Alibi V.24 No.5 • Jan 29-Feb 4, 2015 

Restaurant Review

Redeeming ‘the Q’

Q Burger gets it together

MarQuee burger
MarQuee burger
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Albuquerque has had quite a few nicknames in its time. “Burque” is among the oldest and one that we’re fond of here at the Alibi, even if we sometimes mangle it into “Burky.” In old newspapers from the first half of the 20th century, it wasn’t uncommon to find “Albu-koo-koo” written by easterners who found the city’s mix of cultures to be delightfully discombobulating. One could even argue that the name Albuquerque itself is a nickname of sorts, the original authentic name being the unwieldy-on-the-native-English-speaker’s-tongue “Alburquerque.”

But in 2007, then-mayor Marty Chavez’ office took the unusual step of creating a new “official” nickname in a marketing firm-concocted ploy to attract some of that sweet housing-boom money our way.

Q Burger is one of a handful of businesses that took on the controversial nickname in the wake of the announcement and subsequent backlash. These days, its embrace of the 17th letter of the alphabet is almost quaint, a throwback to a pre-housing crisis Albuquerque and a reminder of Marty “Always the Mayor” Chavez’ sometimes tone-deaf publicity hounding.

“‘The Q’ is our ‘hip’ incarnation,” the City’s chief administrative officer announced, somehow managing to suck the hipness out of Albuquerque, all of New Mexico and the entire Southwest in one pathetically awkward sound bite. “It’s a branding effort,” he concluded lamely and then, mugging for the news camera, donned a baseball cap emblazoned with a green Q.

To put it mildly, the new nickname wasn’t a success. In fact, the backlash against it arguably reinvigorated the classic “Burque,” which began appearing on t-shirts and coffee mugs and as part of the rallying cry, “Soy de Burque.” Eight years later, calling Albuquerque ‘The Q’ is the surest way to mark yourself as an outsider among this city’s residents.

Q Burger is one of a handful of businesses that took on the controversial nickname in the wake of the announcement and subsequent backlash. These days, its embrace of the 17th letter of the alphabet is almost quaint, a throwback to a pre-housing crisis Albuquerque and a reminder of Marty “Always the Mayor” Chavez’ sometimes tone-deaf publicity hounding.

Appropriately enough, Q Burger itself has undergone a name change of its own. When it opened in 2011, it was under the typographically challenging name bRgR. In the years since, the owners have not only changed names but also redecorated the space and revamped the menu. Gone are the red walls and pictures of cows. The interior is now white; miniature chandeliers hang down from the vaulted ceiling, and flat screen TVs hover above the bar. A number of Q-obsessed paintings and photos serve as decoration, and the menu charmingly uses the letter every chance it gets (in “blaQ-n-bleu burger,” for example). It feels clean and quiet, the kind of place to take the family or just hang out and catch the game, which seems about right for any burger place.

BlaQ-n-bleu burger
BlaQ-n-bleu burger
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
The burgers themselves are pretty great. Local, grass-fed beef is spotlighted in 7 of the 15 varieties; the others are either vegetarian (quinoa or black bean) or some other species of animal. If for some reason beef isn’t your thing (though I have to ask, why are you at a hamburger restaurant?), you can order the aQua burger, which features ahi tuna, or a turQey burger (yawn) or even a chiQen burger (okay, the Q thing gets a little old). There’s also the “exotiQ burger du jour,” which ranges from goat to kangaroo to emu, depending on which animal wandered into the trap the night before (not really).

With all of these, you get a choice of sides: parmesan fries, sweet potato tots and the like. For my money, the red chile battered onion rings are the best of the bunch. They’re not as spicy as I’d hoped, but the red chile gives an extra touch of interest, and they arrive piping hot.

My favorite of the burgers is the saganaQi, a Greek-influenced item that pays homage to the owners’ roots. The burger is brought out first, then quickly followed by a slab of kasseri cheese. While you wait, the server flambés the cheese before you. A bit gimmicky, maybe, but who doesn’t like watching things get set on fire? Besides, the kasseri’s sheep-derived, herby flavor (just slightly gamey and oozing soft after the touch of flame) perfectly complements the beef.

The aforementioned blaQ-n-bleu burger is similarly worthy of attention. Naturally, the bleu cheese carries the back-of-the-mouth bite that you’d expect from a premium hamburger joint, but the real surprise here is the fact that a certain amount of it is cooked right into the patty, along with pecan wood smoked bacon. On the off chance your arteries haven’t hardened satisfactorily, a small dish of burnt butter sauce is included on the side. Doesn’t add much in the way of flavor, but at least it’s really bad for you.

Q Burger
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Of course, there’s also a green chile cheeseburger, that hallmark of Americanized New Mexican cuisine. The chile is from Hatch and carries a nice bit of heat and flavor. Q Burger’s version also has a topping of red chile aioli, which gives it a touch of savory smoke.

And what name does this symbol of cultures coming together carry, this blending that embraces both old and new?

Why, it’s the BurQueño, of course. And it’s something we can all get behind.

Q Burger

301 Central NW
224-2747
qburgerabq.com

Hours: 11am to 10pm, Monday through Thursday
11am to 11pm, Friday and Saturday
Noon to 9pm, Sunday
Price range: $8 to $13
Vibe: Quirky
Gluten free: Buns for an extra $1
Vegetarian: Yes.
Beer: Local

The Alibi recommends: SaganaQi burger, blaQ-and-bleu, red chile onion rings