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66 Pit Stop: Home of the Laguna Burger – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The 66 Pit Stop: Home of the Laguna Burger on the banks of the Rio Pueblo west of Albuquerque

The history of New Mexico is fraught with tales of hardship and peril. Enchanting as it may be, New Mexico is a land which can be harsh and unforgiving as early settlers found out when, amidst the ravages of climatic extremes, they traversed austere terrain in search of wealth and a better life.  There were no interstate highways nor high-speed motorized conveyances to ferry them across the barren and cruel desert.  There were no hotels and motels in which they could rest their weary bones nor restaurants to quell the pangs of hunger and thirst which parched their throats.

The storied trails that brought settlers and traders to New Mexico, remnants of which have mostly disappeared over time, were scarcely more than ruts carved into the earth by wagons, horses and oxen.  History has glorified those trails–the Santa Fe, Butterfield and Camino Real among them–but the truth of their harshness is far from glamorous. One especially treacherous and dry section of El Camino Real was so brutal, it was designated by the Spanish conquistadores as the Jornada del Muerto, Spanish for “route of the dead man.”

The 50′s themed diner in which some of New Mexico’s very best green chile cheeseburgers are prepared

The advent of the railroad system heralded the beginning of the end of the trail systems and made travel to and from New Mexico a more pleasant, far less hazardous adventure.  Today when people associate trails with New Mexico, it’s usually not with trepidation, but with respect and admiration.  Instead of such ominous names as Jornada Del Muerto, New Mexico’s trails are now bestowed such inviting sobriquets as The Turquoise Trail.  Instead of peril and woe, New Mexico’s trails are scenic and beautiful, providing a vast array of fun and recreational activities.

In 2009, the word “trail” began to take on a new connotation.  Cheryl Jamison, the scintillating four-time James Beard award-winning author and the New Mexico Tourism Department’s culinary liaison, conceptualized a “culinary trail” concept designed to capitalized on the widespread interest–both by locals and tourists–on the Land of Enchantment’s incomparable cuisine.  The inaugural culinary trail was the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, a celebration of New Mexico’s iconic, some say unofficial and favorite, state food.

The dining room at the Home of the Laguna Burger

The dining room at the Home of the Laguna Burger

More than 8,000 people–residents, visitors, critics and restaurateurs–cast their ballots for their favorite green chile cheeseburgers.  When the ballots were tallied, the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail listed four dozen purveyors of green chile cheeseburgers from among the 200 or so nominated.  The Trail included burger bastions from Abiquiu to Zuni and from all four corners of the state.  Those burgers are prepared in restaurants, drive-ins, diners, dives, joints, cafes, roadside stands and even bowling alleys.

One of green chile cheeseburger restaurants garnering the most votes was a superette (convenience store) with the intriguing name “Home of the Laguna Burger.” Driving on I40 past the Pueblo of Laguna, I had seen signage for the burger, but dismissed it as just another promotion for the Pueblo’s popular casino. My mistake!

Cheromiah Marshall prepares a green chile cheeseburger

The Laguna Burger is simply one of the very best green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico!  Cooked to order from 100 percent, never frozen ground beef (an 80/20 blend), it is a half-pound of pure deliciousness.  Today, there are three Homes of the Laguna Burger, the most recent addition strategically positioned directly across I40 from the Route 66 Casino.  Interestingly, it has an Albuquerque address (14311 Central Avenue).  As with its siblings, it is located within the confines of a superette.  Walk past the checkout counters and their temptations and you’ll find a diner-like space dedicated to the Laguna burger and several other menu items.

Though the Home of the Laguna Burger is tiny (about eight bar stools and a small dining room for seating), the aromas of beef on a flattop grill waft throughout the large superette like an olfactory siren’s call.  After perusing the menu–which offers both lunch and dinner–and placing your order, find a seat.  The best seat in the house is probably on one of the bar stools where you can watch the green chile cheeseburger being lovingly prepared for you.

    The now famous Laguna Burger with Fries

The now famous Laguna Burger with Fries

Yes, lovingly!  The shirts worn by the staff are emblazoned with the slogan, “Is it the beef or is it the love?”.  If Cheromiah Marshall is manning the grill, you can be assured it’s equal parts of both.  Cheromiah is as engaging and funny as any counter man in New Mexico.  He takes great pride in the Laguna Burger, answering my questions with an impish grin–first giving me a comedic response then the actual answer.  Where does Laguna Burger get its beef?  From my uncle’s cows.  Where do you get your green chile?  From my uncle’s farm if the cows don’t eat it.  It is great fun.

Cheromiah beamed with pride in telling me the Laguna Burger came in second at Governor Richardson’s inaugural green chile cheeseburger challenge and that it received more votes than any other purveyor of green chile cheeseburgers on the Trail.  When I informed him the winner of the Governor’s challenge is now closed, he said, “now we’re the best.”  That claim is hard to dispute.  The Laguna Burger is outstanding!

Frito Pie

As Cheromiah prepared my burger, another staffer shaped ground beef into rounded balls, weighing them to ensure each was exactly eight ounces.  Each burger is prepared to order; the Laguna Burger is not fast food.  At strategic intervals in the grilling process, the green chile (Bueno brand) is placed on the grill where it sizzles and spits as in protest.  The cheese is added later to ensure just the right level of meltedness.  The Laguna Burger is adorned with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mustard on a sesame seed bun.

