The Local Brewhouse – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

The Local Brewhouse in Rio Rancho

Before reading any further, the biggest take-away from this review is that the Local Brewhouse serves the best burger in Rio Rancho.  That’s not only what the marquee says.  It’s what City of Vision diners know.  My Kim and I, too.  

Service is horrible”  “The management has to train there employees.”  “Worst service ever! I can’t stress on how bad the service was.”  “Nice views. Lousy service and rude staff.”  “Service sucks. Waited 20mins between beers.”   Those are one-star reviews on Yelp for The Local Brewhouse in Rio Rancho.  At the extreme opposite are five star reviews extolling the service some Yelp reviewers found unacceptable: “Shout out to Rhiannon, our server for friendly, prompt, and efficient service.”  “Had a big gathering and they could not have been more accommodating! Super friendly.”  “The service is the best in the state.”  “5 stars all the way. Great service. Great food. Great beer.”

For better or worse, many of us–90% according to Infographics read online reviews before visiting a business and 88% of us trust  those online reviews.  Our quandary as consumers is learning to filter the outliers–the reviewers who accord one-star ratings on Yelp and TripAdvisor for the very same things other reviewers accord five-star ratings.  That’s the way it is with crowd-sourced reviews. It can be frustrating and it can be entertaining.  Ultimately, the only way to find out for sure is to take the plunge yourself.  That’s what we did when we visited The Local Brewhouse.  An hour and a half later we wished we had taken the plunge sooner.

Interior of the Spacious Brewhouse

The Local Brewhouse has the distinction of being the northwestern-most bar in the metropolitan area.  It also boasts of the largest patio in the City of Vision, one with spectacular sunset views of the Sandias.   More than a lot of restaurants, it seems to have the greatest disparity of reviewers who love it and those who don’t.  From among the 112 reviews (as of the date of this writing) on Yelp, a whopping 36 reviews give the Local Brewhouse five stars and 27 nay-sayers say it warrants one-star.  That means more than half (56.25%) of its reviews are either five stars or one star.

What struck me most in perusing reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor was not the polar extreme ratings or the entertaining comments of the misanthropes who didn’t like The Local Brewhouse, but just how many reviewers sang the praises of the burgers:  “Shout out to the kitchen for one of the best burgers eaten in a while.”  “Their biker burger is the BEST.”  “The burgers are also amazing.”  “I’ve had their burgers before & was very impressed.”  “The burger was excellent.”  There are other similar comments about the burgers but you get the point.

The Largest Patio in Rio Rancho

As a bona fide burgerphile, the number of reviews for The Local Brewhouse touting the burgers perked up my taste buds.  Studying the menu with rapt interest practically had me salivating.  There are only five burgers on the menu, but they showcase “six-ounce hand-pattied burgers cooked to your liking on a toasted brioche with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles with your choice of side.”  We sat on the table closest to the large window to the kitchen where we watched an assiduous staff fill orders with a quiet efficiency that belies the stereotype of the noisy kitchen.

25 June 2021: As we perused the menu, we asked our server to recommend an appetizer, most of which are somewhat anachronistic: fried pickles, fried mushrooms, fried zucchini, mozzarella sticks, onion rings and so forth.  Though we hadn’t ordered some of those since their halcyon days in the 70s, we took our server’s advice and ordered the fried zucchini.  It was an excellent choice.  Somehow the cooks managed to prepare fried zucchini that looked like fish planks.  They were thick and long with a light breading.  Best of all, they weren’t mushy at all like we remembered 70s fried zucchini to be.  This fried zucchini was crisp while being fried all the way through.  That in itself is a minor miracle.  Moreover, each zucchini plank was delicious with a ranch dressing that really complemented them well.  Fried zucchini–who’d have known?

Fried Zucchini with Ranch Dressing

Our “maybe we really have something here” feeling persisted when my Kim’s Blue Burger (blue cheese crumbles, crispy applewood smoked bacon and avocado) was delivered to our table.  Condiments (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle) are served on the side instead of under the bun.  This is a tactic great burger restaurants employ to ensure buns don’t get soggy–and it allows you to use as much or as little of the condiments as you’d like.  Mustard and ketchup are positioned on each table as are napkins (and you’re going to need a few of them).

25 June 2021: It’s extremely rare for my Kim to ever order a burger much less finish one.  When she does finish one, especially a burger the size of this behemoth, you know it’s got to be good.  The Blue Burger was magnificent–large enough for a bull of a man, but good enough for a delicate flower of a woman.  Though I often lament “there’s not enough blue cheese” on this burger, the Blue Burger had just enough of the fetid fromage to appease this turophile.  A rasher or two of the applewood smoked bacon would have made us happier, but that wasn’t to be.  The hand-formed patty was prepared to my Kim’s exacting specifications (medium) and had that five-napkin juiciness we love.  

