I grew up in Alamogordo and later lived in Las Cruces, and there are few restaurants in the region you can set your clock by when it's lunchtime. The Owl Bar is one of those places.
Many times, traveling north to Albuquerque from either city, I would try to time my three-hour drive to arrive at the Owl for lunch. It is efficient, friendly, and no-nonsense. That combination of lettuce, tomato, and onion, along with the green chile and the ground beef, are always tantalizing, and hit the spot just right whether it be with a cold beer or a soft drink.
Eating at the Owl Bar is an experience every out-of-stater should experience as quintessenial New Mexico, along with the Santa Fe Fiesta, the State Fair, White Sands, and Carlsbad Caverns. Sitting at the bar to eat, I often see the same cooks and waitresses, and Mrs. Baca, tending to their customers. Having first eaten there as a child over 30 years ago, the charm of the estalishment is as familiar to me as the drive east from San Antonio to Carrizozo over the Malpais, a/k/a, the Badlands.
Now living on the East Coast, I still feel at home anytime I am in the Owl. It's often the last stop before hopping on a plane in Albuquerque, and it always leaves me in good spirits.
I've only eaten at the Buckhorn once, and as friendly and engaging as Bob is as a proprietor, his bigger burgers weren't as mouth-watering because the green chile was not as hot. Frankly, I could only taste the lettuce, tomato, and onions on his concoction. Very good burger, yes; however, I don't like to stop for the hoopla, which was clearly present on my visit early during operating hours. One other time I hoped to stop there since I knew the Owl was closed, only to get the message from a local gentleman sitting at the door that they were closed. Even though they were supposed to be open that afternoon. Such is life in the Land of Manana.
The comparable GCC in southern New Mexico, which I hope Roadfood.com will take the time to experience someday, is at the Outpost Bar, 65 miles east of San Antonio in the friendly little town of Carrizozo. Their service is slower, and the bigger burger with home-cut fries is a little more expensive, but it is damn good. I'd also drive a long way off the beaten path to eat at the Outpost, just as I would for the Owl. Not all the great places are necessarily in central or northern New Mexico. Far as Roadfood goes, southern New Mexico, e.g., Las Cruces and the surrounding area, also have some good choices (Chope's, Dick's, etc.). Helps to be in the know!
"The quality of chile makes all the difference in a green chile cheeseburger. The Owl uses full-flavored, hot green chile atop a hand-formed patty of crusty-fried beef. The chile's heat is complemented by the beef and balanced by the layer of creamy cheese on top. This one is fully dressed with all available condiments -- the only way to go."
"The Owl's green chile turns ordinary french fries into a memorable side dish."
"The view from my counter seat gives a small hint of the, shall we say, eclectic decor at this extremely colorful roadhouse."
"Just a couple of minutes off I-25 south of Socorro, the Owl Bar is a must-stop location for any traveler in search of unique regional specialties."