Tag Archives: cheeseburger

Green Chili Cheeseburger

Rob and I have an ongoing debate (well, such as it is. He keeps pressing but I am right. He puts ketchup on leftover pizza so who are you gonna believe?) about burgers. A hamburger in my opinion is a fabulous ground beef patty with little seasoning and a binder. It is topped with the classics: ketchup, yellow mustard, green relish, raw onion, dill pickle, iceberg lettuce and tomato….all on a soft white bun. Add a slice of American cheese and call it a cheeseburger. You start adding garlic to the patty, Dijon, arugula , brie and present it on chiabatta and I maintain it is now a sandwich – maybe a great sandwich, but not a burger.

Enter the green chili cheeseburger of New Mexico fame. This one Rob and I agree on. You cannot mess around with this. It is an entity unto its own. Perfection. We first encountered this cheeseburger at the Owl Bar in San Antonio, New Mexico. About to hit the road to Albuquerque from Santa Fe, we were told we must visit this bar and have a green chili cheeseburger by the concierge at the Inn of the Five Graces. San Antonio is little more than a gas stop, four pickups and this little dark, windowless bar. The Owl is also a famous footnote in history — it had a role in the birth of the Atomic Age.

The steps below outline how to recreate an all-dressed green chili cheeseburger as close as possible to the real deal at The Owl. No substitutions. No upgrades. The patty MUST be fried on a flat top, not grilled on the BBQ. The cheese MUST be a crappy, orange American slice. The bun MUST be a soft, white, cheap, classic burger bun. Alas, living in the Great White North we can only approximate Hatch, New Mexico green chilies. Old El Paso chopped green chilies in a can are pretty close, but less variable in heat.

Here are the steps:

1. Mix freshly ground beef with salt, pepper and one egg to help the burgers keep their shape when cooked. Form burgers that are not too thick and they can be ragged at the edges. This makes for better caramelization and better flavour.

2. Slice some tomato and onion and shred some lettuce

3. Heat up your green chiles. Because they will be placed on top of the burger and under the cheese, they need to be hot so the cheese will readily melt.

4. Heat a pan on your stove or BBQ (it’s less messy on the BBQ as this can splatter). The pan should be very hot. When the dry pan is quite hot, add the burgers. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Let them sit for at least 4 minutes to form a crust on the bottom and for enough fat to render to make them easy to turn over without sticking. When you think they’ve been on one side long enough, turn them over carefully. Place the hot green chiles on the burger and top with a cheese slice. You may need to cover your pan so the cheese can melt well.


5. Place your burger on a bottom bun and top with shredded lettuce, a slice of tomato and a thin slice of onion. Feel free to add other condiments, but this burger is delicious as is. Top bun goes on and eating commences.

The debate continues: how far do you stray from a traditional burger and it a still being called a burger? Rob says it depends on where you come from. Clearly in the Southwest, green chiles are a staple condiment.  At Louis’ Lunch, the birthplace of the burger in New Haven, Connecticut, no condiments at all are used, unless you count the butter on their buttered toast, which serves as a bun. Anyway, it’s a delicious argument. Let it rage on.




RT6: Jackson to Tupelo & More Elvis

We get up early to get a start on Tupelo. We have just one night here and want to have a little time to explore before setting off to Nashville. It is a cool 84 degrees at 9:30. By the time our day ends at 5:00 it will be 106 degrees. I cannot imagine being forced to toil in a field picking cotton in this heat. Brutal! Time to gas up and put some drinks on ice and hit the Trace for the second day. We have planned a few stops today on the Trace: The Reservoir Overlook, Cypress Swamp and the Bynum Mounds.

We encounter the overlook almost immediately and enjoy the pretty view. The reservoir is a sparkling body of water that borders the Trace for a time and breaks up the greenery nicely. There is more traffic on the Trace today and more maintenance workers. We also encounter more animals…deer, horses, herons and wild turkeys.

Our next stop is the Cypress Swamp. The swamp has a trail around it that takes 15 minutes to walk. A couple from Minnesota is just leaving and then we are alone with only trilling insects, birds and gators that are hiding from the heat. The bald cypress and tupelo trees are magnificent, tall and majestic. The swamp water is covered with a plant material, the colour of pale jade that literally illuminates the area. It is quite beautiful.