The Blue Burger

25 June 2021: Our experiences with brew pubs, bars and gastropubs serving burgers haven’t always been memorable.  We’ll both remember Steve’s Burger (applewood smoked bacon, local green chile, melted pepper jack cheese) for a long time.  It’s The Local Brewhouse’s version of a green chile cheeseburger and it’s a New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail worthy one.  The green chile has just enough piquancy to grab my attention and it’s got plenty of roasted green chile flavor, too.  That’s the first thing New Mexicans notice about green chile cheeseburgers.  Then we notice how well the beef is seasoned and prepared.  The Local Brewhouse aced the beef…and the cheese, too.  Just look at that molten blanket of pepper jack in the photo below.  

Alas, the fries are unworthy to share space in the basket in which the burger is delivered.  They’re strictly out-of-a-bag that neither copious amounts of salt nor rivers of ketchup can do much for.  Instead of the run-of-the-mill fries, order the sweet potato fries.  You won’t get a small mountain of sweet potato fries as you do when you order the standard fries, but you won’t need ketchup or any other amelioration.  The sweet potato fries are crispy outside, tender inside, with a delicate, natural sweetness.  These truly belong with Steve’s burger.

Steve’s Burger

8 April 2022: Both printed and online culinary sites would have you believe fried mushrooms are a throwback to the 1970s, a remnant of a past decade along with fondue, crepes Suzette, Hamburger Helper and Jell-O Salad.  It might surprise you to learn fried mushrooms are indeed an anachronism, but not from the 1970s.  A recipe for fried mushrooms was first published in a book  titled “English Housewifery” by Elizabeth Moxon.  That cookbook was published not in the 70s, but in the 60s–1764, to be exact.  

It certainly does seem fried mushrooms were, if not the most popular, one of the most popular appetizers of the 1970s.  You can still find fried mushrooms–mostly at bars and pubs, some of which have been around since the 1970s.   Memories of meals bygone evoke powerful imagery that makes us want to relive them.  When we reminisce about fried mushrooms, we’ll think of the Local Brewhouse where these flavorful fungi are prepared the way we love them.  The Local Brewhouse lightly batters large portobello mushrooms to a golden hue.  Bite into them and you’re rewarded with the sharp earthiness and moistness of one of the best reasons to relive the 70s.  They’re served with ranch dressing; a green chile ranch would be oh, so much better.

Fried Mushrooms

8 April 2022:  While endeavoring to read the menu without my reading glasses (yes, even 39-year-olds use them), I espied a green chile Philly prepared on a “trashed” hoagie.  Our server laughingly corrected me in that the hoagie is “toasted” not “trashed.”  Though “really good,” she encouraged me to try the Biker Burger (double meat patty, applewood smoked bacon, Cheddar cheese and grilled jalapeños) with fries.  Ever the opportunist, I made it a point to tell her (nicely) that the fries were “trashed.”  Ever a loyal employee, she disagreed but urged me to try the sweet potato fries…which turned out to be quite good.  The burger was exceptional!  It’s rare for me to prefer jalapeños over green chile on a burger, but for the Biker Burger I’ll make an exception.  They’re not grilled to the extent I prefer, but those jalapeños were a nice foil for all that Cheddar draped beef.

Some of you might remember The Local Brewhouse’s short run in Albuquerque’s Paradise Square Shopping Center on Montgomery.  Owner Steve Pitt relocated his concept to Rio Rancho in February, 2016 at the former site of The Damn Bar.  He’s brought back the concept of “local hang-out” to the City of Vision, offering “elevated bar food” and beer on tap from local breweries.  Televisions tuned to sporting events are strategically placed throughout the restaurant.  Savvy diners and imbibers, however, prefer those intoxicating east-facing views of the Sandias.

Biker Burger with Sweet Potato Fries

While reading crowd-sourced reviews is always a good idea, take the nay-saying outliers with a grain of salt.  Sometimes they’re as reliable as a politician’s campaign promise.  Instead, study the favorable reviews from ordinary people who tend not to be as persnickety.  You just might discover a terrific hang-out such as The Local Brewhouse.

The Local Brewhouse
300 Unser Blvd., S.E.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 994-2007
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 8 April 2022
1st VISIT: 25 June 2021
# OF  VISITS: 2
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET:  Steve’s Burger, Blue Burger, Fried Zucchini, Fried Mushrooms, Biker Burger
REVIEW #1221

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el verdadero
el verdadero
1 year ago

I wish one of your correspondents would take up the cudgel of “real french fries” as your estimable Mr. Silver has done with chicken fried steak. The restaurant disease of serving frozen french fries continues and unfortunately is making giant inroads in New Mexico (a place relatively untouched to this point). If you are running a burger joint and/or have burgers as one of your principal menu items, you should be downvoted/banned on this blog if you serve said burger with the horrible tasteless zombie potato from the freezer. In my humble verdadero opinion, this is a crime right up there with dumping comino in red/green chile.

Needless to say, what brought about this rant is the aspect of the french fries in your photo are screaming FROZEN to me.

