Take A Stand On Good Burgers
The Burger Stand brings unique grace to the staple
Hamburgers are always tough to review. You never really know how to talk about what gives it that certain je ne sais quoi that you personally experience when biting into one. There are just too many factors at play for them to be easily quantifiable in terms of wordage. Even at the most basic level, is the only justifiable way to review a burger joint fairly is by trying a generic burger with no extra additions, just the meat, the bun and all the dressings you’ve come to expect? Or does the heart of what makes them excel lie in the variety of ingredients, the burger itself becoming a mere vessel to deliver the strange combination to your very core? Are we reviewing the burgers, or are we reviewing the creativity of the chef behind the burgers?
When we ran our Burger Week feature back in June, that was one of the conundrums we faced here at Weekly Alibi. Is the best burger in the city legitimate if it has no special fixings to it, just extraordinary meat and bread? Or do we look at something with a dozen additions and a diverse flavor profile that loses the meat to its other features and award it based on those pieces? All this philosophizing is me making a roundabout point: Hamburgers are one of the staples of our country's food culture and are arguably the easiest or most difficult to review with any sense of confidence due to the many factors that go into making a hamburger something worth speaking of. Enter The Burger Stand.
You wouldn’t be chastised for initially discounting this place. From the outside, it does look very much like any other burger-centric restaurant. What it lacks on the exterior, on Central Avenue across from UNM and neighboring the newly crowned Noodle District (we’re making that a thing, deal with it,) it makes up for in interior style, atmosphere and excellence in food.
I never lived during the years we refer to as the Wild West times, as most of you (vampires and other immortals excluded) can also relate to. Yet I feel in my heart, based on years of watching Westerns and visiting both ghost towns and recreations, that their style would more or less fit comfortably in those times. With a long bar top, intermittent seating within, and what looked like a handwritten chalkboard with their menu inscribed on it, I couldn’t help but get that vibe, in a good way. Not that it was itching for a shoot-out vibe (though we live in Albuquerque, so anywhere is just waiting for one to happen) but that it felt right to come in after a long day of rustling cattle, hang your hat up and enjoy local beverages and an honest, well-deserved meal.
The space also houses Central Ale House, which has a large selection of local craft beers you’ve come to know and love. Additionally, they do shakes and malts. So no fears on finding something to pair with the burger that is to inevitably come to you.
Let’s talk about the food. For the burger, I ordered the 8-oz. Kobe ($11.20). Not named after American basketball player Kobe Bryant but rather the style of beef used. Kobe beef traditionally comes from the Hyōgo Prefecture in Japan, but in the ’70s, cows were imported to the US to replicate and continue the tradition and style of this wagyu beef. The real key here that differentiates American-style Kobe beef from your typical burger meat is that it’s darker with a bolder meat flavor. You’ll find better marbling within it, allowing it to be naturally juicier. This burger came topped with pickled red onions, truffle butter, tomato-aioli and local greens. The bun was toasted to a gentle crispiness, and the meat was perfectly juicy (I order burgers medium-rare, don’t at me). The truffle butter helped accentuate some of that bold Kobe flavor, the tomato-aioli was a toasty, spicy kick to give the bites a little bit more pizzazz and interest, with the pickled red onions giving it a hint of sweetness and a little extra crunch.
With the burger, I ordered a side of cajun fries, because of course I would. A side of them set me back $3.50, and I would gladly pay that over and over again for these. Crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy inside, with a generous coating of cajun spices across it, these were some of my new favorite fries in the city. They had a thick enough cut to them to be a substantial bite, but not so much that I felt like I was missing out on the fried part in favor of just a lot of warm interior potatoes.
Finally, I tried their Chicago dog ($5.25). This Nathan’s hot dog came with mustard, onions, pickle relish, tomatoes, sport peppers and celery salt. Now, I wasn’t sure if this was intentional or not, but it had two full hot dogs in my box rather than the single one I anticipated. Since I grabbed the food to go on the way to the office, I never got to confirm, but I imagine it’s very hard to accidentally make an extra one of these for no reason. As far as traditional Chicago hot dogs go, this one can sit with some of the best in the city with its robust flavor and solid profile.
The Burger Stand was recommended by a coworker, and I normally try to avoid places that focus on one dish, especially if it’s burgers, but hot damn, they have the magic. They have a ton of other interesting and unique burgers on the board that I look forward to one day trying and working through.
1916 Central Ave SE
Vibe: Western burger lovers paradise
Alibi Recommends: Cajun Fries, Kobe Burger, Chicago Dog