Local burger choice worth sharing

It was a dark and stormy night … followed by a bright and stormy day, with a blizzard that summoned Alice Cooper and belted out, "Schools … out … for … Monday."

I was set to go into the office, where hot chocolate and coffee were already available, but I needed more. The restaurant had two customers at 12:01 p.m., clear evidence of the stormy day and its ability to keep people at home, but that just meant a clean griddle for the only food that brings heat to the equation.

I arrived in the office, unpacked the plain white bag and got set to take a bite, when a coworker chimed in.

"Restaurants open?"

"Yeah, a few, but they're not incredibly busy."

"So what did you get?"

"Green chile cheeseburger."

"Oh? I've never had one of those."

"Hmm," I said. But on the inside, I did the theatrical double take, complete with, "Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn."

No green chile cheeseburger? How does one live in New Mexico and not have one of these wonderful creations? I know a restaurant that serves a good one at every city I visit, partially because that's one of the first questions I try to answer when I ask myself.

My coworker can certainly be forgiven. He hasn't been in New Mexico very long, and this is just part of the process of acclimation. He'll have to try one.

First step: Explain to him why it's good. The beauty of the green chile cheeseburger is the right amount of spice. It's hot enough to give you a kick, and on rare occasions clear out your sinuses. But it's not a hateful level of heat, like you'll sometimes see in jalapenos, habaneros and chicken wings.

Second step: Tell him it's New Mexico culture. Sure, green chile can be grown in plenty of places, but we know the best of the bunch comes from the Hatch area of New Mexico. People who leave New Mexico know there aren't substitutes. I still get sad when I think about the time I visited a hamburger restaurant while visiting family in Montana, and the green chile wasn't up to snuff. I thought about going to the manager and telling him, "I think one of your employees accidentally gave me relish," but I realized hating Montana for having subpar green chile is like hating a bird for having wings.

Step three: Selection. We could pick a larger chain like McDonald's (their chiles have had some kick in my experience), a slightly smaller chain like Whataburger (it's the best one you can get 24 hours a day), an even smaller place like Taco Box (theirs has won awards) or another of the area's several mom-and-pop places (all fantastic, with thick-cut fries). I honestly can't think of a bad pick.

For figuring out step three, a friend of mine a while ago suggested a green chile cheeseburger challenge where we go around and buy one of each and split them among us. But we figured out we put a disadvantage at the chain we buy from first.

But maybe I did it right the first time.

"You gotta try one," I said.

Some great things must be discovered without help.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by email:

kwilson@cnjonline.com

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