Fatburger – Isleta & Espanola, New Mexico

New Mexico’s First Fatburger, Located Within the Isleta Resort & Casino

To its detractors, there are a lot of things about which to criticize California, but even detractors will give the Golden State its due when it comes to a national obsession–the hamburger.  California is the state that gave America McDonald’s, In-N-Out Burger and my favorite, the Fatburger. (My Illinois in-laws will remind me with proud vehemence that the “original” McDonald’s restaurant location (launched on April 15th, 1955) was in Des Plaines, Illinois, but the “first” McDonald’s hamburger stand operated out of San Bernardino in 1954.)

The Fatburger Menu

To some readers, my declaration of Fatburger being my favorite California burger may be seen as heretical, the schismatic raving of a mad man and proof that your humble blogger is a moron.  I’ve had friends throughout the country question my patriotism, parentage and credentials as an essayer of restaurant reviews because of my declared preference for Fatburger and disdain for another California burger chain they prefer.  “How,” they protest “can anyone possibly prefer Fatburger to In-N-Out?”.  It’s easy!  Fatburger is superior in every way…at least to me.  Your opinion may differ, of course, but this is America and people used to be free to dissent even on crucial matters such as expressed burger preference.

The Large (King) Fatburger

My Kim and I celebrated the announcement the August, 2019 launch of New Mexico’s first Fatburger.  Located in the food court at the Isleta Resort & Casino alongside Panda Express, it seems somewhat out-of-place because we’re used to driving up and placing our order through a loudspeaker.  At Isleta, the malodorous wafting of hazy cigarette smoke manages to find its way to the food court, but the closer you get to Fatburger, the more the aroma of made-to-order burgers captures and enraptures your olfactory senses.  NOTE:  Thanks to the blasted Cabrona Virus, Isleta’s Fatburger’s hours have changed drastically.  According to Yelp, it’s open only Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12PM – 8PM.  We have called several times and have been unable to confirm these hours.

Espanola’s Fatburger on Riverside Drive

Fatburger was founded in 1952 when Lovie Yancey launched her first restaurant in East Los Angeles…and for the record, despite being the target of derision on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show monologues (undoubtedly based solely on the name), the name Fatburger has nothing to do with the burger’s composition or contents. The name Fatburger was derived from the term “fat” which in the 1950s meant you had really made it (as in Fat Cat, Fat City or Fat Times). As they say, what goes around, comes around. In the early 21st century, the adjective “phat” was heavily used in Hip Hop culture to denote someone or something that is cool, rich, entertaining, intelligent, fly or otherwise to be admired. So, fat is good!

Not Quite a Full Sized Fatburger But A Good one

Fatburger prides itself in using only choice domestic beef and the freshest ingredients and condiments available. You can have your burgers grilled the conventional way or char broiled for an even bigger taste treat.  The meat patties are made from fresh and lean USDA domestic beef, not the puny, frozen mystery meat served at other burger restaurants.  Standard condiments include mayonnaise, sweet relish, onions and your choice of other additives (including cheese or egg, bacon or chili, or ranch dressing).  Burgers are available in large (a half-pound kingburger), XXL (a one-pound double king) and XXXL (a 1.5 pound triple king).  By the way, despite all the jokes at Fatburger’s expense, in 2014 Jay Leno surmounted the “Fatburger Challenge,” devouring an entire three-patty, 24-ounce Fatburger with all the fixings in five-minutes flat. 

Thousand Island Burger

31 October 2019 (Isleta): Between the two of us, my Kim and I couldn’t possibly eat a 24-ounce Fatburger in one sitting no matter how much time we were given.  During our inaugural visit to the Isleta Fatburger, we did, however, each enjoy a half-pound kingburger, both prepared to our exacting ingredient specifications (no lettuce, tomato or pickle for her; “the works” for me).   For my Kim, the Fatburger was a walk down memory lane to all the Fatburgers we’ve enjoyed in California and Arizona.  She enjoyed every bite.  My burger was well-done (#$%*&!), a degree of doneness no burger should endure.  Still, all those fresh, delicious condiments that make a Fatburger our favorite burger chain offset the charcoal flavor somewhat.  Oh, and if you  aficionados of “that other California burger” are wondering, I’ll take a slightly overdone Fatburger to any In-N-Out burger any day!


29 April 2023: In December, 2022, New Mexico’s second Fatburger launched, this one in the Avanyu Travel Plaza on 618 N Riverside Drive in Espanola on property owned by the Santa Clara Pueblo.  Fatburger shares space with Buffalo’s Express which offers boneless and bone-in wings in six piece, 10 piece, 16 piece or 24 piece orders. The Avanyu Travel Plaza that holds the Española Fatburger opened in October, 2022 and features a gas station as well as a convenience store. 

