Alibi V.28 No.31 • Aug 1-7, 2019 

Restaurant Review

Burgers, Bites and Beginnings

Santa Fe Bite is poised to take Nob Hill by storm

burger
It may look simple on the surface, but the flavors inside are complex.
Eric Williams Photography

For being ground beef hidden inside bread, hamburgers have a surprisingly contentious history. At its most base level, for that exact concept, it’s more or less agreed upon that the United States did it first. The growth of industry and the need for food on the go contributed to the nature of a hamburger being a functional on-the-move food for the modern worker. Add the ease of cooking and preparation, and the ability to add ingredients to your heart’s content, and the rise of White Castle and McDonald’s in the early to mid-1900s, it feels like the answer is a no-brainer. But upon digging a little deeper, who really owns the concept and execution? Is it a sandwich, named after the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, who didn’t like messy fingers when eating? Is it the concept of ground beef being cooked, which can be traced back to Mongolians shredding beef slabs beneath their horses’ saddles while riding, letting the rigors of riding do the crumbling and cooking of the beef via friction? It even could be traced to its technical namesake of Hamburg, Germany, wherein emerged in the 17th century Frikadeller or minced meat in fried flat pieces that closely resemble the modern burger patty. All of a sudden, it becomes easy to see why this American culinary staple has caused a lot of anger about its origin. But definitively, what makes a good hamburger?

Does the key to success lie in the type and quality of the beef used? Maybe a certain combination of seasonings that accentuates natural flavors? Is it the bun itself being hefty enough to contain the juices and toppings, but not overwhelming the mouth with bread, so that the meat is lost? Could it be the toppings, the right combination of just enough lettuce, onion, tomato and pickle to lend a crunch and flavor to something that is generally soft and malleable in the mouth? Perhaps it’s something unquantifiable, a missing link in the general process of creation that we don’t consider with applicable burger science. If such a thing exists, Santa Fe Bite has found it and refuses to say what it is.

Once known as Bobcat Bite and located in Santa Fe, word travelled fast that they were serving the best burger you could get in the state. After a rebranding and eventual closing, many thought the dream was gone. So, with a lot of surprise for the general population, they reopened in Nob Hill, giving many Albuquerque residents, myself included, their first taste of the famed burger. You might remember that a few months back, we did a Burger Week, wherein I tackled the mass of burgers in this city with as much determination as I could muster for consuming nine burgers in just one week. I was left drained and feeling over hamburger, but also more knowledgeable and pickier about my needs from a hamburger. This is all to say that, the reopened Santa Fe Bite had a high standard to meet in order to pass the test of getting published here. I’m confident in saying they passed.

This isn’t a typical review where we try a bunch of stuff and let you know about it. This is a straight-up burger review. The only note I can add on other things is that while it was good, I wasn’t wild about their house-made potato chips or fries, as they lacked the seasoning to help them excel and stand out, but if you prefer something more traditional, you’ll be happy with them. The burger itself is hands-down perfect. I did a semi-traditional bacon-green chile cheeseburger ($15.65) with a fried egg on top. Let’s start with the bun, because it was unlike most other buns out there.

Managing to hold the whole burger together easily, it was light and soft and compressed well when bitten into. There was never a bite of burger that I felt was being overwhelmed by bread to the point of missing out on the “good stuff,” as we say in the industry. The bun itself was one of the best burger buns I’ve ever had, hands down.

The burger itself is a different story. Ordered to my preference of medium rare, it was very juicy, loaded with flavor, seasoned just the right amount and cooked exactly like I asked. The beef tasted fresh and wasn’t a gigantic, thick patty that left me stretching my mouth open wide to try and get a proper bite. Made of whole boneless chuck and sirloin, it wasn’t the traditional ground beef you expect at most places, and it stood out as a real master craft of meat.

The toppings managed to find a balance of not overwhelming any other single flavor, egg included. The egg was over medium, with enough solidity to hold it together from bite to bite, but still giving the runny yolk enough room to soak into the burger and bun without falling out everywhere else. The cheese was melted and gooey, an American Swiss that was subtle in all the right ways. The green chile had a rich taste, but didn’t pack an immense punch of heat, allowing it not to overpower other aspects of flavor. The applewood bacon was smoky and crisp, lending a little crunch to the bites that followed.

Earlier I mentioned that sometimes there’s a hidden factor in a burger that makes it different than anything else you’ve ever tried. This “it” factor is alive and well at Santa Fe Bite. It’s a burger unlike anything I’ve had before, showing that there’s still room for traditional tastes to surprise us in a world saturated with wild creations that push the boundaries of flavor profiles. As an addition to Nob Hill in the post-ART world, it finds itself poised to threaten lesser restaurants on the merit of its burgers alone, which quite honestly, are worth checking out for that alone.

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3407 Central Ave. NE
(505) 369-1621
http://santafebite.com

Hours: Tuesday 11AM–9PM Wednesday 11AM–9PM Thursday 11AM–9PM Friday 11AM–10PM Saturday 11AM–10PM Sunday 11AM–9PM Monday 11AM–9PM
Vibe: Minimalist burger joint
Alibi Recommends: Definitely the burger.