairs lending an air of class (though you might feel differently during a busy lunch hour when the cacophonous din makes normal tone conversation nearly impossible).   Additional seating on a bar provides unobstructed access to the open kitchen in which your meal is prepared.  The wait staff is ever-present and attentive, operating in tandem to ensure your every need is met.  Expect to see Chris Medina visit your table at least once during your visit.  He’s a very personable fellow who genuinely wants his customers to enjoy their Holy Cow experience.

 blue cheese burger   blue cheese, caramelized onions & pecanwood smoked bacon

Blue Cheese Burger:
blue cheese, caramelized onions & pecanwood smoked bacon

The menu, also known as “the good book of burgers,” showcases five premium burgers all prepared medium unless otherwise requested and served with lettuce, tomato and onion. The beef is hormone-free, grass-fed and double-ground.   Vegans and vegetarians will appreciate the “no cow” burger made with roasted eggplant, chickpea and miso aioli.  A build your own burger option is also available as are a dazzling array of potential toppings including fried egg, roasted green chile and five types of cheese (American, Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella and Swiss).  Four sandwiches also grace the menu.

It’s not all burgers and sandwiches, however.  The menu also includes four salads and four sides as well as milk shakes, malts and floats.  Adult libations–beer and wine–are also available.  In keeping with the “Holy Cow” theme, the menu is replete with thematic slogans: “Tastes Like Heaven,” “Burgers to Die For” and “Damn Good Beef.”  “Branding” extends to the “Holy Cow” name as the “O” in Holy is formed by the halo over a cow’s head.

Roasted Beet Salad: Goat Cheese, Sugar Spiced Walnuts, Arugula and Balsamic Vinaigrette

6 August 2011: Heavenly milkshakes and malts, vanilla and chocolate, are blended to your desired level of thickness.  Traditional floats can be made with your choice of root beer, Coca-Cola or orange cream soda.  Both the shakes and malts are served cold in a large glass.  Our sole complaint about our inaugural visit is that the chocolate shake and malt my Kim and I had respectively wasn’t chocolatey enough.  It’s a nit.  There may not be a shake or malt in Albuquerque chocolatey enough for us.

6 August 2011: If the roasted beet salad is any indication, Holy Cow’s salads may easily be the equal of the burgers.  Saintly salads, anyone?  A generous mound of arugula is studded with goat cheese, sugar spiced walnuts and perfectly roasted beets.  It is drizzled with a Balsamic vinaigrette tinged with orange zest for a hint of citrus.  This is an excellent salad, ingredients in perfect proportion for contrasts of sweet, tangy, savory and zestiness from the arugula.  The goat cheese is wonderfully creamy.

Sweet potato fries with a cucumber Greek yogurt

6 August 2011: The Holy Cow Burger (pecan wood smoked bacon, American cheese, Thousand Island dressing) may very well have you uttering your own exclamation of awe and wonder.  It’s a fantastic burger, stacked as high as some triple-meat burgers.  The formidable buns that hold ingredients and juiciness in place come from Fano Bakery, an Albuquerque treasure.  The beef is thick, too, with a nice shade of pink in the middle.  It is seasoned very well with a combination of salts, pepper and even a bit of chile powder.  If you’ve never had grass-fed beef, you’ll appreciate the difference.  It’s much tastier than grain-fed beef. The pecan wood smoked bacon has a pronounced smoky flavor.  We took advantage of the additional toppings options and added a fried egg over medium to add to an already terrific flavor profile.  It was a treat!

6 August 2011: Since I don’t imbibe adult beverages, no bartender will ever hear me utter “give me the usual” but there are restaurants which know my usual is a green chile cheeseburger.  Holy Cow’s rendition is made with roasted green chile and Cheddar cheese to which I added caramelized onions.  Whether intentionally or accidentally, the prominence of roasted red chile gave the burger a flavor boost (not that it was needed).  Roasted red chile has become increasingly popular over the past few years, thanks in large part to its complex, sweet flavor profile.  The chile isn’t especially piquant, but it was oh so flavorful thanks to the unexpected presence of that roasted red.

