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 V.23 No.24 | June 12 - 18, 2014 

Restaurant Review

From Dial-Up to Dine-In

Spinn’s Burgers and Beer

Armadillo burger
photos by Eric Williams
Armadillo burger

Approximately 1,100 years ago, when Bill Clinton was in the White House, the Dingo Bar ruled Albuquerque’s nightlife, and people still thought handheld personal data assistants were a neat idea; I had dial-up internet. For you Millennials, that meant I had to call a certain telephone number with my computer and then listen to the sounds of a cat being tortured for 30 seconds before I could go online and start very, very slowly stealing music. Anyway, in those dark days, I used a service called, which had a lovely red and yellow logo wherein a tornado whirled its way over the letters, signifying the power and energy of the finest internet 1997 could provide (half an hour to pirate one song!). But times changed: Michael Moore made some movies, something or other happened on Sept. 11, 2001 (I forget what), and dial-up more or less gave way to cable modems. That red and yellow tornadoed logo of yore long ago succumbed to the riptide of history. Or so I thought.

Brownie sundae
Brownie sundae

Imagine my surprise when, after a day’s hiking in Petroglyph National Monument, I drove down Montaño and suddenly, there was the same logo, as bright as ever, but now affixed to a strip mall sign. No longer is it in the service of interminably slow dial-up internet. Now it’s selling one of the great goods of humanity, that timeless hunk of Americana, the grade-A Angus beef hamburger. And, indeed, the logo is the same for a reason. Turns out that Mike Spinn, the owner of Spinn’s Burgers and Beer, was also the man behind my dial-up connection before he sold the company off a few years ago. “I figured that I’d retire and start my own restaurant,” he said when I asked him about it by phone. “What the hell was I thinking?”

I can’t answer that question, but I’m glad to report that beneath the old logo is a comfortable, tastefully appointed family restaurant and pub. The space is open with stained wood accents giving it a cozy feel. The decoration is what I’d call “muted TGIF,” in that, yes, there are a bunch of signs and junk on the walls, but it almost seems out of deference to convention: This is a “family restaurant,” and such places have signs and crap on the walls. In other words, it’s not trying too hard, and the overall effect is one of laid-back, craftsmanlike competence.

Turns out that Mike Spinn, the owner of Spinn’s Burgers and Beer, was also the man behind my dial-up connection before he sold the company off a few years ago. “I figured that I’d retire and start my own restaurant,” he said when I asked him about it by phone. “What the hell was I thinking?”

That extends to the kitchen as well. First and foremost, Spinn’s is a burger joint, and the burgers are solid, unfussy examples of the species. Oh, sure, you can get BBQ sauce, the requisite green chile and an egg on it, but if you want bleu cheese, gruyere or tortilla chips, you’re in the wrong place. Spinn’s burgers are old-fashioned and comfortable in that role. The great green chile cheeseburger offers a no-punches-pulled Hatch green, and the sweetly spicy Texas BBQ burger (both $6.95) uses a sauce that only adds to the flavor instead of overwhelms it. In other words, the cooks here know what they’re doing and don’t need to fancify anything to prove themselves. But one warning: The beef comes out of the kitchen medium well (Why?), so if you want a juicier burger, you’re going to have to politely ask your server to make an exception. I’m happy to report that the fries are also up to snuff, with the hand-cut russet variety being particularly good. Grab one of the many locally brewed beers and the classic American trifecta is completed.

But do yourself a favor and give the rest of the menu a bit of an exploration. The bratwursts, beer steamed and with a subtle fire to them, are definitely worth your attention. Get a double brat with sauerkraut on a ciabatta bun ($8.95) and visualize yourself in a Teutonic beer garden (easy to do if you seat yourself on Spinn’s shady patio). Or if you’re feeling steakish, try the 10oz ribeye ($17.95), as flavorful a cut as you’re likely to find outside the $20+ range.

For dessert, there’s a lineup of malts and shakes, all made with Blue Bell ice cream. One complaint here: Spinn’s, like many places, skimps on the malt powder so there’s little discernible difference between a shake and a malt. Again, I can only wonder why. My favorite of their offerings is the brownie sundae. The brownie is made in house and has a wholesome, cakey quality to it that makes for a refreshing change from the too-dense varieties you get at other places. And frankly, there’s nothing wrong with putting a couple scoops of vanilla and a scattering of pecans on top of anything.

If you live on the Westside and have a love for good burgers and beer, Spinn’s should be a no-brainer for your new hangout. If, like me, you live most of your life in the Downtown/Nob Hill area—well, now you’ve got a reason besides Costco to head over towards Coors. And if you’re running a dial-up internet provider? You might think about opening a restaurant. It seems to have worked out very well for Mike Spinn.

4411 Montaño NW, Ste. A

Hours: 11:30am to 9pm, Sunday through Thursday
11:30am to 9:30pm, Friday and Saturday
Vibe: Neighborhood burger joint
Vegetarian: Several salads
Extras: Happy hour, pet-friendly patio

Weekly Alibi recommends: Green chile cheeseburger, 10oz ribeye, ciabatta brat

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