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Twisters Burgers & Burritos – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Twisters, a familiar and favorite New Mexican restaurant.

Twisters, a familiar and favorite New Mexican restaurant.

One of the sure signs of spring and summer in New Mexico is the presence of dust devils, those haphazardly whirling, dirty, dusty dervishes which seem to whip up out of nowhere to vacuum up all surface detritus on their unpredictable paths. Tumbleweeds, trash and soil spin skyward to heights of up to 100 feet only to be deposited–torn, tattered and worse for wear– sometimes great distances from their points of origin.

Normally lasting no longer than a few seconds, dust devils are nature’s hot wind temper tantrum, capable of wreaking havoc quickly and with tremendous force. At their worse, they can rip siding off buildings, snap power lines, overturn lawn furniture, send trash cans careening down the street and propel sheet metal through windows.  If a home isn’t well insulated, being on the path of a dust devil will mean a covering of fine sand throughout the home. A dust devil might not transport Dorothy and Toto to Oz, but it will certainly bug the heck out of them.

Green Chile Cheeseburger with Curly Fries

As prominent a presence as dust devils are throughout New Mexico, they aren’t exactly popular.  You certainly won’t find any schools proudly proclaiming the Dust Devil as their mascot.  Nor will our state legislature ever designate the dust devil as New Mexico’s official nuisance (an honor it would share with the tumbleweed).  Businesses, especially restaurants, certainly won’t go out of their way to name themselves after the dust devil.  Smart move!  Not a lot of people would eat at a restaurant called “Dust Devil Burgers and Burritos.”

They do frequent in droves, a local restaurant chain called “Twisters Burgers and Burritos.”   Why Twister?  A twister is a slang term for a tornado, a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud (hence the term “twister).” The word “tornado” finds its genesis in the Spanish word tornar which means “to turn.” Perhaps then it’s no coincidence that everywhere you turn there seems to be another Twisters Grill restaurant. As of this writing, this ubiquitous presence has eleven locations in Albuquerque, two in Rio Rancho, one in Bernalillo and three in Colorado (Aurora, Lakewood and Parker).

Chicken Wrap: Crispy Chicken Strips, Cheddar, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Guacamole and Creamy Ranch Dressing Wrapped in a Fresh Flour Tortilla

Founded in 1998, the premise behind Twisters is that customers want quality food at fast food prices and speed. Place your order at a counter and your meal is delivered to your table. Drive up and your meal is handed to you promptly. Twisters calls it a “fast casual dining experience.”  The restaurant’s goal is to exceed customer expectations in value, quality and service.  Its menu features red and green chile enhanced New Mexican dishes as well as American favorites.

I must admit that my inaugural visit in 2005 was very much a disappointment.  Whether attributable to an off-day or a poor-performing location, it would be six years before my next visit.  That return visit prompted a second visit only a week thereafter.  The third visit validated the findings of my previous visit, confirming that this is a restaurant going places (and not just to Colorado).

Indian Taco

Only five “traditional” burritos are available on the lunch menu.  That is if you don’t count the Twister Burrito, an unconventional burrito anywhere but New Mexico.  The Twister burrito is engorged with your choice of meat (beef, chicken or carne adovada) and beans then is topped with fries and smothered with red or green chile (or both), cheese, lettuce and tomato.  It’s very similar to and undoubtedly inspired by the world-famous Travis at Grandma Warner’s K&I restaurant. The Twister burrito is available in one-eighth, one-quarter, one-half and full-sizes, any size of which would sate most famished diners.

The Twisters experience starts at breakfast, not a diverse starter to your day, but a satisfying one. Eleven breakfast burritos, many named for New Mexico cities or landmarks (such as Taos, Eubank, South Valley and others), include a “basic” option in which you start with eggs and potatoes then pick your own ingredients.  Breakfast burritos are available as a hand-held option or smothered with chile and cheese on top.  In September, 2011, Albuquerque The Magazine‘s staff undertook the enviable task of determining the Duke City’s very best breakfast burrito.  Twister’s breakfast burrito was rated number six from among very keen competition.

Two tacos with ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato

New Mexico platters–enchiladas, chimichangas, burritos, combination–come with beans, rice, lettuce, tomato and cheese as well as your choice of chile and meat (seasoned ground beef, carne adovada, chicken and shredded beef).  The menu also includes New Mexican specialties such as an Indian taco, taco salad, green chile stew, nacho supreme, chicken wrap and a “macho” burrito grande.  Also available are seven burgers, each a third pound and dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard and ketchup.  Grilled chicken sandwiches offer an alternative to the burgers.

The green chile cheeseburger is terrific!  It starts with a unique sesame seed bun (baked on the premises) that’s substantial enough to hold in what is a very moist beef patty (without being greasy) yet not so large and “bready” that it dominates the flavor profile.  The beef, all third-pound of it, is prepared to a medium degree of doneness and is seasoned nicely then blanketed with a molten slice of cheese.  The green chile would rate mild on a piquancy scale, but it has a pleasant flavor.  Burgers are served with curly fries, a nice change of pace.

Shredded Beef Burrito (Potato, Green Chile and Cheese) and Carne Adovada Burrito (Potato, Red Chile and Cheese)

The chicken wrap is also quite good, reminding me of an upscale, well-adorned tortilla roll-up.  A fresh, albeit painfully thin, flour tortilla tightly envelops crispy chicken strips, Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and creamy ranch dressing.  The combination of tomatoes, guacamole and ranch dressing make this a very moist and juicy sandwich.   It is served with chips and salsa, the latter of which has a piquant bite.

