A Visit to New Mexico's Buckhorn Tavern
Recommended for award-winning green chile cheeseburgers, perfect onion rings, great service and funnest owner/chef. Family dining, couples dining, groups of friends. Restaurant and bar.
During our visit to New Mexico, we had no idea how awesome the cuisine is there. Unexpected surprises all over the place. They know their food, they know their local farmers and they know flavor.
On the subject of burgers, we were told by family and friends in New Mexico, that “the place to go for great burgers and a fun time would be Bobby’s place over in San Antonio. It’s worth the drive out there. Sit at the bar if you’ll all fit,” they said. (There are six of us.) “If he’s not in the kitchen Bob’ll come out and start talking. He’s like a big soft bear, you’ll like him. He’s really funny and likes to tease. But you’ll have a wait,” they said. “They’re always packed and it’s a small place.”
When we found this very unassuming place we realized that Bobby’s meant Buckhorn Tavern. The Buckhorn Tavern. The voted #7 in America by GQ Buckhorn Tavern.
Bobby Olguin, owner of a little place called the Buckhorn Tavern in New Mexico on the edge of San Antonio, won Food Network's Bobby Flay Throwdown with his Green Chile Cheeseburger. That was back in 2007. If they were to do it all over, Bobby Olguin would win again. Hands down.
Mr. Olguin looks like he'd cook a mean burger too. He's large man, about 6'3 I'd say, with a twinkle in his eyes, always at the ready with his spicy green chiles and a spicier wit.
If you're anywhere near New Mexico, you have to make the trip to Buckhorn Tavern and you have to try anything here with their signature green chile blend.
While in New Mexico, land of the green chile, you'd be hard pressed to find a restaurant or food truck that doesn't serve them in or on something. But here at Buckhorn's they REALLY know their chiles. They are by far the best tasting and most lip tingling. This is because their chiles are an exclusive blend of the best green chiles - all locally grown. They come from Sichler Farms (a hop skip and a jump from the tavern), Rosales Farms (in Albuquerque, NM), and Bueno Family Farm (located in South Valley).
Their burgers are served cut in half, which is a good thing because they're so big. They're also incredibly juicy and oh so messy so you'll need all those napkins that are brought to you. The taste? In a word: Phenomenal.
Burgers aren't the only bit of perfection on the menu. They've got no meat burgers, nachos, cheese fries, hot dogs, burritos, chips n salsa, grilled cheese, and onion rings to name a few.
Their onion rings are perfect. Perfect! Crispy, crunchy, and you can bite right through the onion, nice n neat. Eat them fast before everyone else at your table steals them first.
They don't skimp and they're prices rock.
Inside, you'll find two main eating areas. Smaller tables in the front room and longer tables, perfect for big families or dining out with friends, in the back. The decor is a bit of an eclectic New Mexican, part diner, part tavern. If you get there on the right night, you'll want to sit in the back room to enjoy some live music over beers and burgers.
You will be waiting to be seated for a decent amount of time, and it doesn't really matter what time of day it is, nor does it matter what day of the week. The inside waiting area is fairly small; there are three benches that seat about two people each. There's also a small bar just outside the kitchen, where you can order a drink (hard or soft) while you wait. Expect a line outside. If you don’t see one, either you’re in luck or they’re closed.
Lunch and dinner times, of course, have the longest wait. And because they ask "who's next", inevitably, if you're not pushy or around people who are fair, you'll get people who aren't ashamed of saying they are next when they're not. So patience before dining is key. Do not be starving when you get there. But do be hungry because the portions are pretty darn big and taste soooo awesome you'll keep eating just for the taste.
As far as service goes, it's fast and friendly and laid back. During our visit, there was only one waitress there and she served every single table, all by herself. I kid you not. During lunch hour too. She's one of the best servers I know. She was so fast it was hard to take a photo of her.
If you want to take pictures, the lighting isn't that great, so watch your settings or expect to edit your photos in a good photo editor. And know this, eating will take precedence so you probably won't be taking a lot of food photos unless you're taking pictures of other people's food while you're waiting for a seat.
Be sure to check their website for hours of operation. And do buy one of the awesome tie-died t-shirts or tank tops they have for sale on the back side wall.