Little Red Hamburger Hut – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Little Red Hamburger Hut on Mountain Road

The Little Red Hamburger Hut on Mountain Road

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
– J. Wellington Wimpy

Cultural shock!  It’s been oft repeated that the United States and England are two nations separated by a common language.  I had no idea how much the two nations are separated by more than language until 1979 when stationed at Royal Air Force Base Upper Heyford just outside of Oxford, England.  Cultural differences were especially evident in dining experiences.  Back then American fast food restaurants were as scarce in England as fish and chips restaurants were in the United States. McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut had just starting to make inroads in the megalopolis of London.  In smaller cities, if we wanted an American hamburger, the only option was a chain of England-based hamburger restaurants named Wimpy’s.  During my first visit to Wimpy’s there were many reminders we were not in America.

First, service was on New Mexico time (and I say that with the utmost affection); the concept of fast food was apparently lost on the wait staff.  Secondly, portions were parsimonious.  The burgers weren’t the size of a frisbee the way American servicemen liked them.  Soft drinks were merely eight-ounces, not the barrel-sized cups we were used to.  Worse, we were charged for refills.  Last, and most important, the burgers were–as most English food tended to be at the time–bland and mediocre (or worse).  Give us McDonald’s any day!

Little Red Hamburger Hut Dining Room

As those of you old enough to remember the characters might have surmised, Wimpy’s was named for Popeye’s friend J. Wellington Wimpy, an erudite and manipulative glutton.   Wimpy was, in just about every way,  Popeye’s “foil,” a living contrast to the “strong to the finich” sailor man.  Where Popeye was prone to wild antics and explosive blow-ups, Wimpy was the consummate “straight man.”  While Popeye had the stereotypical, albeit G-rated vocabulary of a sailor from the Bronx, Wimpy was highly intelligent and well educated.  Popeye loved to “eats me spinach” while Wimpy was never seen without a hamburger in hand.

Interestingly, Albuquerque’s Barelas neighborhood has a restaurant staking a claim to being the home of the “original” Wimpy Burger.  Founded in 1922, the Red Ball Cafe which closed in 2015 was a Route 66 mainstay for more than three-quarters of a century.  McDonald’s single-sized Wimpy burgers with cheese are still available on the menu for under a dollar.  The irascible Popeye and his supporting cast of characters festoon the restaurant’s walls while comic strips under glass decorate the table tops.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

In 2008, a restaurant by the name of Wimpy’s was launched just minutes north of Old Town.  Though not affiliated with the Red Ball Cafe, the name engendered obvious confusion among diners (and reportedly some contentiousness between both ownership parties).  Wimpy’s has since been renamed “The Little Red Hamburger Hut,” a name that just fits (though regulars still call it “Wimpy’s.”  It is situated on the intersection of Mountain Road and Sawmill, which back in 1900 was considered beyond the Albuquerque city limits.  In the early 1900s a giant sawmill operated in the area and many workers built adobe and/or frame homes in the area.  There were also a couple of grocery stores serving the little community as well.  I believe Wimpy’s is located in one of those.

The timeworn edifice has charm to spare.  The solidity of distressed oak plank flooring heavily trod upon by generations speaks to the quality of construction.  On the corner of the main dining room stands a hand-painted fireplace, the symbol of hospitality and warmth.  The ceiling is bamboo matting (which in New Mexico is a multi-purpose utility used as flooring, ceiling and even fencing).  The Little Red Hamburger Hut provides diners with a nostalgic trip back to a carefree, more innocent time before the infestation of chain restaurants.  Even if you’re not old enough to remember it, you’ll appreciate the sundry bric a brac from the Fabulous Fifties and Swinging Sixties.

A Large Little Red with French Fries

A Large Little Red with French Fries

Diners queue up before the restaurant opens so they’re first in line to place their order in a room adjacent to the main dining room. The menu enjoys you to “enjoy New Mexico’s famous burgers.”  Burgers are the primary draw here, but not just your standard, conventional burgers on a bun.  Burger options start with the “Little Red” which you can order in small, medium or large sizes.  The Little Red is available with either red or green chile (both complementary as well as is cheese).   A combo meal includes fries and a large (barrel-sized) beverage of your choice with free refills. You can also have your burger on a tortilla.  There’s even taco burgers and hot dog burgers which are just what their names indicate they are.

