In baseball it’s called the “Triple Crown,”an incredibly rare achievement in which a player leads the league in average, home runs, and runs batted in. To win the triple crown, a player must tremendous power to hit for distance as well as a very keen eye to hit baseballs thrown at nearly 100 miles per hour and place them on the field in positions that result in driving in runs. In horse racing, the term Triple Crown represents a series of horse races for three-year-old Thoroughbreds, consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. To win all three of these races is even more rare.
There’s another Triple Crown competition that’s even more challenging and difficult to win. That’s Edible’s Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown, an annual event held in Santa Fe every year since 2013. This competition has one simple goal: to determine the best burger in New Mexico. I would argue that the reason this competition is even more difficult to win than the aforementioned Triple Crowns is that the Smackdown is not an athletic achievement reliant on a coalescence of physical and mental skills. This Triple Crown–Secret Judges’ Award, Reigning Chomp and People’s Choice–can be earned only if there is agreement among the most difficult of all elements to gauge–human beings. As a one-time judge at the Smackdown, I can attest to how difficult it is to obtain consensus (or you can ask Congressman McCarthy.)
Every year Edible invites sixteen restaurants from across the state to “toss their spatulas in the ring and thrown down the burger sure to beat them all.” On 10 September 2022–for the first time in the event’s history–one restaurant won the cherished Triple Crown. If you haven’t been following Tikka Spice over the years, you might be surprised that at the time of the Smackdown, this “restaurant” operated out of a food truck (albeit an award-winning food truck). It may come as a revelation that Basit Gauba the owner-operator of this food truck, is from Pakistan–not exactly a hotbed for green chile cheeseburgers.
Basit has emerged as quite the entrepreneur. Inspired by his success in operating Tikka Spice since 2017, he launched Kukri within the confines of 505 Central Food Hall in January, 2022. Later in the year he launched Tikka Spice South Asia Street Food on Osuna as well as Stackers, which focuses exclusively on Tikka Spice’s smash burger brand. Yes, it’s that same burger which saw Triple Crown success at the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. Though didn’t get to attend that event, my friend Bill Resnik and I wanted to decide for ourselves if that burger warranted its accolades.
6 January 2022: Tikka Spice South Asia Street Food’s menu isn’t strictly a burger menu. Nor, as we found out, it’s not exactly accurate. We were charged two dollars more for our burgers than the listed price. One of the reasons, we learned, was that the beef is Halal, meaning the meat is slaughtered in accordance with Islamic laws. Our server couldn’t tell us if the Duke City Smash Burger was the burger anointed best in New Mexico during the Smackdown. We learned afterwards that it indeed was that Smash Burger. The burger is available as a single or stack (Double, Triple, Quad) and is constructed with cheese, hot green chile and sautéed onions on a locally baked bun. It is served with fries.
A Smashburger is flattened or smashed while it is cooking, which helps to create a crisp outer crust and a juicy interior. Both Bill and I had our Duke City smash burgers made with double beef patties. Each smash burger was covered in a molten blanket of melting cheese and more green chile than most green chile cheeseburgers in town offer. As advertised, the green chile was hot–hot enough to get the attention of us both. We’re bona fide fire-eaters so to get our attention is an impressive feat. The locally baked bun is rather slim which means your focus will be on the beef. Annoying (and as difficult to open as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York) packets of mustard and ketchup were provided. To try to rip them open was to risk profanities so I didn’t even try. Not that they were needed. The Duke City smash burgers are terrific exactly as constructed.
6 January 2022: Though fries came with our burger, we shared an order of Tikka fries (crispy fries loaded with chicken, hot green chile queso, garlic cream sauce, red chile chutney, tikka sauce, cilantro and green onion). Predictably, neither of us was especially enamored of these fries. The culprit was also predictably cumin. In this case, an overload of a spice that even in small quantities goes a long way. The cumin on these fries went all the way to Pakistan.
Tikka Spice has a number of excellent dining options (check the online menu) and one of the very best green chile cheeseburgers in the Land of Enchantment. It’s a triple crown winner!
Tikka Spice South Asian Street Food
6001 Osuna Road, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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LATEST VISIT: 6 January 2022
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