Hannah: 22.2 miles from our house. So, almost 45 miles round trip.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll wait to ask if it was worth it….
Edward: Let me say first of all that there are a lot of local favorite burgers around here, like Owl Cafe, that I’ve found extremely underwhelming. So when I hear people rave about a burger joint, I tend to roll my eyes.
Hannah: Yep, this town, this state, really, has a lot of BEST GCCB EVAR!
Edward: To the point where I’ve started to question the palates of people here.
Hannah: But who was it, a delivery guy? Who originally told you about this place?
Edward: It was a co-worker — she couldn’t remember what the place was called — she just said that the best burger she’s had in Albuquerque is in a gas station across the street from Route 66 Casino.
Hannah: But I thought you said some guy was saying he has to go over there a couple times a month.
Edward: Yeah, that was a friend of my co-workers.
Hannah: Ah. Well. OK.
Edward: When it’s a roadside stand kind of place, though, or a gas station thing, it piques my curiosity.
My favorite burgers are often from those kinds of anonymous divey joints.
Hannah: I want to cut to the chase, so we can start talking about the burgers. This burger had EVERYTHING I like going on, and NOTHING I don’t like.
Okay, so we’re talking about…what is this place actually called?
It’s not Laguna Burger, right, even though that’s what the burger itself is called?
Hannah: 66 Convenience Station?
Edward: The 66 Pit Stop?
Hannah: Oh, yeah, maybe.
The little burger cooker area is called Laguna Burger, I think. The ladies had shirts that said that.
Edward: Yeah, I think it’s just the 66 Pit Stop.
All right, so I’m just saying that I went in with skepticism. Aside from Bobcat Bite, I haven’t had a hyped burger here that I’ve really liked.
Hannah: First impressions? Of the joint?
Edward: Well first of all, it wasn’t as divey as I expected — the burger part of the store looks clean and well maintained.
Hannah: A small seating area with nice tables and chairs.
Edward: The burger purchasing process is a little strange.
Hannah: Because you get your ticket and then pay at the store register?
Edward: You get your ticket, you pay at the register, then the cashier gives you another ticket which you give back to the people at the burger counter.
Hannah: Oh, I missed that part because I was getting my fountain drink.
Edward: Right, if you get the Combo, you get a drink at the fountain in the store.
Hannah: The place smelled great.
Edward: Yeah, nice and greasy!
Hannah: My other first impression was that the folks were nice and friendly. Very comfortable/relaxed vibe.
Edward: Very laid back. Except for the complicated ordering process, it was real casual.
Hannah: Smelled nice and greasy because a delicious fog of grease flowed thru the air and settled on every surface. That meant we had to touch the plastic mustard and ketchup bottles by wrapping them in napkins.
Edward: Uh, yeah, the condiment bottles were pretty gross. But not necessarily in a bad way.
Hannah: They were like touching our old stove hood before it fell off the wall!
Edward: The Fog of Grease!
Hannah: I don’t care. That burger made it all OK. PLUS, I didn’t even need the damn condiments because (foreshadowing) JUICY.
Edward: Condiments = not needed in any way.
OK this burger was FANTASTICO.
Hannah: 1. Toasted buttered bun
2. Big ass patty
Edward: ASS PATTY?
Hannah: 3. Creamy american style cheese
4. Hot ass green chile
Hannah: Plus standard lettuce/tomato/red onion.
Edward: Two things really made that burger, to me. The buttered bun — I’ve had other burgers that have buttered buns, but I haven’t had them toasted so perfectly like this one. Not soggy, not burned, and the bun was just the right consistency. Not too bready, but not too skimpy.
The other thing is that the burger patty itself was PERFECTLY cooked, with lots of crispy charred edges, and somehow it was juicy even though it was cooked all the way through.
Something that occurs to me just now, too, is that there was just enough mustard on there so it was tasty but didn’t make the burger soggy.
Hannah: That crispy edge on a burger is hard to come by.
Edward: I saw that the cook used one of those burger press iron things.
Hannah: It’s part of my favorite burger in my mind, and hardly anyone does it/gets it right.
Cooked on a flat-top plus that press = dreamy!
Edward: Yeah, I love a grilled burger, but I also love one fried on the flat-top, and the appeal of a flat-top grilled burger is those crispy edges.
Hannah: I know I was whining about the green chile, but it’s been a long while since I had a green chile cheeseburger and my tongue was shocked! But in retrospect, it was AWESOME.
Edward: Yeah, the chile had some nice heat!
Hannah: The chile was absolutely not canned.
Edward: No, totally not.
Hannah: It was whole roasted chiles chopped up.
Edward: I also liked how it was kind of cooked into the cheese, so it didn’t taste all gloppy. Most of the GCCBs I’ve had here have been a little too wet like that.
