Like him or not, few would disagree that former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici was one of the most effective legislators on either side of the aisle. Since his election to the United States Senate in 1972, “Saint Pete” as he is known by admirers and critics alike effectively directed the appropriation of significant federal largesse upon the Land of Enchantment. For many native New Mexicans, one of his shining moments came in 1983. During a debate about the spelling of the word (chili or chile), Domenici clarified for the Congressional record that “chili” is “that inedible mixture of watery tomato soup, dried gristle, half-cooked kidney beans, and a myriad of silly ingredients that is passed off as food in Texas and Oklahoma.”
Motivated by Dominici’s impassioned plea, on November 14, 1983 the Albuquerque Journal declared “The I’s of Texas are no longer on us. ‘Chili is dead. The only time we will use “i” will be when we quote the written word of some Texan.” Not to be outdone, in January, 1988 a bipartisan bill was introduced in the New Mexico State Legislature threatening that any New Mexican who misspells “chile” as “chili will automatically be deported to Texas. Ever an inclusive and progressive state, New Mexico’s tolerance for the aberrant spelling has been relaxed a bit, especially since some restaurants actually serve the Texan dish. Spinn’s Burger & Beer comes to mind.
Many New Mexicans acknowledge that the word “chili” exists only as an aberration. We spell the dish, plant and pod correctly–with an “e.” Place a bowl of hot Texas chili in front of a New Mexican and most of us would consume it (or attempt bravely to do so)–if only to deride it as anecdotal evidence that not only is its spelling incorrect, the product is inferior. Few of us will ever admit to admiring the concoction Texans proudly call chili and if we ever hit upon a bowl we actually like, we’re not going to tell anyone.
As a stubborn native New Mexican, I wouldn’t even begrudgingly admit to liking the Texas chili at Spinn’s Burgers & Beer–even if I did. The fact that I didn’t like it at all (the cumin was just overwhelming) makes writing about it more sincere. That chili is available as an appetizer in cup or bowl portions and even better (because the cumin is diluted a bit), as an option on Spinn’s Frank-n-Steins–plump, juicy sausages steamed in beer and available in three varieties, all served on poppy seed rolls and garnished as you like them.
The Frank-n-Stein is a jumbo all beef frank, the Polish-stein is a spicy Polish sausage (a dog that bites back) and the Brat-n-Stein is bratwurst steamed in beer and browned on the grill (have it with sauerkraut which is excellent). There are few hot dogs in Albuquerque as good as those offered at Spinn’s, a July, 2006 newcomer to the Albuquerque dining scene which closed in 2010 only to reopen in May, 2011, albeit in a smaller location within a mile of the original site. In its new digs, Spinns has downsized significantly while retaining much of the charms which made it a very popular dining destination during its nearly four-year run.
The first restaurant venture for Texas born and bred entrepreneur Mike Spinn, the eponymous Spinns serves local hand-crafted Mable Micro Brew beers….but for me, the big draw is the food. Aside from “chili” (my well-trained spellchecker is yelling at me about that horrid spelling), the menu includes gourmet burgers, flame-grilled Angus steaks and other Texas staples such as country fried chicken strips and gravy.
The burgers start off as more than a third-pound of fresh ground Angus beef that’s never been frozen. All burgers are served with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and mustard–all on the side so you can use them in the proportions you want. Burgers are cooked medium-well unless you request otherwise. Order the green chile cheeseburger with double meat and double cheese even though the menu indicates it’s made with green “chili” (why hasn’t Mike Spinn been deported to Texas for that offensive spelling). It takes two hands to handle this baby and five or six napkins to wipe your lips as you eat it. There are two Wendy’s commercials which more aptly describe a burger at Spinn’s than they ever did at the perpetually third-place burger chain. A Spinn’s burger answers the Wendy’s question “where’s the beef?”. The beef overruns the bun at Spinn’s. The second Wendy’s commercial befitting a Spinn’s burger is the one for the “hot and juicy” burger which required multiple napkins.
After our respective first bites during our inaugural visit, my friend Bill Resnik and I exclaimed almost in unison “Rex’s.” Spinn’s burgers are indeed reminiscent of those served at Rex’s Hamburgers, an Albuquerque institution which closed in 2005 only to return in 2008. That’s a compliment. That means the burgers are juicy and delicious. While the green chili (aaargh!) is only mildly piquant (at least for this fire-eater), it is a flavorful addition to a delicious and well-seasoned burger (dare I say probably the very best burger on the Duke City’s west side). It’s also one of the very best green chile cheeseburgers in the great state of New Mexico and would kick the butt of any burger in Texas.
