“Masterpiece! Masterpiece” sings the waitress at the Owl Bar as she carries a green chile cheeseburger from the kitchen to my place at the bar. It is 8:30am, and while the menu does have a couple of egg-and-bacon breakfasts as well as a few steaks and sandwiches, the unique New Mexico hamburger is what has put this out-of-the-way watering hole on the good eats map. Since at least the early days of atomic bomb tests at nearby White Sands, when scientists used to come here for a nuclear-hot meal, The Owl Bar has built such an exalted a reputation that aficionados drive from Texas and Colorado to eat ’em two by two. It is so popular at lunch in the summertime, you may have to wait for a place to sit.
Crusty, gnarled patties of beef are covered with chopped hot green chilies and the chilies are in turn topped with a slice of cheese that melts into them and the crevices of the hamburger. The green chile itself is a flavor revelation; in concert with beef, it’s magic. Customary condiments include raw onion, chopped lettuce, sliced tomato, and pickle chips. This is a glorious package, on any reasonable short list of the state’s best GCCBs. Green chile cheese fries are also available on the side, and there is a small menu of other sandwiches.
When I ate my cheeseburger at breakfast time, the stools at the bar were occupied by a few regular customers having their own all-liquid breakfasts in the form of Coors Lite. Decor at the Owl is a delightful roadhouse hodgepodge of beer memorabilia, photos, and paper currency that customers tack to the walls. The story is that the proprietors, Adolph and Rowena Baca, regularly take down the donated cash and give it to local charities.