Parmesan Zucchini Fries with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

21 August 2013: You might think with a name like Holy Cow, the restaurant would christen its Blue Cheese Burger with a spiritual themed sobriquet–something like “My Blue Heaven.”  Calling it solely “Blue Cheese Burger” isn’t very inspiring.  Then, of course, your inspiration–as in being inspired to have another–should come as you enjoy the first one.  Constructed with blue cheese, caramelized onions and pecan wood smoked bacon, it needs no amelioration, but you can top it with lettuce and tomatoes.  The blue cheese has a nice pungency, but it’s not as breath-wrecking strong as blue cheese aficionados might like.  The caramelized onions with their sweet notes serve as a foil for the strong cheese while the bacon….well, bacon just improves everything it touches.

05 October 2011: If you’re not in a burger mood, you can’t go wrong with the bacon, lettuce, tomato and fried egg sandwich.  If you’re thinking it’s impossible to screw up a BLT, you’d be wrong.  Because of its simplicity, the BLT can expose poor kitchen skills and bad ingredients.  On the other hand, if you find a kitchen that can make a BLT shine, there’s a strong probability more complex menu items will be good.  The BLT is only as good as its components–bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato and at Holy Cow, a fried egg.  The bread, of course, is from Fano and it’s excellent–formidable enough to hold in all its components, but not so abrasive it assaults the roof of your mouth.  The lettuce is crispy and fresh and the tomato is on the verge of ripeness.  The pecanwood smoked bacon is crispy, but not overly so.  The egg is fried to your exacting specifications.  This is a very special sandwich.

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Fried Egg Sandwich

6 August 2011: The sides are worthy accompaniment to the burgers.  The sweet potato fries are thick and moist, wholly unlike the typical desiccated, thinly-sliced sweet potato fries most restaurants tend to serve.  They’re seasoned with sea salt and are served with a cucumber Greek yogurt tinged with just a hint of chile powder.  The yogurt is better than the tzatziki sauce served with gyros at some Greek restaurants, but it is wholly unnecessary.  These may be the very best sweet potato fries in New Mexico.  They’re crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, an offering very few restaurants can match. 

05 October 2011: Also quite good are the Parmesan zucchini fries served with a buttermilk ranch. The zucchini is sliced thickly and coated lightly with a Parmesan crust. Best of all, these fries are moist and crispy, the prevalent flavor being zucchini and not batter. The buttermilk ranch dressing is good, but wholly unnecessary.

Remnant of the Past: Signage from Long-Time Previous Occupant Bob’s Fish & Chips

As a purveyor of premium burgers, Holy Cow is one of Albuquerque’s best options.  You may not be uttering “Holy Cow” with every bite, but it’s a good bet you’ll be saying “yum” quite a bit.

Holy Cow
700 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-2991
LATEST VISIT: 21 August 2013
1st VISIT:  6 August 2011
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING:  20
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chocolate Heavenly Milkshake, Classic Chocolate Malt, Holy Cow Burger, Green Chile Cheeseburger, Roasted Beet Salad, Sweet Potato Fries, Parmesan Zucchini Fries, BLT with Fried Egg Sandwich


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Category: Albuquerque, Burgers
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Good burgers done well.
    Sweet Potato fries are very good.
    Good service.
    Nice addition to the EDO neighborhood.

    August 16, 2011 at 6:10 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    That reminds me that I’ve been remiss to take my own reminder, to wit: while in the neighborhood sometime, do drop by the Pop(sic) n Taco, which served former ABQ High and that I’ve know since the early ’70s …which should make it Iconic…. to have one of their “funky” Tacos-on-a-Bun! (or should that be Taco-on-a-Buns?) It’s kitty-korner from The Artichoke and across from Farina’s and one of the original ABQ libraries on the corner of High St. Get your T-o-a-B and mosey up the next block on High St. to contemplate happenings of Russian Spies! The Atomic Bomb! All right here in River City? Yes! check it out http://tinyurl.com/4wg4hz9 Even go inside to see a ‘cool’ place to put up your out-of-town guests you don’t really want underfoot!
    “Chow!”

