Stripes Biscuit Co. – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Stripes Biscuit Co. on Gibson just west of San Pedro in Albuquerque

Southern humorist Jerry Clower once quipped “One of the saddest things is the sound of them whomp biscuits being opened in more and more houses these days. Whomp! Another poor man is being denied homemade biscuits. No wonder the divorce rate is so high.” There’s more than a bit of underlying truth to Clower’s humor. Southerners take their biscuits seriously. “Whomping” or “whacking” biscuit cans on the kitchen counter to open them is akin to  parents letting their children answer their Memaw with “yeah” and “nope” instead of “Yes, ma’am,” and “No, ma’am.”  It just isn’t done!

Southerner Belinda Ellis, author of Biscuits: A Savor the South Cookbook expresses it succinctly:  “I learned that deep in the soul of a biscuit, there’s more than the flour, fat, and milk. A hot biscuit embodies a memory of place and family.”   Her heartfelt tribute to the biscuit is one with which anyone raised or who has lived in the South can relate.  In the South, dining is synonymous with family and friends getting together to share great food and warm conviviality.  More loving and lasting memories are created during family meals–especially the quintessential Sunday Supper where biscuits are served–than virtually any other event.

Patriotic Themed Restaurant Specializing in Biscuits

New Mexico doesn’t have a storied biscuit tradition so you’ll excuse us if we do whomp biscuit cans on the kitchen counter.  When we do, we certainly don’t respond like one of Pavlov’s dogs and wax sentimental about biscuits worthy of the Pillsbury hype that “nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven.”   Biscuits are something we can make quickly when we don’t have enough time to make tortillas or sopaipillas. When we think “lovin from the oven,” we’re more apt to think about Pueblo bread fresh from an outdoor mud horno or green chile bread from the Golden Crown Panaderia.  By the way, the aroma of tortillas on the comal or sopaipillas being extricated from scalding oil creates the same type of memories for us that homemade biscuits create for proud Southerners.

The Stripes Biscuit Company, which launched its doors in February, 2018, is making Duke City diners think twice about biscuits–not the type that gets their start from being whomped.  Stripes biscuits are made from scratch.  As the name on the marquee so vividly and patriotically declares, biscuits are the raison d’être for the unique in Albuquerque concept.  Virtually every item on the menu–even desserts and entrees such as French toast–features biscuits in one form or another.  You’ll be surprised at how versatile biscuits can be.  You’ll be surprised at how delicious biscuits can be.

The Front Dining Room

If the name “Stripes” evokes memories of the Bill Murray movie of that name, you’re on the right track…sort of.  Stripes (the Biscuit Company) pays tribute to the enlisted men and officers who have served in the Armed Forces.  Walls are festooned with photos of local veterans.  Shadow boxes display decorations and medals, military insignias, a triangular folded flag and other items which honor America’s real heroes. I was invited to submit my photo (I flew a desk for eighteen years in the Air Force) for inclusion on one of the restaurant’s walls of honor, but declined because I want this restaurant to be successful and my unsightly visage might scare customers away.  Fifteen percent of the restaurant’s profits are donated to the nearby Veterans Administration hospital.   On the day of our inaugural visit, a manager proudly told us that on Friday (April 28, 2018), Stripes would be presenting a nine-thousand dollar check to the hospital.  For me that’s reason enough to return.

That patriotic, civic-minded spirit is undoubtedly one of the reasons so many of the restaurant’s loyal patrons are members of the Armed Forces stationed at nearby Kirtland Air Force Base or serving in the National Guard or Reserves.  We watched with admiration and respect as several of them shared camaraderie and fellowship as they enjoyed huge portions of food, the centerpiece of which is the best biscuits in town.  My Kim makes it a point to thank any service member she sees for their service to our country, a small kindness they accept with the humility and grace characteristic of my military brothers and sisters.