This is a perfectly seasoned burger.  The beef patty is juicy and delicious at about medium-well.  The vegetables are fresh–crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, lip pursing pickles, red onions.  The green chile, at least the batch I’ve had in three visits, was piquant enough to get my attention. It’s delicious through and through, so good you’ll want another, but so large you might not have the room.  That’s especially true if you also order the fresh-cut, never frozen French fries.  The fries, shades of gold and brown, are neither too flaccid nor too stiff.  They’re fries the way they should be made.

The Home of the Laguna Burger has a surprisingly large menu for operating in such a small space.  The menu includes foot long hot dogs and chili cheese dogs, corn dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches (on Texas toast), Frito pies, chicken tenders, onion rings, taquitos with salsa and more, but it would be very hard to pass up the Laguna Burger. 

Lest you think my opinion of the 66 Pit Stop: Home of the Laguna Burger is mine alone, read the glowing review from Hannah and Edward, Albuquerque’s podcasters nonpareil.  When Andrea Feucht was asked by The Guardian of London to list the top ten restaurants and cafes in Albuquerque, she listed the 66 Pit Stop, Home of the Laguna Burger as one of those ten.  By any standards, this diminutive purveyor of green chile cheeseburgers is a ten.

Home of the Laguna Burger
66 Pit Stop
14311 Central Avenue, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site

(505) 352-7848
LATEST VISIT: 14 February 2014
1st VISIT: 15 June 2010
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, French Fries, Frito Pie

66 Pit Stop (Laguna Burger) on Urbanspoon

  • Moses Negrete says:

    The laguna burger is the best tasting burger on the highway, and I had my share of burgers after all I drive across country thanks for the expierience.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:11 PM
  • J.Morales says:

    The Laguna Burger is hands down the best burger I’ve ever enjoyed.. and I’ve had my fair share of them. I live in Phoenix, Arizona but my girlfriends family is from Mesita, in the Pueblo of Laguna and every time we go and visit I need at least one on the way in and one on the way out.

    The combination of the Burger, Cheese, Toasted bun and Grilled Green Chile is the type of flavor combo that dreams are made of. If you’re ever on I-40 in New Mexico between Grants & Albuquerque and start seeing the signs for the Laguna Burger Exit, I highly suggest you take it and indulge yourself in the heavenly surprise that is the Laguna Burger. You’ll be glad you did.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:29 PM
  • Sarah Dyea says:

    I usually order my Laguna Burger from the Laguna Superette gas station. Delish!!

    December 7, 2011 at 4:40 PM
  • nicole williams says:

    we stopped at the 66 pit stop and tried the laguna burger and it was the best burger i have ever had so delicious n very filling. in fact we had to order more to go ….i would relocate there just to enjoy the laguna burger over n over again.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:58 PM
  • nacole says:

    Best. Burger. Ever. I crave these all the way from South Carolina. I would seriously drive out there JUST FOR THIS BURGER if I could.

    April 30, 2012 at 9:35 AM
  • Daniel Armer says:

    We stop at the 66 Pitstop in Laguna New Mexico every chance we can. There is another we see by the casino right off I40, haven’t been to that one. We always go to the one in Laguna. It is the BEST BURGER ON I 40 HANDS DOWN. The price for the green chilie cheese burger and fries combo was less than a bigmac combo and superior in flavor. The staff is always friendly the place is always clean the store is nice. The place needs to be on your bucket list.

    July 3, 2012 at 11:45 AM
  • Chris Davis says:

    I had the pleasure of having this very delicious burger but returning to the west coast, then on my return to the east coast. Hands down, it is the best Burger I’ve ever had. So good, I can’t wait for another cross country drive to have the pleasure again. Best keep secret, that only those who’ve enjoyed it knows!!!

    July 19, 2012 at 7:00 PM
  • S.Maxwell says:

    After driving on old Route 66, this was a culinary oasis. Seriously, probably one of the best green chili burgers I have ever had, and I have had my fair share. Worth a trip along I-4o out to Laguna just to get another. Truly, a best kept secret. Plus, the staff were awesome as well.

    October 8, 2012 at 7:10 AM
  • raymond says:

    Great green chile burgers. My new favorite burger stop. Fries are homemade delicious.

    August 8, 2013 at 9:03 AM
  • Laurie says:

    My husband and I stopped by Laguna Burger on our way back from camping at Bluewater. Best burger EVER. Now I want to go camping more often!

    September 19, 2013 at 3:19 PM
  • Jessica Pierce says:

    In 2010 my best friend and I drove across the country from Ohio to California, It was the best time of my life! After a couple days of driving and REALLY tired of eating fast food and fiber one bars we stumbled upon Laguna Burger. Thank God for that “Pit Stop!” The burgers were outstanding and the friendly service was much appreciated. It was one stop on route 66 that wont be forgotten!

    January 24, 2014 at 9:16 PM
  • Jen says:

    I finally made the trek for this burger today, and it was worth every minute and mile. Their burger-and-fries combo is the new Happy Meal. Thank you for turning me on to this place!

    April 7, 2014 at 9:35 PM
  • Matthew Gutierrez says:

    Yesterday i went in to the laguna burger near 66 casino for my birthday dinner ( i turned 15 yesterday) the laguna burger is the best burger in the state of new mexico . Its way better than Blakes Lota Burger I am a Laguna Burger Customer For Life :-)

    May 15, 2014 at 9:46 AM
  • hannah says:

    Happy Birthday Matthew! I agree with you 100%… I only wish there was one closer (like, in town)!

    May 15, 2014 at 10:31 AM

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