Among the burritos are two stand-outs, the shredded beef burrito (potato, green chile and cheese) and the carne adovada burrito (potato, red chile and cheese).  Consider it heretical if you will, but these burritos are as good or better than the extremely popular burritos at Golden Pride.  The carne adovada burrito, in particular, showcases tender tendrils of perfectly moist, delicious and rich pork marinated in a flavorful red chile.  The shredded beef is equally tender and though not marinated in chile, is quite good.

Sour Cream Enchiladas with a fried egg

There are few New Mexican entrees as beloved as the enchilada, a dish so memorable when made well that author Lesley S. King listed Northern New Mexico enchiladas as among “the most unforgettable Northern New Mexico Experiences” in the 12th edition of Frommer’s Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque Travel Guide.  Twisters’ sour cream enchiladas are rather forgettable.  Instead of incorporating sour cream within the rolled corn tortillas, a single dollop of cold sour cream is provided atop the enchiladas.  Worse, the green chile is thickened (probably with corn starch) so much that a friend of mine who wrote a New Mexican food cookbook called the chile “gelatinous.”  In addition to being too thick, the chile lacks piquancy.

Aside from the sour cream faux pas, only the Indian taco has been somewhat of a disappointment thanks in large part to the soupiness of the beans and chile which render the sopaipilla a sopping mess and wilts the lettuce.  As with other Indian tacos (sometimes called Navajo tacos or fry bread tacos), the Indian taco at Twisters is served open-faced and topped with beans, shredded cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.  It’s the soupiness, though, which makes this one far from my favorite.

In the near decade and a half it’s been open, Twisters Burgers & Burritos has earned a loyal following among burger and burrito aficionados.  The names on the marquee are only two of the reasons.

Twisters Burgers & Burritos
9358 Eagle Ranch Road, NW
Albuquerque, NM
890-5229
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 25 August 2011
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 17
COST: $
BEST BET: Carne Adovada Burrito, Shredded Beef Burrito, Chicken Wrap, Green Chile Cheeseburger, Indian Taco, Tacos, Salsa

Twisters on Urbanspoon

  • Gary says:

    my-very favorite place-reasonable prices-large quanities of quality food–excellant service for a fast food–love it

    September 16, 2009 at 6:16 PM
  • Mateo says:

    getting ready to open a new location on Wyoming just north of Paseo del Norte between the new Smiths gas station and the bank. Can’t wait!!!!

    June 24, 2011 at 9:36 AM
  • James says:

    I was always under the impression, for some reason, that the Twister’s name was a spin-off (*groan*) from Hurricane’s. They do serve the “same” 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 or full burrito topped with fries. Is there a history with these two restaurants?

    June 24, 2011 at 1:28 PM
  • Lynn (NM Enchantment) says:

    James, good question! I always thought they were a Hurricane’s spin-off also. Gil, your post was great as usual, but the “New Mexico’s Official Nuisance” line had me laughing. Too funny!

    June 25, 2011 at 12:34 AM
  • martin says:

    Gross. Surprised Gil gave it an 18. Way way too much salt in their food. I’ll give it a 14.

    June 25, 2011 at 7:16 AM
  • Jenn says:

    Twister’s was a spin off of Hurricane’s. One of the previous owner’s of Hurricane’s is who opened Twister’s. Not sure if he is still involved in the business but the Twister burrito is the same thing as the Disaster burrito at Hurricane’s not the Travis. I have not been to Hurricane’s in forever but I do enjoy stopping at Twister’s for a breakfast burrito every now and then. The breakfast burritos are also large and I think big enough to split. I love that I can ask them to cut the burrito in half and they will also wrap the two halves separately. Most places look at me like I am crazy when I ask them to split something, but Twister’s is always accomodating.

    June 25, 2011 at 8:34 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Whoa, I am in favor of ‘Dust Devils’ being a legislated designation: GG: “Normally lasting no longer than a few seconds, dust devils are nature’s hot wind temper tantrum, capable of wreaking havoc quickly and with tremendous force.” Certainly can be used to characterize all the uncovering of political and public agency mismanagement folderol, which then seem to go nowhere except for a few…thank Gawd (am I allowed to make that reference?) Journal Dogs who keep yip-yapping and snip-snapping away at one’s ankles as their tiny %#^@* canine counterparts do!

    June 26, 2011 at 9:59 AM
  • Schuyler says:

    Where were the Journal Dogs during the scandalous ballot box stuffing that took place which propelled LotaBurger into number one on the NM green chile cheeseburger trail? I’m inclined to agree with Larry McGoldrick’s assertion that New Mexicans dredged up dead relatives and farm animals to vote early and often. My vote would have gone to Twisters green chile cheeseburger.

    July 8, 2011 at 9:13 AM
  • Aaron says:

    The food is awesome , the owners are great, happy to have worked for Gary and Ray

    July 31, 2011 at 9:53 PM
  • NewMexicoChileProducts.com says:

    Love the #8 and the #9, not at the same time, for breakfast. Good food and consistent quality keeps bringing me back. Glad to know I can get a good breakfast burrito in the Denver area now. Keep up the good work!

    September 14, 2011 at 10:12 AM
  • Barbara Cline says:

    I would like to see a twisters in Los Lunas, we have to drive over 20 miles just to get to your place. Please get one here.
    Thank you
    Barbara Cline

    Please get one here

    July 25, 2014 at 7:06 PM

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