5 Best Burgers in Santa Fe

Craving a Green Chili Cheeseburger?

Santa Feans are a demanding crowd when it comes to food, so it’s hardly surprising that even the lowly burger is elevated to new heights here. One ingredient does it all: freshly roasted Hatch green chilies!

But which restaurant makes the best?

Like George M. Motz in Hamburger America, I set out on a quest to answer that very question. After an extensive, demanding, and selfless round of tasting, I have finally come up with my list of the five best. Actually, “best” might not be the right word. How about “must try”?

The two places that came on as #5 and #4 made the list because of tradition more than taste. You just can’t be a Santa Fean and NOT eat at both of these burger joints. It would be sacrilege! So, coming in at...


Bert's Burger Bowl near the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe has been serving green chili cheeseburgers for more than 50 years,
Bert's Burger Bowl near the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe has been serving green chili cheeseburgers for more than 50 years,

#5 Bert's Burger Bowl

Gotta love their slogan. “Since 1954: One Location Worldwide.” This old landmark on Guadalupe Street claims to have invented the green chili cheeseburger, so I went in with high expectations. Locals love this place despite the lack of indoor seating and short hours. Adding to my expectations, Guy Fieri featured it on his show Diners, Drive-in, and Dives.

The verdict? Very good! Not ohmigod great, but an excellent burger served with mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle already on the burger, wrapped in paper and placed in a basket. The patty is average in size, which is great for me because I love big flavor, but I am not a big eater. I can actually finish one of these burgers.

Ironically, Bert’s might claim to have invented the green chili cheeseburger, but it’s their exotic burgers that people rave about the most. They offer big patties made of Kobe, lamb, pork, bison, and ostrich with some gourmet condiments.

Atmosphere: Very casual
Seating: Outdoor only
Price: Under $4.00 for the green chili cheeseburger
Between $7.00 and $10.00 for the exotic patties

Blake's Lotaburger in downtown Santa Fe
Blake's Lotaburger in downtown Santa Fe

#4 Blake's Lotaburger

This small, regional chain opened its first location in Albuquerque in 1952. It is now a New Mexican staple with 76 locations. The one closest to the Plaza in Santa Fe, at the corner of Guadalupe St and Paseo de Peralta (practically across the street from Bert’s Burger Bowl), is an old fashioned burger stand where you place your order at the walk-up window then take it home or eat it in your car under the covered parking. Like Bert’s, the burgers come wrapped in paper with the condiments and garnish already on the burger. To me, the chilies here seem slightly hotter than the other places on my list, and the burgers come in two sizes: the Lota Burger and the smaller, Itsa Burger.

Just an all-round, good, affordable hamburger with a green chili twist.

Atmosphere: Casual
Seating: Varies by location
Price: Under $4.00

Del Charro offers tasty and affordable food in an authentic saloon atmosphere.
Del Charro offers tasty and affordable food in an authentic saloon atmosphere.

#3 Del Charro Saloon in the Inn of the Governors

If you factor in location, atmosphere, and value, this would be my #1 pick. Del Charro is also one of my absolute favorite bars. Located at the corner of Don Gaspar and Alameda, two blocks from the Plaza, it’s right on the walking path between the Plaza and the Railyard. It’s a cross between a Wild West saloon and an Old World pub with tables by the windows for people-watching, a massive bar for watching sports games, and big leather chairs before the fireplace. There’s also something very social about the layout that invites you to visit with other patrons, or find a dark corner to focus on your date.

But wait, we’re talking about burgers.

Okay, excellent burger. Excellent! You can order it in a variety of ways from classic American to green chili cheeseburger. A good, thick piece of meat and fresh condiments add to the value.

