An obsession with Hermosa Creek Grill’s bacon green chile cheeseburgers

by DGO Web Administrator

I’m not calling it the best burger in Durango. I wouldn’t dream of doing that, considering that there are a ton of “best burgers” that I haven’t tried yet. But, I will tell ya that I crave the bacon green chile cheeseburger from Hermosa Creek Grill. If you’ve never been to this Animas Valley gem, do it. Just get in your car, drive nine miles north of the city limits, and sit your ass down for one of the best burgers of your life.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this restaurant wasn’t on your radar. When I lived downtown, I wouldn’t have dreamed of venturing that far north for a meal. There are so many good burgers on Main Avenue; why would I drive to get one? Then I moved to the Valley and someone told me about Hermosa Creek Grill. I headed north to check it out, wondering how I’d never noticed this restaurant before. As I flew by PJ’s and Trimble Hot Springs, I began to wonder if I’d accidentally passed it, right about the time I saw my landmark: The bright red Conoco sign.

You can’t even see the restaurant from the road, except for a weathered sign that reads, “Grocery Restaurant Open.” As you drive past the gas station, the diner pops into sight like a middle-of-nowhere oasis. The green metal roof stands out, calling you to inspect the cute little building. The parking lot was packed (as it turns out, it’s always full, no matter what time of day you arrive). I was greeted by a super friendly server as I walked through the front doors. The aroma of sautéed onions and peppers welcomed me from the semi-open kitchen, visible past the take-out counter, and filled with busy cooks bustling away to handle the wheel full of tickets.

From there, it’s all about choices: sit inside, head outside to the heated and covered patio, or choose an outdoor table lined with vibrant red patio umbrellas that match Hermosa’s stunning red rock cliffs. Get there before 11 a.m. (or noon on weekends), and you’ll have breakfast choices galore, including a pretty killer breakfast burrito. But, I’m all about the lunch. There’s a ton of good-sounding stuff on the menu: their signature gyro served in warm pita with house-made tzatziki sauce; cheesesteaks piled high with grilled steak, onions, and peppers; or a Reuben stacked with corned beef and sauerkraut. But, I can’t ever get any of those things. Even if I’ve decided to order something else, the server shows up and the words that come out of my mouth are “bacon green chile cheeseburger.”

Now, you might know that I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to burgers. I don’t like a salad on my burger, and I definitely don’t like it when the toppings are stacked on the bottom bun. If I’m being picky (which, I usually am), a good burger is just a soft bun, a juicy patty, melty cheese, a few crunchy pickles, mayonnaise, and ketchup (don’t even get me started about mustard on a burger…my husband and I have had a few fights over that one). So what makes the Hermosa Creek Grill burger fit my unreasonable specifications?

First of all, it’s those patties. This isn’t one of those burgers that can be cooked to medium-rare. The half-pound burger is divided into two thin patties, which are cooked up on a super-hot griddle. That creates a smash-style burger, fully searing every part of the patties and giving them a deep, brown crust and slightly-crispy edges. There’s a time and a place for a thick, juicy patty, but there’s something so dirty-delicious about a griddled burger.

Then, each patty is topped with an appropriate amount of American cheese (and, by appropriate, I probably mean excessive). I certainly can’t say American is my favorite cheese, but it’s sort of essential on a burger. All that extra milk content makes it taste like you’ve had cheese sauce drizzled over your patty. It melts perfectly into the nooks and crannies of the burger, making it impossible to know where the beef ends and the cheese begins.

Finally, the toppings. There’s no lettuce. No tomato. No onions. No pickles. You might ask, “Where’s the crunch, then?” Well, this burger doesn’t have much. The synergy of the soft, buttery brioche bun, slightly-crispy-edged patties, super melty cheese, sometimes too-spicy roasted green chilies, and smoky, crunchy bacon create so much flavor that you barely even care about texture. And when I say the bacon is crunchy, I mean it. It’s not a sad, limp, chewy piece of bacon. It’s properly crisped up on the same griddle that’s used to cook the patties, and it’s amazing.

This $12 burger is almost too good to be true, because it’s nearly impossible for me to eat it all without going into a food coma. It’s a good meal offered at a fair price, and I can’t hate on that.

Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef and food writer living in Durango. She enjoys long walks in the woods, the simplicity of New York-style cheese pizza, and she’s completely addicted to Chapstick. Contact her at [email protected].


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