The audacious proclamation on Fuddruckers door, logo and Web site, “The world’s greatest hamburgers available” may not be quite complete. Add the words “somewhere else” and most will agree, you probably have a more accurate description of this tremendously popular restaurant chain which actually trademarked the “world’s greatest hamburgers” logo.
Founded in 1980 by Phil Romano (of Romano’s Macaroni Grill fame), Fuddruckers has expanded to more than 250 locations across the world including such purveyors of American culture as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait. The theme at most of the fast casual franchises is 1950s and 1960s rock and roll. The ambience is Disneyesque, both from the sense that it’s family-friendly and that it’s loud (as in blaring, ear-splitting music loud) and fun (at least for some people). Others might describe it as tacky, gaudy and over-the-top. Ostensibly, Fuddruckers also serves good burgers.
Duke City diners have been heavily patronizing Fuddruckers since day one, so much so that there are now three Fuddruckers restaurants in the city (as well as one in Farmington). Not long after its millennium year launch in Albuquerque, Fuddruckers supplanted all the indigenous burger joints to win the Alibi’s best burger award. It also won the award in 2001 and has been a win, place or show vote-in just about every year since.
Fuddruckers purports to be the original “build your own” burger establishment. Its 100 percent USDA fresh ground beef patties are available in one-third, one-half, two-thirds and one pound sizes. A self-service toppings bar lets you load up your burger with your favorite condiments. For a pittance you can also add grilled onions, American bleu cheese, Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Swiss Cheese, Smokehouse Bacon, Guacamole and Grilled Mushrooms. Fuddruckers will prepare your burger to your exacting specifications. Medium rare is medium rare and well done is well done. If you don’t agree, take it back and they’ll re-do it for you.
The menu also features eight different specialty burgers such as the Fudd 66, Fuddruckers version of New Mexico’s revered green chile cheeseburger. Fuddruckers obviously recognizes the importance of the green chile cheeseburger to the Land of Enchantment, because this burger isn’t available across the fruited plain. Heat-seeking diners elsewhere have to settle for other specialty burgers such as the Inferno (sauteed jalapenos, onions and pepper jack cheese) and the Southwest burger (guacamole, pepper jack cheese and smokehouse bacon).
The hamburger buns are made from scratch every day and throughout the day. It’s a treat watching the baker hand-form and roll the buns similar to how abuelitas have been preparing tortillas for their families every day for centuries. The produce and “fixins” are unfailingly fresh and let you be burger artiste, crafting your burger your way.
It stands to reason that a chain claiming to serve the world’s greatest burgers would also think very highly of its shakes, not surprisingly christened the “world’s greatest shakes” on the menu and Web site. Fuddruckers doesn’t just serve a chocolate shake, it serves a “Crazy for Chocolate” shake. It’s not just a strawberry shake, it’s a “very berry shake” at Fuddruckers. There’s no plain vanilla here; it’s a “dreamy vanilla” shake. The “crunchy cookies and cream” shake is the only one not bearing a superlative adjective.
The shakes are thick and rich, but not necessarily as flavorful as their sobriquets might imply. The chocolate shake is a bit on the cloying side and not very chocolaty (at least in comparison to the frappes served in New England). Perhaps its best attribute is that it’s served cold enough to give you a case of brain freeze. The shakes are also made with real ice cream and are served in a glass goblet with a cold tin on the side. It’s much like getting a shake and a half.
Remember the Fudd 66 burger (the one with the green chile). It has the potential to be a big burger if you’re careful as to what else you add. The Fudd 66 burger pictured above is adorned with grilled onions and blue cheese on a half-pound beef patty. The combination sounds like something your gastronome about town would really enjoy.
Alas, what the burger elicited was recollections of the Wendy’s commercials of the late 70s in which old women wiped their mouths daintily after every bite. The motto of these commercials was “juicy with lots of napkins.” The Fudd 66 burger as I adorned it was juicy to the point of being run-down-your-arms juicy. The beef (prepared at medium) was juicy, the grilled onions were juicy and the green chile (which was plentiful) was also juicy. Unfortunately the buns are sieve-like; they don’t prevent any of the copious run-off.
A better option would have been the Fudd 66 sans American bleu cheese and grilled onion–just as it’s offered on the menu. Alternatively, the Black & Blue burger (smokehouse bacon, bleu cheese, Balsamic green onions) would have been a good choice. In fact, it’s my favorite of the specialty burgers offered at Fuddruckers.
If you’re not in the mood for burgers, Fuddruckers does serve a passable quarter pound hot dog although it can be overly salted and may call to mind the naval term “salty dog.”
The fries are Texas-sized and generously salted. If you’d rather not be so singularly focused, you can also order “frings”, a basket including both fries and onion rings. The onion rings are thick and crunchy, but nothing special.
The great etymologist Barry Popik explains in his fabulous blog that Fuddruckers is a made-up name and that in its early days the restaurant sometimes called itself “Freddie Fuddruckers.” He believes the name was possibly influenced by the 1970s Texas cocktail called the “Freddie Fudpucker.” Fuddruckers is one of those tongue-twisting names for which invectives are often substituted, but this is strictly a family-friendly, G-rated restaurant most people will like.
4855 Pan American Freeway
LATEST VISIT: 26 September 2009
# OF VISITS: 11
BEST BET: Blue Onion Burger