ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The concepts “healthy” and “hamburgers” don’t historically play well together, yet recent changes in consumers’ demand for high-quality ingredients have led to a delicious niche: the grass-fed burger joint. As of early 2013, Albuquerque has at least three independent restaurants serving patties with a pedigree. Burger Rush is one of these, already with two locations and a desire to expand further.
Burger Rush opened about a year ago on Paseo del Norte sporting a vibrant logo and grassy-hued décor while plate presentation and menu kept to the pleasantly sparse side. A second location followed in the “movie theater neighborhood” of Jefferson and Interstate 25 – perfect for choosing a local meal in lieu of the myriad chains up and down the street.
Burger Rush’s beef comes from Heritage Ranch, a program that identifies producers with impeccable standards all over the country. One of its local suppliers is 4 Daughters Land & Cattle near Los Lunas – beef from right outside of Albuquerque is something to cheer.
LOCATIONS: 4320 The 25 Way NE (near Jefferson and Interstate 25), 503-7562; 7441 Paseo del Norte NE (at Wyoming), 821-1990, www.burgerrushabq.com
HOURS: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays (Paseo del Norte location closes one hour earlier)
The menu is short and to the point: four types of patties, four bun options and three deep-fried sides, with a toppings list stretching into the dozen, making flavor possibilities vast.
The single burger ($4.99) can be upgraded to a double for another $2 and then augmented with cheese or premium toppings for a dollar each. Sauce is included with each sandwich, from standard mustard or ketchup to delightfully spicy whole-grain mustard. Skip the weak chipotle sauce, but do make sure you receive whatever you’ve chosen – more than once my sandwich has come out without.
As with the burgers, 100 percent Natural Turkey or Chicken Breast ($5.99), Kosher Dogs ($3.99) and the vegetarian Black Bean Chipotle patty ($5.29) are eligible for the same toppings treatment. After finding the chicken breast just OK, my loyalties returned to that tasty beef, even if I longed for a slightly thicker patty to allow a bit of under-cooking.
We sat waiting for our order as the place began to fill with folks who were clearly regulars – placing orders with scarcely a glance at the menu board. The staff caters equally well to new diners, guiding them through the menu, and noting the source of their beef with pride.
Our food arrived in paper-lined baskets – no frills provided, none needed. Fries on the side ($2.99) come as thick hand-cut strips or sweet potato twigs. Both are cooked expertly and worth a try. Burger Rush advertises itself as gluten-free friendly, yet ordering any sandwich without a bun will initially trigger a raised eyebrow before the order is entered successfully. And woe to the plastic fork and knife attempting to cut bites out of the chicken breast – a burger patty is a better candidate when considering ditching the bun.
Let’s say you knew nothing of the beef’s sourcing; in that case, Burger Rush has a hard time holding up against other mid-range burger places when it comes to price. Piling on toppings will quickly add up, a point that is not lost on many diners looking to economize. A standard $5 burger can turn into twice that with extra meat, cheese and extras like bacon, avocado and grilled onions.