The Buckhorn can be maddeningly crowded, but if you are on a mission to eat New Mexico’s top-ranked green chile cheeseburgers, it’s a must. The meat itself is a wide, rugged patty about 1/2-inch thick, cooked medium so it is moist but not dripping juice, redolent of beefy flavor. While several burger variations are available, including a barbecue burger, a taco burger (on corn tortillas instead of a bun), and an Atkins plate (hold the bun), it is the big, juicy, fully dressed green chile cheeseburger, here titled the Buckhorn Burger, that has put this ramshackle tavern on the map.
Buckhorn’s Frito pie is a very good one, another example of multiple-ingredient poise. When you order it, you must choose between green chile, red chile or the combination of both, known as Christmas.
Considering how popular this place has become thanks to copious coverage on the TV food shows, it is a good idea to show up very early in the lunch hour. Several years ago when the Roadfood.com tour came through town, we made a point of arriving at 10:40am. When the door opened at 11, we were seated right away. By the time we left, just before noon, a crowd of eager eaters was outside waiting to get in.
The 700 or so citizens of San Antonio, New Mexico just might be the luckiest people in the entire Southwest. They have not one, but two, excellent sources for green chile cheeseburgers in town. The Owl Bar is already famous for their green chile cheeseburgers and they are undeniably delicious. But the Buckhorn Tavern, across the street and a quarter mile closer to I-25, doesn’t need to take a backseat to its more celebrated neighbor.
The Buckhorn Burger (what they call their green chile cheeseburger) is above average in size and delivered from the kitchen cut in half for easier handling. To us, the chile used here is milder in heat from the version at Owl Bar, but has a stronger, sharper chile flavor. The meat is lean, but still has the necessary big, beefy taste. A small amount of American cheese and onions mix well with the chile on top of the burger, while layers of tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and mustard separate the meat from the bottom bun. Messy, yes, and it all combines into a memorable burger.
The rest of the menu is filled with the usual bar food or Mexican choices and they even offer homemade pie. Unfortunately, the burger filled us up and those will have to wait until our next visit.
Bob Olguin runs the Buckhorn Tavern, built in 1943 by his father Manny. Bob is a big, friendly bear of a man, who happily spent a half hour discussing green chile cheeseburgers with a couple of strangers. Eating here was an all-around great Roadfood experience!