In 2016 and 2017 my review of the Laguna Burger was the most frequently visited post on Gil’s Thrilling… In 2015 and 2014, only one restaurant (Down N’ Dirty Seafood Boil) received more blog visits than Laguna Burger. If even a small number of the visitors to the review actually also visited the restaurant, that’s thousands of visitors to Laguna Burger. It’s probably safe to assume hundreds of thousands of visitors who haven’t read Gil’s Thrilling review have made their way to one of the four Laguna Burger locations, three of which are definitely off-the-beaten path. In November, 2017, Laguna Burger established a presence at a 3,000 square-foot space on Avanyu Plaza on 12th Street near the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. You can read my review of the 12th Street location here.
The history of New Mexico is fraught with tales of hardship and peril. Enchanting as it may be, New Mexico is a land which can be harsh and unforgiving as early settlers found out when, amidst the ravages of climatic extremes, they traversed austere terrain in search of wealth and a better life. There were no interstate highways nor high-speed motorized conveyances to ferry them across the barren and cruel desert. There were no hotels and motels in which they could rest their weary bones nor restaurants to quell the pangs of hunger and thirst which parched their throats.
The storied trails that brought settlers and traders to New Mexico, remnants of which have mostly disappeared over time, were scarcely more than ruts carved into the earth by wagons, horses and oxen. History has glorified those trails–the Santa Fe, Butterfield and Camino Real among them–but the truth of their harshness is far from glamorous. One especially treacherous and dry section of El Camino Real was so brutal, it was designated by the Spanish conquistadores as the Jornada del Muerto, Spanish for “route of the dead man.”
The advent of the railroad system heralded the beginning of the end of the trail systems and made travel to and from New Mexico a more pleasant, far less hazardous adventure. Today when people associate trails with New Mexico, it’s usually not with trepidation, but with respect and admiration. Instead of such ominous names as Jornada Del Muerto, New Mexico’s trails are now bestowed such inviting sobriquets as The Turquoise Trail. Instead of peril and woe, New Mexico’s trails are scenic and beautiful, providing a vast array of fun and recreational activities.
In 2009, the word “trail” began to take on a new connotation. Cheryl Jamison, the scintillating four-time James Beard award-winning author and the New Mexico Tourism Department’s culinary liaison, conceptualized a “culinary trail” concept designed to capitalized on the widespread interest–both by locals and tourists–on the Land of Enchantment’s incomparable cuisine. The inaugural culinary trail was the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, a celebration of New Mexico’s iconic, some say unofficial and favorite, state food.
More than 8,000 people–residents, visitors, critics and restaurateurs–cast their ballots for their favorite green chile cheeseburgers. When the ballots were tallied, the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail listed four dozen purveyors of green chile cheeseburgers from among the 200 or so nominated. The Trail included burger bastions from Abiquiu to Zuni and from all four corners of the state. Those burgers are prepared in restaurants, drive-ins, diners, dives, joints, cafes, roadside stands and even bowling alleys.
One of green chile cheeseburger restaurants garnering the most votes was a superette (convenience store) with the intriguing name “Home of The Laguna Burger” (since shortened to “Laguna Burger.”) Driving on I40 past the Pueblo of Laguna, I had seen signage for the burger, but dismissed it as just another promotion for the Pueblo’s popular casino. My mistake!
The Laguna Burger is simply one of the very best green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico! Cooked to order from 100 percent, never frozen ground beef (an 80/20 blend), it is a half-pound of pure deliciousness. Today, there are three Homes of the Laguna Burger, the most recent addition strategically positioned directly across I40 from the Route 66 Casino. Interestingly, it has an Albuquerque address (14311 Central Avenue). As with its siblings, it is located within the confines of a superette. Walk past the checkout counters and their temptations and you’ll find a diner-like space dedicated to the Laguna burger and several other menu items.
