Bobcat Bite – Santa Fe, New Mexico (CLOSED)

America's best burger is available only at the Bobcat Bite
America’s best burger is available only at the Bobcat Bite

Update:  In a twist of cruel irony, the Travel Channel’s May 13th airing of the Burger Land program celebrating the Bobcat Bite debuted just a few days after the announcement that the world-famous Bobcat Bite as we all know and love it will be forever changed.  An official statement from Bobcat Bite, issued on May 9th, announced the restaurant renowned for its outstanding green chile cheeseburger would shutter its doors in June, 2013.  The press release read: After 12 years, Bonnie and John Eckre will serve their last famous Bobcat Bite burger at the Old Las Vegas Highway location on June 9. They will be vacating the premises June 14th at the demand of the building’s owners, the Panzer family.”  Fret not, Bobcat Bite lovers.  Bonnie and John are serving their outstanding burgers at Santa Fe Bite just north of the famous Santa Fe Plaza.

In his celebration of America’s favorite dish, filmmaker George Motz traversed the fruited plain in search of some of the country’s most unique burgers for his 54-minute film Hamburger America . An avowed burger lover, he wasn’t necessarily trying to find and rank America’s best burgers per se. Instead, he feted eight restaurants in continuous operation for 40-plus years whose menus featured burgers made from fresh meat, not frozen, for those 40 years. One of the eight restaurants featured was Santa Fe’s own Bobcat Bite.

In his GQ magazine article “The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die,” Alan Richman was more definitive in rating America’s best burgers. Taking the measure of 162 burgers across the country, Richman’s goal was to find “the best damned assemblage of ground beef and buns this country serves up.” He rated the Bobcat Bite the 12th best burger in America (but not the best burger in New Mexico; that honor went to the Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio).

Bonnie Eckre, the heart and soul of the Bobcat Bite
Bonnie Eckre, the perpetually smiling heart and soul of the Bobcat Bite

In 2007, the Food Network aired a program called “Top American Restaurants – Bon Appetit Picks the Best” in which the editors of Bon Apetit magazine selected the “top places in this country to enjoy the ultimate incarnations of iconic American cuisine.” Among the iconic American cuisine feted were hamburgers. This category was won by Santa Fe’s Bobcat Bite–to the surprise of absolutely no one who has ever dined at this Santa Fe area treasure.

That’s high praise indeed, but accolades are nothing new for this Lilliputian restaurant (seating for only 26 patrons) which was also featured in March, 2000 edition of New Mexico magazine and, as previously mentioned, is held in high esteem by Michael and Jane Stern of Gourmet magazine and  In their terrific 2009 tome 500 Things To Eat Before It’s Too Late, the Sterns rated the Bobcat Bite number one on their list of “must-eat” green chile cheeseburgers.  They wrote, “The meat in this extraordinary GCCB is extraordinarily tasty–high-quality beef, a full inch thick complemented but not overwhelmed by chile that is more tangy than hot.”

Shelves show off just a few of the many awards and accolades Bobcat Bite has earned over the year. Diners can find a Bobcat Bite shirt just their size, too.

When it comes to burgers, it’s all about the beef and that’s where Bobcat Bite has the edge over the competition. The owners still grind their beef daily on the premises, using only hormone-free chuck shoulder and chuck tenders then forming the patties by hand, careful to control fat content.  The 50-year old cast iron grill is wonderfully seasoned so that each burger is prepared with remarkable consistency.

Each burger is a thick and juicy 9.5 ounce slab of beautiful beef served with an American and Swiss cheese blend, green chile, lettuce and tomato. Mustard and ketchup are available on your table and you can ask for mayonnaise and sliced (or even better, grilled) onion if you’d like.  If you do opt to use a condiment on your burger, use it sparingly because it’s the beef that may bring tears of joy to your eyes.  The only steak in New Mexico even comparable to the utterly erotic deliciousness of the coarse ground beef patty at the Bobcat Bite is the peppery elk tenderloin at Geronimo.

