Just got off the phone with a gobsmacked Jack Martinez, the patriarch behind Jack-n-Grill, the family-owned New Mexican joint at 2524 Federal Boulevard whose gut-busting seven-pound burrito, recently featured on the Travel Channel's Man v. Food, was apparently a prelude to bigger and better things to come--a colossal shout out from Food Network magazine, for example, which just published a state-by-state guide of the fifty best burgers in America, with the Colorado pick going to Jack-n-Grill's Juarez burger.
"Seriously, can you believe that we were chosen as the best burger in Colorado by Food Network magazine?" asked an incredulous Martinez. "This is a huge award for us and I can't even tell you how totally excited I am. This is just phenomenal."
And just what, exactly, did Food Network magazine have to say about Martinez and his burger? "Former chile pepper salesman Jack Martinez used to haul a grill around on weekends, serving food at car dealerships, until customers demanded he open his own place. The specialty at his restaurant is the Juarez burger, topped with ham, a hot dog, guacamole and chile peppers," writes the magazine, which also should have mentioned that the south-of-the-border burger bomb is the size of a semi wheel and liberally heaped with lettuce, tomato, red onions and mayonnaise.
I don't remember the exact words I used to exalt the Juarez burger when Jennifer Gunn, managing editor of Food Network magazine, contacted me back in December to pick my brain about Colorado's best burgers for an upcoming feature, but I do remember telling her that Martinez lobbed his fantastic New Mexican green chile -- also a favorite of Jason Sheehan -- on just about everything, including that burger, which I'm still convinced is the burger to beat in Colorado (even if Sheehan won't budge from his love affair with Bud's).
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While the Martinez family celebrates one more accolade, they're also contending with the onslaught of tourists who, said Martinez, are stopping in at Jack-n-Grill during vacations or business trips to see the home of the seven-pound burrito. "I know this sounds hilarious, but we're actually on people's itineraries, and you know what else? We're selling 400 pounds of potatoes each weekend, which has quadrupled our potato sales," he said.
It's been a good 2009 for Martinez, and it might get even better before the year ends. "I'm aggressively looking for a second location in the south suburbs, probably the Highlands Ranch area," he told me. And rather than go big or allow a franchise -- expansion attempts that didn't work out for Martinez -- this time he'll stick with what he knows: "It'll be the same concept and same menu as here with maybe a hundred seats or so, and it'll be just me and the family running the place."
Hope he finds a space large enough for all those sacks of spuds.