Though the Laguna Burger is tiny (about eight bar stools and a small dining room for seating), the aromas of beef on a flattop grill waft throughout the large superette like an olfactory siren’s call. After perusing the menu–which offers both lunch and dinner–and placing your order, find a seat. The best seat in the house is probably on one of the bar stools where you can watch the green chile cheeseburger being lovingly prepared for you.
Yes, lovingly! The shirts worn by the staff are emblazoned with the slogan, “Is it the beef or is it the love?”. When Cheromiah Marshall (Google him) was manning the grill, you can be assured it was equal parts of both. Cheromiah was as engaging and funny as any counter man in New Mexico. He took great pride in the Laguna Burger, answering my questions with an impish grin–first giving me a comedic response then the actual answer. Where does Laguna Burger get its beef? From my uncle’s cows. Where do you get your green chile? From my uncle’s farm if the cows don’t eat it. It is great fun.
Cheromiah beamed with pride in telling me the Laguna Burger came in second at Governor Richardson’s inaugural green chile cheeseburger challenge and that it received more votes than any other purveyor of green chile cheeseburgers on the Trail. When I informed him the restaurant which won the Governor’s challenge is now closed, he said, “now we’re the best.” That claim is hard to dispute. The Laguna Burger is outstanding!
As Cheromiah prepared my burger, another staffer shaped ground beef into rounded balls, weighing them to ensure each was exactly eight ounces (that’s half a pound, twice the beef of McDonald’s Quarter-Pounder). Each burger is prepared to order; the Laguna Burger is not fast food. At strategic intervals in the grilling process, the green chile (Bueno brand) is placed on the grill where it sizzles and spits as in protest. The cheese is added later to ensure just the right level of meltedness. The Laguna Burger is adorned with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mustard on a sesame seed bun.
This is a perfectly seasoned burger. The beef patty is juicy and delicious at about medium-well. The vegetables are fresh–crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, lip pursing pickles, red onions. The green chile, at least the batch I’ve had in three visits, was piquant enough to get my attention. It’s delicious through and through, so good you’ll want another, but so large you might not have the room. That’s especially true if you also order the fresh-cut, never frozen French fries. The fries, shades of gold and brown, are neither too flaccid nor too stiff. They’re fries the way they should be made.
The Laguna Burger has a surprisingly large menu for operating in such a small space. The menu includes foot long hot dogs and chili cheese dogs, corn dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches (on Texas toast), Frito pies, chicken tenders, onion rings, taquitos with salsa and more, but it would be very hard to pass up the Laguna Burger.
Lest you think my opinion of the 66 Pit Stop: Home of the Laguna Burger is mine alone, read the glowing review from Hannah and Edward, Albuquerque’s podcasters nonpareil. When Andrea Feucht was asked by The Guardian of London to list the top ten restaurants and cafes in Albuquerque, she listed the 66 Pit Stop, Home of the Laguna Burger as one of those ten. By any standards, this diminutive purveyor of green chile cheeseburgers is a ten.
Note: Even though the Home of the Laguna Burger at the 66 Pit Stop has an Albuquerque address (14311 Central Avenue, N.W.), you won’t find it anywhere within the city’s urban sprawl. To get there you’ll want to drive west on I-40 and take exit 114. It’s directly across I-40 from the Route 66 Casino.
66 Pit Stop
14311 Central Avenue, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 19 June 2016
1st VISIT: 15 June 2010
# OF VISITS: 5
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, French Fries, Frito Pie
42 thoughts on “Laguna Burger (66 Pit Stop) – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
We went to the Albuquerque location of the Laguna Burger and profoundly disappointed. We pretty much agree with the comments made by Bruce in his December 16 post. The fries were soggy and not worth eating and the burger was totally underwhelming. The patty was large but flavorless. I don’t know what they did to the tomatoes but the slices were quite then and looked like someone had pulled the “slice” apart into something like a string. Like Bruce I kept checking to make sure there was some green chili on it. There was but it had no flavor.
On the plus side the green chili stew was pretty good. But 35-40 minutes to get a cup of stew? Gimme a break. Perhaps the other locations do a better job be we won’t be back to this one.
