Hold the pickles
Hold the lettuce
Special orders don’t upset us
All we ask is that you let us serve it your way
In 1974, Burger King introduced its most successful and long-standing advertising campaign, the heart of which was “Have It Your Way,” a catchy jingle designed to contrast just how flexible Burger King is compared to its largest competitor, the ubiquitous McDonalds. The earworm-inspiring jingle told us we could have burgers made especially for us—tailor-made, customized, prepared any way we want them. It implied that unlike its rigid and inflexible competitor, Burger King recognizes our uniqueness and they celebrate it with burgers that reflect our individuality, lifestyles and dietary considerations. There are, Burger King tells us, 221,184 ways to have the Whopper made our way.
It’s hard to fathom that nearly a quarter-million combinations are possible from a burger whose basic constituents are a flame-grilled quarter-pound beef patty, sesame seed bun, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup and sliced onion. Only a fuzzy-math-proficient government accountant could possibly appreciate and explain how a Whopper can be made your way so many ways. Whataburger, which prides itself on delivering each customer’s burger made-to-order, advertises 36,864 different ways to make a Whataburger and that includes special requests such as grilled onions, jalapenos, triple meat and extra cheese. There aren’t that many differences between a Whopper and a Whataburger.
If Burger King can boast of nearly a quarter-million have-it-your-way combinations, the aforementioned fuzzy-math accountant could probably come up with a googol ways to enjoy a burger at Flamez Burgers & More, a Duke City eatery featuring burgers you can build yourself. Launched in August, 2012, Flamez takes “have it your way” to the nth level. It starts with the selection of your burger: black Angus beef, American buffalo, Colorado lamb, Atlantic salmon, all-white turkey and even vegetarian. All burgers are served with tomatoes, onion, lettuce, pickle and your choice of cheese.
Fromage fanatics will appreciate Flamez’ cheese options of American, Swiss, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Provolone, Blue Cheese, Feta Cheese, Gorgonzola Cheese, Dill Havarti and Goat Cheese. Available for-a-fee toppings include bacon, green chile, jalapeño, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, Texas chili, avocado and fried egg. Ordering can be daunting, especially if your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach or you tend to get carried away experimenting with ingredients. A sage might advise keeping it simple because too many items can overwhelm both the burger and the diner.
20 October 2012: Keep it too simple, however, and you might miss out on flavor combinations that work exceedingly well. I have in mind the eight-ounce black Angus beef burger my Kim enjoyed during our inaugural visit. She dressed her burger with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and a cranberry sauce designated for a seasonal burger special featuring turkey, sweet potatoes and that cranberry sauce. If you appreciate complementary-contrasting sweet and savory flavors, this is a burger you’ll enjoy very much. The cranberry sauce makes an excellent dip for sweet potato fries, too. The black Angus beef, by the way, is steak quality beef specially blended from brisket, chuck and sirloin. It’s ground on the premises. The quality shows!
Burgers are served on a buttery bun that is challenged to contain all the ingredients, particularly if you pile on several moist ingredients. It’s a delicious bun, a welcome respite from standard fare, but expect to get your fingers messy because there may not be enough bun to completely do its job. Make sure to have plenty of napkins on hand. Another nit is that, contrary to the restaurant’s name, burgers are prepared on a flat top grill and not over an open-flame grill. The burgers are, however, prepared to your exacting specifications and are well-seasoned with plenty of flavor and moistness.
20 October 2012: For some reason, most of the few restaurants in New Mexico which offer lamb burgers seem to think diners will appreciate lamb if its natural flavors are “disguised.” The last two lamb burgers I had prior to our visit to Flamez were constructed with Moroccan Merguez spices and an al pastor blend featuring guajillo chiles respectively. Though good in their own way, discerning the naturally luscious flavor of lamb was a challenge. You might expect then that discretion in the selection of toppings would have been the wise thing to do, but the mad scientist experimenter in me won over and my Colorado lamb burger was topped with a fried egg (over medium), green chile, lettuce, tomato and onion.
