Bite back: Santa Fe burger institution gets a new start in Nob Hill

Chris Wagner, Jaclyn Gomez and Tomás Baca are bringing Santa Fe Bite to Albuquerque with a new restaurant at 3407 Central Avenue. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Time was when customers lined the bar at Santa Fe’s Bobcat Bite and watched the hummingbirds dance as the green chile burgers sizzled.

Opened in 1953 on Old Las Vegas Highway, the Bobcat held just a handful of tables as customers waited in line for their turn.

In 2013, new owners Bonnie and John Eckre opened Santa Fe Bite on Old Santa Fe Trail near the Plaza. They closed it in 2018 because of disputes with the new owners of the old Garrett’s Desert Inn.

Now Albuquerque is getting a taste of the Bite. The Nob Hill version will open at 3407 Central NE on Monday.

The Eckres are still looking for a location in Santa Fe, but have franchised the restaurant to a team of Albuquerque owners. The new Albuquerque Santa Fe Bite – ABQ will feature the same menu as the previous Santa Fe site.

The 2,000-square-foot restaurant marks the second taste of Santa Fe to move south since Tomasita’s opened an Albuquerque branch in 2017.

Co-owner Jaclyn Gomez has wanted to open a restaurant since her father took her to the old Bobcat when she was a little girl.

The counter at the new Santa Fe Bite-ABQ located in Nob Hill. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

“When he was off (work), he used to take us there on weekends,” she said. “I loved it.”

Customers walking into the cafe located next to The Guild Cinema will immediately notice a Route 66 ambience.

An old neon Pepsi sign, as well as Coke logos and tin images of Corvettes and Thunderbirds line the walls. A mural to the right features the business’ red circular logo splashed across a glittering view of Albuquerque.

Old Mason jars serve as glasses for bottled soft drinks, as well as lemonade and iced tea.

The requisite burgers dominate the menu in three sizes; you can also order New Mexican food such as enchiladas, tacos and flautas, as well as ribeye and New York strip steaks.

Fish and chips are available on Fridays; Sundays offer fried chicken. The food also include salads, as well as milkshakes and malts. Weekend breakfasts are coming.

“The original Bobcat was on Route 66,” co-owner Chris Wagner said, “and this is Route 66, so we keep that tradition.”

Gomez and her partners Tomás Baca and Wagner have invested about $120,000 into the business after searching for a location for months. Gomez is an accountant and both Baca and Wagner boast extensive restaurant experience.

Franchise owner Bonnie Eckre says about 30 percent of her Santa Fe customers hailed from Albuquerque.

“I have so many people who wanted to bring the Santa Fe Bite to Albuquerque,” she said.

Route 66 memorabilia will be available for sale. Customers who buy a tin sign trumpeting burgers for a quarter will pay 25 cents for their sandwich.

The Eckres are still scouting for a new Santa Fe location. They may open it somewhere south of the city as soon as late August.

“It is in the works,” Bonnie said.

The hummingbirds are waiting.

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