Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don’t be Fooled by Appearances

Lesson One: Say you find yourself driving out of Santa Fe on Old Las Vegas Highway (Las Vegas as in Las Vegas, NM, and not Nevada) and you pass an unpretentious adobe building. If not for the mass of cars in the parking lot, you might not give this place a second look. That would be a huge mistake. Behind these adobe walls you would fine one of America’s greatest hamburgers—the green chile cheeseburger at Bobcat Bite.

“Located on Old Las Vegas Highway which at one time was part of historic Route 66, the Bobcat Bite has been a family owned and operated restaurant since 1953.

“Originally a trading post, then a gun shop, it was made a restaurant by Rene Clayton (owner of the Bobcat Ranch). It was first operated by her daughter Mitzi Panzer in 1953. Since then it has been operated as a mom and pop diner by a series of proprietors…up to the present when John and Bonnie Eckre took over in May of 2001.

“Many people ask how our name was derived. Years ago before I-25 was built, bobcats came down from the hills and were given treats at the back door at what was one of the few local dining spots that were friendly to bobcats at that time” ( (No bobcats were sighted today, but we did spot a hummingbird outside the main window.)

We visited Bobcat Bite on our last Santa Fe visit and couldn’t wait to return. So following Chuck’s hiking through Tent Rocks, we were both ready for lunch. So what if Bobcat Bite was miles from the National Monument. This wouldn’t be the first time we have driven long distances for food. (The view of the area behind the restaurant is shown below.)

As described by SfChowhound at, Bobcat Bite has
“Quirky hours…Quirky rules—be sure to sign in on the whiteboard next to the front door or you'll be left waiting. But you can be eccentric
if you are a leader in the race for the World's Best Green Chile Cheeseburger—or for that matter, best hamburger, period.”

On our previous visit, I paid scant attention to the menu. This time I noticed that they also served a variety of sandwiches, a small number of dinner entrees (N.Y. strip steak and salad platter, hamburger steak, pork chops, ham steak, and rib eye steak) and a small selection of sides. But we had both come for the green chile cheeseburger and that was both of our choices—cooked medium rare or, as they say at Bobcat Bite, “red through and through.”

To this, Chuck added a side of potato salad. I knew that finishing a ten-ounce burger (Yes, you read that right—ten ounce) was all I could manage, I passed on the sides.

Don’t be fooled by appearances—Lesson Two: First, let me try to draw a word picture. In addition to the front porch seating eight, there are a number of closely-spaced tables in the main dining area.

There is also a counter with stools. At one end of the counter is the cash register and entrance to the kitchen. At the other end is an open space of no more than eighteen inches and then the table at which we were seated.

Sitting across the eighteen-inch divide was a young man whose body—or what I could see of it—was a tattoo-fest. His head was nearly shaved and he was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt over which was a sleeveless black leather vest. But what I really noticed was his using his cell phone to photograph his green chile cheeseburger from all angles. So, never hesitating to engage in conversation with anyone at anytime, I leaned over and said “I’m glad to see someone else photographs their food. We know that you won’t find us weird when we do the same.” And we then entered into a fairly extensive conversation about the wonders of the Bobcat Bite green chile cheeseburger.

Also of note, he proceeded to remove the top bun, screw the top off the black pepper shaker, and apply a very large amount of pepper to his cheeseburger. He turns to me and says “I really like a lot of pepper.” Obviously.

The lesson. Don’t let someone’s outward appearance be a barrier. Who knows what lies underneath the exterior?

Our cheeseburgers finally arrived and they were a thing of beauty. Again, I quote sfChowhound at “Served on a tasty bun….The burger is cooked EXACTLY as described in the menu and your order. Topped with perfectly melted white cheddar and piquant green chile…. No mustard or ketchup needed or advised. But you will need extra napkins and maybe a take-home box because this is 10 ounces of freshly ground meat. Overheard from the counter, ‘This is the best burger I've ever had.’ You may be right, Ma'am.”

As we were lustily munching on one of America’s greatest hamburgers, co-owner Bonnie Eckre came to our table. I took advantage of the moment to thank her for providing me with what so many restaurants won’t or can’t (some states or localities prohibit the serving of undercooked ground beef)—a REAL medium rare hamburger. She explained that they can because they obtain their beef from a local ranch and that the beef is freshly ground and never frozen. She also told me that a number of their local customers always order their hamburgers rare because they are confident that Bobcat Bite’s meat is safe.

At that point my new friend leaned over and told me that the first time he had eaten a burger here, he ordered it rare. Now he goes with the medium rare. When they say rare (dark red—warm center), they mean it.

It’s no wonder that Bobcat Bite’s green chile cheeseburger has been cited in GQ, Bon Appétit, Delta Sky Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune. It was named one of the Top Ten Cross Country Meals by the Sundance Channel and is a Readers’ Choice at

It is also the ultimate 5.0 Addie green chile cheeseburger.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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