One of the sure signs of spring and summer in New Mexico is the presence of dust devils, those haphazardly whirling, dirty, dusty dervishes which seem to whip up out of nowhere to vacuum up all surface detritus on their unpredictable paths. Tumbleweeds, trash and soil spin skyward to heights of up to 100 feet only to be deposited–torn, tattered and worse for wear– sometimes great distances from their points of origin.
Normally lasting no longer than a few seconds, dust devils are nature’s hot wind temper tantrum, capable of wreaking havoc quickly and with tremendous force. At their worse, they can rip siding off buildings, snap power lines, overturn lawn furniture, send trash cans careening down the street and propel sheet metal through windows. If a home isn’t well insulated, being on the path of a dust devil will mean a covering of fine sand throughout the home. A dust devil might not transport Dorothy and Toto to Oz, but it will certainly bug the heck out of them.
As prominent a presence as dust devils are throughout New Mexico, they aren’t exactly popular. You certainly won’t find any schools proudly proclaiming the Dust Devil as their mascot. Nor will our state legislature ever designate the dust devil as New Mexico’s official nuisance (an honor it would share with the tumbleweed). Businesses, especially restaurants, certainly won’t go out of their way to name themselves after the dust devil. Smart move! Not a lot of people would eat at a restaurant called “Dust Devil Burgers and Burritos.”
They do frequent in droves, a local restaurant chain called “Twisters Burgers and Burritos.” Why Twister? A twister is a slang term for a tornado, a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud (hence the term “twister).” The word “tornado” finds its genesis in the Spanish word tornar which means “to turn.” Perhaps then it’s no coincidence that everywhere you turn there seems to be another Twisters Grill restaurant. As of this writing, this ubiquitous presence has eleven locations in Albuquerque, two in Rio Rancho, one in Bernalillo and three in Colorado (Aurora, Lakewood and Parker).
Founded in 1998, the premise behind Twisters is that customers want quality food at fast food prices and speed. Place your order at a counter and your meal is delivered to your table. Drive up and your meal is handed to you promptly. Twisters calls it a “fast casual dining experience.” The restaurant’s goal is to exceed customer expectations in value, quality and service. Its menu features red and green chile enhanced New Mexican dishes as well as American favorites.
I must admit that my inaugural visit, a lifetime ago in 2005 was very much a disappointment. Whether attributable to an off-day or a poor-performing location, it would be six years before my next visit. That return visit prompted a second visit only a week thereafter. The third visit validated the findings of my previous visit, confirming that this is a restaurant going places (and not just to Colorado).
Only five “traditional” burritos are available on the lunch menu, all of which are engorged with your choice of meat (beef, chicken or carne adovada) and beans then are topped with fries and smothered with red or green chile (or both), cheese, lettuce and tomato. It’s very similar to and undoubtedly inspired by the world-famous Travis at Grandma Warner’s K&I restaurant. The Twister burrito is available in one-eighth, one-quarter, one-half and full-sizes, any size of which would sate most famished diners.
The Twisters experience starts at breakfast, not a diverse starter to your day, but a satisfying one. Eleven breakfast burritos, many named for New Mexico cities or landmarks (such as Taos, Eubank, South Valley and others), include a “basic” option in which you start with eggs and potatoes then pick your own ingredients. Breakfast burritos are available as a hand-held option or smothered with chile and cheese on top. In September, 2011, Albuquerque The Magazine‘s staff undertook the enviable task of determining the Duke City’s very best breakfast burrito. Twister’s breakfast burrito was rated number six from among very keen competition.
New Mexico platters–enchiladas, chimichangas, burritos, combination–come with slow-cooked beans, Spanish rice, lettuce, tomato and cheese as well as your choice of chile and meat (seasoned ground beef, carne adovada, chicken and shredded beef). The menu also includes New Mexican specialties such as an Indian taco, taco salad, green chile stew, nacho supreme, chicken wrap and a “macho” burrito grande. Also available are seven burgers, each a third pound and dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard and ketchup. Grilled chicken sandwiches offer an alternative to the burgers.
17 July 2020: The green chile cheeseburger is terrific even without the unique baked-on-the-premises sesame seed bun which wasn’t available during this visit. The buns are substantial enough to hold in what is a very moist beef patty (without being greasy) yet not so large and “bready” that they dominates the flavor profile. The beef, all third-pound of it, is prepared to about a medium-well degree of doneness and is seasoned nicely then blanketed with a molten slice of cheese. The green chile would rate mild on a piquancy scale, but it has a pleasant flavor and occasionally, an incendiary note will sneak out. Burgers are served with curly fries, a nice change of pace if you eat them right away. Take them to go and by the time they get to your destination they’re desiccated and tasteless.
30 June 2021: Culinary cognoscenti declared 2019 the year of the chicken sandwich largely on the pop culture craze generated by competition between Popeye’s and Chick Fil-A. It didn’t take long before mom-and-pop restaurants were outshining their chain competitors. On 19 June 2021 Twisters entered the fray with an incendiary offering that will water your eyes and scorch your taste buds even as it earns your affection and respect with its capsaicin-blessed heat and flavor. Twisters’ chicken sandwich has been christened the Scorpion Ranch Chicken Sandwich. It’s sure to be a heat…er, hit with volcano-eating New Mexicans.
This crispy chicken sandwich behemoth combines locally sourced ingredients such as Young Guns Hatch Valley Chile and Taos Hum Hot Sauce. The sandwich can be ordered two ways: classic or ultimate. The classic sandwich consists of the crispy chicken, pickles and scorpion ranch, whereas the ultimate sandwich includes crispy chicken, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and the Scorpion Ranch Sauce. My Kim and I split one of each. More accurately I ate the better part of two Scorpion Ranch Chicken Sandwiches as they proved too fiery for my bride. My assessment–if you’ve ever been called a chicken, you might not appreciate the piquancy of this poultry between buns, but if you’ve got a bit of asbestos on your tongue and taste buds you’ll enjoy this sandwich very much.
17 July 2020: Among the burritos are two stand-outs, the shredded beef burrito (potato, green chile and cheese) and the carne adovada burrito (potato, red chile and cheese). Consider it heretical if you will, but these burritos are as good or better than the extremely popular burritos at Golden Pride. The carne adovada burrito, in particular, showcases tender tendrils of perfectly moist, delicious and rich pork marinated in a flavorful red chile. The shredded beef is equally tender and though not marinated in chile, is quite good.
17 July 2020: Want tacos? Twisters has tacos in every conceivable form: taco salad, Baja fish tacos, Indian tacos and your standard everyday taco taco (made with your choice of crispy corn or soft flour tortilla). The Baja fish taco (two battered fish filet tacos double-wrapped in corn tortillas with pico de gallo and a spicy aioli sauce) isn’t bad with the pico de gallo a more than adequate replacement for the much more common coleslaw.
In the two decades plus in which Twisters has been serving the Land of Enchantment, it’s earned a loyal following among burger and burrito aficionados. The names on the marquee are only two of the reasons.
Twisters Burgers & Burritos
9358 Eagle Ranch Road, NW
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LATEST VISIT: 17 July 2020
# OF VISITS: 7
BEST BET: Carne Adovada Burrito, Shredded Beef Burrito, Chicken Wrap, Green Chile Cheeseburger, Indian Taco, Tacos, Salsa