Bruce – Do yourself a favor and go to one of the other locations.
Now for this review…
OK, from the time I walked in the door, to the time I was leaving with food was well over 1/2 hr (pushing 45 minutes). When the crowds die down, it might be worth it, but at this point in time, it’d be quicker for me to go out to the Rio Puerco location. Also, prices are higher (by about $1.50 for the meal, which does not include a drink at this location, but does at the other locations).
The burger? Hmmm. Burger was OK, but was not the same as the other locations. Maybe the flat top needs time to age/season properly, or the fact that they are trying to pump out burgers at a larger volume, so they use other contraptions than just smashing the ball of meat with a spatula, or the new cooks need to learn how to season the burger right…not sure, just know it wasn’t as good. Still good, just not Laguna Burger name worthy.
The fries? They were adequate, but they are definitely different than the other locations. A thinner cut, which if done right, I actually prefer. These were not done quite right…
The atmosphere? Could be a positive, could be a negative, depending on your perspective. They are set up like a microbrew, with some beer and drink service and televisions playing sports. If that is your scene, you’ll like it. If you’re like me, you prefer the simplistic route 66 diner vibe you get from the other locations. Once they get the food situation resolved, I think to-go orders will be our norm.
The positive? With an expanded menu, I had to try their Rio Puerco Dog. It is covered in grilled onions, queso blanco, and grilled jalapeno. MMMMM. That was definitely the high point of the visit.
Bottom line, they need some time/experience to become Laguna Burger name worthy. I’ll be giving them another try and some point, but after the shine wears off and it gets back to normal.
Looks like they will be opening a new location across the street from The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Not sure when it’s supposed to open. The drive just went from 15 minutes to about 4 minutes for me! That will be awesome!!!
According to an Albuquerque Journal article back in September: “Laguna Burger will open in early November with a 3,000-square-foot interior and an outdoor patio that together will seat roughly 150 customers.” Great news!
As it is now mid-November, and from what I could tell from the street, they are a few weeks away from opening…I could be wrong however…this is looking more like early December.
Made my first visit today to the new location – I think I should have waited a bit longer.
Underwhelmed is the best I can come up with. The look and feel of venue itself was great and the line at 2:00 pm really amp’d up my expectations. While I had never dined at the other locations, I was really looking forward to this experience. For me this visit is what I think of as the completion of the highlights of the New Mexico Green Chili Cheeseburger trail. I have already enjoyed and returned several times each to Sparky’s, Buckhorn Tavern, Owl Bar Cafe and the Bobcat Bite (aka Sante Fe bite). Though I admit once I tried Sparky’s I’ve not been able to return to the Buckhorn or the Owl. ( I guess you now know how I voted in the last poll.)
Of course on this my inaugural visit I ordered the signature Laguna Burger as a meal (which included fries but not the soft-drink). The patty itself was enormous but the lack of any distinctive flavor from the beef was disappointing. To make matters worse the Hatch green chile served on this burger must have exceeded it’s expiration date as I could not really taste it. There was a mild burn but no flavor. I had to visually check to see if any was present on the cheeseburger. In fact none of the flavors in this burger stood out except for the pickle – and not in a complementary way.
As far as the fries go – I wish I had skipped them. My serving was somewhat less than luke-warm, with no crispness at all. They were soggy to the point that the outsides were sinking/falling in towards the middle of the fry. In fairness it’s possible that my order was an exception. It was delivered so quickly after my order was placed (before I could walk the 10 feet from the register to the counter where I sat) that I’m sure my fries or the burger for that matter were not made-to-order and had been sitting around awhile.
I should have asked them to remake the fries but the GCCB was so bland I just didn’t care.
I’ll chalk this visit up to bad luck and growing pains. I think in a few months I will give them another chance, however with much, much, lower expectations. Hopefully they will achieve the greatness which is reflected in Gil’s rating based on his experiences.
