The hottest event at the New Mexico State Fair is also one of the most popular: the Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge.
Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ & Espresso in Hatch earned the first place trophy for 2017. Sparky’s owner Teako Nunn says the chile used on the burger was in the field just two days prior, making his entry a true farm-to-table entrée.
Green chile cheeseburgers are serious eats in New Mexico. Albuquerque even has a day dedicated to the iconic sandwich. Its name and description are the same: a juicy hamburger topped with cheese and green chile. Simple, yet no two are the same. From secret spices to a specific combination of ground meat, each entry in the contest has been carefully crafted.
The 2016 winner came from Laguna Burger, and is served at four different locations in the Pueblo of Laguna. It delivers one of the tastiest half-pound, never-frozen, Hatch-chile-decorated burgers in the state.
“If people have never seen it, they are surprised by how massive it is – a half-pound burger with hand-formed, fresh beef patties. We use a special grind so the meat is very juicy,” says Ryan Westerman, Laguna Burger manager. “When people come in and say thanks to the cooks and tell them it’s the best burger they’ve ever had, it causes our employees to take a lot of pride in it. They put a lot of care into it.”
The Laguna Burger rose to fame from humble beginnings, being served at two Travel Centers along Route 66, and inside the Route 66 and Dancing Eagle casinos. Today it has a cult-like following with green chile cheeseburger fans all over the world. Sales figures have risen every year since the Laguna Burger with hand-cut fries meal was introduced in 2005.
“It’s a unique find on Route 66, and being on 66, we have gotten travelers from all over the world so the Laguna Burger has ended up on a lot of travel blogs,” Westerman says. “We’ve developed a huge presence on social media, like Facebook and Twitter, too. We haven’t had to do much advertising because the Laguna Burger speaks for itself.”
A longtime favorite food of New Mexicans, the green chile cheeseburger is prepared all over the state.
“We look forward to bringing the world-famous Laguna Burger to even more guests when we open our first location in Albuquerque in November 2017, across from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center,” says Jorge Brasil, chief of food and beverage for the Laguna Development Corporation.
Get the recipe for Green Chile Cheeseburgers here.