Becky Mercuri
Becky Mercuri
Reply to  el verdadero
1 year ago

El Verdadero, I completely agree with you. I actually wondered if those lily white fries were still frozen.

el verdadero
el verdadero
Reply to  Becky Mercuri
1 year ago

Wow! If I have the super heroine Betty Mercury in my camp, I know I’m on the side of the angels! 🙂

Remember our discussion about the term “Christmas” and whether it is a product of the NM tourist industry? I saw a post from a native NM on the Facebook Santa Fe Foodies group:

I am a 61 year old lifelong native New Mexican and grew up next door to the Apodaca’s, the Padilla’s, the Huerta’s, the Lopez’s, the Baca’s. Using the term “Christmas” is a tourist thing. Everyone other native NewMexican I know orders red and green by simply saying “red and green” or “both,” but never “Christmas.”

Becky Mercuri
Becky Mercuri
Reply to  el verdadero
1 year ago

El Verdadero, thanks for the feedback on the term “Christmas”. After doing some research a while back, it confirms my own conclusions. I found that most restaurants featuring New Mexican cuisine don’t use the term on their menus – the few exceptions were a couple of the more “touristy” spots.  It seems that “Christmas” is mainly a verbal term developed and used by waitstaff when serving tourists unfamiliar with the concept of ordering both red and green chile on a dish. It’s sort of gimmicky but it is a memorable and clever way to present the option, and while it may not sit well with native New Mexicans, I kind of like it.

Now, on to the issue of restaurants serving frozen french fries. Having shoved aside more frozen fries than I’ve eaten over the course of many years, I didn’t realize this is a relatively new trend in New Mexico – and a sad one at that. It is inconceivable to me that, after making the effort to serve something like a really great burger, an eating establishment would then accompany it with fries prepared from a frozen state. Let’s face it – the equivalent of major KP duty in the armed services is not required to deliver a decent side of fries. Given the right choice of potato, fries generally taste better when the skin is left intact. Great fries do, however, require following certain tenets of preparation including first soaking them in water for a period of time in order to reduce the starch content. This should be followed by the double fry method, the instructions for which are easily located via an online search. While this requires a certain amount of labor, in the long run it results in a far superior product at lower overhead cost. 

I’m glad to hear that Gil is going to comment on the quality of fries in his future dispatches. Suffering in silence is not going to convince restaurants to serve a better product.  

el verdadero
el verdadero
Reply to  Becky Mercuri
1 year ago

Becky, great to hear from you again.

Regarding french fries. As I approach my more mature years (actually my dotage), I have noted that the mediocre, the fast and easy, and the just plain bad/poor taste wins out in so many areas. We have a couple of generations now raised on American fast food hamburgers. McDonalds french fries (frozen of course … more horrifyingly they have 14 ingredients) started the trend I think. (Don’t get me started on putting ketchup on a hamburger.) If a restaurant knows there is no downside (i.e. loss of patronage) then of course they will take every shortcut possible. If the customers don’t give a damn, then why should the proprietors? By the way, a great recipe for french fries. I have to admit that I rarely do the double frying when I make them at home … but yes, thats the way it should be done; especially in a restaurant where the patrons are paying a premium to have food made that is not actually that easy to make at home.

Regarding the NM use of the term “Christmas”. I happily had a chance to eat breakfast at the Horseman here in Santa Fe this weekend. I talked with one of the members of the Romero family. He is in his fifth decade I would say. He affirmed that virtually no native New Mexicans use the term Christmas to order food. He recalls the first time he heard the term as coming about during the Xmas season when he was a child (8 years old or so) and some patrons made a joke of it saying that since it’s Xmas time, let’s have the food Christmas style. So, according to his story, it’s not a tourist invention but was made up by Santa Fe locals 45-50 years ago. He thinks that it took off in the press after that and eventually became associated with the tourist industry in the area.

Becky Mercuri
Becky Mercuri
Reply to  el verdadero
1 year ago

El Verdadero, thank you again. Your research into “Christmas” is very valuable. I love that anecdote and it certainly sounds like a very viable explanation. The story you were told makes it more meaningful in terms of the actual foodways and jargon of the people of New Mexico. The timing also seems to be right on target as several sources have stated they think it originated back around the 1970s in Santa Fe.

Ruben
Ruben
1 year ago

That tiny looking Blue Burger looks smaller than a slider and that picture.

Liza Marquez
Liza Marquez
1 year ago

Love to see you still doing reviews. I look forward to them. The Local Brewhouse is truly one of the best in Rio Rancho. Great vibes, service and food.

Dixie
Dixie
1 year ago

Gil, had an extremely disappointing supper @ a formerly great BBQ place on Yale. But having been in F & B business for some 25 years, I took it with a grain of salt no pun intended …….& implore all others to do the same!!!…..until employment situation is back to normal and establishments are once again back to their old standards & operating with full & experienced staffing.

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