By the way – I didn’t find this out until I sat down. If you do visit and there is a long line, check out the counter. If there are seats available you can bypass the line and order from the Counterman/bartender. Yes they serve beer and spirits.
lowest class hamburger place
This grease spoon serves up a nasty and nothing special burger! I sat down at the counter and noticed that the counter had food all over the sitting area. Most of the workers were not even wearing plastic gloves.
The food 8 ( …
location. The price was $10.00 for this under sized burger with fries,
Poorly prepared meat, still raw in the middle. The french fires were cut potatoes soaked in cooking oil…. soooo soggy,,,, terrible threw them out. These Laguna natives were so unfriendly that I left with even a greater bad taste in my mouth just about equal to the food served up in this
Take my advise and steer clear of this (arm) Pit stop. Go to “what a Burger” if your craving a green chili burger or even “Carla’s Jr.” just a hop skip and jump down the road from this bad place.
Congrats! Just announced…they are this year’s Winner of The NM State Fair’s Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge beating out the recent two time winner, Fuddruckers.
Yet there are folks who find the cost, the drive and the flavor unappealing. I frankly would rather pay buck more for a Laguna Burger than a buck less for a Blakes Lotaburger and chance that it’s been sitting on a grill for 45 minutes along with a half dozen other over cooked burgers waiting for the next customer to roll in.
My top three GCCBs are
Blades Bistro (wish they’d switch to “nondescript” buns, otherwise terrific)
I don’t feel like I’m eating mystery meat at these places.
One thing I’ll say though is Laguna Burger seems to have the least happy servers.
You’re right about the servers. I’d say more than half of the times I’ve been to this location I have seen attitude given to the customers for simply speaking to or asking the servers a question.
At the Lotaburgers I’ve been to on occasion…as far back as the ’70s, I haven’t had a pre-cooked pile, but always take a red patty out of the frig to put on the grill.
– More Elsewise: I seriously doubt there is any place that does a 1/4 lb that can be raved about…albeit I stand to be corrected. Having labored in a place that flipped fresh burgers back in the early ’60s…in avant garde California for Pete’s Sake!….I’m thinking one needs at least a 1/3 pounder to be able to preserve a tad of the flavorful essence as makes a reddened heart of a hamburg/hamburger flavor!!!! I may be disproved and found wrong, but that is MY humble opinion!!!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Blake’s has had success in certain readers choice type competitions for one reason and one reason only, they out sell most non-chains by a thousand to one cheeseburgers.. Quality and taste have little bearing. Try a busy Blake’s at 12;15PM and let me know how well prepared the product is done to your particular taste. I’ve never had at Blake’s a medium rare order that was truly medium rare.
We ate here a couple of weeks ago. Still love this GCCB!!! A firend of mine originally from Gallup, says he always stops on the way back into ABQ whenever he visits family. BUT, he says the Laguna location is even better than the one by Rt. 66 Casino. Just FYI if anyone ever feels like taking a little extra drive…
As with the labeling of ingredients in foods we buy which list the largest one first it’s telling that the first consideration in forming your opinion of the Laguna GCCB, ergo your most important consideration is “$$$”. I am of the opinion if you couldn’t get your beloved fileto with an ALbuquerque Journal Press Pass discount it wouldn’t taste as good either.
How big a deduction is an unattractive wait person?
Look at your comment, the first two negatives are “drive” and “$$$” followed by flavor. I can only imagine what an increase in the cost of a gallon of gas does to your taste buds.
Well Geez…finally drove 15-2o miles out for this touted to be splendiferous GCCB!
Alas, I cannot get all that jazzed up about one. Place and staff were fine! Personally,for the $$$/drive/flavor, I’ll go to PapaBurger’s on 4th and Chavez Rd…let alone various LotaBurgers!
Actually? if worse came to worst ? Regardless, I’ll chow down in ABQ!
Roberto’s comment spot on. I drove all the way to a dumping site or something
trying to find. a place to turn around…..had approached from Central……next time
will go out on I-40. Woman who took my order would not sub Fritos for French
fries & was completely surly……no, Gil, that kind of service probably wouldn’t
make it in town. HOWEVER, Laguna Burger best green chili cheeseburger ever
had….also asked for extra onions, they never came.
