The Owl Cafe - Albuquerque, New Mexico
If you’ve ever been to Marietta, Georgia which is located just north of Atlanta and asked anyone for directions to a local business or residence, then chances are the directions included “When you see the Big Chicken, then go…..”. In Albuquerque, NM it is much the same as most local folks say “When you see the Big Owl, then go….”; so it seems pretty much anywhere you travel folks tend to use unique buildings as landmarks. The Owl Cafe has been such a landmark since 1986 when it was built.
The Owl Cafe Building is a Hoot
The building is a unique structure, an adobe building with a owl head sculpted on top of it. Then you add the bright colors and you really have an eye-popping building. Even at night it is a recognizable place because of all the neon that adorns the building.
Walking in the entry door is like stepping back into the 1950’s with all of the chrome, counter seats, jukebox and wait staff dressed like Mel’s Diner employees. The fixtures are real throwbacks, with lots of faxu leather and Formica. Then there is the counter, it’s just like one you would see in a 1950’s soda shop, with all of the handles, mixers, and flavoring for milk shakes. Another added touch is the jukebox remote players at intervals along the counter, where you can peruse the song titles, drop a coin in the slot and hear your favorite tunes play on the jukebox.
The Owl Cafe History
The original Owl Cafe started out in San Antonio, New Mexico and according to the Albuquerque Owl Cafe’s website, this is the history:
Frank and Dee Chavez of San Antonio New Mexico opened a little bar in the grocery store owned by Dee’s father, J.E. Miera. J.E. had been in business there since the late 1930’s serving the needs of the local folks. At the request of the community and other patrons, Frank put a grill behind his bar and began cooking hamburgers. Thus, the birth of the world famous “OwlBurger” the green chili cheeseburger of which its recipe remains unchanged since 1948. The Owl bar in San Antonio is owned and operated by Adolph and Rowena Baca, the daughter of Frank and Dee Chavez. With the help of Adoph and Rowena Baca The Owl Café in Albuquerque was opened in 1986.
The Owl Cafe Menu
The Owl Cafe opens at 7:00 am for breakfast and their breakfast menu is loaded with the traditional breakfast fare, as well as New Mexico style items. Heck, they’ll even fix you a famous Owl Burger for breakfast if you want it. The prices are so reasonable that Scrooge McDuck would love them, for example; 2 eggs cooked your way, bacon, sausage link or burger patti only $3.95. Good cheap eats for the locals or tourist that will tide you over till lunch.
The Lunch & Dinner Menu at The Owl Cafe is as unique as the building with something for everyone on it. Perhaps the most famous of all the menu items is the renown “Owl Burger,” it’s a 6 oz. freshly ground and hand-pattied patty topped with green chili, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle & mustard (add cheese 30¢ extra). Or, you can get a plain hamburger or cheeseburger without the green chili, but who would want to do that. There is also a good selection of other burgers on the menu as well. The Owl Cafe also has a varied selection of Sandwiches, hotdogs, appetizers, soups and salads on the menu.
And, you’ll not be finished when the burger is gone, they have a Dessert Menu and a Milk Shake Menu. The milk shakes and malts ($5.79) are a “must-do” when visiting The Owl Cafe, because they are so darn tasty. In fact, they are so good you tongue will be slapping your eyebrows when you start eating it. Be advised though, they are huge, one will feed a big hungry guy or two normal folks unless they really love milk shakes.
Our First Visit to The Owl Cafe
Well actually it was three visits to The Owl Cafe. The second day in Albuquerque after an exhausting day of sightseeing and riding the Sandia Peak Tramway to the top of Sandia Peak which is at 10,379 feet above sea level we were famished. Since I had planned the trip knowing we would be eating at The Owl Cafe I had chosen a motel close to it. For our first visit we arrived just before the dinner rush and managed to get a table without any problem. However, withing fifteen minutes of our arrival there were folks waiting to get a seat inside and there were only a few table on the patio open.
I couldn’t resist and ordered the Famous Owl Burger with cheese, green chili, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mustard ($5.25). Debra got the wimpy Cheeseburger, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle & mustard ($4.94) but without the green chili, just no sense of adventure I reckon. We also ordered The “Owl” Onion Loaf ($4.95) which came with a horseradish dip to split. It is a plate full of onion rings and there was more than enough for two people.