Coach B, the Homerun Biscuit with Papitas

Stripes is the brainchild of veteran restaurateur Gary Hines who is probably best known for having founded both Hurricane’s Cafe and Twisters Burgers & Burritos,  two very successful concepts still thriving today.  After selling Twisters three years ago, Gary enjoyed a short-lived retirement until his “no compete” agreement with Twisters elapsed.  The Stripes concept isn’t something he dreamt-up at the spur of the moment.  Over the years he conceived of and discounted several ideas, always with the realization that what Albuquerque needed was not another burger and burrito joint, but something new and different.  Stripes is certainly that!

The breakfast menu is a showcase for sandwiches constructed on a handmade buttermilk biscuit.  Biscuit sandwiches and Biscuit plates are named for the military alphabet, a phonetically based system with which all movie-goers should be familiar: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, etc…  Breakfast is served all day long and also includes traditional New Mexican favorites served with red, green or “flamin” green chile.  Biscuit waffles and omelets are also available.  The lunch menu also includes biscuit sandwiches and New Mexican specialties as well as fresh from the garden salads (served with a biscuit).  Three biscuit-centric desserts are also available.  To wash down your biscuits, consider a bottomless cup of New Mexico Piñon coffee.

Biscuit with Honey-Jam and Butter

23 April 2018: According to Christina, our wonderful server, one of the restaurant’s most popular biscuit sandwiches is the curiously-named “Coach B.”  Subtitled on the menu as “our homerun biscuit,” it’s roughly the size of a cat’s head (a Southern term for old-fashioned southern style biscuits as big as….you guessed it).  The canvas for this behemoth biscuit sandwich is a fluffy buttermilk biscuit in which are nestled a slab of buttermilk-fried chicken, bacon and Cheddar cheese topped with your choice of housemade sausage gravy or vegetarian mushroom gravy.  If you want your homerun to be a grand slam, ask for a fried egg, too.  This is low-calorie stuff, after all.  All sandwiches are served with papitas, small cubes of fried potatoes.

The Coach B is probably not something you should eat every day and it did render me nearly comatose for a couple of hours afterwards, but it’s one of the very best biscuit-based sandwiches west of the Mississippi (east of the Mississippi, you have to go South Carolina for the “Charleston Nasty Biscuit” from the Hominy Grill).  This isn’t a hand-held sandwich unless you don’t mind gravy and egg yolk running down your arms.  It’s a calorific overachiever with diverse and rich flavors.  The biscuit itself is formidable, more doughy than flaky.  It’s a worthy platform for any sandwich.  The buttermilk fried chicken is moist and tender, as good as any chicken outside my mom’s kitchen.  The sausage gravy is assertively seasoned, not some wimpy Northern gravy.

Creole Style Meatloaf Biscuit

23 April 2018: If you don’t like your biscuits quite as generously endowed as the Coach B, your best bet is a biscuit on the side served with honey butter and the house jam.  The house jam is unlike any jam you’ve ever had.  It combines the flavors and textures of strawberry jam and honey.  Not since chocolate and peanut butter have two flavors gone as well together.  Texturally, it’s a bit of a challenge to spread onto the biscuit, but most good things require a bit of effort and skill.  Because no biscuit can possibly have enough honey, the butter is also flavored with it. 

27 May 2018: We’re always wary of the term “Creole style” because it’s so subject to interpretation.  Sure, Creole constitutes a “melting pot” inclusiveness, but all too often interpretations are rather liberal.  The term Creole finds its genesis in the Spanish word “criollo, which roughly translates to “native” or “local.”   True Creole style cuisine, the way it’s prepared locally, natively in Louisiana, relies on red peppers, mustard, allspice, okra and garlic as well as the “holy trinity” of bell pepper, celery and onion” with lots of tomatoes for good measure. Some of these elements are apparent in the Creole Style Meatloaf biscuit.  The meatloaf is made with plenty of tomatoes and a plethora of holy trinity ingredients.  Having had similar meatloaf on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we liked this one but make no mistake about it, the real star of this dish is the biscuit.

