Sadie’s tops burger field at State Fair

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Brian Stafford, executive chef and co-owner of Sadie's, celebrates after winning the annual Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge at the New Mexico State Fair on Wednesday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Yes! Yes! What an honor! I’m freaked out!” exclaimed Brian Stafford, executive chef and co-owner of Sadie’s of New Mexico, as he high-fived his way to the front of an open space at the State Fair on Wednesday.

“I’m stoked, man! This is cool!”

That was his reaction to learning that his Green Chile Cheeseburger on French Bread took first place at the annual Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge on Wednesday afternoon, beating out 10 other competitors from around the state.

It was Stafford’s first time entering the competition, with a burger made of pink-in-the-middle 80 percent lean ground beef on two thick slices of grilled and buttered French bread, served with green chiles roasted especially for Sadie’s by farmers in Hatch.

It’s topped with lettuce, tomatoes, ordinary American cheese, grilled onion and a special sauce, details of which he would not reveal.

The cost: $7.25 for the burger alone, and $9.25 for the more deluxe version with the cheese and chile trimmings that garnered a clear plaque featuring a burger, a judge and a ribbon, but no money. Not a problem, says Stafford: “Then we get our bragging rights for a year.”

It’s a recipe his mother’s late older sister, Sadie, used at the original Sadie’s that opened as a diner in the ’50s and expanded to four restaurants in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, he said.

Coming in right behind Sadie’s was Rockin BZ Burgers, with locations in Alamogordo and Las Cruces. Its second-place Champ Burger took first place last year. “It’s still good,” said Cody Childress, who co-owns the burger joint with his father, Rusty Childress.

In third place was Badlands Burgers and Tortas of Grants, first-place winner of the Challenge in 2009, with its Malpais Burger. “We’re grateful. It’s an honor to be recognized,” said Alfredo Garza, who co-owns the restaurant with Daniel Chavez.

Judging was a tough gig for the four judges who tasted each of the burgers. Said judge Darren White, vice president of Albuquerque Downs: “There’s nothing more New Mexican than green chile cheeseburgers and the New Mexico State Fair. They were all unique, and more importantly, they were all very good.”

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