More and more, hamburgers are treated as high art. And Holy Cow is among Albuquerque’s vanguard of upscale burger parlors. The outdoor patio—on Central where Bob’s Fish and Chips used to be—is protected by a corrugated roof. Inside, you can dine on hamburgers at a table or the bar. The feeling is rowdy and friendly. A portrait of a single word, “burgers,” hangs from an otherwise bare wall.
Holy Cow burgers are served medium unless you specify otherwise, delivering a consistent and perfect shade of pink. New Mexico grass-fed beef is clean-tasting and almost sweet.
The burgers are so fine-tuned that I don’t recommend making any alterations. My first Holy Cow burger was a green chile cheeseburger with goat cheese subbed for the standard cheddar, plus an addition of pecan-smoked bacon. All of the individual parts were great, but they just couldn’t stack up to the house version: Cheddar cheese melts the right way and its flavor accentuates unapologetically hot green chile. There’s also avocado on the green chile cheeseburger, an unexpected gesture that works.
I’ll grant that a skilled chef can make veggie burgers that are worth your time, but for high art, you need meat between those buns.
My biggest beef with the burgers is that they’re unwieldy. This is partly because the patties are rounded rather than flat. It’s a calculated risk, as the shape of the patty is integral to how Holy Cow is able to cook it to such an awesomely perfect shade of pink. Thanks to a Fano-baked bun that collapses without melting away—adding strength but not bulk—the burger’s size doesn’t reach jaw-dislocation territory.
By and large, vegetarians eating at hamburger havens are stuck with nonmeat substitutes—which, frankly, are usually lame. I’ll grant that a skilled chef can make veggie burgers that are worth your time, but for high art, you need meat between those buns. Holy Cow does make a veggie version, which is eggplant- and chickpea-based. It’s a fine sandwich, though you won’t catch me calling it a burger.
While beef is holiest at Holy Cow, the salads are legit. They’re huge and some of the best I’ve had in a burger joint. My favorite is topped with ahi tuna, which can be made without the fish. But, oh man, vegetarians should consider declaring fish a vegetable—at least for the purposes of eating this dish. The tuna is crispy on the outside, ruby red in the middle. It’s shredded into large chunks and tossed with ginger-vinaigrette-laced leaves, edamame, seeded cucumbers and sesame seeds. Texture comes by way of wasabi peas, which inject a complementary kick. (A sandwich made with seared ahi and miso mayonnaise rocks just as hard.)
The Caesar, also good-sized, isn’t as daring as the ahi salad. But it’s solid in its mix of spinach and romaine, a light and mildly tangy dressing, and plenty for crouton lovers to crunch on. The beet salad—beets, greens and goat cheese chunks tossed with candied walnuts—is pretty much perfect on its own, but don’t let that stop you from ordering a side of sweet potato fries with cucumber Greek yogurt sauce.
The point is, those who consider vegetables to be more than just toppings are well cared for at this burger emporium. But with a name like Holy Cow, it’s pretty obvious where the art lies.
Green chile cheeseburger
Ahi tuna salad
Sweet potato fries