Alibi V.27 No.35 • Aug 30-Sept 5, 2018 

Restaurant Review

Worth the Wait

New Laguna Burger location proves as tasty as ever

The classic Laguna burger
The classic Laguna burger
Eric Williams Photography
For the last decade, one of the best green chile cheeseburgers to be had in New Mexico (which means one of the best to be had the world over) was either at Laguna, or more recently, the 66 Pit Stop. But that also meant a decent drive west on I-40 just for a bite to eat, something not everyone can or will do. But with their first in-town location opening last December, Laguna Burger has taken that road trip reluctance and instantly replaced it with nearby convenience—not to mention quality casual dining at prices that'll have mall chain franchises gulping and tugging at their collar.

On the lighter side of the menu, there's the western wedge salad ($6.50), a straightforward but pleasant surprise for a burger joint. Crisp diced bacon, green chile ranch and tortilla strips join the requisite tomato, lettuce and red onion for a portion that's plenty for a lighter appetite or great as a shared appetizer. Deeper into the sides are the onion petals ($3.90), an absolute standout—and this is coming from an onion ring snob! The beer batter has visible flecks of crushed red pepper and the heat they bring works perfectly with the two-bite onion bits. The heavyweight of the sides menu has to be the pulled pork fries ($6.90). You might balk at the price tag until you see the giant side order that easily serves as a poutine-like meal for one, with generous hunks of moist pulled pork, a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce, and the cool, creamy finish of queso blanco. Were they to mix fries and onion petals then top them like this, they'd be dangerously close to the perfect side dish (hint, hint, Laguna Burger folks!) Rounding out the lighter side of the menu is the footlong corndog ($4.50). As expected, it's a thick, slightly sweet cornmeal batter over a 12-inch hot dog, and it puts this damnably tasty State Fair staple within year-round reach. I'm tempted to try it with the green chile ranch next time.

The funky monkey, your boozy chocolate fix
The funky monkey, your boozy chocolate fix
Eric Williams Photography
If you're up early, the breakfast wimp ($7.90/ 9.90 with fries) gives you all the coverage needed to consider it brunch. It's two ground bacon patties (yes, you read that right), topped with an over-easy egg, a handheld hashbrown, cheese and mayo—all served on jalapeño cheddar bun. While it feels like their only true breakfast option, it's definitely a winner. A breakfast-ish PLT ($6.90) is their take on the classic BLT, only with bacon patties, basil mayo and guacamole added to the lettuce and tomato—again served on the jalapeño cheddar bread. Guacamole is always a gamble, which is why I recommend taking it (or better yet sliced avocado) on the side. The guacamole was approaching the overripe tipping point, and still worked for me … but it won't work for everyone. Otherwise the sandwich was solid. The roadrunner chicken ($7.90, +$2 for fries) was a juicy, grilled chicken breast with the typical lettuce and tomato plus smoky bacon, Swiss cheese and guacamole. It delivers sturdy flavor for those on the hunt for something besides a burger … but let's be straight here—we came for the burgers! A decade of experience means there's not a bad one to be found on the menu, but the fuego wimp meal (I took the chili—not chile—cheese fries, making it $10.90) is a notch above for spicy food lovers like me. The heat comes from a terrific blend of jalapeño, grilled onion, mayonnaise and a luxurious ghost pepper cheese that will delight many native New Mexican palates. The menu doesn't admit to a half-pound burger option, but I'll certainly ask after one next time. The chili on the fries is red chile and beef, with shredded cheddar and chopped onions, so my guess is that the Frito pie is solid.

As a final surprise, they have a full bar—and since it was a warm summer evening, the spiked lemonades ($6) seemed worth a gamble. I'm forever in search of a great lemonade, and these ones didn't disappoint. The grapefruit rose was bright and tart, but as the name suggests, built with a ruby red grapefruit juice that is sweeter than the straight-up grapefruit that I have grown to love. The peach-orange blossom lemonade was silky with syrupy goodness and the punch of vodka. For my fellow chocolate maniacs out there, the funky monkey shake ($7.50) is a booze-forward adult shake that would make Elvis proud. The rum plus 99 Bananas liquor combines with peanut butter, chocolate syrup, and a fresh banana, topped with whipped cream which, okay—I'll admit it, I'll likely order again! If you're on the hunt for a non-alcoholic treat, the orange dream float ($4.50) gets it done. It's a liquid version of that dreamsicle you remember from childhood, with a soft-serve swirl of ice cream and a Boylan Orange Soda, perfect for a warm day on the patio.

It's worth mentioning that in typical casual dining there are often highs and lows, but nothing at Laguna (save the nearly-overripe guacamole) missed. That's a testament to both the attention to detail and a commitment to Laguna Burger's approach: tasty food at good prices. And while that's certainly worth the drive to their other locations, now it's closer than ever.

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Laguna Burger

2400 12th Street NW
505-352-8282
www.thelagunaburger.com

Sun–Thur: 11am–9pm
Fri-Sat: 11am–10pm

Alibi Recommends: Breakfast: The breakfast wimp; Lunch: The fuego with onion petals, and a funky monkey
Vibe: An airy space with TVs and an outdoor patio that's quite a bit different than the gas station location many know!