A green chile cheeseburger in my meaty hands
A green chile cheeseburger in my meaty hands

It takes two hands to handle the gigantic green chile cheeseburger, but you could use a third hand to wipe your mouth.  I can palm a basketball easily, but as the photo above attests, my right meathook is challenged to hold the green chile cheeseburger at the Bobcat Bite.  At medium, this burger is pink through and through; it’s as juicy a burger as you’ll find anywhere (easily a five napkin burger) with beef being the prevalent flavor.  It’s an absolutely delicious beef which you can eat by itself; even mustard and ketchup might be considered desecration.

The restaurant goes through 80 pounds of green chile per week and it’s not the canned green chile variety other dining establishments serve.  That being said, the green chile doesn’t have much of, if any, bite.  It could be because it’s buried under a blanket of cheese which tops the inch-thick hamburger patty.  The lack of piquancy is the sole factor preventing an even higher rating for these treasures.

The world-famous Bobcat Bite green chile cheeseburger
The world-famous Bobcat Bite green chile cheeseburger

When I introduced my friend roastmaster nonpareil Bill Resnik to the Bobcat Bite, what he couldn’t get over is just how wonderful the restaurant smells. He told owner Bonnie Eckre (pictured) that she could make a million dollars if she could bottle the aroma of her sizzling burgers then suggested that aroma would make a great aftershave. It would leave men perpetually hungry.

While the Bobcat’s bounteous burgers are best known, the restaurant also serves excellent steak. About the prime ribeye steak, Michael Stern says, “there is none more delicious between Amarillo and L.A.” Even better than the ribeye is the 10-ounce New York strip steak which is perfectly seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and prepared exactly to your specifications.

A bacon green chile cheeseburger with homestyle potatoes

Burgers and steak aren’t the restaurant’s sole entrees. The menu also serves pork chops, a grilled chicken sandwich and a few other items, but most people order the burgers or steak.

There isn’t much on the menu (a tossed salad and coleslaw) for vegetarians, but the coleslaw is as good as it comes. Instead of the overly sweet salad dressing or mayo you’ll find on most coleslaw, the Bobcat Bite uses a tart, vinegary dressing. It’s not acidic enough to pucker your lips, but it is tangy and delicious with flecks of green pepper and very finely chopped slaw.

During winter months, the Bobcat rotates–between a New Mexico style green and a Texas style red–a bowl of chile (spelled New Mexico style). The Texas style red chile includes beans, ground beef and tomato and is almost soup-like. In fact, to thicken the sauce, you can add crackers and have a very good Texas chile soup (although Texans can’t spell and would call it “chili.”)

The Bobcat Bite's wonderful coleslaw
The Bobcat Bite’s wonderful coleslaw

The Bobcat Bite sits on a 100 acre ranch which used to be a working quarter horse ranch. Bobcats used to sit and perch on the restaurant’s roof and would come down from the mountains to get fed scraps tossed out the back door. No doubt that even the scraps at this wonderful little restaurant taste pretty good.

420 Old Las Vegas Highway
Santa Fe, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 11 July 2012
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Ribeye Steak, New York Steak, Potato Salad, Coleslaw

Bobcat Bite Restaurant on Urbanspoon

27 thoughts on “Bobcat Bite – Santa Fe, New Mexico (CLOSED)

  1. The June 17 ABQ Journal relates: The Eckre’s will attempt to remake themselves at Garrett’s Desert Inn at Old Santa Fe Trail and West Alameda calling the place the Santa Fe Bite. With due deference to the keeping the menu similar, they hope to add to it, e.g. Bonnie’s looking forward to milkshakes. They’re targeting opening the end of July, but everyone knows how that goes for the best of Folk. “Chow!”

