ERIC AND NINO WALZ GREW UP 20 YARDS from the Burger Boy in Cedar Crest. But to the brothers, the former Tastee-Freez was just their grandparents’ restaurant, where folks gathered for huevos rancheros, Frito pies, and locally famous chile cheeseburgers (with red, green, or Christmas).

“They were able to breathe a lot of life into it,” Nino says of Bill and Kathy Cushing, who purchased the spot off NM 14 in 1982 and lived next door. “My grandfather was a great carpenter and builder. We still have the meat locker and the freezer that he built by hand.”

Their proximity also meant young Eric and Nino often got recruited on weekends by their grandmother to sweep and mop the floors. When they were in high school, both boys worked alongside their grandparents in the family business—to varying degrees of success.

Nino started flipping burgers at 16 and spent six years in the kitchen before heading off to Fort Lewis College, in Colorado. Occasionally, he’d develop concoctions that found their way to the Burger Boy menu. The New Mexico Melt, for example, is his twist on a patty melt that adds red or green chile to the classic.

Eric, who only worked at the restaurant for a year, admits he wasn’t cut out for the job at the time. “I didn’t realize my full potential until I was out of working at Burger Boy,” he says. After high school, Eric attended the University of Denver and has worked in hospitality management ever since.

After their grandfather, whose burgers earned him the nickname Green Chile Bill, passed away in the early 2000s, Kathy ran the restaurant for a while. “She’s a very hard worker,” Nino says. “She’s always been there cooking the food or coming up with recipes. The work ethic that I took from her laid the foundation for the rest of my life.”

Nino (left) and Eric Walz with their grandmother Kathy Cushing. Photograph courtesy of Burger Boy.

In 2012, their aunt Barbara Johnstad took over the family business. Johnstad, a nurse by profession, continued to work at the restaurant, but realized last year it was time to slow down and take care of her 93-year-old mother. With Kathy retired and Johnstad looking for options for the restaurant, it seemed like Burger Boy might be forced to sell outside the family.

“It was the right timing. It made sense for us to come in and finally take the reins,” Nino says. Eric adds, “It came down to whether or not we wanted to preserve the legacy and honor the family.”

The brothers officially took over in May 2023 and have steadily been making updates ever since, including equipment upgrades and a mural that pays tribute to their grandfather. “Our goal was to not change anything,” says Nino, “but more to keep the spirit of the Burger Boy alive.”

For Eric, that means preserving the same service and quality food that guests have come to expect. Diners will also find pictures Kathy displayed of firefighters and police officers right alongside celebrity visitors such as Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton.

“It’s a tight-knit community. Cedar Crest has a culture of philanthropy and giving back to those who deserve it,” Eric says. “We’re keeping that footprint, making sure that all those people that had relied on my grandmother’s kindness then still have access to that same goodwill today.”

Read more: In the red-and-green-growing capital of Hatch, Sparky’s Burgers, Barbeque & Espresso delivers legendary green chile cheeseburgers.


12023 NM 14, Cedar Crest; 505-281-3949