Atmosphere: Relaxed, cozy bar
Seating:
Indoor and outdoor, tables, bar, and fireside armchairs
Price: $7.50 for the green chili cheeseburger

Rio Chama Steakhouse offers fine dining in a historic adobe on Old Santa Fe Trail
Rio Chama Steakhouse offers fine dining in a historic adobe on Old Santa Fe Trail

#2 Rio Chama Steakhouse

This is the only “fine dining” stop on my burger tour, but wow, do they know how to do a burger up right. In fact, they almost tie with my #1 pick for flavor. The taste is actually very similar. The key is exceptional meat, perfectly cooked and served with everything on the side. For me, I leave everything “on the side.” Trust me. Stick with just the meat, green chilies, and cheese (go with the asadero!). This burger doesn’t need mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, etc. It doesn’t need anything. The meat, chilies, and cheese are that good.

Second tip: order the sweet potato fries.

Oh, and the patty is huge. So, arrive with a big appetite, split the burger, or plan on bringing some of it home.

Atmosphere: Sophisticated dining in a historic adobe on Old Santa Fe Trail, near the Plaza and Canyon Road
Seating: Indoor and courtyard tables
Prices: Not cheap, but worth the price

The Bobcate Bite was named #1 on Bon Appetit Magazine's Top Ten Best Hamburgers in America
The Bobcate Bite was named #1 on Bon Appetit Magazine's Top Ten Best Hamburgers in America

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#1 Bobcat Bite

Ask any resident of Santa Fe for the best green chili cheeseburger, and they’ll nearly always say “Bobcat Bite.” I’m embarrassed to admit I had yet to hear about this unanimous vote until a year ago when my husband and I were watching a Food Network show hosted by Alton Brown naming Bon Appetit Magazine’s top ten picks for various foods such as pizza, BBQ, and burgers. When they announced “Bobcat Bite out on Old Las Vegas Highway” as their Number 1 Best Burgers in the Country, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Gotta go there. Tomorrow!”

Our reasoning for going the very next day was that locals would already know about Bobcat Bite, so chances were they wouldn’t be flocking there in any greater number. And people from further away wouldn’t have had time to make the trip. Boy were we wrong!

We arrived to a packed parking lot (mostly gravel and potholes) and a crowd of people sitting outside a tiny, unimpressive, adobe structure. We quickly learned a crowd always forms early, but this was larger than normal. Nearly everyone there had seen the episode the night before and several people had driven quite a distance to get there before noon. The kicker though was the three people who sat beside us at the community counter. They'd come all the way from Dallas! They’d seen the show the night before, got up early that morning, jumped on a plane, flew to Albuquerque, rented a car, and drove to Santa Fe to eat at Bobcat Bit.

They were not disappointed.

Neither were we.

Tip: Like Rio Chama, leave off the condiments and garnish. At Bobcat Bite, the exceptional meat cooked on a well-seasoned, cast iron grill, freshly roasted green chilies, and mild Swiss cheese are all you need. Also, as with Rio Chama, go hungry, split a burger, or plan to take some home. Oh, and order the home fries instead of the chips.

Atmosphere: Hole in the Wall
Seating: Limited so expect a wait
Price: Under $10

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Comments 5 comments

2patricias profile image

2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Pat writes - I actually have eaten a burger in Santa Fe. I remember it was a sports bar but not the name of the place. There was a big screen TV (of course) and beer for the guys was served in bottles - I was given a glass. The burger was good! My son had green chili sauce for the first time and lived to tell the tale.


'Bob T. 6 years ago

That's "Bobcat" not Bobcate...anyway, I agree that it's the best!


NCYS 5 years ago

FILESAM COMES


BizVT34 profile image

BizVT34 4 years ago from USA

Hmmmm, I'm thinking the Kobe Green Chile Burger at The Cantina (Coyote) is the winner..but I might be letting those amazing fries influence my judgment.


Doc Schuler 3 years ago

Since I was there at the creation-I can tell you it (the green chile burger)wasn't 'invented' at Bert's Burger 'Bowl' on what is now Guadalupe St.-It was 'invented' at the old Hart's Drive-Inn on Cerrillos Road-where Bert (Leonard) and Emma Bertram started out! When the 'Bowl' was built and they moved the business-the 'green chile burger basket'-went with them-Sammie (the older of their twin sons)-and I spent many a Saturday morning helping to make the chile spread that was applied to that wonderful culinary delight-and yes-every single day of my life (now living in Maine) I yearn for one!!

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