After the waitress had taken our orders and delivered the drinks to the table, she brought us a bowl of pinto beans topped with the spicy green peppers, along with a few packs of crackers. I thought the green chili really enhanced the taste of the pinto beans and gave it some kick to boot. Not so for Debra, she at least tried the green chili but about gagged on them because of the heat and wound up sucking the bottom out of coke glass. Didn’t make me mad though, cause I was gonna get to eat all of the beans and green chili, however, she did finally wind up nibbling around the edges of the green chili and eating just a few of the beans. If I lived close by I would go just to order a full serving of the beans and green chili on a regular basis.
Our Owl Burgers and Owl Onion loaf were delivered to the table and I was delighted, they were a sight to behold because the folks at The Owl Cafe know how to build a burger. They were a work of art and I couldn’t wait to dive in and give it a try. One bite into that burger and a sigh of pure pleasure came from down deep in my stomach. The patty itself had been cooked on a flat top grille and and had a crunchy exterior while still being moist and juicy inside. You could tell by the taste that it wasn’t a frozen patty and from the shape that it had been hand crafted. It still ranks in the top five of any burger I’ve eaten.
Debra sampled her burger and gave it a big thumbs up also, conversation at our table came to a stand still and all that could be heard from us was the hmmm’s and ahhhh’s of pleasurable eating. The Owl Onion Loaf was also a bit hit with us, sliced thin, dipped in a exceptional tasty batter and then deep-fried to a golden brown they were everything we had hoped for when we ordered them. I even tried the horseradish dipping sauce that came with them and it was good, but I really prefer to dip my onion rings in ketchup.
For desert of course we had to try the milkshakes, Debra ordered the Peanut Butter Shake ($5.79) and I got the “Holy Grail” that was a peanut butter & Oreo Shake ($5.79). At the time we ordered the shakes we didn’t realize how big they where and I managed to finish my off after working on it for about 20 minutes, but Debra waived the white flag on hers and left some. I can only say, that were DAMN good.
Our Second Visit to The Owl Cafe
The second visit we made to The Owl Cafe was on the morning of our departure from Albuquerque for breakfast. After seeing the breakfast menu while we were dining the evening before it didn’t take us long to figure The Owl Cafe was the place to eat breakfast. I ordered two eggs over easy, hashbrowns, link sausage (they don’t do sausage patties out west) and toast. ($3.95) Debra ordered two eggs scrambled, bacon, hashbrowns and toast.($3.95) The meals came out promptly, the plates were still warm to the touch and evidently had been heated prior to the food being put on them. I thought that was a nice touch. We both enjoyed the breakfast and decided on the return trip we would have to visit The Owl Cafe again.
Our Third Visit to The Owl Cafe
We made our third visit on our return trip heading home. We stopped for lunch and again had the The Owl Burgers with both of us ordering the same identical items we’d ordered on our first visit. When we started to leave after paying the check I did purchase a couple of their thick coffee mugs. For $5.00 each they were hard to pass up. They are my favorite coffee mugs and I use them everyday to remind me of the great time we had while we were in Albuquerque and the wonderful meals we had The Owl Cafe.
The Brown Bag Review’s Recommendation
If you’re ever in Albuquerque, New Mexico, then be sure that you have at least one meal at The Owl Cafe. The meals are valued priced and you can afford to feed the whole family at a reasonable cost. And, remember, it a law that you have to order a Milk Shake before you leave, and if there isn’t a law like that, then there ought to be.
Our Overall Rating =
So, Lets Do the Numbers
|Green-Chili-Cheeseburger:||(7.0 / 9)|
|Regular-Cheeseburger:||(7 / 9)|
|Onion-Rings:||(7 / 9)|
|Pinto-Beans-Green-Chili:||(7 / 9)|
|Breakfast:||(7 / 9)|
|Milk-Shakes:||(9 / 9)|
|Staff-Friendliness:||(7 / 9)|
|Atmosphere:||(7 / 9)|
|Cleanliness:||(6 / 9)|
|Value:||(7 / 9)|
|Average:||(7.1 / 9)|
Credit cards: Yes
Catering Service Available: Call
Recommendations: The Owl Burger
Suggestions: Go for breakfast
Ambiance: Chrome Diner
Vegetarian Friendly: Ask
Price Range: $$
Health Score: Unk
Smoke Free: Yes
Soft Drink Brand: Coke, Fountain
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review are the honest opinions of the author and his guest if present, and whom are solely responsible for its content. This opinion was not influence by any third party whatsoever. If and when you visit the reviewed restaurant your opinion may vary greatly. So as always YMMV! All images are copyright of The Brown Bag Review.com unless otherwise noted. Use by permission only.