Roswell, New Mexico is a stodgy conservative town where sidewalks are rolled up early. Change comes to the state’s fifth largest city as slowly as the twangy, lazy cadence of a Texas drawl. So does embracing opportunity. Consider the so-called Roswell Incident of 1947. It took 55 years before Roswell opened its UFO museum and another three years before its first UFO Festival. Because Roswell is such an anachronism, you might think a tatted-up chef with a dystopian haircut would stick out like a sore thumb. Ask anyone who’s experienced that chef’s gourmet burgers and amiable manner and they’ll tell Chef Todd Alexander doesn’t stick out, he stands out. So does his effervescent partner in business and in life Kerry Moore.
Chef Todd and Kerry are tattooed, tee-shirt wearing cool in a town defined by button-down plaid western wear. They’re cool enough to be themselves—no pretensions or snobbery, just genuine down-to-earth friendliness. They’d never brag about their pedigrees though they certainly would have reason to do so. Chef Todd has serious culinary creds, having plied his craft in five star, five diamond hotel kitchens. Kerry has a Master’s Degree in Marketing and managed food services at the Roswell Independent School District.
About a decade ago, they launched Roswell’s first real mobile food kitchen you couldn’t characterize as a roach coach. They christened their culinary conveyance “Chef Toddzilla’s” and proudly proclaimed of “quality, freshness and a severe case of “give a damns.”” Not only did they boast of the “best burger in Roswell,” they more than one-upped that boast in declaring it “nay, the best burger in the universe!” It’s not bragging if you can back it up and Chef Todd and Kerry have done that. In September, 2017, Chef Toddzilla’s made the transition from food truck to brick-and-mortar restaurant, albeit one with no interior seating.
In 2016 and 2017, Chef Toddzilla’s was voted the very best food truck burger in the country. Not just Roswell or New Mexico or the Southwest, but best darn burger under spacious skies, besting burgers from much larger metropolises. Chef Toddzilla’s has also made two appearances on the Cooking Channel, once on a program called Pizza Masters and once on Carnival Eats. Okay, since you’re probably wondering what a gourmet burger truck would be doing on a pizza show, Pizza Masters is actually about two Italian pizza chefs who traveled across the fruited plain sampling local fare.
With a nationwide profile and serious creds, you might think locals would be lined up around the block to enjoy Roswell’s most famous burgers. Sadly, that wasn’t the case on the day of our inaugural visit. Kerry admitted that savvy tourists who make restaurants integral to their travels have no problem finding them, but locals sometimes forget they’re there. Being located one block off the heavily trafficked Highway 285 and at the town’s north end, Toddzilla’s just isn’t on the well-beaten, well-eaten path. In a more cosmopolitan city like Austin or even Phoenix, locals and tourists would be packing Toddzilla’s.
Deciding which burger or grilled sandwich to order is a Roswellian task—slow and deliberate, not something you want to rush. The options are mouth-watering. Though many of us so-called burger aficionados swear by a lean to fat ratio of 80/20, Chef Todd constructs burgers with a virtually unheard of 90/10 ratio. He adds fat—and flavor—back in by blending bacon into the hand-formed beef patty. This interesting twist on a burger with bacon really works! The burger menu has several interesting twists, including a PB&J burger (think Thai BBQ flavor) and a chorizo burger.
A variation on the chorizo burger was served to the masses at the 2016 Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown in Santa Fe. It’s what the chef served me when I couldn’t make up my mind and asked him to “just serve me something.” This is a very special burger. The chorizo is made from a unique blend of pork loin (a very lean pork), bacon (adding fat) and local red chile. It’s much better chorizo than what you’ll have for breakfast tomorrow. Sandwiched between the chorizo and a fried egg (over easy) is green chile with a pleasant piquancy. With my very first bite, projectile egg yolk exploded onto the table. Each successive bite was a swoon-worthy delight. You can bet this burger will be on Gil’s “best of the best” for 2019.
My Kim surprised me with a choice even more adventurous than mine. She asked for a grilled chorizo sandwich with peanut butter and jelly (grape). Though she’s a fanatic PB&J devotee, I was shocked she would consider so many seemingly disparate flavors together and even more surprised that she loved the flavor combinations. The peanut butter and jelly meets chorizo did inspire a reminiscence of Thai peanut sauce and pork satay. Hmm, maybe Chef Todd should consider chorizo satay. With his dynamite chorizo, it would be phenomenal.
Only patio seating is available at Chef Toddzilla’s Gourmet Burgers, but neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night should stay burger aficionados from treking to one of the very best burger restaurants in the Southwest.
Chef Toddzilla’s Gourmet Burgers
107 Twin Diamond
Roswell, New Mexico
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LATEST VISIT: 1 March 2019,
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Smackdown Burger, PB&J and Chorizo Sandwich, French Fries, Tumbleweeds, Watermelon Lemonade