29 April 2023:  New (to us) on the Fatburger menu is a 1000 Island Burger (100% pure lean beef, fresh topped with thousand island dressing, lettuce, tomato and American cheese on a toasted sponge-dough bun).  Since experiencing the “Big Boy sauce” at Albuquerque’s Vip’s Big Boy, Thousand Island-like dressings (including McDonald’s “special sauce” on the Big Mac), has supplanted mustard as my favorite “other than green chile” condiment.  Sadly, there wasn’t nearly enough Thousand Island dressing on Fatburger’s menu.  A sesame seed bun similar to Vip’s Big Boy and McDonald’s would have been a nice add.  A better add by subtraction would have been the tomato

This burgeoning franchise was once available only in California, but has expanded across the fruited plain into two Canadian provinces as well as Panama, China, Japan, The Philippines, the United Kingdom and throughout the Middle East.  With any luck, several more will be available in New Mexico someday.  Fatburger’s motto reads, “we’re not for everybody,” but they are for people who appreciate very good burgers.  By the way, Isleta’s Fatburger is the only one under spacious skies to offer green chile.  Take that, In-N-Out!

11000 Broadway, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 724-3800
Web Site |
LATEST VISIT: 31 October 2019
COST: $$
BEST BET: Fatburger, Shakes, Fries, Onion Rings

618 North Riverside Drive
Espanola, New Mexico
(505) 367-4588
Website |
LATEST VISIT: 29 April 2023
# OF VISITS (US): 12
COST: $$
BEST BET: Fatburger, Thousand Island Burger


20 thoughts on “Fatburger – Isleta & Espanola, New Mexico

  1. Oh well. You had to go and be completely lame on multiple levels. Gonna guess you live in Rio Rancho.

  2. Prefer the In-N-Out burger, but the (thick and flavorful) fries are much better at Fatburger … and they make a decent burger. Nice char. If I’m in SoCal, I’m looking for a Habit, though. (Locally, Freddy’s offers a California burger that’s somewhere between In-N-Out and Fatburger, and comes highly recommended. Do the Freddy.)

    Haven’t tried the lone Fatburger here, but have many happy memories of chowing down at one of the original locations and listening to those great jukeboxes. The one by my work even had Coltrane (!?).

          1. Sarita and Schuyler, I admire your diligence trying to school Ruben. Remember the infamous saying, “buy them books, send them to school, all they do is eat the pages.” In this case, probably with lots of chile””

  3. What is it about New Mexico and burnt burgers? It has a lot to do with who is working at the grill at the time. I’ve seen many committing that most vilest of sins – smashing the very life out of the burger with the back of the spatula. I guess if the grill chef likes well-done, then that’s what everybody gets. 5 Guys burgers puts a grill weight on it’s burgers rendering them cooked through, but witheringly dry.

    Any burger joint that automatically cooks to Medium Well, and refuses to cook it less, must buy meat that is so laden with contaminants that their fear of getting sued outweighs their desire to cook a good juicy burger with great ingredients. I’ve even been to places that will refuse to cook a burger to medium and one even asked me to sign a waiver in case their burger made me sick. What was in their meat?!

    And no thank you, I do not enjoy a black crust on my patty.

    Any burger joint willing to serve a cooked-to-order burger (make mine medium rare please) must be confident of their high quality ingredients and they are going to get my business.

    I’d like to have a Fatburger, but it’s going to have to be cooked medium or medium rare for me to go return.

  4. I was in Vegas when Fat Burger arrived. I scratched my head as I believe we were in a Renaissance of Eating Healthy and thought the title “Fat Burger” flew in the face of that. Whatever!
    I’m sorry…I just don’t see any point to Triple, let alone Double, Burgers…I’ve tried, even made double burgers. What magically is one more…a third patty…on such burger going to do except stretch my mandible to its max and assuredly cause my Fixodent/Polygrip to pop loose? Is there some mysterious taste that is emitted? What is the orgiastic collusion that must be taking place, e.g. chemically? Seriously? It’all is being suggested that next time I order a Foot Long (NM Red) Chile Cheese Dog con onions at the Dog House, that I’ll find myself in Pig’s Heaven if I ask them to put 3 Dogs in the Bun?
    6 ounces of Hamburger, IMHO, is a perfect thickness to preserve an ephemeral pinkishly-red layer across the interior of a patty to also contain the textural elements that intermingle with the greyish cookery of the outer surface to produce what I call that Burgery Experience…the essence of a Burger?~ Secondly, I was pretty hooked each night on Leno’s…”balanced”…folderol and am shocked I supposedly missed the episode where he devoured such a burger. As best as I can discover, is this: https://tinyurl.com/y23m5rj7
    As an added bonus: Given no one, but no one, eats a Burger without French Fries, let me know how this https://tinyurl.com/y2zhourv turns out!!!!Thanks!

  5. I think In ‘N Out is a good burger. I totally agree FatBurger is a FAR superior burger. I’ve only had the one in Isleta, so I have no other to compare it to, but totally enjoyed it! And being able to add green chile is a definite plus!

    1. From the Fatburger in Wembley, good as the rest .. and In & Out is overrated, not to mention the too stringy fries.

      1. Name another original post WWII burger chain that makes its fries from a whole potato, doesnt use frozen meat, and doesnt add unnecessary chemicals to their food. You cant in their price range. There is none. It doesnt exist other than In n Out. Is their menu limited? Sure. Not an issue for me.

  6. been to fat burger once it was nt good at all the burger was burnt had to wait for like 20 min the frys were good will try one more time see if it is better i love in and out burger the best burger place i think love the frys and shakes

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