A large lone star festoons one wall, an audacious display considering New Mexicans seem to have a bit of competitive disdain for their neighbor, but even the most proud New Mexican will embrace the Texas BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger. This carnivore’s dream is best when served double-double style and prepared at medium. Barbecue sauce is applied lightly–only enough to be faintly noticeable. That allows the the meat and bacon to star. The bacon is thick and smoky and the beef is juicy and flavorful. Carbohydrate avoiders will love the beef at Spinn’s.
Few things go as well with burgers as French Fries, a culinary marriage that works best with crispy fries that don’t start off frozen and in a bag. At Spinn’s the fries are freshly cut and fried to order and are golden brown and delicious. They’re easily some of the best fries in Albuquerque, by far better than the out-of-a-bag aberrations. Spinn’s onion rings are large and sweet (possibly Vidalia onions) and are among the best restaurant onion rings on the West side.
In addition to the Double/Double, Spinn’s signature gourmet burger line-up includes a Texas BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, a Queso burger (served open-face with queso), and an Armadillo Burger (a six-ounce all-beef patty, green chili, bacon and egg smothered in Texas chili and cheese placed on top of a flour tortilla) and a tortilla burger. Extras include peppered bacon, avocados, cheese, mushrooms, green chili and an egg over easy. You can also request a wheat bun on request. The tortilla burger is excellent and an even better way to hold in all the juiciness of a very moist burger.
Juiciness seems to be a hallmark of Spinn’s beef and not just on the burgers. Spinn’s rendition of the Philadelphia Cheesesteak is one of the very best in the Duke City. There are two ways you can have it–the conventional Philly style with onions and green peppers and New Mexico style with green chile. An even better way would be to have it with onions, green peppers and New Mexican green chile. The green chile has a nice bite to it, more than any other green chile Philly in town. Spinn’s uses a very creamy white American cheese that goes very well with the beef.
My friend Señor Plata’s father once told him that chicken fried steak was something his family would eat during the great Depression. It hasn’t stopped Señor Plata from enjoying it more than anyone I’ve met outside of Texas where chicken fried steak is practically a religion. Texas born Mike Spinns obviously worshiped at that altar a few times. His restaurant’s version is among the best in town. The tenderized cube steak is thick and fork-tender. It’s covered in a peppery gravy that gives it wake-up qualities. The chicken fried steak is served with two sides.
A large mural festoons the south wall of the Spinn’s location. Painted by popular local muralist Karen Deaton, it depicts several glitterati (including James Dean, Shirley Temple, Nat King Cole and Marilyn Monroe) enjoying themselves with beer and burgers. On the mural’s bottom right corner was a sight familiar to anyone who’s driven in West Texas–an armadillo on its back. What most of us haven’t seen, however, is that armadillo quaffing a bottle of Lone Star beer while on its back. It’s a whimsical mural that kept your eyes busy while you waited for your food and beverage order.
I’m not sure Saint Pete would appreciate the menu’s malapropisms, but I’ll bet he’d like most of the food (except maybe the chili).
Spinn’s Burgers & Beer
4411 Montano Road, N.W., Suite A
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 4 September 2016
# OF VISITS: 8
BEST BET: Green Chili Cheeseburger; Polish-Stein; Onion Rings; French Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, Texas BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, Philadelphia Cheesesteak (New Mexico Style), Chicken Fried Steak
14 thoughts on “Spinn’s Burgers & Beer – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
#9 on my Best GCCB Hall of Fame List.
Larry’s New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger (GCCB) Quest
I order GCCBs Competition Style (for uniformity of comparison).
Bun, patty, cheese, and green chiles. No adulterants or contaminants.
This is a living list. Check often for updates.
Revised December 8, 2013
Sparky’s (Hatch) ♥♥♥♥♥
Owl Bar (San Antonio)
Horseman’s Haven Cafe (Santa Fe)
Owl Cafe (Albuquerque)
Indigo Crow (Corrales)
Griff’s Hamburgers (Albuquerque)
Corrales Bistro Brewery (Corrales)
Perea’s Tijuana Bar (Corrales)
Spinn’s Burger & Beer (Albuquerque)
The Grill on Menaul (Albuquerque)
GCCB excellent. 7/10 piquancy.
