Surely the Alibi staff’s 2001 pick of Kathy’s Carryout serving the “best hamburger in the Duke City” had to be a mistake. How, after all, could a ramshackle garage sized building with a kitschy purple facade and equally garish orange trim possibly compete with the flamboyant chains and their glitz and glamor or even with the local purveyors in the more well-traveled paths throughout the city?
It took one visit to convince us that you can’t judge a burger by the dilapidated facade of its place of origin. Kathy’s does serve one of, if not THE best burger in town. In its Isleta Boulevard neighborhood, Kathy’s Carryout didn’t really stand out for its palette profusion as much as for its palate pleasing.
Much like the 4,000 taco trucks in Los Angeles (California) county, it seems every facade in this part of town is bedecked in an ultraviolet spectrum of colors and many are festooned with eye-catching murals. 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.
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 the sheer number of tire and tire alignment shops (befitting the sad state of Isleta Boulevard in parts). You had also better keep one eye trained to the skies because of an inordinate number of pigeons fortunate enough to call this neighborhood home.
In 2007, Kathy’s Carryout was transmogrified from a dwarfish ugly duckling into a spectacular swan with a broad wingspan. The charmingly garish exterior facade of its first location and its anti-esthetic curb appeal is no longer home to an acclaimed purveyor of Albuquerque’s best burger. That honor just might belong 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. “Carryout” 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.
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.
The most popular item is still the green chile cheeseburger extraordinaire called the Kathy Burger (formerly known as the Cuca Burger), a double-meat masterpiece on steroids.
The Kathy Burger and its tongue-tingling green chile, onions, lettuce and cheese is a superstar in a town in which the golden arches seem to define burger consumption standards. It takes two hands to handle this whopper, 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 and might even taste better.
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 at right). It’s good guacamole, buttery and creamy in texture and delicious in flavor.
The soft tacos hold some delicious surprises as well. Grease-laden corn tortillas play host to the ground beef, lettuce and cheese as expected, but at Kathy’s, those tacos also include fried potatoes.
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.
About the only thing missing in the new Kathy’s is horchata. The old restaurant served among the very sweetest (like the milk left over from your bowl of Captain Krunch cereal) horchata in town.
The Alibi was right about Kathy’s and so are the hundreds of discerning Duke City burgerphiles who frequent it!
823 Isleta, S.W.
LATEST VISIT: 5 April 2008
# OF VISITS: 6
BEST BET: Kathy Burger, Rolled Tacos, Burritos