Believing “there was a void in our menu vis-a-vis the adult who wanted a higher ratio of meat to bun,” a former Vice President of product development for McDonald’s invented The Quarter Pounder in 1971. As a marketing ploy, the name Quarter Pounder quickly became a resounding success. Clever advertising campaigns convinced American consumers they were purchasing a large, beefy burger they would be challenged to finish. Had the burger been given the far less formidable christening of “Four Ouncer” we wouldn’t be talking about this McDonald’s staple forty-some years later.
When it comes to burgers across the fruited plain, size does matter. Despite the caloric overachieving revelations of Supersize Me, supersized Americans seem to gravitate toward larger, meatier burgers. Burgers tipping the scales at a half-pound or more are now considered puny. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, since the 1950s, the weight of the average fast-food burger has grown more than threefold, from 3.9 ounces to 12 ounces. That’s three times the size of the Quarter Pounder.
The burgers at El Milagro New Mexican Restaurant in Santa Fe would kick sand in the face of the Quarter Pounder. They’re the proverbial musclebound bodybuilder to the Quarter Pounder’s 98-pound weakling. At El Milagro, the smallest burger weighs in at eight-ounces. The menu also includes a twelve-ounce burger and a whopping sixteen-ounce burger. That’s an entire pound, the equivalent of four Quarter Pounders. While the sheer size of El Milagro’s burgers is impressive, maybe intimidating, what really matters to discerning diners is flavor and these burgers don’t skimp on flavor.
El Milagro’s menu features seven different burgers, including hand-held and smothered tortilla burgers. The tortilla which sheathes the sixteen-ounce burger is roughly the size of a car tire. Still, it’s not the size of its burgers that sidewalk signs in front of the restaurant tout. Some might argue it’s confidence, others will call it bravado or braggadocio, but those signs tell you El Milagro has the best burgers in town with “best” underlined for emphasis. Who’s going to argue with a burger that’s bigger than they are?
When I asked our server, a petite young lady, what size burger someone of my somatotype should order, she admitted to always ordering and finishing the twelve-ounce Milagro burger. Considering she was about half my size, that sounded just a bit like a challenge. The eponymous Milagro burger at twelve-ounces it was! The Milagro burger’s standard ingredients include green chile, bacon, Swiss and American cheeses with lettuce, tomato and pickle on the side should you want your burger to have skyscraper height in addition to the girth of a snow tire.
The beef patty is about the same circumference of the six-inch sesame seed buns on which it’s served, but it’s probably an inch tall. At medium-rare, it’s a juicy, multi-napkin burger, emphasis on perfectly seasoned beef. The green chile, blanketed under slices of American and Swiss cheese, has some bite to it, but piquancy is just one of the flavors you’ll discern in each bite. There’s also thick, smoky bacon and a sweet, delicate bun. If it isn’t the best burger in town as advertised, it’s in rarefied company. This is a burger serious burger aficionados will appreciate.
In perhaps the burger world’s equivalent of the twelve labors of Hercules, there are three challenges to finishing a twelve-ounce Milagro burger. The most obvious is the sheer size and volume of a behemoth burger so big it could feed a developing nation. The second is maintaining the integrity of the buns. Because of the moistness and plenitude of ingredients, the buns are guaranteed to fall apart. Unless you’re a python or a politician, your third challenge will be opening your mouth wide enough to taste all the burger’s ingredients without “deconstructing” your burger.
It could be argued that there’s a fourth challenge. That’s resisting the temptation to order El Milagro’s award-winning dessert, the sopaipilla sundae, a freshly-made sopaipilla stuffed with vanilla ice cream and topped with homemade caramel sauce, cinnamon and whipped cream. The July-August edition of Food Network Magazine showcased “the “most delicious frozen desserts in America: one in every state (and D.C., too).” The New Mexico ice cream treat featured, ostensibly the very best ice cream in the Land of Enchantment, was El Milagro’s sopaipilla sundae. What makes this ice cream so good? According to the Food Network, “the best part is on the inside: vanilla ice cream that melts and oozes out.”
It must be noted that El Milagro has a pretty comprehensive menu of Northern New Mexican favorites, some of which are highly regarded. As terrific as those burgers are, it may be a while before I try anything else.
El Milagro New Mexican Restaurant
3482 Zafarano Drive, Unit C
Santa Fe, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 1 September 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Three-Quarter Pound Milagro Burger, French Fries