Despite the heaping multitude of ingredients, the lamb is easily discernible if it’s prepared at medium-rare, the degree of doneness which best suits lamb. Its pale pink flesh makes it a silken marvel with a unique just-a -hint of gaminess flavor. Flamez offers a green chile with a nice degree of heat, a huge plus for a market glutted with 98-pound weakling green chile. A worthy accompaniment to a lamb burger are Flamez’ tempura-battered onion rings which are served with a “secret sauce.” Unlike the tempura-battered onion rings at some Japanese restaurants, these are lightly battered and are almost translucent, sheathing a sweet onion. These might be the best onion rings in town. The secret sauce is terrific, but wholly unnecessary.
The “& More” on the restaurant’s name when it first launched as “Flamez Burgers & More” represents menu items ranging from “burger bowlz” to “burger saladz” and “sandwiches from around the world.” The menu showcases five Burger Bowlz: All American, Comfort, Mexican, Asian and Italian, each of which are served with a grilled six-ounce hamburger steak. The Italian burger bowl features spaghetti, mozzarella, Parmesan and tomato sauce. Each of the five Burger Saladz feature one of the burger meats. The Greek salad, for example, includes Colorado lamb.
The “Sandwiches From Around the World” menu provides a terrific option to burgers without having to give up bread. Italian inspired sandwiches include a Caprese and a chicken sandwich. From Greece comes a gyro. Vietnam is represented by a beef banh mi (grilled flank steak, mayo, cucumber, marinated carrot and daikon). Spain can boast of the Bocadillo de Jamon, the Middle East of Chicken Shawerma and France of the Croque Madame. All sandwiches are served with kettle chips or a personal green salad.
20 October 2012: The Flamez dessert menu offers only five items, but they range from the surprising to the sublime (Carrot Bread Pudding). The latter is magical, two dense slabs of lightly sweetened bread pudding served with pecan ice cream drizzled with cardamom caramel sauce. It may be worthy of Larry McGoldrick’s bread pudding hall-of-fame. Flamez also offers a unique take on apple pie. It’s a deconstructed apple pie served in a glass goblet. The goblet is replete with bits and pieces of pie crust, tangy apples, vanilla ice cream and salted caramel. Now if only someone could reconstruct baseball, another American institution, so that it’s interesting once again.
3 July 2020: With more than 1,200 restaurants in an Albuquerque metropolitan area that encompasses over 9,297 square miles, dining options are plentiful. Alas, because there are so many choices, return visits are often spaced far apart. Such was the case with Flamez, a restaurant we thoroughly enjoyed. In part because of the distance from our Rio Rancho home, almost eight years elapsed before our return. Our visit was prompted by a gentle prodding from my friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate. Larry told me Flamez now has “really great seafood,” an expanded menu and a Dude-friendly patio for our debonair dachshund.
3 July 2020: The Flamez Bistro of our second visit was certainly not the Flamez Burgers & More of our inaugural visit eight years previous and it’s about much more than a name change. This is Flamez all grown up with a sophisticated menu more reflective of chef-owner Salim Khoury’s prodigious talents. This is fresh, local and sustainable fare at one of Albuquerque’s highest rated boutique restaurants, a restaurant that doesn’t even own a freezer. With a tagline boasting of “foods that make your taste buds dance,” Flamez still boasts of “custom-blended fresh hand formed burger patties, hand-cut fries, fresh breads and buns that have been locally baked.” This is what Duke City diners fell in love with. Now there’s a lot more to love.
That includes fine dining fare which belies the casually elegant venue, an inviting space which the Albuquerque Journal describes as “informal luxury.” As our fur-baby, The Dude, will attest, even the south-facing dog-friendly patio is a cut above. So is the service, especially from a server we called “Rhonda” because of her resemblance to the “baddest woman on the planet.” In addition to an expanded menu that includes even more burger options, the restaurant grew quite a bit when Flamez took over the space previously occupied by Starbucks.