12-Hour Pulled Pork BBQ Biscuit Sandwich

27 May 2018: Perhaps best illustrative of just how tall a sandwich constructed on Stripes’ housemade buttermilk biscuits can be is the  12-Hour Pulled Pork BBQ Biscuit Sandwich.   Save for some politicians, there’s no way most of us mere mortals could ever bite down on one of these behemoth biscuit sandwiches.  This is strictly a sandwich you eat with a fork.  Atop the bottom half of the biscuit is a tangle of 12-hour pulled pork slathered with a thick barbecue sauce, coleslaw and fried onions.  It’s an easy four-inch stack of too much food to consume in one sitting.  In my Kim’s assessment, the tender tendrils of pulled pork had a nice smoky flavor, but the sauce was a bit overpowering.

23 April 2018: Though we’d eaten enough to feed a family of four, Christina spoke so lovingly about the fried chocolate biscuit sundae that we just had to try it.   Only an additional scoop of vanilla ice cream could have improved this decadent dessert.  Texturally, the fried biscuit is an interesting phenomena in that the biscuit maintains its integrity and doesn’t fall apart.  Okay, maybe all that chocolate covering it like lava covered Pompeii has something to do with that.  Good as this dessert was, next time we’ll stop at a second biscuit with that wondrous strawberry-honey jam.

Fried Chocolate Biscuit Sundae

Long-time Friends of Gil (FOG) members John and Zelma Baldwin (who’ve never steered me wrong) recommended Stripes Biscuit Company to me.  As with other restaurants they’d previously recommended, this one is a winner.  Huge portions (an understatement) of delectable homemade dishes, a rare civic mindedness and a pride in the fruited plain’s Armed Forces are just some of the reasons for which we’ll return. Those biscuits are, too.

Stripes Biscuit Company
5701 Gibson Blvd, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 859-4298
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 27 May 2018
1st VISIT: 23 April 2018
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Coach B, Biscuit with Honey-Jam and Butter, Fried Chocolate Biscuit Sundae, Creole Style Meatloaf Biscuit
REVIEW #1038

Stripes Biscuit Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Patio de Albuquerque – Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico

El Patio on Harvard Avenue

For more than a quarter century, award-winning journalist Charles Kuralt had the type of job any aspiring sojourner would envy.  He hit the road on a motor home, crisscrossing  the fruited plains where waving fields of wheat passed in review and snow-capped mountains reached for cobalt colored skies.  Observing that “thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything,” Kuralt avoided the interstates, instead traversing America’s back roads and byways in search of real people with interesting stories to tell.

Kuralt loved New Mexico, which he noted in his terrific tome America, is really a misnomer.  In his estimation, New Mexico “should be called Precambria for the sea that crashed upon its shores for tens of millions of years, or Mastadonia, for the mammals that later roamed its plains..; or Sandia for the mountain where the camp of an ice age hunter, the earliest known American was found in a cave…New Mexico is old, stupendously old and dry and brown, and wind-worn by the ages.”

Chips and Salsa

Kuralt also loved the cuisine of the Land of Enchantment.  In his book America, he declared the Owl Cafe in San Antonio, New Mexico “one of the best food tips” he’d ever gotten.  During his peridoc visits to the Duke City, the peripatetic wanderer also frequented Old Town’s La Placita restaurant which he considered one of his favorite feeding stations.  In 1988, the legendary newsman featured El Patio in a CBS “Sunday Morning On The Road” segment.

El Patio was then but ten years old, but already becoming a formidable presence in the Duke City dining scene.  It was then one of the few New Mexican restaurants in the UNM area, but that wasn’t solely the reason it garnered rave reviews and legions of loyal fans.  Discerning UNM students appreciated the authenticity and deliciousness of the food; for many of them, it represented a home away from home where they could get cooking as good or better than mom’s.  Those former students have raised a generation, many of whom followed their parents to UNM and to El Patio.

Frito Pie

El Patio is ensconced in a converted home just south of Central Avenue on Harvard Drive.  A telltale sign you’ve made it to the popular restaurant on this relatively low traffic drive is the can’t miss Taos blue Mexican picket fence.  Beyond the fence lies the patio (El Patio), essentially the entire front yard, which is shaded by tall trees, a welcome respite from the sun’s heating rays.  El Patio’s patio also welcomes dogs.

