By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer
The Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail runs right through Portales and Clovis.
Taco Box celebrated its recent election to the New Mexico Department of Tourism Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail on Wednesday.
Taco Box owner Tom Martin said his restaurants were among the 20 independent establishments and chains voters, mostly visitors to the department Web site, chose from among about 200 nominees. More restaurants were added for various reasons to bring the total to 49.
Martin said the competition was fun.
“We had always had what I thought was a good green chile cheeseburger,” he said. “But when it came to entering this contest, we upgraded almost every ingredient on the burger.”
The competition took place last fall, and Taco Box received unofficial word of its status in December. They waited to announce their win until St. Patrick’s Day “because there’s nothing more Irish than a green chile cheeseburger,” Martin said with a smile.
In celebration, Taco Box offered a special on its honored burgers and held ribbon cuttings at both the Portales and Clovis locations. Martin said the restaurants were on track to sell 1,000 green chile cheese burgers by the day’s end.
Tourism department Advertising Manager Martin Leger said 9,000 people voted during the competition.
“As far as tourism is concerned, food is a big attraction and people like to sample different foods,” he said.
Department planners decided the green chile cheeseburger was unique to New Mexico, and put the choice of restaurants up for vote on the Web site to get state residents involved and attract them to the site, Leger said. According to department information, a panel of culinary and tourism experts, as well as attendees at several events, also weighed in.
Leger tasted one of Taco Box’s green chile cheeseburgers when Martin brought them to a New Mexico Tourism Commission meeting in Clovis last fall.
“It was a great burger,” he said. “Great green chile, nice and juicy. It was big. Unfortunately, we don’t have Taco Box over here in Santa Fe.”
Martin attributed his burger’s success to using the best ingredients, and said he planned to visit every establishment on the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.
“I steal ideas,” he said.
Martin also said he wouldn’t say anything negative about other local restaurant’s burgers.
“I don’t think there’s a bad green chile cheeseburger,” he said, adding he hoped more area establishments would enter the contest next year.