3 July 2020: The menu includes two main sections: Flamez Classic and Flamez New. The Flamez Classic menu is segmented into sections listing the burger and sandwich fare with which diners have become familiar: Choose A Burger, Sandwiches From Around the World, Specialty Burgers, Burger Bowls and Burger Salads. It’s all very exciting, but our eyes gravitated quickly toward the Flamez New menu which lists Starters, Chef’s Seasonal, Soups and Salads and Sides. Six of ten items on the Chef’s Seasonal section are seafood items which excited Professor Larry so much.
From among the six starters, you’ll be hard-pressed to select just one. They’re all tempting, perhaps none moreso than the asparagus fries, a healthy alternative to conventional French fries. Despite the name, these “fries” are not actually deep-fried. They’re oven-baked after being lightly coated in a tempura-like batter that gilds each of the seven crispy spears. By themselves, they take fried vegetables to a new level, but Flamez elevates them even more with a Gorgonzola aioli, a mildly sharp blue cheese for people who think they don’t like blue cheese.
3 July 2020: A popular stereotype would have you believe women have a harder time making up their minds than men do. My Kim will point me out as an example that not all men are quick to make a decision, particularly when there are multiple options from which to choose. One example of my decision-making modis operandi was certainly on display while studying the Flamez “Chef’s Seasonal” section of the menu. Of the six seafood items on the menu, it took significant deliberation and four visits from our patient server before I had narrowed my choice down to two of them. Ultimately I told her to “just bring me one of these two” assuring her that I’d be happy with either. Rhonda brought me the shrimp and scallops pot pie, a unique to Flamez dish.
Living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for nearly eight years, we had seafood pot pie dishes by the boatful, but the concept seems lost on most New Mexico chefs who let being in a landlocked state hold them back. Chef Koury could take his version to New Orleans and delight seafood savants in the Crescent City as much as the dish delighted me. The shrimp had the snap of freshness while the scallops were light, delicate and sweet. They transported me back to Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi where similar dishes crossed my lips quite often. A flaky pastry shell was the canvas on which this seafood masterpiece held court with fresh leeks, asparagus and a transformative tarragon cream sauce which imparted a hint of licorice and a peppery, minty coolness.
3 July 2020: My carnivorous Kim was much more quick to decide what she was having–a ribeye steak (USDA choice the most flavorful cut with grilled asparagus and roasted garlic mashed potatoes). More than any steak we’ve had recently, this ribeye was perfectly seasoned and tender. It had a bit too much fat (not marbling) around the edges for my persnickety bride who doesn’t easily countenance excess fat. She was more pleased with the grilled asparagus with which she dredged up what remained of the Gorgonzola aioli.
3 July 2020: While the shrimp and scallops pot pie earned my eternal affection, it was a dessert that imprinted itself most prominently on my taste buds and memories. Since I couldn’t decide which of the five desserts to try, I opted for the one I would most likely not like (yeah, its weird logic, but it’s my nature to try everything): chai tea panna cotta (orange blossom honey and crushed pistachio). Faithful readers know that the “the blogger who’ll eat anything” doesn’t like tea of any kind. This dessert may make a convert out of me. Notes of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger with their spicy, heart-warming qualities opened my eyes to possibilities (not that I’ll be drinking chai tea, but the possibility of incorporating it into other desserts). My Kim’s chocolate mousse (chocolate ganache and chocolate shavings) would otherwise have been the dessert we’d be talking about for a while, but that chai tea panna cotta is a life-changer.
Chef Salim Khoury is a very accomplished chef with extensive experience at four-star restaurants. It’s no surprise that Flamez would offer burgers with hundreds, if not thousands (maybe a googol) of ingredient combinations. What’s more surprising is that you can get coastal quality seafood in the middle of the desert at his elegant restaurant. You truly can have it your way at Flamez!
9821 Montgomery Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 3 July 2020
1st VISIT: 20 October 2012
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Apple Pie, Carrot Bread Pudding, Colorado Lamb Burger, Black Angus Burger, Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Fries, Shrimp and Scallop Pot Pie, Ribeye Steak, Chai Tea Panna Cotta, Chocolate Mousse, Asparagus Fries