Unless you specify otherwise, the burgers are cooked well done, but as you’ll happily realize, that doesn’t mean charred to a desiccated mess.  Though the beef patties are fresh and delicious, they aren’t as juicy as burgers done to a lesser degree of “doneness.”  It’s a likelihood that their desiccation may also be the result of the heinous spatula press (for which cooks should be shot).  The burgers are hand-formed each morning from freshly ground beef.  They’re available in medium (quarter-pound) and large sizes.    It’s very evident that freshness is a hallmark of the burgers and that’s all ingredients, not just the beef.  All produce is purchased daily to ensure the optimal freshness and flavor.

The Little Red Tortilla Burger fully dressed

14 March 2010: The Little Red is constructed much like other burgers in town–lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese, green chile–but like any classic structure, it’s built very well and it’s built to order–to your exacting specifications with your satisfaction guaranteed.  The buns are lightly toasted, the beef is wonderfully seasoned and hand-pressed into a thick patty, the ingredients are fresh and the green chile (spelled “chili” throughout the menu) is about medium on the piquancy scale.  It takes just a bit longer (not quite English time) but it’s worth the wait.

3 September 2010: A New Mexico alternative to the Little Red may one-up its more popular brethren between buns. That alternative would be the tortilla burger, a large tortilla dressed any way you want it.  Impressively, the beef–a large patty cut in half — spans nearly the entire length and breadth of the tortilla.  It’s best fully dressed–green chile, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cheese and is available in small, medium and large sizes.

Hot Dog Burger with Fries

3 February 2016: The Little Red Hamburger Hut solves the dilemma as to what you should have when both a hamburger and a hot dog sound good but you don’t have the funds for both.  By combining a hot dog within a burger, you have the best of both worlds.  The hot dog burger special (medium burger, 20-ounce beverage and fries) is proof that hot dogs and burgers can coexist in harmonious deliciousness under the same canvas.  That canvas is a bun that’s probably not much more than three-inches around.  When ingredients are piled on, the burger is nearly that tall, too.  The buns are hard-pressed to hold in all the ingredients and will probably fall apart after a few bites, so make sure to have plenty of napkins because you might be eating with your hands.

3 September 2010: New Mexico’s contribution to Health.com’s “50 Fattiest Foods,” a state-by-state hall of infamy, was our ubiquitous Frito pie.  The version low-lighted in the article contained a pants-popping 46 grams of fat and 14 grams of saturated fat.  Still, it’s hard to resist the Land of Enchantment’s most egregious fat-offender, especially since it looks like a healthy lettuce, tomato, cheese and onion salad when it’s delivered to other tables.  Underneath the salad ingredients, however, is a mound of ground beef covered in chile and cheese surrounded by Frito’s corn chips.  The Little Red Hamburger Hut crafts a classic New Mexican Frito pie.  The chile is likely Bueno brand red chile, a made in New Mexico chile which means it’s good and has a piquant bite without no canned or cumin aftertaste.  The chile is slathered on generously.

A large Frito pie

The fries are strictly out-of-the-bag and nothing special other than they’re served steamy and hot.  It takes a lot of ketchup and a lot of salt to make them palatable, but that’s the only downer to a meal that’s otherwise quite memorable.

The Little Red Hamburger Hut is the antithesis of the Wimpy’s chains in England. It’s an excellent purveyor of New Mexico’s green chile cheeseburger and one of the friendliest restaurants in the Duke City.