Hand-cut fries were soggy and oily.
Stick with the burgers.
Just tried the new Spinn’s after seeking a westside solution for my burger with an over easy egg craving. Wow did they deliver a great burger to our table. I ordered a BBQ Bacon double burger and added avocado and an egg. Since Lumpy’s is now closed I was in need of a replacement burger fix. Let me know if you would like the photo I took before it disappeared.
Joined Boomer, Beeeel and Sensei for Boomers big birthday and celebrated with Spinns Chicken Fried Steak, it was excellent! A lot of good meat that was different than other places those claimed big were squashed like a massive pancake, oh no, this was nicely seasoned, floured correctly, enough food for Sr Plata to be full and something I want to have again. It came with very good mashed potatoes, not sure if they had the skins but were loaded with gravy that had no meat and yes, brought joy to my stomach. I was impressed with the french fries, they were real and good but next time will ask for them more crispy (sorry I am a pain about my crispy fries) and it was finished with some nice buttered toast. This is a really good place for a burger and it was awesome to share with my friends… Happy Birthday Boomer!!!
I visited the new location of Spinn’s last week. Their new location is a bit hidden off Montano (across from Dion’s), but I am glad that I visited. I was not a regular customer at the old location, so it is hard for me to review\compare the menu (Which has been slightly condensed from what I heard), but I had a Green Chile burger, and I must say, it was one of the best burgers on the west side of town. Mine was ample in size, flavor and fresh condiments to throw on top. I had a side of fries which as mentioned above are very good; my only suggestion would be to double the portion.
Have not been to the new location yet, just noticed it last weekend. I’m excited to go back. As you mentioned, the burgers are probably the best on the West Side. But I have to tell you, my main reason for going to Spinn’s are the Fresh Cut Fries and Onion Rings!!! MMM.
Also, just took a look at their web-site and saw no mention of their Hot Link Sandwich. I really hope they have not done away with it :-(. The last 3 or 4 times I went to Spinn’s, I passed up on the burger to get this delicious sandwich. For $3.95 it was to die for!
Maybe the little lady and I will go this weekend, and I pray that the Hot Link is on the menu…or I just may raise some h#ll :-). j/k, but I may resort to drowning my sorrows in a Marble Brewery (Amber please) beverage or three!!!
Spinn’s is coming back! Close to the old location too! The only downside I see to the new location is how small it is going to be as compared to the old location. Spinn’s will be located at Coors and Montano in the shopping center on the hill. The sign is already up!!! I’am looking forward to Spinn’s re-opening and have missed it for some time, especially their sweet potatoe fries!!! Welcome back Spinn’s!
Spinn’s makes the best Philly Steak Sandwiches in town, bar none. I can hardly wait for them to open up again so I can have one.
The Albuquerque area has a surprisingly high number of excellent Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches. To assuage your cravings until Spinn’s opens up again, you might want to try Petitto’s Pizzeria’s version. It’s crafted with thinly shaved shards of beef (imported from Philadelphia) and served on hoagie roll made by Amoroso’s Baking, which “makes the rolls that make Philly sandwiches famous.” Petitto’s, by the way, was featured in the May, 2010 edition of an Albuquerque The Magazine feature entitled “An Ex-Pat’s Guide to the Food You Miss.”
My friend Sean O’Donnell, a Pennsylvania native, swears by the Philly Cheesesteak at Itsa Italian Ice while a number of people, including one of my most trusted foodie sources, Barbara Trembath, love the Philly Cheesesteak at Tickles & Snooks, my favorite purveyor of piquant poultry (best and hottest chicken wings in town).
I read on another site that Spinn’s decided not to renew their lease at this location and will reopen at a different ( unknown ) West Side location…hope so!
There is a closed sign and a “Tomato Cafe – Summer 2010” over the Spinn’s sign as of 3/19/10.
Texas style seafood, seriously? It’s frozen stuff dropped in a fryer and served with grease dripping off. Hamburgers seem to get good reviews but don’t order anything fried. Too many other decent restaurant options to waste time here.
I ate there a few times, but i won’t go back. The food is too greasy to be enjoyable. Also, the service is somewhat slow.
Yes, Spinn’s does make a pretty good burger but I won’t be back. The first time we went it took 45 minutes to get our food. The second time we didn’t get ANY service for over 15 minutes and finally just walked out, even with the owner and a server sitting at the table next to us “fixing” menus…