My one teeny complaint is that I like my beef a little saltier, so I salted the second half of my burger. But if they ever did a bacon version…that would be so noms.
Edward: Uh yeah, that would be the ultimate.
They probably did try that, but people probably just fell down dead from the awesomeness so they had to scale back.
Hannah: Also, I will just reiterate that for a well-done burger, it was incredibly juicy. It’s an unusual burger, for me, that doesn’t take some condiment. I wanted none.
Edward: YES. I’m always getting dry burgers, even the places I like around here like Blake’s.
Hannah: Yes. People. The juice (fat) is what makes it taste yummy. Embrace it.
Edward: I was trying to compare it to Bobcat Bite, which is my existing favorite, and I think that even though the flavor of their burger patty is great — especially when you can get it pink — I don’t think it’s as perfectly cooked as Laguna.
Hannah: Also, way farther away. Can’t be compared as an ABQ burger.
Edward: Except for the seasoning, everything was great — the bun, the onion — nice and sweet — really just everything. It’s just like the Platonic ideal of GCCB.
Hannah: Bobcat Bite has fantastic tasting beef. But for overall, like, “bite w/ all parts together” I think Laguna takes it.
Edward: Yes, I agree. I was surprised.
Hannah: You sure were.
Edward: I’m a gigantic burger geek as you know.
Hannah: I do know.
Edward: This place delivered!
Hannah: Takes a lot to surprise you.
Edward: I don’t know if it’s as famous as Owl Burger and those kinds of joints, but when I was looking at Urbanspoon and places like that I was seeing near-unanimous worship of this Laguna burger, which made me wonder if it could possibly be worthy of so much adulation. But I think…actually, yeah!
Hannah: Oh, hey, let’s talk about the fries for a minute. I had onion rings, which were nothing special — not bad, but meh.
Edward: Right, don’t bother with the onion rings unless you just really want some. They’re fine, but nothing special.
Hannah: I saw a complaint on the internet that though they advertise “fresh cut never frozen,” dude had seen them pull out a “bag” of fries from the “freezer.” I’m here to call bullshit on that dude, because we saw the woman cutting fries from a giant box of whole potatoes. Right in front of us.
Edward: Naw, yeah, that’s bullshit. That guy might have seen a bag of onion rings instead.
Hannah: Or maybe the keep the fresh cut potatoes in a bag in the walk-in…seems reasonable in realityland.
So the fries are once-cooked from fresh cut, like In-N-Out, but thicker.
Edward: Right. Now, I’m a little iffy about fresh cut potatoes as fries, because that isn’t actually the ideal way to make them. I know a lot of people love In-n-Out fries, that are made that way, but I think they get soggy too quickly. But I think they solve that here by cutting them more thickly, so they can fry them more crisp.
Hannah: Agreed. And they aren’t what you can be called super-crispy.
Edward: No, but they do have some crunch to them.
Hannah: But fresh from the cooker w/the burger? They are awesome. Really potatoey and tasty.
Edward: Yeah, I don’t know if I’d want to take them home, but eating them right away, they’re great.
Hannah: And I’m saying that as a person who doesn’t like that kind of fry.
Edward: They’re not as good as the fries at Torinos, but they’re awful damn good.
Hannah: They, too, need some salt, but maybe the seasoning philosophy at the 66 Pit Stop is: let the people do what they wish.
Something else I liked about the place — for the food they dish up, it’s pretty no-nonsense. One thing that kind of irritates me about Bobcat Bite, for instance, is that they’re kind of too into their own fame, so there’s a certain amount of preciousness that they cultivate.
Like being cash-only and having weird hours. This place is just a burger joint.
Hannah: Ah, yes.
Yes. And really, I was expecting some level of….I don’t know…mild disdain? But everyone felt honestly friendly.
Edward: You mean from the people?
Hannah: Well, I didn’t “used to go” there, we went there when you visited — it was a “bring out of town guests” kind of place. Maybe we didn’t even go there, but you’ve seen it on shows about Ann Arbor’s restaurant scene.
Edward: But that kind of place you mean, where they’re super rude because that’s part of its “charm” and because they can get away with it because they’re so popular?
Hannah: I wasn’t expecting super rude, but I was expecting “cool,” like Taos. But they weren’t.
Edward: Well, the only problem with Laguna Burger as far as I can tell is that they are a LONG ASS HAUL away from us.
Hannah: However, I recommend the following for any local folks reading this who haven’t tried it. If you like Green Chile Cheeseburgers, do yourself a favor and make that trek, at least once. That way, you can say you’ve had the best in town.
Hannah: That’s all I have to say about that.
Edward: Me too.
Hannah: Also: Dang, we ate well!
Edward: We did.