    August 16, 2011 at 9:46 AM
  • Roland says:

    As I drove up Central Saturday morning from the Grower’s Mkt., I noticed the Pop ‘n Taco is closed with a for sale on it.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Eee ho laah Roland, Thanks for the update but very sad is that news. Went down today to see if I could get a phone number cuz a couple of years ago got to chatting with the gal-owner, as little as one can at the drive-up window, and was delighted to hear she had an avid concern about some things ‘political’ that align with the ilk of some of us folk herein. A sign in the window said Thanks ‘retiring after 43 years’. I sure hope that is the case. Obviously the neighborhood…e.g. per ABQ High School and the library closing way back when, new venues up at UNM, yuppy tastes, may have played a part. For me, my fave Taco-on-a-bun was a simple affair of a plain bun, shredded lettuce, pickle slice and 1,000 Island, I’m thinkin, covering “loose”, as in taco style, hamburger meat. There was just something Especial about it…and the fries of yore, crisp outside/puffy within, as well.
    May you RIP Pop n Taco!

    Erratum: It was at Edith and Central, not High St.. Did go by the “Spy House” at 209 High NE, but occupancy prevented a visit to the infamous room. (The most recent book is A Spy’s Guide to Santa Fe and ABQ, EB Held (a former CIA dude). I still recommend checking it out for ‘visitors’ as it is two blocks from Holy Cow! Just up the street on Central is the new boutique hotel Parq Central (the old railroad and then psychiatric hospital) with its Rooftop lounge (open to all) laying Grande Vistas of the city and mesa before one! Ok Ok…drinks are pricey! but is the Especial Person in one’s life worth it once in awhile? What are we living in this zone of temperate evening temps for??!!!
    “Chow”

    August 16, 2011 at 7:13 PM
  • Adelino says:

    Hi Gil, thanks for all the great reviews! You are the best food blogger in NM by far. I love your style, and your food advice is always spot on! I have a place you need to try. Bulldog Burgers off Lomas and I think 6th street. Just a tiny carryout burger place but I think you will be impressed! Sorry for the recommendation in a comment but I did not see any other way to contact you. Now I am off to try Holy Cow based on your insight! Thanks!

    September 6, 2011 at 1:47 PM
  • Boomer says:

    I went to Holy Cow last week (I am a bit delayed on my response) Sorry Gil! I have been trying to find my favorite burger in town, and Holy Cow is now in my top three. I thought the beef was very flavorful, and the large homemade bun was a pleaser. With all the fresh toppings, and the ample size, I would return for another round! I don’t normally eat sweet potatoes fries, but on this visit I had them, and they were delicious; a nice crispy outside, and savory inside. I would recommend trying the sweet potatoes fries if you have never had them before!

    October 12, 2011 at 10:45 AM
  • Carmen says:

    Very high on my list to recommend!!! I’ve had their Bleu cheese burger (to amazing for words!!!) for dinner and today went for lunch and had the Seared Tuna salad. OMG! IT was too good! The tuna was light and done to perfection with a nice rareness inside and just a gorgeous sear on the out! There is a wonderful mixture of greens with an addition of wasabi peas for a nice textural change! They definitely have my business! My only concern was that I was not able to finish my lunch as I have only an hour and they were rather busy and thus slow to get our meals. But I brought it back to work with me where I promptly went to work on it!

