It’s a legendary road house in central New Mexico. Many people who have traveled on I-25 between Albuquerque and Las Cruces have stopped there for lunch. Lots of folks from southeastern New Mexico who take U.S, 380 to get to Albuquerque have stopped there as well. And people from all other parts of the state have made a special trip to feast on the legendary green chile cheeseburgers at the Owl Bar and Cafe in San Antonio, just south of Socorro.
It’s one of those places where the legend probably far surpasses what you actually eat.
When you go inside the rather obscure and largely unattractive adobe building on a dusty street corner in San Antonio, you are immediately greeted by the smell of greasy hamburgers being cooked on the grill. Once your eyes adjust to what little light there is in the dark interior, you begin to notice the decorations on the walls — in particular the hundreds of $1, $5, $10 and even $20 bills stapled to the wall with messages written on them.
For more than 19 years. the owners of the Owl Bar and Cafe have collected the money stapled to the walls right before Christmas and given it to charity organizations.
This year, Janice Argabright, the great granddaughter of the original owner, said they peeled $1,757 in money off the walls. It went to such charities as St. Jude’s Hospital for children, the Shriner’s hospital for children, Carrie Tingley hospital for children in Albuquerque and the New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranch.
In the 19 years they’ve been collecting the money, more than $33,000 has been donated to charities.
Dollars collected this year came from people from almost all of the 50 united states — as far away as Alaska and Florida and from countries around the world.
As far as the tasty burgers, original owner Frank Chavez is credited with inventing them in 1945 when he splashed some hot sauce and then some green chile on a slice of cheese atop a hamburger patty. Now, it’s a staple of New Mexico cuisine, with annual contests at the New Mexico State Fair to determine which restaurant has the best one. I don’t think the Owl Bar and Cafe has won that honor recently, but you just can’t beat the atmosphere, the history and the goodwill coming your way when you stop there. And I think the burgers are still pretty tasty.