A 2016 quality of life survey conducted by the city of Albuquerque revealed that denizens of the Duke City are split pretty much down the middle when it comes to the nickname “Burque” (which, by the way, is NOT pronounced “burr-key” though you’ll be forgiven if you can’t roll your r’s). 28-percent of respondents viewed the sobriquet favorably while 28-percent had an unfavorable impression and 35% were neutral. Residents of the Northeast Heights viewed the nickname less favorably than did dwellers of North Valley, downtown, west side and UNM areas. The survey did not address former Mayor Marty Chavez’s 2007 branding efforts to replace Burque with a more generic city nickname, “The Q.”
In response to Mayor Chavez’s perceived folly, a grassroots cultural resistance movement arose. Sporting plain red tee-shirts emblazoned with the words “¡SOY DE BURQUE!, or “I am from Burque,” the movement’s members garnered worldwide support, particularly from former Burqueños. In an interview with The Alibi, the movement’s founder declared, “The Q, more than anything, represents not having a voice. Burque–it’s a name that has been given by the people over generations, and it’s always sort of existed. The Q, the fact that they’re trying to make it modern—who’s to say what’s modern? I think Burque’s modern.”
It’s probably a good thing Burque’s Burgers and Dogs didn’t launch in the Northeast Heights where its name might not be received enthusiastically…and who knows how Mayor Chavez would be received were he to visit the eatery purporting to serve “local luxury street food.” If my inaugural experience is any indication, he probably would have been welcomed graciously. More than at just about any restaurant in which orders are placed at a counter, the staff at Burque’s demonstrated a thorough knowledge of their featured fare while treating guests with kindness.
Burque’s sits in the shadow of Albuquerque’s famous “Chevy On A Stick” on the northwest corner of San Mateo and Gibson. It occupies an edifice that has seen a phalanx of short-lived restaurants over the past several decades. Some of its predecessors seemed to do little more than put up a sign announcing themselves (the proverbial “putting lipstick on a pig” idiom). Not so with Burque’s Burgers and Dawgs which has made the formerly ramshackle building a pristine palace with a bright green and yellow paint job and red trim. You won’t need to use the Chevy On A Stick as a landmark to find it.
The continuity of spotlessness extends to the restaurant’s interior, an attractive and welcoming milieu. There’s only one table on the premises, but picnic tables under a covered patio provide comfortable seating, albeit weather-permitting. Burque’s isn’t necessarily bent on providing sit-down experiences. In fact, the menu on the restaurant’s website is for online ordering. Fittingly, that menu honors the name on the marquee with a bountiful selection of burgers and hot dogs as well as street corn (elotes), fries and such specials as Frito pie, an “ultimate” grilled cheese and “California chicken.”
Also on the menu is New Mexico grown chile, both red and green, made fresh daily. You can have them on your burgers or dogs or enjoy a bowl of the stuff which is made with fresh beef and slow-cooked beans. All items on the menu are fresh, not frozen. Burgers are ground fresh by a local butcher and buns are proffered from a local baker. The “spicy elote corn” is smothered in Mexican crema, sprinkled with Cotija cheese and rubbed with spicy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, all garnished with fresh cilantro and lime. For the tender-tongued among us (okay, you), a grilled corn dipped in sweet butter is also available.
At first glance, my chile cheeseburger (lettuce, tomato, onion, “secret” sauce) had the height of a double-stacked behemoth. Further investigation uncovered the reason for its stature. The lettuce could almost qualify as a “wedge salad” sans dressing. Yep, there was a lot of it. Remove a few leaves and the burger is still more brawny than a Big Mac (I’ve seen pictures). The fresh Hatch green chile is plentiful and it’s got a bit of a kick. The beef patty is well-seasoned and served up at well done though it’s a bit on the super model thin side. Why is it the worse-kept-secret is that secret sauce is almost always based on Thousand Island dressing? Such was the case with Burque’s secret sauce.
The hot dog menu lists a number of intriguing options though the enchilada dog (a hot dog wrapped in a corn tortilla with your choice of red or green chile and cheese) is a bit of a misnomer. That was my opinion and that of the nice couple adjacent to me in one of the picnic tables. In truth, the enchilada is as described. The hot dog (wiener) is wrapped in a corn tortilla, but the corn tortilla is obfuscated by a thick hot dog bun. The critics in the peanut gallery, me included, would have preferred double tortillas, no bread. Now that would have been something different, maybe something special.
If it sounds as if I’m a bit down on Burque’s Burgers & Dawgs, that certainly isn’t the case. My inaugural visit was one of promises not quite fulfilled, of obvious potential not quite realized. There’s enough on the menu to make me want to return and explore further and to wish great success to a fresh, clean, friendly restaurant in a location that is a blight on the city no longer.
Burque’s Burgers & Dawgs
2025 Ridgecrest, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 13 June 2019
# OF VISITS: 1
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Chile Cheeseburger, Enchilada Dog