Talking to Ski Martin about the Owl Café's green chile cheeseburger reminded me of the conversation I had with George Motz, the guy who made the film Hamburger America. It is Motz' opinion that grinding your own meat is one of the key elements of a fantastic burger. I was surprised and pleased to learn that the Owl grinds meat on premises. Most of you probably aren't interested in shoving chunks of chuck into a meat grinder (or your Cuisinart!), yet you want to make great burgers yourself. One of the biggest differences between many home burgers and restaurant burgers is seasoning. You've got to add copious amounts of salt and pepper to your meat before frying the burgers. And yes, most places fry the burgers on a griddle rather than over an open flame. Frying allows the meat to retain more moisture. Also, don't choose the leanest ground beef you can find. Fat equals flavor and you'll need fat in order to make a big, greasy burger. For a healthy burger, use turkey. For a tasty burger, use nice, fatty ground chuck, season well and fry in a pan. When you're done with the burgers, brush the buns with butter and brown them in the same pan. And if that doesn't work, you can always go out to eat.
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The Route 66 Malt Shop (1720 Central SW, 242-7866) is expecting to open for dinner this week. The tiny shop only has seating for 16, but still does a brisk lunch business because they deliver, via pedi-cab, all over Downtown and Old Town. (Yes, the Malt Shop owners also operate Route 66 Pedi-cabs.) For a while now they've wanted to open for dinner, but when they finally decided to do it, they ran into a snag. The big neon sign they ordered was too heavy to be safely supported by the building's façade. Without the sign, however, it would be nearly impossible for hungry diners to see the tiny Malt Shop. So they had to erect a pole on which to rest the sign, and wait for the sign to be lit before beginning dinner hours. So as you drive along the stretch of Central between Rio Grande and 14th Street, look for a big neon jukebox. If it's lit, stop in for a blue cheese green chile burger and a mug of their house-brewed root beer.
If you're anything like me, December was the only time year when your parents came anywhere close to throwing what could be termed a cocktail party. Because it was the suburbs, my mom's friends mostly sat around the kitchen table nibbling directly from the serving trays and trading neighborhood stories. Because it was Texas, my dad's friends mostly stood on the porch, drank beers from the iced-down washtub in the garage and talked about cars and poon-tang. (I kinda miss Texas.) But the food was always good, nobody got into a flaming car wreck going home, and as far as I know, no divorce proceedings were ever initiated, so there you go.
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.