Traditionally, when family and friends visit, we treat our out-of-town guests to Bobcat Bite, an old trading post-turned-gun shop-turned-burger joint located halfway between us and Santa Fe. A family owned business since 1953, Bobcat’s sits off of historic Route 66, so named for the wild bobcats that came down from the surrounding mountains and were fed meat craps and leftovers at the back door. Owned by Bonnie and John, Bobcat’s has only 5 small tables and a long counter for singles and one-sie’s, you pay with cash or check, are given a Tootsie roll pop for dessert, and those waiting for a table get restless if you linger too long. The name at the top of the chalkboard gets the first available table. Those names under them impatiently toe-tap, waiting to be moved up.
The menu has changed little, except perhaps they don’t serve homemade fruit pie anymore. Burgers, steaks, pork chops. Salad, garlic bread and country fries. Cole slaw, potato salad and skillet baked beans. A simple menu, but I can guaran-damn-tee you, it is and will be, the best burger you will ever have. Bar none. Ten ounces of ground daily choice sirloin and chuck, cooked to order on an old cast iron griddle, it’s a two-fisted burger, bookend by a specially baked sourdough bun and served with potato chips. The first bite is a jaw-bender. The last bite is an assembly of hamburger pieces, broken potato chips and green chili that fell out of the burger into the paper-lined burger basket.
I like the green chili cheese burger, rare-to-medium rare, onions, no chips. Malcolm orders the green chili cheese, medium, onions, two tomato slices, lettuce, yes on the chips and the potato salad, but only if Bonnie made it. Dolce and Amore enjoy the leftovers minus the onions and green chili. We’ve learned to flip the burger as soon as it arrives so the juices gravitate into new territory, spreading the succulent flavors.
When it was just Tiamo, we would bring her with us, sitting outside at a small bistro-styled table on the portale. Tiamo would lay under the table at our feet, occasionally handed scraps of hamburger when Malcolm wasn’t watching. Tiamo learned at a young age, if we turned left at the blinking light, it was a Bobcat night, and a sure bet she would get a treat. She would go from zero to wildly excited before we could even round the corner. Should we turn to get on the freeway, Tiamo sulked in the back corner of the car all the way into town. When Dolce and Amore came along, we would leave the three dogs in the car in the parking lot while we enjoyed our meal. Every so often, we would hear loud barks from the girls, encouraging us to hurry it up. They knew Bonnie had wrapped up our leftovers and there were meat scraps to be had.
Typically, repeat house guests will request a Bobcat burger upon their return to Santa Fe, telling us they’ve been craving Bobcat’s since they started planning their trip. On occasion, they will demand to come back for a second round of burger before they leave town – sort of a “one for the road” talisman.
Dolce and Amore certainly don’t mind, they get the leftovers.
RECIPE (strike that) RULES FOR A BOBCAT BITE BURGER
- Drive fast, dangerously fast to Bobcat’s to arrive before the other patrons, believe you me, this is serious business
- Run, don’t walk, to the chalkboard to write your name down before the out-of-town-never-been-to-Bobcat’s-before folks have a chance to get out of the car and figure out the system
- While waiting for a table, stare through the windows, intimidating those slow pokes eating inside into speeding up their meal. This isn’t Paris, they don’t get to dawdle over coffee
- Once seated, read the menu quickly and know what you want – don’t dilly-daddle. There are people waiting for your table – like us – plus, you don’t want to delay that first bite of your burger
- Inquire who boiled the potatoes that morning (just kidding John)
- Order and enjoy the best damn burger ever, ever, ever! This is no ordinary burger – hold on to your socks, you’re in for a treat!
- Ask for more napkins, you’re gonna need’em – now ask for another one
- Discreetly undo the snap on your jeans, pulling your shirt out and over to cover the opening. Okay, now you have more room to indulge in your burger – oh, yeah, and you can breathe
- Eat, pay and grab your Tootsie pop as you exit, you can enjoy it in the car on the way home
- Start planning your next visit to Bobcat’s