After a long winter slumber, the Albuquerque dining scene has awakened.
A combination of warming weather, falling COVID-19 cases and pent-up demand had scores turning out at some of the city’s eateries on a recent weekend. Dozens waited in line to enter Sawmill Market. A similar scene was found nearby at El Vado, the old motel that’s been repurposed into an outdoor food court.
Downtown at 505 Central NW, staffers in black T-shirts pulled tables and chairs out of storage and set them up on the floor for the return of indoor dining.
It’s a privilege the food hall on the corner of Sixth across from the KiMo Theatre had never known, because it opened in November during one of the most restrictive phases of the lockdown.
I first visited 505 Central in December to try Wild Rosemary, a spinoff of Rosemary on San Mateo. Perusing the menu of farro- and quinoa-based bowls, I found myself getting distracted by the sounds and smells of burgers cooking on the grill at nearby Meateor Burgers, a new operation launched by Chris Wetterlund and Alexandra Leigh. I made a mental note to try it out the next time I visited.
Meateor’s menu is refreshing in its simplicity. There are four burger options, a small roster of add-ons and French fries. That’s it. No chili, taquitos, hot dogs or any of the other items that often clutter up the menu at a burger joint.
The thin patties are served cooked all the way through and come with Meateor sauce, a sweet and spicy mix of ketchup, mustard and chile. For dining in or on the patio, the burgers are served on a tray. For to-go orders, toppings such as lettuce, tomato and onions are packed separately from the burgers. It keeps the cold stuff crisp, although it means that some assembly is required when you get home.
The Meateor burger ($8.55) is the no-frills entry served with a melted slab of American cheese and the usual accouterments. Everything was fresh and the Meateor sauce is an improvement over ketchup.
The 505 burger ($9.55) is Meateor’s version of a green chile cheeseburger. There’s a good balance of flavors here, and the chile gives off a low-key burn compounded by the Meateor sauce.
The Zia burger ($10.55) comes with sharp cheddar, New Mexico red sauce and Fritos. Spicy, crunchy and salty, it’s like having Frito pie in a bun.
Meateor’s version of the Cali burger ($10.55) is an irresistible blend of bacon and grilled onions in a bed of melted Swiss cheese. With the addition of mashed avocado, it feels the most like a square meal of any of the burgers on the menu.
Alongside the burgers, Meateor serves some of the best fries in town. A bit thicker than the standard cut, they have a crisp shell and are well salted.
Meateor sells soda in bottles. A better option is right next door, where Tino’s Tacos has 32-ounce cups of agua fresca for $5.
There is nothing gluten-free on Meateor’s menu, but you can get your burger sans bun. Plans are afoot for an in-house veggie burger.
It took a little over five minutes for my order to come out. While indoor seating is restricted to 25% capacity, there’s a long, narrow patio along Central that offers shade and considerable street noise. Parking Downtown is pretty easy these days – there were several metered spaces available on Sixth the day I visited.
Meateor Burgers does burgers and fries as well as any place in the city. It’s a reminder that even through a pandemic, there have been a number of terrific additions to the local dining scene.