Burger 21 – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Burger 21 in Albuquerque Uptown

When people pile seven things onto one burger, it drives me nuts!”
~Bobby Flay

Burger meals at the Garduño home are always an interesting dichotomy, some might say a clash of opposing ideals and styles.  For my Kim, a burger is about the meat to bun ratio ameliorated by a minimum of tried and true ingredients, usually just lettuce, relish and mustard (yawn).  For her mad scientist of a husband, meat and buns are tabula rasa, merely starting points for experimentation with sundry ingredient combinations.  Over the years I’ve become rather adept at figuring out what ingredients work well together to create burgers that please my pedantic palate, titillate my tongue and arouse my olfactory senses.  Until I become bored with it, my current favorite homemade burger is constructed with an 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat, hand-formed beef patty, smoked Cheddar, caramelized onions, honey mustard and Ted’s hot dog hot sauce (thank you, Becky

Without delving into the neuropsychology of flavor and its nuances, the art and science of constructing burgers is largely a matter of personal taste.  Many people are fairly monogamous about their burgers (not that  there’s anything wrong with that) while some of us are more polyamorous.  For the latter, options are only as limited as your travel budget.  Want a three-quarter-pounder Black Angus beef burger covered in a scoop of hot fudge-drizzled vanilla ice cream, a maraschino cherry on top with an Irish flag in it?  You can find it at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida.  Prefer your burger layered with peanut butter, bacon, and fried bananas, and dusted with cinnamon and sugar.  It’s available for you at the Boston Burger Company.  How about Australian Wagyu beef with sautéed foie gras, shaved truffles, and black truffle sauce?  It’s yours for sixty-dollars at the Burger Bar in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The 24X7

Unconventional burger toppings haven’t always been as readily available or widely accepted as they are today.  In fact, since the 1900 invention of the hamburger by Louis Lunch in Hartford, Connecticut, the most significant burger ingredient innovations were cheese in the 1930s and bacon in the 1960s. The first decade of the 21st century accelerated the evolution-revolution of burgers with the widespread proliferation of “gourmet” burgers and their catch-as-catch-can toppings.  By the 2010s, “buns that aren’t buns” began gaining traction, offering consumers such options as burgers with doughnuts, ramen, waffles and even mac and cheese as buns.  If the first two decades of this century are any indication, the future portends a sky’s the limit approach to the sacrosanct burger.

A preview of that future came to Albuquerque’s burgeoning Uptown shopping district with the December, 2018 launch of Burger 21, a restaurant which purports to be obsessed with burgers.  Sure it’s a chain, but it’s a chain after my own heart–a restaurant for which burgers aren’t just another meal.   Burger 21’s website raves “we Chef craft our burgers with obsessive zeal.  We don’t compromise on quality or ingredients.  We are burgers reinvented.”   Reinvented!  How can you not love that?  As an avowed aficionado of creative burger deliciousness, I just had to try it.  Besides that, even if the ingredients aren’t creative enough for me, burgers constructed from hand-cut 100% certified Angus beef have got to be good.

The 101

Why 21?  The restaurant’s founding vision was “the best 21 reinvented burgers on the planet,” but they didn’t stop at just 21.  As of this writing, Burger 21 has created nearly sixty different burgers.  Not all of them are on the menu which today showcases nine beef burgers not counting its “elusive, get-it-while-you-can featured seasonal burger” and just for New Mexico, the 505, a green chile cheeseburger showcasing Hatch green chile.  Also on the menu are six tuna, chicken and veggie burgers including the vegan plant-based “Impossible” burger.  Slider three-packs fill out the burger menu though you can innovate further with add-ons.  Fresh salads, fries and sides as well as chicken tenders are available when you’re not in the mood for a burger.  Shakes, by the way, are every bit as creative as the burgers.

As someone who thinks about food 24 X 7 X 365, it was only fitting that my inaugural burger would be the aptly named 24/7 (100 percent certified Angus beef patty, over-easy egg, applewood smoked bacon, cayenne maple syrup, American cheese, Thai ketchup, potato crisp on a toasted brioche bun).  More than any of the beef burgers on the menu, it sounded like something I would have invented–save for the potato crisp.  Predictably, the potato crisp (which was nearly as thick as the beer patty) was not only dry, it took away from the moistness and flavor of the other ingredients, so much so that the ostensibly assertive cayenne maple syrup and Thai ketchup were virtually lost.  Take it from this mad scientist, ask for the potato crisp on the side.  It’ll make for a much better burger.

