From 1988 through 2005, Rex’s Hamburgers stood practically alone in offering Duke City consumers an alternative to the homogeneous gobble-and-go offerings of deep-pocketed fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. Rex’s earned and retained the hearts of Albuquerque diners for nearly 20 years. During its halcyon days, it garnered the long defunct’s Abq magazine’s “Best of Albuquerque” honors for several consecutive years.
The reason Duke City patrons were so loyal to Rex’s was because Rex’s was at the diametric extreme opposite of the chain restaurants. Whether ensconced in a strip mall or housed in a single tenant edifice, Rex’s offered real sit-down service at a relaxed and reasonable pace. Moreover, it served hamburgers the way they are intended to be prepared. That means they started with real meat, never frozen, formed into a ball and flattened on the griddle with a spatula then allowed to cook slowly to retain the beef’s natural juiciness. Unlike at the Golden Arches, you never had to wonder what filler was used in Rex’s all-beef patty. It was always 85 percent lean and 15 percent fat, the time-tested optimum balance for optimum flavor. It was always served hot and with only the freshest of ingredients.
When Rex’s closed the last of its restaurants in 2005, the Duke City should have flown the city flag at half mast. Rex’s was one of the last of the independents, a true locally owned and operated mom-and-pop restaurant. The brainchild of Rex Thompson and his family, Rex’s had carved a niche in the burger market and a spot in the heart of discerning Duke City diners. As of the summer of 2008, our period of mourning can now cease. Rex’s is back, initially with a new moniker–Bubsters The Original Rex Burger Grill–but later to embrace its roots as Rex’s Hamburgers.
Also back are some of the recognized Rex’s touches–the golden oldies piped through the restaurant’s sound system, the familiar turquoise and mauve paint, posters of 50s icons and walls dedicated to the University of New Mexico Lobos. Rex’s is located at the former site of the 505 Southwestern which operated a chile factory and restaurant at the site for years. The space is cavernous with the front portion of the restaurant providing comfortable seating and the back part dedicated to video gaming. Even the way you order is familiar. A large menu showcasing all that Rex’s has to offer backdrops the counter at which you place your order. Take your seat and within minutes, a tray of deliciousness is bound for your table.
The menu includes all the Rex’s favorites which means not only hamburgers, but sandwiches, hot dogs, tacos, burritos, green chile stew and for the Texans among us, even chili con carne. Sandwich and burger platters include an order of french fries, an onion ring and Rex’s familiar applesauce. You can substitute onion rings for the fries if you’re so inclined. The burger platters are a bit steeper in price today than they were when Rex’s cornered the sit-down burger market, but then, so is everything else. Besides, what’s a few extra cents when you’re talking freshness and burgers done right–when we’re talking Rex’s reborn!
2 October 2019: The burgers are still adulation worthy with perfectly seasoned beef served to your exacting specifications. At medium with just a hint of pink, they are absolutely delicious. The double-meat green chile cheeseburgers are still two-fisted behemoths bursting with flavor and moistness. These are still three or four napkin burgers replete with the great ingredients for which Rex’s was always known. The green chile actually registers on the piquancy scale and it’s got a nice, fresh-roasted flavor. With a more piquant chile, it might be one of the two or three best green chile cheeseburgers in the metropolitan area instead of being merely among the top five or six.
Each burger is stacked with mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and onions, all fresh, crisp and delicious. Unless you order a double-meat burger, each Rex’s burger is a true quarter-pounders and is prepared on a grill. A double meat burger, of course, tops the scales at a half-pound of beef. Order a burger platter and you’ll also receive an order of fries, an onion ring and applesauce. Only the most avaricious of appetites will try the Gavster (double meat, double cheese, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, bacon, and warm green chili stacked with mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. It’s a handful.
There is one item for which Rex’s is nonpareil and that’s chocolate milkshakes. Made with Dreyer’s premium ice cream and served bone-chilling cold, the chocolate milk is very chocolatey. It’s an adult chocolate not something which will decay your teeth on the spot. Other shake flavors include vanilla, strawberry, Oreo, cherry and we’ve even had a Caramel shake there once.
10 October 2015: Should you ever succeed in prying yourself from ordering one of Rex’s addictive green chile cheeseburgers, a phalanx of alternatives are available. The “Southwestern” menu, for example, includes such New Mexican favorites as tacos, burritos, chile cheese fries, Frito pie, green chile stew and red chile with beans. Burritos are engorged with your choice of beans, beef or both and topped with your choice of red or green chile. As is often the case, many diners opt for “Christmas” style with both red and green adorning the burrito. A combination burrito platter includes French fries, lettuce and tomato. The seasoned fries are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The shredded cheese blanketed burrito is quite good with both red and green shining.
2 October 2019: In a 2013 episode of his CNN series Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain described the Frito pie at Santa Fe’s Five & Dime General Store as “warm crap in a bag.” That comment certainly didn’t endear him to New Mexicans who consider the Frito pie a guilty pleasure invented in our enchanted state. We love Frito pie so much we might even forgive Rex’s for describing its Frito pie as “Frito chips with chili con carne with your choice of lettuce, tomato and Onions.” Is the “chili con carne” Rex’s concession that the Frito pie was actually invented in Texas? Never mind the spelling. The chili con carne didn’t taste like it came from Texas. Nor did it taste like Wolf brand chili or Hormel’s. It’s not top tier stuff, but it’ll do in a pinch.
On Sunday, February 6, 2017, The Travel Channel aired a program showcasing some of the best fair foods in the nation for its Food Paradise series. The Land of Enchantment has hosted a fair since 1881–32 years before becoming a state. A mainstay for nearly five decades has been Rex’s Hamburgers. Rex Thompson demonstrated for Food Paradise how to construct a bacon-wrapped deep-fried green chile cheeseburger (fresh, handmade burger, topped with green chile and American cheese, wrapped in bacon and deep-fried to a crispy, brown perfection). Rex explained that his burgers are prepared “low and slow” seasoned with only salt and pepper. Rex’s bacon-topped green chile nachos were also showcased. If you haven’t been to the New Mexico State Fair in a while, maybe it’s time to make your way back.
Whether it’s known as Rex’s or Bubsters, there’s no mistaking the quality and freshness of a great meal at an Albuquerque favorite. There’s just something better about the world with Rex’s back in town.
LATEST VISIT: 3 October 2019
1st VISIT: 28 July 2008
# OF VISITS: 10
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Double Hamburger, Onion Rings, Tacos, French Fries, Apple Sauce, Chocolate Milkshake, Burrito