Alibi V.13 No.51 • Dec 16-22, 2004 

Chewing the Fat

A New Owl Café is born on I-25

Ski Martin and the original Owl Café's cousin, twice-removed

Ski Martin (left) and his partners in the new Owl Café
Ski Martin (left) and his partners in the new Owl Café
Stacey Adams

Two decades ago, Ski Martin purchased the franchise rights to the original owl Café in San Antonio, N.M. and opened another Owl on Eubank NE. Now, Martin has joined with Frank Marcello and his partners, who own Copeland's and ZEA franchises, to open another version of the famous burger restaurant in the Shops at I-25! We recently chatted with Martin about the long journey of the famous Owl burger.

How is this new Owl Café similar to yours?

They're doing the famous green chile cheese burger, the malt, the french fries, the chicken sandwiches. Basically, they do a very abbreviated version of our menu. They're taking the best of what we do.

How is it possible to transport your burger to a new restaurant?

All the cooks were trained here. They were all here training in my kitchen, under my supervision. I had them here for about two weeks, doing nothing but burgers. Then, last week I was down there working with them everyday.

What makes your green chile cheeseburger so special?

Ours is the best in Albuquerque. We grind our own meat and make our own patties by hand. We cook our own chile and add our secret ingredients.

Mmm hmm. And the cheese? Is it the traditional slice of American cheese?

Yes.

Very good for meltability.

Right. We shared everything from processing the meat to how it's cooked, on a flat top griddle. Our burgers are not thick and not big. Our claim to fame is not the biggest burger, it's the best.

So, when Marcello came to you, were you like, "No way! You can't take my burger somewhere else!"

No, not at all. My first reaction was a positive one. I mean, as long as we're training the cooks, then I feel comfortable. And this is a real partnership. They're comfortable with me coming down there and checking in on them. If we feel like it's necessary, then we'll retrain the cooks.

So, what is your connection to the Owl Café in San Antonio?

We bought the name and the rights from them, 19 years ago. We have the right to do what we want with the name. But they still have their place and we are under contract with them to cook the burger a certain way. I trained with them.

The way the new place's cooks trained with you?

Yeah, exactly. So we can't open up a restaurant in Socorro County, but other than that we have the rights to open up anywhere.

Why hadn't you done it until now?

We wanted it to be perfect. They [Marcello and his partners] have a good reputation and they're good guys. We felt comfortable with trying one and seeing how it goes.

And if it goes well, what then? Worldwide domination?

Maybe! [Laughs.] But maybe it'll be 19 years before we do another one. Who knows.

The new Owl Café is located next to Krispy Kreme, on the west side of I-25, just north of the Jefferson exit. It is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day. Call 344-9964 for more information.