Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Mother Used to Say:

“If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” Today I am going to ignore that advice.

We’ll start with a visit to Bert’s Burger Bowl, a neighborhood hamburger stand that is almost—if not equally—as famous as Bobcat Bite. “Bert's Burger Bowl is the local burger joint par excellence, serving not only the standard burgers and cheeseburgers, but also
the more ambitious proteins that are the provenance of fancy-pants establishments. Happily, Bert's succeeds on both fronts: The standard burgers and cheeseburgers come nicely charred with slightly chewy, spongy buns; the Kobe burger that I ate was intensely beefy and juicy, with a crispy char on the surface” (

Bert’s takes the concept of “no frills dining” to new heights. There is no inside seating so your choice is between the front unshaded patio along busy Guadalupe Street or a small side covered porch that contains eight (at most) tables. Bert’s was featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives and in the very small and cramped inner lobby where you place your order hangs the de rigueur Guy Fieri poster.

“Bert’s claim to fame is the invention of the green chile cheese-burger (something I don’t believe has been authenticated and is certainly in dispute because the Owl Bar and Cafe in San Antonio (NM) has been serving them up since 1945).
It should stand to reason that the inventor of New Mexico’s favorite burger should do it exceedingly well and Bert’s does–so well, in fact, that it was one of 48 restaurants selected for the inaugural New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail in 2009. Bert’s was a repeat selection for the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail in 2011” (

Our order had been placed and we managed to snag one of the tables on the covered porch. Soon our number was called and Chuck went to retrieve our lunch.

Chuck ordered the basic green chile cheeseburger which, when compared with Bobcat Bite’s ten-ounce burger, looked like a baby burger. In Bert’s defense, their quarter-pounder is less than half the price of Bobcat Bite. The patty had been “sizzled on a grate over charcoal, from which flames lick up and flavor not only the meat, but also the…cheese laid upon it. Dollops of fiery minced green chile are mounded atop the cheese, and unless you say otherwise, your burger will come dressed with mustard, pickle, lettuce, onion, and tomato” (

I ordered one of the “ambitious proteins” referred to at—the Bison Burger, cooked medium. This was a large half-pound burger that, like Chuck’s, did have great charcoal cooked flavor.
But both of them were dry (I know why our cousin Mike Dannenberg adds some ground beef for moisture to his buffalo burgers) and the green chile on both was scarce. And neither of us realized that the burgers come fully dressed. Chuck is no fan of pickles (so his burger, below, is partially "undressed") and neither of us cares much for yellow mustard on a burger.

And the fries with our burgers were—in a word—dreadful. I wouldn’t mind so much that they were previously frozen crinkle fries had they been well-cooked. Here, both had been barely passed through the deep fat fryer and as a result were lukewarm, limp, and very oily.

So we’ve been there, done that, and see no reason to ever return. Bert’s may be a local icon but I am not going to award it a single Addie. All right, maybe one for good charcoal flavor.

Ignoring My Mother’s Advice –- Part Two

Three restaurants are most frequently mentioned as having the best Chinese food in Santa Fe. One, Wok, we have already visited. Another, Yummy Café, is slotted for a future visit. And the third—Chow’s Asian Bistro—is the subject of this blog.

“’Gourmet not buffet’ is the motto of Chow’s. It has been locally-owned and operated by the Zeng family for over 14 years and has won the best Chinese food award for the last 10 years (Santa Fe Reporter). Chow’s specializes in Asian fusion, taking aspects of Chinese cooking and blending it with the styles of other cultures to create new and exciting dishes” (

“Chow’s is one of those rare Chinese food finds that doesn’t make you feel too guilty about digging into a steaming pile of noodles. In fact, this place features extremely fresh and flavorful dishes that jump off the plate with color…. Pick up some chopsticks and head to Chow’s for lighter, yet zesty, fare” (

It is always a good sign to find a restaurant filled to almost capacity
during the lunch hour. When we arrived, only a few tables were
empty and we felt fortunate that we were seated almost immediately. The interior was sophisticated with dark reddish walls, black tables, a few large plants, and Oriental prints hanging from the walls.

We started lunch with the Sichuan Calamari appetizer that contained battered and fried calamari that had been tossed with ginger, garlic, whole Sichuan chili pods, and scallions. At first you didn’t notice the heat from the chili pods, but the more you ate the more the heat gained in intensity.
This might have been a very good dish, but a number of the rings were quite chewy and the pieces at the bottom of the pile were oily. In fact, there was a real film of cooking oil on the bottom of the plate.

For our main courses, we started with an order of Sichuan Green Bean consisting of fresh green beans, julienned carrots, and dry black beans, tossed in soy chili sauce. We had our choice of protein and selected chicken with proved to be beautifully tender and moist. The beans were thin and crisp, but the whole dish seemed to lack flavor.
While I saw a few black beans among the mix, I detected none of taste that is described at as “sharp, pungent, and spicy in smell, with a taste that is salty and somewhat bitter and sweet.” And the soy chili sauce seemed to be missing the chili.

To go with the beans, we ordered the vegetarian version of No Roof Noodles that included egg noodles topped with bean sprouts, carrots, snow peas, and crushed peanuts in spicy peanut butter sauce.
There was just something off about the taste of this dish. The peanut butter sauce was overwhelming with an almost bitter flavor that Chuck described as coffee-like.

And Chuck came home with a definite food allergy reaction that lasted for most of the day. Too bad I didn’t come across this review before we dined at Chow’s: “According to several reviews of this Asian restaurant, the décor is sleek and contemporary, but the food is awful….Avoid this place when you go to Santa Fe…” (

Another restaurant not meriting a return visit and another 1.0 Addie rating.

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

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