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Papaburgers – Los Ranchos De Albuquerque, New Mexico

Papaburger, an El Paso institution now open in Albuquerque

Papaburger, an El Paso institution now open in Albuquerque

Back in the 1960s, A&W’s Papa Burger was a rite of passage for me.  By age nine, I had surmounted the phased progression through A&Ws burger family–Baby Burger, Mama Burger and Teen Burger–and was ready to prove my mettle with the largest of A&Ws burger family, one beefy behemoth only my dad, a paragon of masculinity, had ever ordered.  Earning the right to order one was acknowledgement that I was growing into a man.  Polishing one off brought newfound respect from my younger brothers, both of whom longed for the day  my dad would order a Papa Burger for them.

In the 1960s, A&W’s burger family signified a formidable line-up of burgers served in more than 2,000 A&W restaurants throughout the fruited plain and Canada.  Each member of the burger family was represented by cartoonish fiberglass statues, the largest of which was the Papa Burger, a bald, vested gentleman holding a large frosted mug on one hand and a gigantic burger on the other.  Papa Burger stood eight and a half feet tall and the frothy mug of root beer was three feet tall.

    Bright and colorful interior at Papaburgers

Bright and colorful interior at Papaburgers

Driving on Chavez Avenue just west of Fourth Street and espying a restaurant called Papaburgers brought a nostalgic pang to my heart. That nostalgia made me hopeful that A&W was preparing to mount a challenge to the Big Three (McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King) and would no longer be relegated to sharing space with abhorrent chains.  Though I disdain chains, A&W still represents growing up to me.  The name on the marquee dashed those hopes quickly.  It read “Papaburgers” not Papa Burgers.  No, this was an A&W offshoot.

Papaburgers has its roots in El Paso, Texas where in 2008, entrepreneur Eric Zubia launched the first instantiation of what has become one of the Sun City’s most popular burger joints.  As of this writing, ninety percent of visitors to El Paso’s Urbanspoon Papaburgers page indicate they like it with some being effusive in their praise.  Sadly, as of this writing, I’d venture to say ninety percent of Albuquerque diners still have no idea about this terrific burger restaurant (unless they read Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog), of course.

My friend Bruce "Sr. Plata" enjoys a double meat burger with avocado and green chile

My friend Bruce “Sr. Plata” enjoys a double meat burger with avocado and green chile

That’s not entirely their fault.  Albuquerque’s Papaburgers, open only since November, 2009 is ensconced in a nondescript shopping center where it’s barely visible from heavily trafficked Fourth Street.  Get the word out!  This is a very good burger joint, one that is rapidly becoming an Albuquerque favorite.  In El Paso, customers queue early and often to get their burger fix in a restaurant with limited seating.  In Albuquerque, you can still walk up to the counter, place your order and sit where you want.

Finding a seat  is no problem in the Los Ranchos Papaburgers, a sprawling corner edifice which doubled its space within two years of opening to accommodate all the diners who discovered this unique bastion of burgers.  In three years, the ambiance has gone from prosaic to rather busy with a lot to see everywhere you turn.  The menu is sparse, about a dozen items, but there are always specials on the board.  A jukebox and an old-fashioned video gaming console make the expanded dining room just a bit noisy at times.

The Andre Burger Fresh ground beef with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, chili, weenies, American cheese and mustard with lots of hot sauce

The Andre Burger Fresh ground beef with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, chili, weenies, American cheese and mustard with lots of hot sauce

When Eric Zubia mentioned possibly expanding into the Albuquerque area, his Rio Rancho-based uncle Silver and aunt Adriana Zubia leapt at the opportunity.  As with the original Papaburgers, the freshness of ingredients is a strong point of emphasis.  Each burger is made to order on a flattop grill from freshly ground beef in which finely chopped onions are integrated right into the meat.  The burgers are adorned with lettuce, tomato, pickles, more onions and your choice of mustard or mayo.  The restaurant’s eponymous Papaburger can be topped with American or Swiss cheese. 

Your table haul should also includes plenty of green chile sauce which you can add to your burgers, fries, hot dogs or onion rings.  The green chile is mild by any piquancy scale, but it’s got a garlicky kick potent enough to ward off a family of vampires.  Papaburgers’ version of a green chile cheeseburger is called the Chiara Burger (named for Eric Zubia’s goddaughter).  Instead of finely chopped chile, the burger is crafted with long green chile.  It’s lacking in the piquancy New Mexicans love.