Little Red Hamburger Hut
1501 Mountain Road, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 304-1819
Web Site| Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 3 February 2016
1st VISIT: 14 March 2009
# of VISITS: 3
RATING: 19
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Large Little Red’s Combo, Large Tortilla Burger, Large Frito Pie, Hot Dog Burger

Little Red Hamburger Hut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Year in Food: January, 2016

High Point Mac (Choice Center-Cut Steak and Green Chile) from The Point in Rio Rancho

Not since Adam and Eve have ribs been as oft-discussed as they are today.  Barbecue restaurants throughout the fruited plain strive for melt-in-your-mouth pork and beef ribs.  Ribs are the most popular of all barbecued meats, caveman cuisine at its very best.   In a program called Top 5 BBQ in America, the Food Network celebrated barbecue ribs in such barbecue hotbeds as Tennessee and North Carolina.  Admittedly Albuquerque isn’t the first place you think of for great ribs, but the Food Network fell in love with the red chile ribs from El Pinto, ranking them third in the country.  “The secret to their mouth-watering spicy ribs is a paste made of dried caribe chiles rubbed onto the meat and allowed to marinate for 24 hours.” 

From new attractions and massive additions to quirky flavors, big birthdays and booze, 2016 promises to be a good year for the curious traveler.”  CNN compiled a list of 16 things to see and do in the U.S. in 2016.   Arguably the most delicious destination to be enjoyed this year is New Mexico’s very own Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.  “With nearly 100 spots to sample, the Trail is a tasty way to add a little spice to your life this year.”  Among the purveyors of incomparable green chile cheeseburgers listed were Sparky’s in Hatch and 5 Star Burgers with locations in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos.

My friend Darren contemplates his meal at Magokoro

In December, 2015, you read on this blog that Zagat, a national online and print restaurant review medium, had selected as New Mexico’s very best dessert not something unique to the Land of Enchantment, but a bundt cake you can find at a chain with locations throughout the fruited plain.  Spoon University, the self-professed “everyday food resource for our generation, on a mission to make food make sense” made a lot more sense than Zagat, naming New Mexico’s best dessert as bizcochitos from the Golden Crown Panaderia.  Spoon described them as “sweet, cinnamony cookies” that became the “official state cookie almost 20 years ago” and “deserve to graduate onto the official dessert.” 

Business Insider didn’t limit itself to cookies, naming the best restaurant in every state.  Sifting through their own list of the best restaurants in America, James Beard Award nominations, expert reviews, and local recommendations, paying particular attention to fine-dining establishments, Business Insider declared Santa Fe’s Geronimo as the best in the Land of Enchantment.  “Noted for its impeccable service and complex dishes,” Geronimo “boasts a host of mouthwatering dishes.”

Wonton soup from Asian Pear

With almost twice as many flavor-characteristics discernible by human senses than wine, coffee is next to water, the world’s most popular beverage with 400 billion cups consumed yearly (1.4 billion cups daily) across the globe. The Huffington Post and Foursquare users compiled a list of the best places for coffee in every state across the fruited plain.  With cups touting them as “passionate about coffee,” the Land of Enchantment representative was Satellite Coffee, an Albuquerque presence with eight locations throughout the city. 

“Until recently, Tim Harris, of Albuquerque was the only restaurant owner in the country with Down syndrome. But what drives a restaurateur who has lived for his business to close up shop? A girl he loves more than anything.”  In a very touching report the CBS news show Sunday morning profiled Harris and his decision to close his popular restaurant Tim’s Place to move to Denver where he could be close to the love of his life.  When Tim launches his restaurant in Denver, it’s a sure bet the Mile High City will embrace him as warmly as the Duke City did.

Lobster Tater Tots from the Freight House in Bernalillo

Santa Fe Chef Marc Quiñones who plies his craft at Luminaria competed with four other chefs on the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” a reality cooking show.  Cutthroat Kitchen features four chefs competing in a three-round elimination cooking competition. The contestants face auctions in which they can purchase opportunities to sabotage one another. Each chef is given $25,000 at the start of the show; the winner keeps whatever money he or she has not spent in the auctions.  While the talented chef didn’t win the competition, every guest at Luminaria is a winner when they get to partake of his culinary fare. 

For years, Santa Fe has been regarded as one of the nation’s premier tourist attractions as well as one of America’s best dining destinations.  This culinary Mecca hosted its inaugural Santa Fe Foodie Classic, highlighting classic flavor combinations as well as new techniques demonstrating the future of Southwestern cuisine.   Several events were held in which some of the city’s very best chefs showcased their talents over a three-day period.

