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Fresh and local: Groundstone’s green chile cheeseburger impressive and affordable

New Mexico is known for the green chile cheeseburger.

So finding a decent one in your neighborhood is guaranteed.

Groundstone serves burgers, pizza and craft beers. It opened in Albuquerque last year. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

With the arrival of Groundstone on San Mateo in 2017, another green chile cheeseburger has entered the fray to compete with the best of them.

Groundstone sticks to burgers, pizza and craft beers, served in an upscale but classical atmosphere, with big stone arches and fancy lights.

Everything is fresh, if not made in-house: the bread is baked fresh daily by Fano Bread Co., the restaurant uses New Mexico green chile (on nearly everything), and its beef is all-natural, grass-fed and unbelievably tender.

The beef in the burger was cooked so well, so crispy on the outside and so juicy and flavorful inside the patty, it almost tasted like a steak. The beef came from an Akaushi cow, an American cousin of Wagyu beef, also known as Kobe beef. The pedigree might sound impressive, but the taste is noticeably fresh and peppery, and it doesn’t cost $100 a pound.

Kobe beef is not necessarily better than beef grown in New Mexico, in my experience. Japanese beef has a mystique, but beef grown in our own pastures tastes just as fresh and flavorful.

This isn’t a large burger – it’s about the size of a Big Mac – but it’s phenomenally good. It isn’t hot, but it is loaded with flavor and character. And it’s not expensive, at $10 for the burger plus $3 extra for a side of seasoned fries. Also, you are under no obligation to use the restaurant’s gimmicky name for it, the Heisenburger. Just order the green-chile cheeseburger.

(The fries were OK, but the burger was so fantastic it didn’t matter.)

The burger came with a few giant strips of New Mexico green chile, smoked cheddar cheese, bibb lettuce, thin strips of applewood-smoked bacon, onions, a giant slice of tomato, and green chile-infused mayonnaise on a brioche bun. The menu indicates the burger is spicy, but locals can definitely handle it.

Fans of craft beer will embrace Groundstone, which has 22 varieties on draft – from local breweries like La Cumbre and Bosque to giants like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium. It has a nice variety of wine too, as well as wine-based cocktails.

The restaurant’s three main food categories seem to be burgers, pizzas and sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna, but it’s got lots of salads, sandwiches and appetizers too. Like a chain restaurant, the place is geared to offer a reasonable lunch and a hearty dinner without taking itself too seriously.

Parking is plentiful, service is excellent, even during dinner hour, and the prices are consistently good (burgers are around $10 and pizzas are around $12).

The crowd on a recent weekend was mixed but thin; the place is less than a year old, and despite its regulars-friendly vibe, the neighborhood hasn’t quite discovered it yet, for some reason – but it should.

The place is a great little burger-and-pizza joint right in the geographic center of town with enough character and high-quality ingredients to build a great customer base, given the time and exposure. Which means you should go now. By next year, you might have to wait for a table.

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