    Some old news, and some new news farm you.p
    The Eckres’ have a long row to hoe. With the Panzers claiming to own the name Bobcat Bite they will siphon off all the tourist business and the original BCB will folks will get only the cognoscenti who know better.
    My question is simple, how did the Eckres folks not know they didn’t own the name????
    Reading between the lines of the article in I felt they were unhappy with the prospects of the terms of the long lease they rejected. Most likely, IMHO, they weren’tnabout to change their way of operating to accommodate the new, and higher lease agreement wanted by the property owners.
    I see BCB becoming more “chain” like with more hours and perhaps a bigger dining area but none of the charm and possible not the same burgers.
    Too bad for the Eckres folks
    As I said a long row to hoe.

    1. Hello Bruce

      While the curiosity seekers and Travel Channel-Food Network groupies may pilgrimage to the Bobcat Bite, they’re not likely to return unless by some miracle, the new owners can duplicate the magic performed daily by John Eckre on the restaurant’s 50-year old cast iron grill and the genuine warmth and charm of Bonnie Eckre. Locals who have frequented this Lilliputian treasure for years will follow the Eckres wherever they go because we know the Bobcat Bite isn’t solely about the best green chile cheeseburger in the universe, it’s about the experience and joy of interfacing with the Eckres and their staff. Sure, the tiny location off the beaten path has its own charms and the restaurant’s name has the reputation, but wherever the Eckres go, we’ll follow. I don’t see getting enough customers as significant a challenge for the Eckres as replacing that magnificently seasoned 50-year old cast iron grill.

      Buen Provecho


  3. FYI: GCCB addicts:

    “The iconic Bobcat Bite, as New Mexicans know it, will close at the end of June 9, 2013.
    Since 1953, people have come to the restaurant to eat green chile cheeseburgers. The couple who runs the restaurant said a legal dispute with their landlord is forcing them to move.
    So now, the restaurant will move to a new location miles away from the historic burger stop.
    “We are anxious. We are nervous, but excited too,” said owner John Eckre.
    – – The new restaurant won’t be called the “Bobcat Bite” because there’s a legal dispute over who owns that name.
    – -The new spot will be right next to Garrett’s Desert Inn located at 311 Old Santa Fe Trail. They hope to open there in July.”
    (Source (for the moment 5/16/13 with video)

  4. Hit Bobcat bite yesterday (for the third time) and realized I haven’t commented on this page yet. The burger is awesome. The quality of the meat, the size of the patty, the durability of the bun to hold up to such a juicy burger. The ONLY complaint would be the green chile. It does not have any bite whatsoever. If they were to use some Lemitar Medium or Hot, this would make it that much better. As it is though, it is a pretty d@mn fine burger. One worth the drive to get!!!

    Also, be aware – they only take cash.

  5. Pennsylvania Germans (aka PA Dutch) would call that “coleslaw” side dish, pepper slaw or pickled cabbage. It’s very easy to make and holds up well in hot weather.

  6. Really yummy hamburger, but no french fries on menu, bland side dishes, and boring drink selection. Unpleasant eating in front porch area with the opaque plastic sheeting covering up what could be an excellent view. We gave it a B- when we were expecting it to be an A.

  7. I want my last meal to be a green chile cheeseburger with an order of grilled onions. Steaks are great too. We have made trips to santa fe just for Bobcat.

  8. Last Saturday we went to Santa Fe and of course, as usual, we looked at your restaurant reviews. Based on the reviews we decided on Bobcat Bite.

    Having never been there, it was a smaller restaurant than we though it would be. A simple menu, we chose the green chile burger and the cheese burger. After about 15 minutes our meals arrived.

    The first thing I noticed quickly was no home fries like we saw on other arriving meals. I didn’t realize the menu was a la carte. OK.

    We love your reviews and generally agree with you but not this time. There was no question the burger was quality and good. The bun was a standard off the shelf bun. The dollop of chile was straight out of a frozen tub of Bueno diced green. The chips were straight out of a Lay’s potato chip bag. There was just nothing special.

