Where’s the Beef?

George Motz, author of Hamburger America, and Bobcat Bite are all about red meat.

I met up with Motz at the Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Heck, this is the restaurant that inspired Motz to write his “State-by-State Guide to 100 Great Burger Joints” and likely induced his wife to fall off the vegetarian bandwagon.

Motz is at the Bobcat for his book signing, so I’m asking him how burgers in the West compare to burgers back East (Motz being a New Yorker).

“They seem to be much bigger than in the East,” he says. “There are exceptions, of course, but I couldn’t get away from huge burgers in the West, especially in Texas. I went through six half-pound burgers in one day in Dallas-Fort Worth.”

That’s because hamburgers are pure Western, I tell him, no matter what Ohio claims. Why, it has been documented that the reason Buffalo Bill Cody set up his Wild West show outside the Chicago’s World Fair was to feast on hamburgers grilled/fried/popularized there in 1893.

Motz calls me an idiot and a liar, then has me tossed out of the Bobcat so he can sign books and eat an iconoclastic burger.

All right, perhaps Buffalo Bill never tried a hamburger, but the West is cattle country, a land of individualism, where beef barons know how to build burger empires.

Top 10 Burger Empires Out West

10. Elk Burger, Burger Bar (Roy, UT): No frills—no chairs or tables, either—just a ton of drive-in patrons and a wickedly wonderful slab of meat.

9. Hamburger, Hamburger King (Shawnee, OK): Any burger good enough for Bob Wills to sing about is good enough for me, cooked the old-fashioned way since 1927.

8. Green Chile Cheeseburger, Buckhorn Tavern (San Antonio, NM): Confederates fought gallantly at nearby Valverde in 1862 because Gen. Henry Sibley promised them this work-of-art burger if they kicked some Yankee butt.

7. Double Cheeseburger, Bud’s Cafe and Bar (Sedalia, CO): Norman Rockwell could have painted a scene here. Charlie Russell could have too, of wholesome families and famished cowboys chowing down in a small (really small) town bar. Is America great or what?

6. Cheeseburger, Kincaid’s (Fort Worth, TX): Here’s what Motz was talking about when he mentioned DFW’s big burgers: this landmark for carnivores since 1966. They don’t call Fort Worth “Cowtown” for nothing.

5. Meers Burger, Meers Store & Restaurant (Meers, OK): Okies generally don’t rave about longhorns, unless they’re at this hideaway in the Wichita Mountains, devouring a huge burger made from grass-fed hooked ’em ’horns.

4. Larkburger, Larkburger (Edwards Village, CO): The greatest fast food burger you’ll ever taste. If only that McDonald’s clown used Tillamook cheddar, organic tomatoes, truffle aioli and one-third-pound Coleman beef.

3. Squeeze Burger With Cheese, Squeeze Inn (Sacramento, CA): The most horrific nightmare a cardiologist ever had. One-third-pound beef piled high with cheddar, steamed until the cheese forms a skirt of heart-attack bliss.

2. Bacon Cheeseburger, Coyote Bluff Cafe (Amarillo, TX): Anyone who has driven across the Texas Panhandle understands they know cattle here. This unheralded gem, however, doesn’t smell like a stockyard. It smells like … hamburger heaven … on an onion bun.

1. Green Chile Cheeseburger, Bobcat Bite (Santa Fe, NM): Bon Appetit, GQ and Mr. Motz have raved about this legendary burger. So has another hamburger expert, my soon-to-be-second-grader son, who says, “There’s never been a better hamburger, never-ever-ever-ever-ever.”

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