    November 10, 2011 at 3:27 PM
  • Lobo59 says:

    We just tried Holy Cow for the first time. I had the Green Chile Cheeseburger with carmelized onions, and for me this burger is second only to Bobcat Bite near Santa Fe. I had it medium-well and it was perfectly done: a little pink throughout, juicy and very flavorable. Like Bobcat Bite, it is the meat that puts it ahead of its quite tough competition for me. In addition to the 7 ounces of beef deliciousness, the bun was excellent and the green chile was tasty and of medium piquancy. The Parmesan Zucchini fries were great, too. Oh yes. My wife loved her salad, whatever it was.

    March 16, 2012 at 8:36 PM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    (Disclaimer: Skip if you dislike not so upbeat comments.).
    I stand to be corrected… and even being taken to task, well gently…. for being a Curmudgeon, but I’m not sure what there is to like about sandwiches, including burgers, that I can’t do a one-bite-into to get a bit of all the ingredients! Alas, I ordered the GCCB from a young lady who, while in no way impolite, effused little in the way of hospitality. Maybe I’m daft, but I have gotten a little more perkiness from a ‘less experienced’ teeny-bopper at McDonald’s lest I order a .99 cent CB on the run, in contrast to this $8.50 extravaganza I’m about to put out for, beyond the (subsidizing) price of glass of beer!!! Please please tell me how/why Y’all are enraptured accommodating these ‘nouveau’ sandwiches of the last several years that take the ‘Club’ Sandwich of yore to new heights…well oral spans!!!
    Eh, the sandwich fell half apart halfway through even tho I held it, with it’s toothpick, continuously to avoid any trauma which might result from putting it down and picking it up! (I do not recommend taking a first date who is not of the Manly-Man type or http://tinyurl.com/5yntql, as it may result in embarrasing a more ‘delicate’ him/her; but that’s just my humble opinion.)

    Trying to shift gears: the chile had a very nice tang and indeed a noticeably very excellent “char” flavor per the nicely ‘crusted’ outside of the thick patty which was also perfectly medium cooked as noted. Alas for me, maybe 2 quarter-to-a-third pounders, might be considered as an alternative for some of us Wimps, soothing my tempest. Otherwise, I’ll prefer to chomp a Bob’s Burgers Ranchero Supreme or a even a Lota-CCB for a lesser payment due!!!

    In conclusion, please advise “What is the price level?” that one might expect for a waitperson to drop-by to check-up…well assure…. that the fare is, at the least, acceptable given the place was not yet ‘rockin’ per only 2 other occupied tables overseen by 3 waitstaff lingering at ‘the bar’ during an early eve, let alone when one is presented the bill. Alas, I will give her Kudos that she did not ask if I wanted change for my 14 buck tab when I had a $20 showing!

    (Really guyz, I came with an open heart. I brought a brochure they might check out for the previously mentioned Spy House just up the street which they might consider as an added cachet http://tinyurl.com/4wg4hz9 Also click the “Articles….” link at its bottom. )
    “Chow!”

    May 14, 2012 at 3:13 PM
    • Sandy Driscoll says:

      Bob…….I was perusing these comments, and came upon your post. I absolutely agree with you!! Gil know that I am a real burger (particularly GCCB) aficionado. Even though I happily live in LA, my annual visits to Santa Fe always include a few burgers. At this point in my life, I would not even entertain the idea of ordering a burger that I couldn’t easily put in my mouth and taste the bun and all the ingredients in one bite. What’s the point? Deconstructed food is fine, but don’t mess with my burger……..med-rare, juices running!!

      August 31, 2013 at 11:33 AM
  • Bob of The Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Thanks Sandy…tis nice not to feel being a complete outlander!
    LA: Alas, presuming that it is still as “originally”, hope you enjoy a French Dip at http://www.philippes.com/ once in a while ‘for me’. “Chow!”

    September 1, 2013 at 7:44 AM
  • Jim Millington says:

    Mr Bob, I have to admit that many of your writings leave me asking “What is he saying? I can’t even figure out the subject.” This one however presented no such problem.