For the duration of its three decade plus, El Patio has been family owned and operated.  Founding owners Dave Sandoval (a fellow Taoseño) and wife Gloria Sandoval remain involved, but much of the day-to-day operation has been transitioned over to their progeny, sons Thomas and Christopher who have made some changes, including the addition of a catering service and a sales operation which markets El Patio’s fabulous salsa and green chile.  Both can be purchased in the restaurant and at several stores throughout the Duke City.

Carne Adovada Plate (Beans on the Side)

Thomas Sandoval, the elder sibling, is the chef while Christopher is the restaurant’s front-end man.  Thomas acquired his culinary skills literally at his maternal grandfather’s apron strings.  His grandfather taught him well.  El Patio’s food is as good today as it was decades ago when it first blew me out of the water.

Interestingly, El Patio considers itself primarily a vegetarian restaurant, but that distinction isn’t readily apparent in its meat dishes which are as good, if not better, than meat-based New Mexican entrees at other restaurants.  Even the most ardent carnivores, however, should at least try the vegetarian entrees which go a long way toward showcasing the delicious versatility of New Mexican cuisine.  The restaurant’s vegetarian enchiladas, for example, are made with spinach instead of meat.  The spinach imparts a spring-like freshness and healthful, but surprisingly (at least to meatatarians) delicious qualities to the enchiladas.  The Frito pie is also meatless, but you won’t miss the meat.  It’s one of the best Frito pies in town.

Carne Adovada Taco

Many pundits rank El Patio among the top four or five New Mexican restaurants in Albuquerque, leaving one to wonder if voters on “best of” polls mistakenly stuff the ballots for “El Pinto” when meaning to vote for El Patio which is several orders of magnitude better.  You’d think after the “dangling chad” episodes during the 2000 presidential elections in Florida, more extreme care would be taken in the voting process.

Salsa isn’t complementary at El Patio, but it’s worth the paltry pittance for which you pay for it, especially considering the attentive wait staff is on the ball to replenish each ramekin just as you’re running low.  The salsa is jalapeno based, but it includes a tinge of red chile powder.  In any case, this is a wonderful salsa, some of the very best in the city.  This flavorful salsa has a nice piquant bite that will get your attention without dulling your taste buds for your entrees.  The accompanying chips are low in salt, crisp and formidable enough to scoop up ample amounts of salsa.  In its September, 2012 edition, Albuquerque The Magazine named the salsa at El Patio the seventh best in Albuquerque from among 130 salsas sampled throughout the city.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

30 June 2017: The restaurant’s most popular entree, according to the menu, are the green chile chicken enchiladas.  El Patio is so accommodating (one of the main reasons for its popularity), you can have dual meat–beef and chicken–enchiladas and you can have them Christmas style and on blue corn tortillas with the requisite fried egg on top.  This best of all worlds approach for one of New Mexican cuisine’s most versatile entrees is my favorite way to have them.  The shredded chicken is moist and delicious, prepared to absolute perfection.  The beef is ground hamburger, not shredded beef as Mexican restaurants will serve on enchiladas, but the beef is well-seasoned and not refried as some restaurants are apt to do.  The red chile is rich and flavorful at about a medium level of piquancy.  The green chile has a fresh, fruity taste.  Both are par excellence.

31 December 2011: Carne Adovada is available in several dishes, including on a smothered or hand-held burrito. Because the chile with which carne adovada is smothered is oftentimes not the same chile in which the pork is prepared, my Kim will never order a smothered carne adovada burrito. She contends it allows her to better enjoy the purity of the adovada. El Patio’s adovada is outstanding, well worthy of a visit from my friend Ruben Hendrickson whose quest for the perfect carne adovada continued until his passing on 30 May 2016 (I miss you, dear friend). The pork is spoon tender (that means even more tender than fork-tender) and absolutely delicious, a benchmark which competes with some of the very best in the city.

Combination Plate

1 July 2017: El Patio’s combination plate is the best way to introduce newcomers to some of the best the restaurant has to offer.  A veritable platter is brimming with two cheese enchiladas engorged with chile, a chile relleno and a taco (thankfully served on a small plate) all topped with shredded Longhorn Cheddar and your choice of chile.  Longhorn Cheddar is what makes the cheese enchiladas some of the very best you’ll ever have.  It’s a good melting cheese with a nice degree of sharpness and terrific cows’ milk flavor.  The chile relleno is especially noteworthy.  A single sweet-piquant chile is stuffed with even more of that luscious Longhorn cheese then battered lightly and deep-fried.   It’s quite good.  So is the taco.  Given your choice of carne advocada, chicken or ground beef (all good), opt for the carne adovada.  It’s prepared on a hard-shelled corn tortilla that crumbles quickly, but that’s why God invented forks.

