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The spirit of Santa Fe

Continuing to upgrade its burger selections, the 28-unit Taco Mac Sports Grill added the Santa Fe Burger—an LTO starring fresh avocados. With its healthy halo and premium ingredients, it became the chain’s second best-selling burger during its run and is now part of the regular menu. 

Building the components

“We’re proud of our burgers,” says Taco Mac’s corporate chef, Christian Messier. “The meat is all-natural and hormone-free, and we bake our buns in-house.” All the burgers start with a grilled 8-ounce beef patty; it’s sourced fresh—never frozen—from one supplier. For the Santa Fe Burger “I saw our housemade guacamole and pico de gallo sitting right next to each other in the kitchen and ‘threw clay at the wheel’ to see what would happen,” Messier recalls. He liked the way the two worked together and started searching for a third partner—the cheese. “We looked at cheddar jack but decided on pepper jack to fit with the Tex-Mex theme,” he says.

A fresh approach

Avocados were not new to Taco Mac’s inventory but previously, the purchase order specified vacuum-packed frozen avocado halves; these got mashed for guacamole and diced for pico de gallo. When the Santa Fe Burger was in development, Messier upgraded to fresh avocados from Mexico. “They’re available all year and are very consistent in flavor, ripeness and size. That’s a big plus—we don’t have to rewrite recipes with new specs,” he explains. Another plus: this product has a fresh, healthy, quality appeal. “It’s my job to put food across that matches Taco Mac’s fresh, contemporary design and amazing craft beer program,” Messier adds. He made a change to the pico de gallo recipe too, switching to fresh Roma tomatoes from the traditional larger tomatoes. 

Topping it off

Last up was the bun. “We decided to go with a chipotle brioche bun that was already in house,” Messier says. “We had worked for a couple of months developing it for another burger and with a little reconfiguration, found it went really well with the Santa Fe’s components. Having an in-house bakery allows us to create really unique items that differentiate us from the competition.” The R&D team also tried a rosemary and roasted garlic bun and a bun incorporating onion flakes, but when these were tested in the office, people shied away from them for fear of bad breath.

A proven winner

Messier doesn’t dedicate all his burger creativity to the Taco Mac menu. This fall, he won the Battle of the Burgers in Atlanta and was invited to compete in the national World Burger Championship in Las Vegas. The winning entry: a Smokin’ Goat Burger (grilled beef patty topped with goat cheese on a chipotle bun). “People are already clamoring for it on the menu,” he reports. 

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