    We are value eaters. Something like a hamburger has to be really special to justify that price. We go to Mannies in ABQ and get a great burger with fries for $5.

    At Bobcat Bit, we spent $7.65 on the burger, $2.00 for the ice tea and $2.00 for the home fries which were just OK. That’s $11.65 for a lunch, which was nothing better than we could have made at home.

    There was just nothing that special about Bobcat Bite. We were disappointed. Next time in Santa Fe we’ll just go to Harry’s Roadhouse.

  9. Gil,

    I believe I may have done the unthinkable, but as good as the Bobcat Bite is, I believe there may be one better… and here in New Mexico as well even.

    If you are ever in Carlsbad, you must visit Happy’s – It doesn’t look like much, inside or out, but they had the most AMAZING burgers myself or my girlfriend Alison have had to this day. And there’s more on the menu as well – we stayed in Carlsbad for 3 days yet found ourselves at Happy’s for two of them – we tried other places in town but were left less than impressed. We wish it weren’t so far away, but then, our wallets are glad it is… even though the prices are all very reasonable (my 3/4 lb Bacon Cheeseburger was under $5)

  10. One of my favorites! Best best: Order Ur BobCat Bite Green Chile Cheeseburgers ‘to go’ and sit outside and ‘tail gate’ n chow em down w ur posse, “best friggin’ burgers on the planet!”

  11. By the way, if you’re planning a visit, don’t use the Mapquest directions. They are way off. Instead of referencing the Old Las Vegas Road, they tell you to take the Santa Fe Road. That will really mess you up. Better to look for directions from the Bobcat’s website.

  12. I got a chance to eat there today with some friends. Awesome stuff. The adults all loved it, but the youngster (10 years old) kind of picked at it. The youngster says he prefers wimpyburgers. Those are served at a burger joint near The Barelas Coffeehouse.

    But you’re right about the green chile, Gil. I had to check to see if they had included it in my cheeseburger. The beef is incredible. I can see why they receive such a high rating. Next time I’m going to try it with grilled onions. BTW, my friend got there at 11:05 and he was too late for the first round of seating. The place is incredibly small. Any reason why they haven’t expanded the size of the restaurant?

  13. Hi Gil……

    You know how I feel about Bobcat Bite! It’s my first and last stop when I visit Santa Fe. I’d heard so much hype about their Green Chile Cheeseburger that I figured I’d be disappointed. Not! I always order it med rare with grilled onions and those fabulous home fries. It’s such a fun treat just to walk in the door, be greeted like family (as you know, I live in LA and get to Santa Fe once a year, at most!) and have one of the very best burgers on the planet. We have good burgers here in LA, but none like this yumster!

  14. Gil ONLY a 26 rating.
    Have you asked Bonnie about the mild chile and maybe adding a 2nd, hotter choice. Also have you tried a burger without the chile – awe-some!! As are the other meat dishes. Sometime though, you wish you had a big ole’ six-shooter for some of the tourists that want catsup for their burgers – make you realize there may actually be things in this world worst than death.

  15. I FINALLY made it up to Bobcat Bite and it was so worth the drive and the wait. The burgers were great, of course, and the pasta salad is truly something special. Spent some time with Bonnie talking about you Gil. Apparently we are both fascinated by what you look like, and since we’ve never seen you, we decided that you must look like a science professor (think Santa with a shorter beard). We’re probably way off, but that’s what we decided.

  16. Just the best meat in all New Mexico, but limited menu. There is nothing bad here and the absolute best burgers in this known universe. Can’t rave enough about the cole slaw either. Complaints – small, crowded and very long waits outside but NEVER IN 26 YEARS A COMPLAINT ABOUT THE FOOD!!! The food is the BEST here.

  17. Gil

    Your new website is not user friendly and not an improvement. Gone is the page where I can view by cuisine and page through lists of names to get to the restaurant I want. Bring back the old web site please!!!!!!!!!!!!

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