Each entree is served with pinto beans (not refried), boiled and peeled potatoes and lots of garnish (lettuce and tomato).  The potatoes have a consistency near being mashed.  Similar to the boiled potatoes at Duran’s Central Pharmacy, they appear to be an anomaly at first in that they’re not crisply fried, but by your second forkful, you’ll be hooked.  The potatoes have a sweet-savory marriage that makes them a joy to eat.  The beans are perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious.

Fajitas

1 July 2017:  There’s a short list of fajitas on our list as best in the Duke City.  Topping our current list are the fajitas at El Patio.  Among the many reasons we esteem these so highly is the full half-pound of marinated steak, as tender and flavorful as any fajita beef we’ve ever enjoyed.  The marinated steak is hand-cut and sauteed with green and red peppers, mounds of onions, and diced tomatoes. They’re served with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, salsa, a side of potatoes and two flour tortillas (white or wheat).  Oh, and there’s plenty of Longhorn cheese, too.

Entrees also include complementary sopaipillas.  Large, cloud-like and puffy, they emit wisps of steam as you cut into them to form a pocket for honey.   Kudos to El Patio for serving real raw honey, not that aberrational honey-flavored syrup.   These sopaipillas are not doughy as some sopaipillas are made, but rather have thin walls that are easy to penetrate, but not so thin that they’re sieves for the honey. If you don’t imbibe adult beverages, the watermelon limeaid is a very nice alternative.  It’s more tangy than it is sweet and it’ll quell your thirst on the dog days of summer.

Sopaipillas

El Patio at Los Ranchos de Albuquerque

25 May 2018: In April, 2018, El Patio launched its second location, this one on the northwest intersection of Rio Grande and Griegos in a location that had previously been home to such stalwarts as Geezamboni’s (which later changed its name to Johndi’s BBQ), Paco’s International Smoked Cuisine and most recently Village Pizza.   It’s a familiar milieu with a well-shaded dog-friendly patio our debonair dachshund The Dude enjoyed very much.  The menu is also familiar, offering the breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites Duke City diners have enjoyed since 1977.

El Patio’s Second Location, This One on Rio Grande Blvd

25 May 2018: It’s only fitting that a new location be celebrated by trying something new.  At least that was my contention.  My Kim argued that we should order the tried and true favorites we’ve enjoyed at the Harvard location just to make sure they were prepared the same way.  For her that meant carne adovada with a fried egg over easy accompanied by a flour tortilla.  For me, it was fish tacos, a Friday only special served with fries, cole slaw, and fire-roasted tomato cilantro salsa.  Available fried or seared, your choice, they come two to an order.  Frankly, what we enjoyed most about the fish tacos were the fresh corn tortillas and the two salsas.  The cole slaw was mostly chopped cabbage and had very little personality.  The pan-seared fish were flaky and light, but didn’t stand out.

Fish Tacos, a Friday Special

We’ve found service at El Patio extremely capable and more than accommodating, but then we tend to visit when the restaurant first opens (11AM seven days a week) and the choicest seating is available.  Experience has taught us that this extremely popular restaurant fills up quickly–and for good reason.  This is one of Albuquerque’s very best New Mexican restaurants, a genuine gem.

