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Fresh-ground, gratifying
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Photos by Wes Naman
NE Heights’ Five Star Burgers combines premium grilled beef with fresh ingredients for a delectable gourmet burger menu

By Logan Greely
The recent debate over the state’s best green chile cheeseburger is a bit puzzling. Why now? Green chile cheeseburgers have played an integral role in New Mexican cuisine, and all cooks/chefs are competitive at heart. So why did it take a visit to San Antonio, N.M., by über chef Bobby Flay to kickstart the great green chile cheeseburger debate?

Answer: who cares? It has worked to shed even more light on local cuisine.

More evidence of that, in particular, came last fall with a “Best burger in New Mexico” nod in USA Today to Five Star Burgers. Part of the burgeoning national gourmet burger trend that even has big chains like Wendy’s moving to higher-quality ingredients, Five Star was one of the first to fill the role in the local dining scene. More and more premium burger joints are popping up every day — BrGr, the Five Guys chain and the as-yet-to-open Holy Cow in the old Bob’s Fish ’N Chips spot.

Located in North Towne Plaza at Wyoming and Academy (next to Borders), Five Star is a slick yet comfy space that seems like it could be a chain restaurant, despite the fact that it originated in Taos (a Denver location is in the works, so a chain seems to be the plan).

ImageThe space is ultra clean and minimally designed, with muted brown and purple tones and a long amber wood bar, where my dining companions and I sat for both of our visits. The pleasant and friendly staff seemed to be working like a clock carrying out orders that, for us, served as a great visual and olfactory menu aide. The aroma, in particular, helped set the mood.

Surprisingly, the number of beef burgers on the menu is a scant four. However, add the Bison Burger ($10), the Turkey Burger ($8.75), the Lamb Burger ($10) and the 5 Star Veg Burger ($7.25), among many other varieties, and the menu begins to take shape.

Five Star proudly makes it known that its beef is 100 percent all natural, antibiotic- and hormone-free angus beef that is ground fresh daily at the restaurant. This is the direction that the modern American burger is taking. As more and more diners demand premium beef and fresh ingredients, places like Five Star are obliging. The difference is immediately noticeable upon sight, prior to tasting.
On my first visit, I just had to go with the Green Chile Cheeseburger ($8.75), which I paired with a side of sweet potato fries ($3.50) and a Marble IPA — Five Star carries a small lineup of local craft brews, as well as a well-rounded selection of quality wines. Sandwiched between a toasty brioche bun, the burger was cooked to order and was highlighted by a curiously tasty green chile mayonnaise. Why didn’t I ever think of doing that at home?

ImageMy companion, though she is not a vegetarian by any means, ordered the 5 Star Veg Burger, and am I ever glad she did. Though eating it was a bit messy (as veggie burgers often are), this one was packed with big flavor. We ended up splitting each other’s plates and cleaning them thoroughly.

On a subsequent visit, I simply couldn’t resist the green chile theme and ordered a Taos Burger, which comes with a crispy green chile (deep fried and oh so lovely), another brilliant green chile preparation that I wished I had thought of first. I thought pairing this with barbecue sauce and cheddar was a bit odd — cheddar for sure, but not so much the sauce — but the combination still worked. My companion went for the Bison Burger and was quite pleased, so much so that we didn’t split plates.

The rest of the Five Star menu looks delectable, including the salads — I eyed the BLT Salad ($8) for quite some time before going with another burger. If you’re not in the mood for a mere burger (even though there is nothing mere about burgers), Five Star offers a small selection of entrées, including two fish options, an Ahi Tuna Steak and an Asian Glazed Salmon (both at $12). There’s also a not-so-common kids menu that makes Five Star just about the perfect neighborhood bar, one that cooks the pants off of the more familiar national chains.

Five Star Burgers
5901 Wyoming NE, 505.821.1909
11a-9p, Sun.-Thu.; 11a-10p, Fri.-Sat.

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