I guess our experience is the exception because:
a) we waited more than 30 minutes for our burgers (aside from the gentleman after us, we were the only customers),
b) our burgers were so dry the only flavor I got from them was the chile, and
c) they forgot to cook the gentleman’s burger so he had to wait even longer!
This was the one in Dancing Eagle, across the casino off I-40.
The NYTimes in today’s edition had two New Mexico-centric articles you might want to look at.
First an article about NM chiles.
And a second article regarding Malpais.
Pass it on.
Yo Jennifer G. …Bienvenidos! Hope Y’all are coming for the Balloon Fiesta. We usually get mega Folks from MICH, Wis, Toronto, MINN during late Feb, March, April per suffering cabin fever. Lest your friend be a Newbie here, may I suggest Y’all check out http://www.visitalbuquerque.org/ and, staying on food, visit Jemez Canyon for the eye-candy of yellowing aspens set against orangy/red mesas contrasting with an azure blue sky, e.g. http://tinyurl.com/mamwjje before slipping into a hot spring for a soak. Lest Y’all don’t eat out there, stay on St.Rt. 550 when returning to cross I-25 onto Blade’s Bistro https://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=3252 where Y’all might find convivial conversation with El Brute’s gracious Grayce!
I had the pleasure to enjoy a yummy Laguna Burger from your place. It was the best thing ever. I came to visit a friend who lives there in June 2014. I am from Northern Michigan. I can’t wait to return in October 2014. I will be eating there again before returning home TRUST ME!! See you then…
Isn’t it directly “across from the Rte 66 Casino”?
Simpler than your directions……..
A very good burger, surprised you didn’t note with distain that it has gone up a buck.
Price is no object. I would mortgage my house for one of their burgers. (I live in California, and find myself speaking wistfully of this burger on a regular basis.)
Yo Gil: When giving out tourist info, I like to offer travelers some possibly lesser known options outside of ABQ when I learn they are “On the Road”…e.g. Gallup’s El Rancho Hotel’s autographed Celeb pics; the Standin on the Corner scene in Winslow, AZ & the Fred Harvey nostalgia eatery there; the WigWam in Holbrook; the Stations of the Cross by The mega Cross in Groom, Tx; or the Buckhorn, Owl, & SA Crane in the hometown of Paris Hilton’s great grand daddy; etc. As such I would hope to include the 66 Pit Stop in this genre, but….
~ As Joan would say: “Can we talk?” I.e. Before I list this as an ‘oddity’ or a “mystery spot” of New Mexico e.g http://www.roadsideamerica.com/location/nm/all!!!! LOL
Y’all, along with Urbanspoon, Travel Advisor, yada yada list the 66 Pit Stop’s address as 14311 Central NW Albuquerque. Alas, that is indeed on Old Rte 66, but it’s about where it blends back into I-40 atop of Nine Mile Hill as we said in the olden days (which has nothing to do with food/restaurants). Alas, while there apparently still is a lot of space where one could take (why don’t we be more veridical and say ‘give’?) a Whiz, it is NO site for a 66 Pit Stop! http://tinyurl.com/lqqong2
This AM I called and spoke with a Teenie Bopper (pardon lest she wasn’t) who, alas, couldn’t tell me the street address…given it is apparently geographically a mystery to all. Per our chat, it would seem that the best idea would be to list the address as 1) Take Exit 140 from 1-40 (which will bring you into Laguna (pueblo) frontage road about Old Rt 66) or 2) Take Exit 114 from I-40 (which will bring you into the Rt 66 Casino complex wherein there is also the office for the Laguna Development Corp.!!! I.e. there are two 66 Pit Stops!
Almost lastly, the 66 Pit Stop does not have a website as is currently noted.
Lastly, Bravo to those herein who apparently found it and who thus stand in contrast to educational rankings of our dear State nationally!