We continue on our journey, passing well maintained fields, forest and hay bales. The Park Service allows the fields to be cut for hay. Soon we are looking to have lunch as we skipped breakfast to get on the road. Stella 3000 is being a jerk today, trying to get us to turn into a ditch. Every once and awhile she tries to see if we are paying attention. She eventually gets us into Kosciusko, a cute little Mississippi town that barely registers a blip on the map, where we are going to get lunch at Rib Alley Restaurant.

Rib Alley is hosting a Rotary Club meeting in the front so we are directed to the back section near the kitchen. The restaurant is decorated in “early re-purposed rec room bric-a-brac” with crucifixes and mardi gras beads thrown in for good measure. We are offered menus or the buffet, which is comprised of chicken spaghetti, green beans, butter beans, corn, baked ham and vanilla cake. We opt for the menus. We both order from the “Customer Sandwich” list which is favorite sandwiches from certain customers. I can’t resist ordering the Smitty’s Canadian Melo, because it doesn’t sound very Canadian, some half-sweet iced tea, and Rob orders Jay’s Slide.

Lunch takes a moderate amount of time to hit the table as it is being prepared fresh. Both sandwiches arrive with hot, crisp, well made krinkle cut fries. My melo is a fried fillet of chicken with tomato, iceberg lettuce, American cheese, bacon (not Canadian back bacon) and ranch dressing on white bread that is cooked on a flat top in butter. It is grilled dark with a carbon-butter crust that is lightly crispy and buttery but not greasy. It is a great sandwich. Almost like a club/grilled cheese. Rob’s slider, compared  to a patty melt by our server, comes on Texas toast instead of rye, cheese whiz instead of Swiss, onion and a flavourful homemade beef patty. Not really a patty melt but still a really good sandwich. Good, honest, home cooking like your mom would make.

Rib Alley on UrbanspoonBack on the road again we stop at the Bynum Mounds at mile marker 232. These Indian mounds were built during the Woodland Period between BCE 100 and CE 100. Two mounds have been restored. Mound A contained the remains of a woman and the cremated remains of two adults and a child. Mound B housed a log-lined crematorium and the cremated remains and unburned remains of several individuals, along with copper spools and projectile points made with non-native materials, indicating a culture that included long distance travel.

We leave the Trace at mile marker 260 and enter Tupelo, back into fast food strip land. We check in to our home for the evening and head out to explore a little Tupelo. First stop: Elvis Presley’s birthplace, coincidentally located on Elvis Presley Drive. The tiny, two-room, shotgun house built by Vernon Presley is preserved and open to the public for a fee. Elvis was born in the house on January 8th, 1935. The museum on the property has free admission.

…in all its glory. Can’t you just feel the “King of Rock and Roll” vibe emanating from it? Me neither.

Next stop on our mini Elvis tour is Tupelo Hardware Store, “coincidentally” located a few doors from a guitar shop Rob wants to check out. Tupelo Hardware is where Elvis ‘s mother bought his first guitar for his 11th birthday in 1946.

Dinner tonight is also on the Elvis tour. Elvis spent a lot of time in Johnnie’s Drive-In growing up and as a young teen. The drive-in looks pretty much as it must have back in the day. We chose the Elvis Booth as it was unoccupied. This is where he is said to have spent his time. The eatery, decorated in early- and mid-Elvis is small, boasting just ten tables, two counter stools, two tables on the patio and carhop service.

The menu is presented above the kitchen on magnet boards. I spy a pimento cheese on the board. I really want a cheese burger but I am intrigued by this southern specialty. We decide to order one to try and share. I get my cheeseburger and onion rings and Rob orders a BBQ sandwich and rings. The pimento cheese is a satisfying grilled sandwich containing of all things, cheddar cheese with pimento, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato and mayo.

My cheeseburger is a basic, classic simple homemade beef patty on a soft white bun, with processed cheese, lettuce, onion, and pickles. $1.29. Rob’s BBQ sandwich comes on the same white bun and is filled with house-smoked, coarse-chopped pork shoulder, a small dab of BBQ sauce, mustard, tomato and onions. It’s good pulled pork – a flavourful, substantial, easy-eating sandwich. The rings were decent and the service was awesome and super Southern friendly.

BBQ sandwich from Johnnie’s.
Cheeseburgers for $1.29. Really.


Sitting in Elvis’ favourite booth!

Johnnie's Drive In on Urbanspoon