While enjoying an afternoon meal of a hamburger and fries at Burger Boy in Cedar Crest, John Williamson said he wasn’t surprised that the little mountain eatery was picked by a national foodie website as the place to find the best burgers in New Mexico.
“I think it is the best burger in New Mexico,” he said. “I’ve eaten at lots places around the state, but I keep coming back here. Everything is fresh. They grind the meat here. The tomatoes are fresh. Everything about it is just right.”
Joining Williamson was his 5-year-old son, Alex, and friend Cory Hauler. All three were chowing down on burgers, a sight Jake Gutierrez loves to see. Gutierrez, who has been working at Burger Boy for 28 years, said the employees and customers have become like family to him and he has seen three generations work, eat and gather at the burger joint on N.M. 14 in Cedar Crest.
“It’s a pleasure for me to see that,” he said. “I’ve seen it grow from where we would be lucky to sell 50 burgers a day to now … hundreds.”
This past weekend, Burger Boy was moving hundreds of hamburgers as it was swamped with customers following SpoonUniversity.com picking Burger Boy’s cheeseburger to represent New Mexico in its list of The Best Burger from Every State in America.
“There were a lot of people I didn’t recognize,” said Barbara Johnstad, who owns Burger Boy with her mother, Kathleen Cushing.
Johnstad knows the people who frequent Burger Boy since she practically grew up in the former Tastee Freez that her mother and father, Bill, bought in the early 1980s. Bill Cushing, who died in 2001, is featured in murals that adorn the walls outside and inside Burger Boy.
“A lot of people said they would be back,” Johnstad said.
Although Burger Boy has strong support from residents of the East Mountains, Johnstad said there are also regulars from Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Los Lunas, Belen and Santa Fe. It is a frequent stop for area motorcyclists and athletic teams taking the Turquoise Trail route to Madrid and Santa Fe.
Johnstad said she tried to figure out who selected Burger Boy for the online listing, but the best she could determine is the list’s writer had once stopped there and never forgot the cheeseburger. It’s not even the best selling burger at Burger Boy, she said. That would be its double-meat, bacon, green chile cheeseburger, she said.
Most of the food served at Burger Boy is made from scratch. All the chile sauces are homemade, Johnstad said. The beef is freshly ground every day – sometimes several times a day as when they were being flooded by customers this weekend.
But an even more important factor than using fresh ingredients, Johnstad said, is Burger Boy’s cooks.
“We have fantastic cooks,” she said.
Jordan Walz, one of Burger Boy’s four cooks, said he takes pride in every burger he cooks.
“I think I make the best burgers, but it was really nice to see it get recognized,” he said.
“That was the greatest honor for us,” Gutierrez chimed in. “It only took us 35 years to get there.”
Several members of Johnstad’s family still work at Burger Boy, which is open from Wednesday through Monday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, except Sunday when it closes at 4 p.m.
Although Johnstad is thrilled that Burger Boy has been given the national recognition over more famous places in New Mexico, such as the Owl Cafe, she still gets choked up when she recalls the support the mountain community gave the business when it was hit by kitchen fire and roof flooding about five years ago.
Johnstad said Burger Boy almost closed its doors then, but customers wouldn’t have it and rallied to help the family make the needed repairs.
“I want the mountain people to know we appreciate them,” she said. “These mountains are still full of wonderful people and we all are family here. We are humbled and honored that somebody recognized our cheeseburger.”