Hatch, New Mexico- the green chili capital of the southwest! When we’d passed through Hatch on our way to Santa Fe, we drove past a small, unassuming building that ASWNMU President Claudia Osuna immediately pointed out. It was “Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ and Espresso,” home to one of USA Today‘s Top Ten Green Chili Burgers in New Mexico. President Osuna quickly made an executive order, stating that the six of us would be eating dinner at Sparky’s on the way home. The motion was approved without opposition.
Sparky’s is a local mom and pop business that began roughly twenty years ago, offering customers authentic burgers that are grilled on a wood-fired barbecue and smothered in Hatch green chili. Last year, Sparky’s was named in USA Today as one of the ten best green chili burger establishments in New Mexico, ranking fourth in the entire state. While the establishment marketed it’s burgers as being “world famous,” the six of us had decided to determine that for ourselves. Claudia, Harry Wetton, Dylan Kester, AsiaMarie Garcia, Bre Aker, and myself would use our expertise as broke and starving college students to rate the “world famous” burger and determine if it was truly worthy of all the hype.
As we left the Truth or Consequences Branch of WNMU, Dylan called the restaurant in order to reserve a table for six. The person at the other end seemed confused, letting Dylan know that no reservation was required; the restaurant was on a first come, first served basis. Harry found this hilarious, comparing it to calling up a local McDonalds and asking to reserve the corner booth. Fortunately, this would be the only comparison made between Sparky’s and the fast food giant.
It was easy to understand Dylan’s reasoning. After being named one of the ten best places to get green chili cheeseburgers, it would be entirely too easy for the owner to raise his prices. But, when we’d finally arrived at Sparky’s, we saw that this wasn’t the case at all. After ordering a “world famous” burger with a side of fries and a drink at the front counter, the total came out to about $10 and some change. This was definitely a bit pricier than the average fast food place, but certainly not outrageous.
While each of us ordered “world famous” burgers, the restaurant also offers other dishes such as patty melts, pulled-pork sandwiches and even a ribeye steak. It also offers a selection of coffees and other specialty drinks. After placing our orders, the six of us took our seats around a large round table that could have sat eight. There were two tables like this, plus a number of booths. Sparky’s features live music every week, and the seating can more than accommodate a large crowd. Our wait only lasted about five minutes before a waitress brought out our burgers. The moment of truth had arrived.
The burgers were quite large, but completely void of condiments. There were two buns, a beef patty that could be cooked to your preference, some cheese, and of course, Hatch green chili. Condiments such as mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup were available for customers, though Bre had to pay extra for ranch. Harry set the criteria for us to appraise the burgers: they would be judged on texture, taste, composition and warmth. However, most of this went out the window upon the first bite.
My teeth sank into it without effort. When asked on my opinion, whether it was soft or juicy, the best description I could come up with was “biting into a pillow.” This led to much laughter from the student government members, who then dug into their own burgers. Harry and Dylan both admitted that “biting into a pillow” was indeed an accurate description for eating the burger. Both the patty and the buns were soft and warm, and the mix of tastes between the chili, cheese and beef was excellent.
I was then asked about my opinion on the green chili. Perhaps I was caught up in the euphoria of the experience, or maybe I just wanted to come up with a statement more profound than “biting into a pillow,” but my critique of the green chili was that it tasted like… it came from Hatch. Perhaps I was merely exhausted from covering the legislature sessions that past few days, or I was too busy trying to eat to come up with a better description, but mostly likely I was simply the world’s worst food critic. I briefly imagined myself as a failed advertising agency, coming up with such cutting-edge marketing slogans as “Hatch Green Chili- It’s from Hatch.”
While the rest of us discussed the ins and outs of the “world famous” burger, Claudia was hard at work, covering her burger with mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup in a show of artistic mastery. While Dylan expressed the opinion that the burger really didn’t need any additional condiments, Claudia shrugged, stating that she liked ketchup. Upon taking the first bite of her burger, she too used the pillow simile to describe the experience.
We finished our burgers a short-time later and departed the restaurant,
ready to complete the long journey from Santa Fe, though not before discovering some complimentary lollipops. Overall, we agreed that our dinner at Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ and Espresso was a good dining experience, and we agreed that we would most definitely stop in again if we were in the area. The burgers were exceptional and the restaurant had a very welcoming environment, providing the five ASWNMU Student Representatives and one student newspaper editor/failed food critic a good finish to a productive week.
Photos credited to Harry Wetton