Apple Orchard Salad

Also predictably, my Kim took a burger with most of her favorite ingredients and undressed it.  Her choice was the 101 (100 percent certified Angus beef patty, 21 sauce, lettuce, wine-ripened tomato on a brioche bun).  Her “reinvention” essentially denuded the burger, substituting a wheat bun for the brioche and leaving only the beef patty and the 21 sauce (mustard, ketchup, mayo, dill pickle juice, cayenne pepper and garlic).  Aaargh!  Okay, it was a pretty good burger and that sauce was dynamite, but somewhere Burger 21’s chef is probably pulling his or her hair.  The 21 sauce should be bottled and sold.

Instead of French fries or onion strings, we opted for the Apple Orchard salad (mixed greens, tart Granny Smith apple slices, goat cheese crumbles, grapes, walnuts, green apple vinaigrette), one of three fresh salads on the menu. As expected, the prominent notes on this artisan salad were tartness from the apple slices and green apple vinaigrette and savory richness from the walnuts and goat cheese crumbles.  A few more goat cheese crumbles would counterbalance the not quite lip-pursing tartness of the salad.

Should Burger 21 ever need another creative consultant for its burger invention department, there’s a certain sesquipedalian gastronome who’s got some unique ideas.

Burger 21
2100 Louisiana,  N.E., Suite 818
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 208-0789
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 15 December 2018
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Apple Orchard Salad, The 24X7, The 101
REVIEW #1081

Burger 21 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, nearly 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,100 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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4 Comments on “Burger 21 – Albuquerque, New Mexico”

  1. Apple Orchard Salad – is it a salad salad, or a fruit salad? Cayenne Maple Syrup on a burger? Honey Mustard? A burger dusted with sugar and cinnamon? What is this obsession to add some kind of sweetener to traditionally savory dishes, then say that makes it “gourmet.” No wonder type II diabetes is at epidemic levels in this country.
    Oooo, let me propose my own gourmet menu, which I have presumably made gourmet by merely adding something sweet to something savory.
    Blueberry Corn Dogs
    Lentil burger with special agave syrup sauce served on a funnel cake.
    Cheeseburger with a honey/green chile relish (the Bobby Flay special) on a pumpkin bread bun
    Sauerkraut and Mandarin Orange slaw
    Chicken and waffles with honey/maple syrup (wait, that one has been done already)
    Black cherry Kool-aid/turbinado sugar-brined Cumin-crusted Beef filet
    Twice-candied pork fritters dusted with powdered sugar.
    Garlic French fries with banana coulis
    Pizza Margherita with anchovy and crunched-up Sweet-tarts
    Maraschino cherries and sugar crystals swathed in a velvety caramel/brown mustard sauce served over fresh horseradish gingerbread.

    1. As you well know, my friend, I get easily bored with one-note foods or eating the same thing more than once or twice a year and tend to gravitate to adventurous foods constructed from ingredients others might consider discordant. Today, for example, I had a pan-seared albacore tuna banh mi from Coda Bakery that would have made your “gourmet” menu. The albacore tuna was shredded and doused in a Korean bbq sauce much like you’d find in bulgogi. It took about one and a half bites to determine I don’t like sweet tuna.

  2. The strongest ontological argument for the existence of God is the presence on earth of a wide-variety of hamburgers from which to choose.

    At home, it starts with a bun that doesn’t aspire to be a derby hat. My current favorite is Pretzilla – made with malted barley flour – available at Whole Foods and my house. If you use a 80/20 fat ratio hamburger meat (I’ve been known to push it to 70/30) the Pretzilla bun will soak up the meat fat as fast as a politician will retract an embarrassing Tweet.

    My wife recently remarked that I was a “condiment freak.” And so it goes, as Vonnegut would say. I am an unapologetic “condiment freak.” And unlike a cut of steak, which necessarily comes from the meat of a single cow, hamburgers are almost always a mishmash of many cows. And a mishmash of many cows cries out for a mishmash of condiments.

    Green chile, mustard, and jalapeño pepper jack cheese. Yes, I’ll take that. Reduced balsamic vinegar and melted gorgonzola cheese. I’ll take that, too. As our founding fathers put it so wisely, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Condiments,” only to revise the latter to “Happiness” as they were wary of defining “happiness” too specifically.

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