For nearly three years in the late ’80s, I lived in Las Cruces, N.M., about 40 miles south of Hatch, of Hatch chile fame. One of the things I miss the most about living in southern New Mexico is the aroma of roasting chiles permeating the air around harvest time.
So for me, the annual Hatch chile fests that hit DFW this time of year are as much about nostalgia as about the bright, spicy flavors of the chiles — but don’t get me wrong, they’re a lot about the flavors, too. But the best times are when I catch grocery stores and restaurants in the act of roasting — it’s one of my favorite scents in the world.
And along with the usual-suspect festivals — Blue Mesa Grill has been doing one for 20 years, Chuy’s Tex-Mex nearly as long, Pappasito’s and others have gotten into the act — come the Hatch chile burgers at numerous DFW burger joints.
If we wanted to, we could do a Hatch burger as the DFW.com Burger of the Week for the next several weeks. Magnolia Motor Lounge is doing an unusual take, with panko-crusted green chiles and an elote/cream-cheese spread on a ciabatta bun. Snuffer’s is doing a more straightforward Hatch chile-cheeseburger (and Hatch chile cheese fries!). Expect Fred’s Texas Cafe, Swiss Pastry Shop and others to come up with their own Hatch-burger concoctions.
And then there’s Central Market, which goes nuts with the chiles every year, from Hatch scones to Hatch gelato (and you can wash that all down with Salsa Verde Hatch Chile & Tomatillo Ale from Fort Worth’s Martin House Brewing Co.). Not for nothing is Central Market calling this year’s fest “Hatch-a-Palooza.”
In the meat section of DFW Central Markets, you can buy pre-formed Hatch burgers to cook at home while supplies last. But at Central Market’s Southlake cafe, a fast-casual, sit-down restaurant, you can order an excellent Hatch burger that’s our DFW.com Burger of the Week.
The burger: Two thick patties are topped with chopped Hatch green chiles, Jack cheese, cilantro lime mayo, bacon, fried onions, slices of dill pickle, red leaf lettuce and tomato, all on an almost-as-thick, wheaty bun. The burger is $11, but it offers a lot for the money.
The patty: Well, patties. A couple of honking, loosely formed patties, making for a big burger. Lately, patties requested medium have been coming to the table cooked past any hint of pinkness. We weren’t even asked how we wanted these cooked and they came a perfect medium, juicy, and wearing a nice little coat of melted Jack cheese.
The bun: It had a big challenge to hold up to, and it almost made it. Granted, patties were falling out by the third bite, but the burger was easily reassembled. By the end, though, a fork became necessary. The better to stab those diced chiles with.
The toppings: Green chiles can be tricky, sometimes being so mild that they don’t have any impact, and sometimes having a palate-blowing heat level. But these had the right balance, with enough heat to please our spice craving but not so much that it overwhelmed the chile flavor. The cheese was applied with a light hand, a nicely melted straight Jack rather than a redundant pepper jack, allowing the chiles to shine. Bacon was beautifully crispy, pickles had just the right crispness and bite.
The fried onions and the mayo kind of faded into the background, though. And although lettuce and tomatoes are traditional Texas burger toppings, they seemed a little unnecessary here; fresh, but also making the buns a little soggy and not really doing anything for the chiles. Suggestion: hold the tomato and the lettuce, or at least pull them off the burger and eat ’em separately.
The sides: Accompanying fries were serviceable, good enough to pass the don’t-need-the-ketchup test (although my wife put ketchup on hers), but not near as memorable as the burger.
The verdict: Our only regret about this Hatch chile burger is that it’s available for a limited time only, and only at the Southlake cafe. But there are, and will be, other Hatch burgers to try. If you’re a Hatch chile fan who doesn’t live in Southlake, it’s worth the drive.