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Another local eatery bites the dust, and this one hurts

Santa Fe has lost a big part of a whole generation of classic local restaurants in recent years.

Elsewhere on this page, you’ll see a piece about the demise of Pranzo’s Italian Grill and the musical cabaret that was one of that restaurant’s attractions. Just a few of the other now-missing favorites include Bert’s Burger Bowl, Santa Fe Baking Co., Lan’s Vietnamese Cuisine and the Zia Diner.

Now comes another blow, and a big one.

Last week, Bonnie and John Eckre announced that come, Oct. 26, their Santa Fe Bite will stop serving its nationally famous green chile cheeseburgers and the rest of its menu. Garrett’s Desert Inn, where the Bite is located at Old Santa Fe Trail and Alameda, is being redeveloped by new owners. That may have been a factor, but the Eckres said it’s basically just time to move on.

As any local foodie knows, the Eckres ran the old Bobcat Bite, literally on the outskirts of town on Old Las Vegas Highway, for 12 years. The usually crowded, small adobe roadhouse that looked like something out of a 1940s movie added to the experience of diving into the diner’s offerings that were mostly burgers and steaks (with that odd side dish of cole slaw).

A dispute with the landlord killed off the Bobcat. But the Eckres moved downtown to the Garrett’s restaurant space in 2013, created a full menu and made a new success with the Santa Fe Bite. The burgers remained the same.

It’s no use arguing whether the Bite’s green chile cheeseburger is the best in town – everyone has a favorite. But the Bite burger is indisputably great.

A national food writer once was allowed back in the kitchen to see how the big, juicy masterpiece was created and the Eckres provided all the details.

The beef is local and ground fresh daily, 90 percent chuck and 10 percent sirloin. Brioche buns, also New Mexico made, are smeared with garlic butter and toasted on a separate griddle. A sprinkle of salt, pepper, garlic salt and onion salt, in a secret ratio, goes on. A weight is placed atop the patty once it’s on the Bite’s well-seasoned cast-iron grill, but gets pressed only once, keeping the juices inside. Roasted Hatch green chile is warmed before it’s added along with a blend of Swiss and American cheese.

Need we say more?

Food is important to any distinct local culture. Santa Fe gets kudos for its fine dining and traditional New Mexican fare. The Eckres did their part with their signature sandwich.

No one could or should eat a Santa Fe Bite green chile cheeseburger every day. But it was good to know the Bite burger was there when you needed one. The loss of the Bite hurts.

Somehow, we’ll have to adapt. Change is inevitable. New doors open. Dave’s Not Here went away, but now we have the Tune Up Cafe in the same spot. No one will starve because a particular restaurant closes.

For now, let’s just say thanks to the Eckres and salute them as they proceed to other endeavors. We should all be glad we were around when they were serving up such a wonderful thing.

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