Frito Pie

Frito Pie

During our inaugural visit back in 2009, my friend and frequent dining companion Bill Resnik took one bite of the Papacheeseburger and declared “it’s just like Lotaburger.”  Considering his devotion for Lotaburger (which he considers New Mexican comfort food), that’s a high compliment.  As with Lotaburger, the ingredients are extremely fresh–crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, lip-puckering pickles, eye-watering onions.  The biggest difference is the onions incorporated right into the beef.  Bill’s sole complaint is that the beef was slightly overdone, sometimes a problem with thin beef patties. 

You can request double meat with any burger or you can try something entirely different–the Andre Burger (named for Eric Zunia’s godson).  Hamburger meets hot dog in this unique offering–fresh ground beef with onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, chili, weenies, American cheese and mustard.  As if weenies isn’t unique enough, the chili also includes beans.  It’s not a burger for everyone, but if you have a penchant for the slightly different, this is a burger you will absolutely love.

Jalapeño Fries

Jalapeño Fries

You’ll love it as a composite of terrific ingredients and you’ll love the interplay among those ingredients.  The chili is mild, but has a nice garlicky flavor that almost completely obfuscates the hint of cumin.  The weenies are of the thin-sliced variety, not those flavorless two-inch in circumference meat tubes that seem to be in fashion today.  I liked them so much, my second visit order was a Papadog.  Papadogs are described as a “round hot dog” and are served on hamburger buns.  The buns are toasted and sandwich between them, weenies sliced in half then topped with pinto beans and chili with ground beef.  A smear of mustard and several sliced pickles adorn the bottom bun.  Though somewhat unconventional, this is a good hot dog that warrants return visits. 

Papaburgers is no one-trick pony.  The menu, though limited, also includes a grilled chicken sandwich basket, chicken nuggets and a grilled Papacheese Green Chile sandwich.  Sides include French fries, onion rings and chili cheese fries.  The fries and onion rings are out of a bag, but are quite good when doused in the green chili on each table.   Perhaps the most intimidating item on the menu is an all-beef Chili Cheese Foot Long Coney from Nathan’s.  Bob of the Village People who’s consumed over 550 feet of hot dog from The Dog House Drive In won’t have to consume quite as many to get to 550 feet.  It’s a beefy behemoth.

More Than A Foot Long of Nathan's Hot Dog

More Than A Foot Long of Nathan’s Hot Dog

Papaburgers may have nothing to do with the A&W of my youth, but it’s a rite of passage in its own way–as Food Network star Guy Fieri might say, “a passage to flavortown.”  These are seriously good burgers!

Papaburgers
6601 4th Street, Suite P.
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 345-0255
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 24 March 2014
1st VISIT: 25 February 2010
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 19
COST:  $ – $$
BEST BET: Andre Burger, Papacheesebasket, French Fries, Onion Rings, Papadog

Papaburgers on Urbanspoon

Category: Albuquerque, Burgers
  • Skup Munoz says:

    Oh my God! Never figured you for a HB lover. However, anything with green chile has got to be good. I prefer to stick with something more New Mexican. If it ever stops snowing I might venture to EP or Abluq and try that burger.

    February 27, 2010 at 6:18 PM
  • Mmmmmmm, that's all I have to say says:

    Gotta agree, this is LotaBurger’s first cousin from El Paso…and she is just as attractive :-). Tried this place last night, and it was awesome to walk in and place your order (I agree, once word spreads, that may not be the case). Very friendly service and I took my turn at Ms. Pac Man (took me back to my youth).

    As far as the food goes:

    First the beef patty – While on the thin side, it has plenty of flavor (I’ll be getting a double patty next time for sure).

    Second the ingredients – as fresh as LotaBurgers. Loved the whole green chile (although I prefer my chile verde a little bit hotter, this has enough flavor to satisfy). As it is whole, it won’t get your burger soggy like LotaBurger’s tends to do. The neon green chile sauce is so-so, like I said, I prefer my chile hotter, but flavor-wise, this is good.

