This time on "Grilled", we're talking burgers with John Eckre of Santa Fe Bite, whose green chile cheeseburgers are the stuff of legends. John and his wife Bonnie opened Santa Fe Bite in downtown Santa Fe last August, after their first restaurant, Bobcat Bite, shuttered because of a dispute with the building's owner.
The new restaurant serves the same great burgers, plus new dishes like street tacos, green chile chicken enchiladas, fish and chips, and milkshakes. There are also new breakfast and brunch menus, but never fear, if you're not craving frittatas or French toast, you can always order a burger, even at 7 a.m.
Let's get this interview rolling, shall we?
Name: John Eckre
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Occupation: Co-Owner, Santa Fe Bite
How has the local community (and visitors) responded to the new restaurant? The response of the locals and visitors has been overwhelming and very gratifying for us, to the point of being difficult to keep up with the demand. There was initially a line that went down the street all the way to the corner (about 60 yards long). I've since added another four foot cast iron griddle which increases our griddle space by over 40 percent.
Do you have any plans to open a second location? No, not currently.
How many green chile cheeseburgers do you sell a day (or week)? Due to the fact that we have a 6 ounce, 10 ounce, and a 16 ounce burger, it's better to go by weight and say that from winter to summer it ranges from 200 to 400 pounds per day.
What are some of your other favorite items on the menu? The veggie burger with quinoa salad, chicken taco plate with rice and beans and our fish and chips special (Fridays only).
How often per week do you eat a burger? I eat red meat maybe twice a month, but when I do I have the best burger available.
Would you do us the favor of describing your perfect burger? My opinion of the perfect burger is our 10 ounce chuck/sirloin (ground fresh daily) cooked on our cast iron griddle until brown and slightly crispy on outside, medium rare on inside,and lightly seasoned with our blend of salt, pepper, garlic salt and onion salt. Cheese and green chili is probably my favorite topping but for a change, sometimes I just use pickles and our house made aioli sauce with cayenne.
What topping or condiment, in your opinion, should never grace a burger? There's nothing wrong with being adventurous with burger toppings, having said that I like to stick to toppings that enhance the flavors of the meat and don't overwhelm. Sadly, I'm not adventurous enough to have tried too many bizarre or exotic toppings on burgers. I think that the basics stand on their own without otherworldly embellishments. I did try a pico de gallo topping with cheese melted over it, which was actually pretty promising, and briefly considered sardines cooked with the burger to enhance the savory flavor of the meat, but luckily I came to my senses just in time.
Anything on the side? Rings are a personal favorite but I often opt for wedge fries.
The hamburger is a food item with which most Americans have strong childhood associations. Do you remember your earliest encounter with this delicious dish? A&W in Ventura, California was an early favorite. My burger of choice was their bacon cheeseburger. Paired with the fries and a frosty mug of root beer, it was pretty unbeatable. I can't remember when I first went but it was in my early teens when I had a much bigger appetite.
What's your favorite fast-food burger? I guess that In-N-Out has to be the one, sadly, it's not represented locally. Lotaburger probably is the best in New Mexico.
What are some cooking tips you can offer when preparing a burger? If you're cooking on a griddle, cast iron is best. Burger weights help a lot. Dimple the patty to keep it under control, and don't press down on the patty after the first two minutes of cooking (unless you like tough and dry) as this will squeeze out the juice.