Career restauranteur Bob Gontram came up with the name for his Taos burger joint 5 Star as a play on words on the coveted stars assigned by judges in the world of fine dining.
A graduate of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration majoring in food service, Gontram has navigated the trials of the hospitality industry, landing in Taos over a decade ago for golf, hiking and skiing.
He opened 5 Star on 1032 Paseo del Pueblo Sur then to merge years of experience in the restaurant business with his strong culinary background. What results is a hormone- and antibiotic-free beef burger, a healthy alternative to commercial chain burgers. 5 Star can also accommodate vegetarians.
5 Star serves great burgers and also is home to a staff where most have been with Gontram since the early days. Gontram said his years of experience in the business taught him that the team is everything.
Alonso Rodriguez started as a dishwasher 13 years ago and was afforded the opportunity to move up over the years. Now, he’s the right-hand man to Gontram and the kitchen manager. He said what keeps him around is the work environment. “In other places I’ve worked at when it gets busy people don’t always pitch in to help each other – at 5 Star we work as a team and we’re like family. We know each other well, our strengths and weaknesses. In addition, after a year Bob offers a week of paid vacation, after two years another week, and after that you can earn two to four weeks. And the starting pay is well above minimum wage. Everyone gets evaluated at six months.”
Gontram said he has hired no one in a long time, because people stick around when they are treated well.
Popular burgers on the menu, according to Rodriguez, are the Taos burger, a scrumptious grass-fed, grain-finished burger with a red and green chile barbeque sauce drizzled on it and melted cheddar. There is also the green chile cheeseburger that is a favorite with customers, and the more adventurous make a beeline for the 5 Star burger. This is Gontram’s culinary delight – made up of the 5 Star burger with melted Gorgonzola and smoked bacon.
“The Gorgonzola melts and doesn’t overpower like some blue cheeses can,” said Rodriguez.
The menu includes salads, chicken and fish dishes, craft beer, fine wine and a dessert menu that includes Gontram’s own Chocolate Lava Cake and ice cream shooters.
5 Star recycles its frying oils for biodiesel fuels, and the kitchen runs on energy-efficient equipment. In addition, its plastic cups are made from recycled material. The restaurant is committed to using locally sourced produce when possible, and all the chile it serves is from New Mexico farms. 5 Star also supports by donation many local nonprofit groups and charities.
In these COVID times you can expect 5 Star is following all the state and national guidelines. Masks are required and rigorous sanitation protocols are in place. Rodriguez said the first month of the pandemic things slowed down like everywhere, but now they are picking up with outdoor seating available and a drive-through and walk-in option for pickup.