    Third the onion rings – All in all I’d say so-so, but I will admit that it takes a really good onion ring for me to praise it. These will definitely complement your meal, not be the star.

    Bottom line : If you like LotaBurger, go to Papaburgers, you won’t be disappointed.

    March 9, 2010 at 4:57 PM
  • K10 says:

    Patties are way too thin, otherwise a good burger. Going back today to try the onion rings.
    Will try Green Chili and report back.

    March 16, 2010 at 10:17 AM
  • K10 says:

    2nd Trip. Excellent. Burger was hot fresh and meaty. Onion Rings and fries served HOT. Fries were cold before on first trip. IMHO, they shouldn’t flatten the patty so much. Hangs off the bun and makes it look too thin. Otherwise great trip, took co-worker and he liked it too.

    March 17, 2010 at 6:58 PM
  • Nate D says:

    I tried Papaburger for the first time today. I went for a double meat, green chile cheeseburger. I thought it was a great burger. While it is similar to Lotaburger, Papaburger frankly has a much better flavor, Maybe I’ve had too many Lotaburgers, but I think this burger is much better. Will definitely go back.

    October 2, 2010 at 2:58 AM
  • John L says:

    Tried Papaburgers for the first time today. Had their Andre Burger (interesting concoction but probbly not again), Chiara burger (ie green chili cheeseburger}, fries and onion rings. Have to agree with K10; the apatties are way too thin. Fries and rings were above average but nothing particularly special. The green chili was in one huge piece that more than covered the burger. Very tasty but not at all piquant. I like mine hotter. Overall burgers were tasty but I’ll stick with the Lttle Red Hamburger Hut and Rex’s.

    March 3, 2011 at 4:19 PM
  • Burger Lover Extreme says:

    After hearing promotions galore and tons of hype on the radio praising “Papa Burgers” me and two co-workers trucked out to 4th and Osuna to find “The next great burger joint”
    The restaurants intial appearance was nice and the place had a decent feel about it.
    The menu prices were impressive and we all looked forward to a great burger at a great price.

    Then out came the burgers, looking huge and delicious (From the top). The downside???? The meat was extremely thin and lacked flavor. One of my co-workers commented he could double the thickness of the patty by adding the paper from his tray to it.
    The use of whole green chilies instead of the usual chopped green chili you would think would make for tons of NM flavor and definetely added a great look to the burger, unfortunately it was bland at best and had the consistency of well formed mucus.
    Needless to say when the meal was over, I felt like a putz for making the suggestion. We all take pride in our bragging rights on the discovery of great burger joints. I did’nt even bother to take the “Burger Stamp Card” with me.
    The two best places in town for a burger????
    Granpas Grill (bridge and central) soon to be moving to menaul and san mateo (hickory smoked patties that rock! YES!!!) and OF COURSE Rex’s (San Pedro and Montgomery) Still rated #1 in my book and both worth the gas money and price.

    April 15, 2011 at 4:08 PM
  • Shar says:

    I agree that this burger is so similar to Lotaburger, oh so good. I felt so full when I ate there that I haven’t gone back for fear that my stomach would burst. Great burger and less soggy if you are transporting it then Lotaburger.

    August 12, 2011 at 10:36 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Alas, don’t know why haven’t taken people’s good word and despite the newz today that Lotaburger placed 4th on National Geographics list of Top 10 Best Burgers in the country, I went for Papa’s GCCB with the works…including mayo, albeit hesitant re chile not being chopped…LOL. IMHO, it is no way similar to a Lotaburger!!! I actually like its thinness as the one I had got a tiny bit charred around the edges which added to its flavorfulness for-a-difference, including the center not being overdone. The chile was fine and my piece had a tad of kick. Had the O-rings…a nice, crisp, non greasy batter. A solid burger experience.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:21 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Isn’t being the 4th best chain burger like being the 4th best baseball player in the Florida Instructional League?
    Consistency is one of MY most important qualities that account for superior restaurants.
    I can’t come up with on chain burger that I’d rank highly at a busy lunch hour.
    I’ve been to Blake’s during high volume hours and during those in-between times and the difference is substantial.
    Medium rare is a rarity.
    Overcooked is the norm.
    It’s great to be ranked 4th nationally at anything but let’s remember it’s still an assembly line burger.