2016SouperBowl

 

For more than 35 years, the Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico has been serving the state’s hungry.  As the largest Food Bank in the state, it distributes more than 30 million pounds of food every year to a network of hundreds of partner agencies and four regional food banks.  Through that network, the Food Bank is helping 70,000 hungry people in our state weekly.  That’s the equivalent to feeding a city the size of Santa Fe every single week. Every January, the Food Bank hosts the Souper Bowl, its largest fundraiser, an event in which restaurants across the metropolitan area prepare and serve their tastiest soups to hundreds of people and several hungry judges who get to weigh in on their favorites.  This year’s winners were: 

People’s Choice Winners – Soup
1st Place and Souper Bowl Champion: Artichoke Café for their Butternut Squash and Coffee Soup; 2nd PlaceSoupDog; 3rd Place: Bocadillos Café and Catering

Critics’ Choice Winners – Soup
1st Place: Zinc Bistro and Wine Bar; 2nd Place: Bien Shur at Sandia Resort and Casino; 3rd Place: The Ranchers Club of New Mexico

People’s Choice Winners – Vegetarian Soup
1st Place: StreetFood Asia; 2nd Place: Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza; 3rd Place: Turtle Mountain Brewing Company

People’s Choice – Dessert

1st Place: Nothing Bundt Cakes; 2nd Place: Theobroma Chocolatier; 3rd Place: Gardunos Restaurants

People’s Choice – Booth Winner: Bien Shur Restaurant

On the same weekend, The Food Depot in Santa Fe holds its own Souper Bowl event. This year more than 1,200 people enjoyed the best soups some 28 restaurant chefs across the City Different had to serve.  Winners of the 2016 event were:

Best Cream: Rio Chama
Best Savory: Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe
Best Seafood: Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen
Best Vegetarian: Paper Dosa
Best Overall Soup: Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen

Friends of Gil (FOG) Dinner: Fabulous Food, Fun and Friends

Pulchritudinous Pam and Loquacious Larry enjoy their dinner at Jinja

When Sheri LaVigne was a little girl, her family moved to a small farm in Corrales.  Her mother Kay Lucas bought a Nubian goat they named Mocha which provisioned the family with everything from farmer’s cheese to goat’s milk ice cream. Sheri got up early every morning to help her mom milk Mocha, an experience which helped foster her lifelong love affair with cheese. That love was rekindled when she lived in New York City just around the corner from a cheese shop. A few years later she and her husband relocated to Seattle where, despite a thriving food scene, there wasn’t a cheese shop to be found. Deciding she would be the one to rectify the situation, in 2009 she launched Calf & Kid, an artisan cheese shop. 

You may have seen Sheri on television not that long ago when she was featured on The Layover with Anthony Bourdain, whom it turns out is quite the turophile (a connoisseur of cheese).  He spent an hour tasting various cheeses with Sheri guiding him through a number of the “runny and smelly” cheeses he craved.  Not surprisingly the Calf & Kid has become über popular in Seattle where Sheri has cultivated a vibrant cheese culture showcasing fine cheeses from throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.  Her proud mother Kay is understandably very happy that the early morning experiences she shared with her daughter in Corrales proved so inspirational.  

Chow Fun Noodles

Kay no longer gets up early in the morning to milk goats, but she remains one of the Duke City’s most passionate and knowledgeable gastronomes.  Kay and doting husband John are charter members of the Friends of Gil (FOG).  On Friday, January 29th, they organized  the inaugural FOG event for 2016.  Twenty-three savvy diners–including first-timers Mary and Mack Kroner, Barb and Jim White and Bruce and Soozie Terzes–got together at Jinja Bar & Bistro for an evening of fun, food and friendship.

It was a wonderful event enjoyed by one and all.  The only thing missing was YOU.  Barb and Jim White volunteered to organize the next FOG event and you’re invited.  Stay tuned to this blog for more details.

1 2 3 320