Mention food and convenience store in the same sentence and the first thing likely to come to mind is one of those perpetually rotating, alutaceous hot dogs seared to a leathery sheen under a heat lamp inferno. Not even a large slushie spiked with your favorite adult beverage would make that hot dog palatable.
Mention food and gas station in the same sentence and all of a sudden that leathery hot dog at the convenience store sounds like a gourmet meal. Salty, cylindrically shaped dry meat snacks with the texture of sawdust and air-filled bags of Cool Ranch Doritos are typical gas station fare.
Now mention New Mexican food and gas station in the same sentence and the likely image conjured is scatological, having more to do with “gas” than food and we’re not talking petroleum here.
In 2007, Sarah Karnasiewicz, senior editor of Saveur, trekked back to New Mexico to discover some of the Land of Enchantment’s best “filling stations,” service stations in which you can actually find food that is not only fit for human consumption, it’s quite good, too. She observed that, “we know of no other state in the Union where you can so consistently find such tasty cooking along the asphalt byways, often steps from the gas pumps.”
One of the filling stations with which she was most impressed was Bode’s off Highway 84 in Abiquiu. Sarah cited as ”the highlight of the menu” a “half-pound green chile cheeseburger–a dish satisfying enough for the mightiest road warriors.” In an accompanying photo essay, she made an even more audacious claim, “Bode’s may make the world’s best cheeseburger: a half pound of ground steak smothered in fresh New Mexico green chiles.”
In New Mexico, green chile cheeseburgers are practically a religion and any claims to being “the best” are quickly and vociferously disputed. There is no consensus best green chile cheeseburger, and only a small number of serious contenders, but there are plenty of pretenders which don’t live up to the hype. Count Bode’s among the former, a green chile cheeseburger for which a solid argument could be made that it is among the very best in the state.
Before making that argument, let me state that Bode’s General Merchandise is worth a trip even if it didn’t offer a bodacious green chile cheeseburger. Bode’s has been serving the community of Abiquiu since 1919. Ninety years ago in remote New Mexican villages, mercantiles such as Bode’s were the heart of the community, often the only link to the outside world. In the 1920s, Bode’s served as post office, gas station and even electrical power plant.
Today Bode’s remains an essential part of the community as well as a surprisingly popular destination in its own right. It is a true general store, serving the needs of hunters, fishermen, campers, visitors and locals. Whether you’re taking it on the trail, to the breakfast nook, or to the dinner table, Bode’s old-fashioned country stock fills your needs.
Bode’s shelves are stocked with unique bric-a-brac, a miscellaneous collection of eye-catching and decorative curios you might not see anywhere else. Three racks of postcards showcase bawdy postcards which would hold your attention if there wasn’t so much else to browse. That includes curious toys and vintage curios some might describe as seedy or even blasphemous.
The bakery provisions guests with fresh pastries, pies, muffins and cookies baked daily. Sage Bakehouse bread is brought in from Santa Fe. The deli, open from 11AM through 3PM, serves Boar’s Head meat and cheese products on its sandwich board. The deli menu also includes Frito Pie, “slyders” with Fries, burritos and the Bode Burger, a half-pound ground sirloin burger to which you can add cheese, bacon and of course, green chile. Portions are prodigious.
The green chile cheeseburger is humongous, a two-fisted burger if there ever was one. For hands like mine which can easily palm a basketball, it’s the perfect sized burger. For appetites which travel miles to meet and eat the burger which won Saveur over, it’s delicious validation that the magazine which introduces us “a world of authentic cuisine” knows its stuff–even when it comes to green chile cheeseburgers.
When the sandwich board says “1/2 pound ground sirloin,” it’s not just local lore like the malefic tales of shape-shifting brujas which still frighten many. It’s a delicious slab of ground sirloin grilled to about medium-well. It’s a whopping canvas for large-leaf lettuce, fresh tomato, melted cheese, red onion and of course, lots of green chile. The green chile is definitely of the mild variety with not much more piquancy than a bell pepper, but it’s got that incomparable green chile flavor aficionados love. The bun is toasted just enough to give it a bit of firmness so it can hold in all those ingredients and all that flavor.
If you want to fill up in smaller doses, order Bode’s “slyders,” five smallish burgers topped with ingredients of your choosing. These aren’t White Castle type sliders which, while quite good, just don’t have much substance. One of Bode’s slyders probably has as much beef as four White Castle sliders. That beef is sandwiched in what could be a bolillo instead of a traditional burger bun. Whether consuming five slyders is the equivalent of one green chile cheeseburger is subject to debate.
While the green chile cheeseburger may be the highlight of the menu, New Mexican food favorites at Bode’s will appease the most tired, poor and huddled masses of visitors. The burritos are about half the size of a football and are engorged with fresh beans and mouth-watering shredded pork. The beans are perfectly prepared with large, whole beans while the shredded pork is akin to carne adovada sans red chile. We were amazed at just how much shredded beef the burrito contained.
After the Saveur article was published in 2008, many road warriors from New Mexico and beyond made their way to Bode’s, one of the Land of Enchantment’s finest filling stations. Don’t let too much time pass before you follow suit. Better yet, follow your nostrils to the source of those terrific green chile cheeseburgers.
Bode’s General Merchandise Bakery & Deli
P.O. Box 100
Abiquiu, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 3 January 2009
# OF VISITS: 2
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Slyders, Burritos