    I hate piled up double and triple decker sandwiches. I think 1/3 lb is the right sized burger though the advantage of a half pound belly bomb is that it saves me the price of a second burger. We just split the order between my Child Bride and myself. I will admit that we love the overpriced Southwestern Burger at the ABQ Brewpub but it can be smashed to an edible height with the heal of my hand and my excessive body weight and cut in two. Several of those in the pictures above don’t look smashable.

    September 1, 2013 at 10:29 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    The beauty of the burger is not only in the meat.
    After all most beef is bland and derives its taste from fat and condiments.
    For me I still like a basic all-American cheeseburger, sautéed onions on the simplest of hamburger buns.
    Frankly I have found these blue corn meal dusted brioche buns served in so many restaurants not able to compare to a simple Wonder Bread type burger bum.
    Green chile is like the ultimate crap shoot.
    Sometimes melting the wax in your ears, sometimes so benign one has to wonder and scratch one’s head.
    Angus, schmangus, I like the simple 85/15 store bought ground beef.
    I have had a few Holy Cow burgers and I have not found a bun the I liked.
    They all seem to fall apart by the end of the meal.
    And my point is simple, simple buns are better and need not be “exotic”.
    They need not add to the height of the creation.
    McDonalds has better buns than most of the exotics out there.
    And BOTVOLR if you want exotic at Wonder Bread prices it ain’t gonna happen.
    You’ll have to dig a bit deeper in those deep pockets or cook at home a bit more.
    Come for burger night to Casa Graciela, we will wow ya!

    September 2, 2013 at 8:35 AM
  • Bob of The Village of Los Ranchos says:

    LOL JM. I will admit that I too am flummoxed by some of my blatherings when read the next day! While they may look like ‘stream of consciousness’, I do read/re-edit/re-read/etc. my ‘creations’ and they usually seem reasonable. I’m imagining something similar happens for chefs, but I wonder if they ever try to eat their creations or might that be some weird form of cannabalism? Do places go for an illusion of bigness so your sense is getting your money’s worth?
    - Setting healthy diet considerations aside, this… Lean smoked ham, Genoa and cotto salamis, and melted cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses layered with black olives, red onion, lettuce, tomato, mustard and our signature dressing on our toasted Sourdough bun…is what’s neatly/efficiently “piled” into a Schlotsky’s Original which is relatively manageable jaw wise, IMHO.
    - Bravo for taking the step while dining in public, which some may call indelicate, of mashing down that Burger.
    - Bottom line: Sounds like there is a Protest Rally in the offing, now that there are at least 3 kindered Spirits!!!

    - As an aside to Folks who peel for their yearly stash: The roasting stand of Rosales of Lemitar is again open on 4th NW, just south of Paddy Rawal’s OM and Los Ranchos Rd., about the 7300 block. (No relation to or $$$ ties with. Just good Chile the past several years.)
    “Chow!”

    September 2, 2013 at 10:05 AM
  • Bob of The Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Yo Brooklyn Bruce…didn’t see your post. Indeed,have no qualms about Wondah Bread. In my burger flipping days, a Kaiser Roll held up well and I wonder how Schlotsky’s would do strength a n d taste wise.
    - A Casa Graciela Burger sounds beguiling; after Sunday I’ll have some fresh roasted Rosales Green to Wow yaz!

    September 2, 2013 at 1:29 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    I am in the early stages of recovery from cardiac arrest and triple bypass surgery so what better way to celebrate a good doctor’s visit than a burger at Holy Cow. The doc wants me to eat and gain strength.
    I obliged by having the Holy Cow burger and Holy Cow it was great. Perfectly cooked, perfectly satisfying even if I only had half and took half home in a doggie bag. My two dogs seemed to agree with my opinion.
    My wife who ultimately made the choice of Holy Cow made short work of her burger saving nothing of the lunch.
    Now it’s back to a heart healthy diet. Low salt, low fat, low flavor.
    But for today I was bad so bad because it was so very good.

    November 18, 2013 at 2:14 PM

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