Point well taken, Roberto. The address “14311 Central, N.W.” serves only to engender confusion. I’ll incorporate both your suggestion and Bruce’s into my review though it does seem phalanx after phalanx of burgerphiles have discovered the Laguna burger. In 2014, the most popular reviews on my blog have been Down & Dirty Seafood Boil (by a mile) and the 66 Pit Stop.
There’s also the matter of Gabriel’s Restaurante on U.S. 285/84. Physically it’s in Cuyamungue, but it’s got a Santa Fe address even though the City Different is about ten miles away.
Then there’s the matter of Albuquerque streets which intersect with one another…or at least with streets sharing the same name. The Land of Enchantment is becoming the Land of Confusion.
Brother finished lb in one sitting and said I haven’t had a Burger this good n a very long titime. It took me a few days to finish mine. Would go back for more.
Good burger! Customer service sucks though unfortunately. I wanted to walk out without eating after the way I was treated by the guy working the till
Happy Birthday Matthew! I agree with you 100%… I only wish there was one closer (like, in town)!
Yesterday i went in to the laguna burger near 66 casino for my birthday dinner ( i turned 15 yesterday) the laguna burger is the best burger in the state of new mexico . Its way better than Blakes Lota Burger I am a Laguna Burger Customer For Life 🙂
I finally made the trek for this burger today, and it was worth every minute and mile. Their burger-and-fries combo is the new Happy Meal. Thank you for turning me on to this place!
In 2010 my best friend and I drove across the country from Ohio to California, It was the best time of my life! After a couple days of driving and REALLY tired of eating fast food and fiber one bars we stumbled upon Laguna Burger. Thank God for that “Pit Stop!” The burgers were outstanding and the friendly service was much appreciated. It was one stop on route 66 that wont be forgotten!
My husband and I stopped by Laguna Burger on our way back from camping at Bluewater. Best burger EVER. Now I want to go camping more often!
Great green chile burgers. My new favorite burger stop. Fries are homemade delicious.
After driving on old Route 66, this was a culinary oasis. Seriously, probably one of the best green chili burgers I have ever had, and I have had my fair share. Worth a trip along I-4o out to Laguna just to get another. Truly, a best kept secret. Plus, the staff were awesome as well.
I had the pleasure of having this very delicious burger but returning to the west coast, then on my return to the east coast. Hands down, it is the best Burger I’ve ever had. So good, I can’t wait for another cross country drive to have the pleasure again. Best keep secret, that only those who’ve enjoyed it knows!!!
We stop at the 66 Pitstop in Laguna New Mexico every chance we can. There is another we see by the casino right off I40, haven’t been to that one. We always go to the one in Laguna. It is the BEST BURGER ON I 40 HANDS DOWN. The price for the green chilie cheese burger and fries combo was less than a bigmac combo and superior in flavor. The staff is always friendly the place is always clean the store is nice. The place needs to be on your bucket list.
Best. Burger. Ever. I crave these all the way from South Carolina. I would seriously drive out there JUST FOR THIS BURGER if I could.
we stopped at the 66 pit stop and tried the laguna burger and it was the best burger i have ever had so delicious n very filling. in fact we had to order more to go ….i would relocate there just to enjoy the laguna burger over n over again.
I usually order my Laguna Burger from the Laguna Superette gas station. Delish!!
The Laguna Burger is hands down the best burger I’ve ever enjoyed.. and I’ve had my fair share of them. I live in Phoenix, Arizona but my girlfriends family is from Mesita, in the Pueblo of Laguna and every time we go and visit I need at least one on the way in and one on the way out.
The combination of the Burger, Cheese, Toasted bun and Grilled Green Chile is the type of flavor combo that dreams are made of. If you’re ever on I-40 in New Mexico between Grants & Albuquerque and start seeing the signs for the Laguna Burger Exit, I highly suggest you take it and indulge yourself in the heavenly surprise that is the Laguna Burger. You’ll be glad you did.
The laguna burger is the best tasting burger on the highway, and I had my share of burgers after all I drive across country thanks for the expierience.