I saw that New Mexico stalwart Blake’s Lotaburger has opened a location on El Paso’s West Side. It didn’t have any of the familiar markings of a Blake’s, such as this long legged dude:
So maybe they’re going incognito, seeing as how they (and most Texans) aren’t that far from Whataburger.
In the name of absolutely attracting attention and starting an argument, here is my run down on the two regional burger joints.
What can I say about Whataburger that hasn’t been said? They’re all over the place, open 24 hours, and have an ever-expanding and shifting menu to compliment all the old standbys. Buns are buttered and toasted (unless you ask them not to) and everything is cooked more or less to order. You can get insanely specific with your order at a Whataburger and they’ll generally get it just right without having a full-on freak out in the kitchen. Your patty is your standard fast food burger patty, although wider in circumference than BK or Mickey D’s and nowhere near as salty or fake tasting. They pride themselves on being able to customize a burger pretty much anyway you want (within the confines of their offered menu items; they’re not putting truffles on your burger no matter how much you scoff and harrumph, Yer Highness). There are chicken sandwiches and patty melts as well as some speciality burgers with A-1 or green chile (more on this later). Breakfast consists of breakfast tacos and sandwiches with eggs and your standard choice of sausage or bacon, plus the usual pancakes. Some locations have huevos rancheros, but I’ve never tried them. Whataburger is a franchise and can differ a bit in quality and price from location to location, but they manage a consistent standard of service across their far-flung burger empire. For many Texans, Whataburger is the fast food joint that was always there, when they were kids getting rewarded, as teenagers hanging out, as college kids filling up on food after a night at the bar, and as parents looking to reward their own kids with burgers and fries. Even though they’ve been around since 1950, they’ve managed to stay current and even have a very entertaining and well run twitter account.
The burger choice for New Mexicans since way before Walter White was buying them, Blake’s still cooks all their burgers to order with big beefy patties that show all the charming (and delicious) irregularities of a hand-formed patty. The menu isn’t quite as large, and quite frankly, most of the non-burger menu items are pretty bland, institutional quality meals. What Blake’s does well is Green Chile Cheeseburgers, a New Mexico speciality that the rest of the world needs to just hurry up and adopt already. Adding tangy, mild long green chiles to a burger is the single largest improvement to the All American Meal since someone slapped cheese on a patty. Blake’s uses chopped green chiles, which I actually prefer a bit more than the strip (you get a more even distribution of chile that way). Blakes fries are also handsomely irregular affairs, not the thin, nearly uniform fast food fries most places offer, but rough hewn, hand cut looking potatoes covered in a mix of salt and pepper. They’re a tad greasier than your average fry but a tad more delicious too. Blake’s doesn’t have a drive through window and it closes at night. They only started serving breakfast burritos in the last couple of years. Service can be a little slow because they’re cooking all your food to order, but if you did the right thing and ordered a Green Chile Cheeseburger, it’s gonna be worth the wait. Such is the renown of the Blake’s Green Chile Cheeseburger it’s been ranked by National Geographic as the Best Green Chile Cheeseburger in the world and the #4 burger in America.
There’s no better burger than a good Green Chile Cheeseburger. Whataburger has been horning in on that racket for the last couple of years and they’re not half bad. Blakes just gets the GCGB though. Blake’s might not have as many things to choose from but they do one thing exceedingly well. Expanding the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail down into Texas is a bold move, and they’ll have to step up their game to avoid going the way of some other New Mexico only chains. In the end, I’m going with Whataburger. They’ve got the broader menu selection, longer hours, speedier kitchens and the well worn charm that comes from catering to a clientele for over half a century. But man, knowing there’s another place to get a Green Chile Cheeseburger nearby, it feels like we all win.