    June 28, 2012 at 7:50 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Tee hee…thought that inclusion would yank at least one ‘chain’. I still say…albeit it just might be my aging…LOL…Lotaburgers, which would include the bun, onions, etc., have changed, but not for the better(excluding green chile) over 40ish years. (:-(>
    “Chow!”

    July 1, 2012 at 11:04 AM
  • ann says:

    Went for the first time to Papa Burgers. Delish and more flavor than a Lotaburger. My only disappointment was the green chile- mild. They need at least a medium level of chile. So, the green chile was not worth it. The good thing though is they have free jalapeno sauce that can be used. That had both flavor and a good kick! Prices very good!

    December 17, 2013 at 8:07 PM
  • Dale McCan says:

    Not only are Papaburgers delicious, Papa Burgers is active in the Community. Last year we held a promotional lunch for our small Myasthenia Gravis support group and received a nice donation to help us out from Papa Burgers. Very nice involved people, serving up tasty burgers.

    March 24, 2014 at 7:03 PM
  • Foodie Star says:

    What a great endorsement from Dale. I was lucky enough to tag along yesterday with Gil, Senor Plata, and Boomer for my second visit to Papaburger. They make a seriously tasty burger. I had the Andre burger with the added hotdogs on the bun – very nice. I also consumed an enormous Nathan’s Coney with grated cheese (they also offer nacho cheese sauce if you prefer) and onions. Had I not shared some of it, I doubt I could have finished it all. I love the chili they slather on their hot dog. It was beefy and tasty – a nice flavor that was perfectly complimentary to the behemoth Nathan’s hot dog. I would not hesitate to order either the Andre burger or the Coney again.
    In the immortal words of Ahnold Schwarzenegger: “I’ll be back.” And soon, I hope!

    March 25, 2014 at 10:57 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    I am so pleased that Nathan’s is represented on a menu in the Duke City.
    Now folks who may have considered the Dog House GCC foot long the ideal hotdog can find out first hand why Nathan’s real name is Nathan’s Famous. It might be a few shekels more than the Dog House but the Dog House is just a ballpark frank, nothing more except when dressed up with all kinds of ” other” tastes that hide those of a really good tube steak.
    Per LOLing, albeit IMHO nothing beats a famous Nathan’s Famous. LOL. (My small O-Mahge to those who consider the DH GCC dog especiale. And by my measurement the foot long is only 10 3/4 inches making its price per inch slightly more expensive than Nathan’ Famous. LOL.)

    March 25, 2014 at 11:53 AM
  • Sr Plata says:

    Buy sometimes, plus or minus a few Shekels a Hebrew National Polish might eak on by in the dog category. As stated already, I joined Foodie Star, Boomer and of course Gil having a DOUBLE Avocado Burger which was very much delicious and I was extremely impressed. I walked out NOT HUNGRY which is a very good thing after downing the french fries that came with it. Foodie Star was very kind to let me have a taste of that Nathans and it was as good as he describes. I liked the slab of green chile they had on it. I forget to ask if they would put a fried egg on it which is a usual must with my burgers. Mr Schor, what part of the Southland do your offspring dwell, this is my 21st year in the Land of Enchantment?

    March 25, 2014 at 1:47 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Bruce,
    my son is in Albuquerque, my daughter in Hermosa Beach, California. He’s been here since 2006, my daughter in California since graduating from college in 2005. When she got to CA she announced in no uncertain terms she would never live in a cold climate again. Both are very happy where they are.
    And as a good friend always says, “you’re only as happy as your least happy child”. My wife and I are riding the happy train for as long as we can.
    Funny thing about franks, or hot dogs, is that occasionally I get the craving for one, or two, and today the craving popped up.. It passed before I could satisfy it, especially not being very familiar with the Hermosa Beach area. But it does return periodically and I buy either Nathan’s or Hebrew National and grill them at home. No funky pretzel buns just the regular soft buns, some sauerkraut and a good yellow mustard. Fine dining in the comfort of my own home.

    March 25, 2014 at 6:06 PM
  • Michael says:

    I had the green chile cheese burger, very good. Green chile isn’t hot but tasty. The green sauce amps it up nicely. I will return.

    March 29, 2014 at 5:26 PM

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