Restaurant Review: Five Star Burgers
Fry me a river
By: Rob DeWalt
Published online: Friday, September 07, 2012
Appeared in: Pasateimpo
“When you talk burgers in New Mexico,”
Five Star Burgers
2 Chiles chiles
604 N. Guadalupe St. 505-983-8977
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
Noise level: moderate to noisy, Handicapped-accessible
In short order:
With locations in Albuquerque, Taos,
Colorado, and Missouri, Five Star
is the newest burger option
to hit downtown Santa Fe. Owner Bob
Guntram pairs a bright cafeteria-meets-sports-bar design scheme with natural,
hormone-free Harris Ranch beef,
specially baked brioche buns, Colorado
bison, and other meaty goodies for
a gourmet burger experience that
sometimes falls short because of slow,
inattentive service or poorly executed
pre-frozen sides. Recommended:
Taos burgers, bison burgers, and hand-mixed shakes.
*Ratings range from 0 to 4 chiles, including half chiles.
This reflects the reviewer's experience with regard
to food and drink, atmosphere, service, and value
begins a Great
American Bites article on USA Today’s online travel page,
“you’re talking green chile cheese burgers. But what distinguishes Five Star Burgers ... is quality.”
Published before the Santa Fe Five Star Burgers location
opened earlier this summer, the article failed to mention that
Santa Fe diners, who are used to paying a little more than
folks in Albuquerque for the same meal, also tend to want fries
and other sides to be of equal quality, especially for the higher
tourist-economy spend. Unfortunately, that expectation isn’t
always met at the chain’s newest New Mexico link (there are
also stores in Taos, Albuquerque, Missouri, and Colorado).
Painted purple and gold accents in the dining room and
bar area brighten the mood. Televisions are generally tuned
to sporting events. An issue with flies in damp weather will
dissipate as it gets colder, but for now, a few fly strips near
the patio may be in order.
There’s a cafeteria-meets-sports-bar atmosphere at Five
Star, which finds football and baseball fans huddled at the
bar while families with small children grab a bite in the
usually-packed dining room or on the open patio before
or after taking in a movie at nearby Regal DeVargas. The
owner of the Five Star mini empire, Bob Guntram, grew
up watching his father feed people in an industrial-cafeteria
setting, and for better or for worse, he brings a certain
assembly-line aesthetic to his own food-service venture.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s “fast” food.
Service on three visits was friendly, if a bit slow, inattentive,
and clumsy. Once, a server lost hold of some ketchup, and it
wound up on my dining companion and on the floor by his
chair. On two occasions, drinks were forgotten entirely until
a staff member was reminded. Five Star does a tremendous
takeout business, and sometimes, those call-in orders find the
staff scrambling to keep up with sit-down diners’ needs. On
one visit, I watched a local restaurateur wait 30 minutes for a
burger to go. He handled it better than I would have.
And about those burgers: Five Star serves up some delicious
varieties that range from the classic beef-plus-bun garnished
with tomato, onion, pickle, lettuce, and your choice of condiments, to a veggie burger, lamb burger, and portobello burger.
Five Star’s beef patties are all fashioned from hormone- and
antibiotic-free Black Angus beef from California’s sprawling
Harris Ranch, and the meat is ground fresh daily at the
restaurant site. Note: burgers here are marked on a grill and
then finished on a griddle. They are not char-grilled.
It would be nice to see Five Star using additive-free,
grass-finished beef from New Mexico ranchers, but with
properties and investments outside the state, perhaps that’s
cost-prohibitive for Guntram. With at least one eye toward
sustainability, the restaurant chain recycles frying oil for
biofuel, sources a few local products, and uses bio-degradable
and recycled paper products.
Juicy is the name of the game for the beef and bison
burgers, cooked perfectly to order on separate visits. Bread
for the burgers hails from Albuquerque’s Fano Bread Co.,
which whips up soft brioche buns especially for Five Star.
A light toast on the bun completes the package nicely.
A Taos burger included made-in-house “crispy green chile”
— julienned roasted green-chile strips deep-fried in a crusty
breading instead of a tempura-style batter. Sadly, the chile
flavor got lost in a sea of institutional-tasting barbecue sauce
and a heavy hand of cheddar cheese. The 5 Star burger with
Gorgonzola and applewood smoked bacon was an exercise in
perfect burger balance; a symmetry of salty and smoky that,
were it not for some super-cold beer, would have lingered like
a jealous lover.
Two grilled Colorado-bison burgers with grilled onions
— one with smoked provolone and bacon — were also juicy
and memorable, and went down easy with a couple of hand-
whipped milkshakes, one vanilla, one Bananas Foster. It was
disconcerting to hear the bartender say, “I’ve never made
this banana shake before. This’ll be interesting.” Someone, it
seems, missed a training day. Luckily, it was delicious, as was
my vanilla shake.
The major letdowns here are the fried side items, all of which
are, according to the hostess and a server, pre-frozen products.
French fries and sweet-potato fries will cost you extra— they
don’t come automatically with a $9 to $11 standard burger
— and on two occasions they arrived greasy and underdone.
Fried pickles and fried green beans sounded nice, but they
suffered the same fate as the fries: frozen, floppy failure.
I’ll definitely return to Five Star to try some of their other
burger variations, but I’ll forego the fries and other side items.
“But Rob,” you say, “why not just order a salad?” If I wanted a
salad, I wouldn’t be at a burger joint to begin with.
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