“Traveling with the rodeo
It’s the only life I’ll ever know
I started in New Mexico
Must have been a thousand years ago.”
~Lyrics to “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” by Paul Davis
Although my friends and I were all fairly accomplished horse riders in the svelte and carefree days of our youth, Peñasco didn’t have a high school rodeo team so we couldn’t show off our skills in the arena of competition. Instead we entertained ourselves with such non-sanctioned “rodeo” events as hand-fishing for bottom-feeding suckers and tossing them into a chicken coop where a frenzied take-away melee would ensue with feathers and fish entrails flying. We also enjoyed tossing wet bailing wire into electrical wires overhead. if done right, the bailing wire returned to earth a smoldering ashen heap reminiscent of snake fireworks.
Risking life and limb with thousands of volts of electrical current was child’s play compared to riding rambunctious young bulls who would invariably toss us to the ground with impunity. My days of bull riding ended when a recalcitrant bull was spooked by a horse who aimed a kick at my flank, leaving me no recourse but to jump off into a fresh, fetid pile of horse and cow sh…er, excrement. Memories of walking home to face my mom covered head-to-toe in manure were rekindled when a Burger King commercial for its new “rodeo burger” aired. It wasn’t the brawny beef on the hoof we rode I associated with that commercial, but the dung pile into which I fell. That’s the “appeal” chain restaurants seem to have with me.
I did a double-take when first spotting the NM Rodeo Burgers restaurant in Rio Rancho. My first thought was of the maverick rodeo days of my youth then of America’s eagerly litigious society and its affinity for copyright infringement lawsuits. A quick Google search revealed a number of Rodeo Burgers throughout the fruited plain and even Canada so copyright shouldn’t be an issue. Side note: Even though Rio Rancho can’t claim the very first Rodeo Burgers restaurant across the fruited plain, the Land of Enchantment is one of several claimants to having held the very first rodeo in America. That rodeo transpired in Santa Fe some 65 years before New Mexico joined the Union. Take that Texas!
The NM Rodeo Burgers is more a “joint” than a “restaurant.” There are no indoor sit-down amenities save for a handful of concrete picnic tables where you can dine al fresco (or “al viento” on windy days). To place your order, you can either drive up or walk up to the counter at the front of the edifice which once housed a Weinerschnitzel (which long ago misplaced its “Der”). While its address (900 36th Place, N.E.) may sound residential and unfamiliar, look for it off Southern Boulevard in the same cul-de-sac which is home to the Turtle Mountain Brewery.
The Rodeo Burgers menu (pictured above) may be limited in terms of sheer numbers, but for sheer variety look within the burgers themselves. The Cowboy Burger, for example, includes spam and green bell peppers, two ingredients not often found in burgers around these parts. The 8 Second Burger is even more uniquely adorned. If you’re inclined to think these burgers were designed by a rodeo clown, you really need to lasso one before passing judgment.
You’d think that with my personal rodeo experiences, my inaugural burger would have been the 8 Second Burger (in the rodeo vernacular, eight seconds is the length of time a rider should remain on a bucking bull for it to be considered a good ride). Even cowboys start with baby steps, ergo the Cowboy Burger. What caused me most trepidation is actually one of the best aspects of this burger. That would be the Spam (ukuleles playing Home on the Range in the background) which, though a bit salty, complemented the beef very well. The green chile, described as mild chopped green chile, actually has more bite than found in most green chile cheeseburgers. The beef patty extended beyond the sesame seed buns and the burger was made fresh to order. On the debits and credits side of the ledger, these were the credits.
On the debits side, the beef is prepared at medium-well, a degree of doneness which almost always means desiccated beef (no napkins necessary). The green peppers are sliced into rather thick ribbons which makes them more prevalent an ingredient than all but the most ardent green pepper lovers would enjoy. The lettuce was a bit wilted. Still, this is a burger I’ll order again if only to confirm how good Spam can be on a burger.
The same can’t be said for the Rancher, a hot dog whose composition isn’t described on the drive-up menu. Certainly the ranching profession is far from glamorous, but a restaurant creative enough to add Spam to a burger can certainly gussy up a hot dog with exciting and innovative ingredients. Alas, upon wrapping the Rancher at home, it was nothing more than a toasted bun with a sliced hot dog. No mustard. No onions. No relish. No sense of rodeo adventure. If the ordering protocol is to stipulate the ingredients with which you want your hot dog prepared, it certainly wasn’t described anywhere. Grrrrr!
Rodeo Burgers shows some imagination and creativity in its menu, but must perform well on every single order or discerning diners won’t return.
NM Rodeo Burgers
900 36th Place, N.E.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 5 September 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET:Cowboy Burger