El Patio
142 Harvard Dr SE
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 268-4245
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 1 July 2017
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Salsa and Chips, Sopaipillas, Beef and Chicken Enchiladas Christmas Style, Carne Adovada Burrito, Chicken Taco, Combination Plate, Carne Adovada Plate, Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, Watermelon Limeaid, Frito Pie, Fajitas

El Patio de Albuquerque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Patio de Albuquerque
3851 Rio Grande Blvd, N.W.
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 433-4499
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 25 May 2018
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Salsa and Chips, Carne Adovada, Fish Tacos

El Patio de Albuquerque, Rio Grande Blvd Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Las Ristras Restaurant – Corrales, New Mexico

Las Ristras Restaurant: Comedor de Corrales

Based on interviews conducted with Hollywood luminaries who’ve starred in movies or television shows shot in New Mexico, you might think our state either doesn’t have a symbol of hospitality or that symbol is something as poorly representative of the Land of Enchantment as crack (Josh Brolin), tire stores (Jonathan Banks), shirtless drivers (Seth McFarlane), Walmart (Jessica Alba) or loudness (Tommy Lee Jones).   With all the tax breaks and enticements afforded film production companies, shouldn’t its most visible beneficiaries at least have something nice to say about New Mexico?

While New Mexico doesn’t have an official (as in legislatively decreed) symbol of hospitality, most of us recognize a ristra hanging on a doorway as an invitation to visitors, ergo a symbol of hospitality. It’s as much a symbol of hospitality as the pineapple is in Hawaii and the fleur de lis is in Louisiana. Moreover, the ristra has come to represent the state of New Mexico, maybe not quite as much as the Zia sun, but to a large extent. Now, if you want your texts to reflect New Mexico hospitality, download an app called “New Mexico Emojis” for your iPhone or iPad. Among the emojis you can add to your texts is one depicting a bright red ristra.

Chips and Salsa

In Spanish, “ristra” actually means string.  “Chile ristra” then translates into “a string of chiles.”   While the chile ristra has utilitarian roots (chiles being strung together by their stems and hung on walls to dry in the sun), it’s possible decorative ristras fashioned from ceramic, fabric, plastic, and plaster mold are almost as common as actual chile ristras.  Traditionalists appreciate the decorative qualities of the chile ristra, but ultimately will use them as they’ve been used for generations–for cooking and eating.

Because of the esteem with which the chile ristra is held throughout New Mexico, the expectations for a restaurant calling itself Las Ristras are high.  That name brings with it the promise of hospitality and good food showcasing chile.   Las Ristras opened its doors in August, 2015 at the site which scant weeks earlier was home to The Spot.  The restaurant was the brainchild of Corrales resident Ginger Hunter, a fourth generation Corralenia who in 2015 was awarded a Civic Recognition Award in recognition of “acts of compassion and kindness.”  Doesn’t that just bode of hospitality?

Baked Queso Fresco Topped with Chorizo

At its onset, the featured fare at Las Ristras was New Mexican cuisine—most of the “usual suspects” with a few creative touches added for good measure. Las Ristras made an impact on my friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate who gave it the “McGoldrick stamp of approval: “What I like about Las Ristras is that it is not a clone of the many dozens of cookie-cutter NM restaurants. The food is homemade and I feel like I’m eating (and conversing) in Ginger’s kitchen. This is simple food lovingly prepared.” Alas, not everyone shared the same opinion with Yelp and Zomato critics casting dissenting opinions. 

By year’s end, ownership of Las Ristras had transitioned to Chef Jude Sanchez, a Corrales native (and Cibola graduate) who had returned home after cutting a wide swath across some of the best kitchens in Chicago and New York (including one which earned a Michelin star).  Sadly, Jude passed away on 5 March 2018.  We had the great pleasure of having spent just a little time with him, but came away very impressed with his effusive outlook and high aspirations for Las Ristras.  To that end, he’s expanded the restaurant’s menu from mostly New Mexican fare to one now showcasing chophouse favorites the likes of which he enjoyed during his time in Chicago.  Because Jude’s story is so interesting and inspiring, it’s retold at the tail end of this review.

Dinner Salad

You’ll certainly appreciate the multifarious menu, a surprisingly ambitious bill of fare that is actually several menus in one. There’s the Steak House Menu which is subtitled “Chef Inspired Dishes.” This is where carnivores of all persuasions will gravitate. Then there’s the New Mexican Favorites page which lives up to its name. The third menu, called “From the Grill” includes such inviting offerings as green chile meatloaf, fajitas and the Corrales Tortilla Burger. A breakfast menu includes both New Mexican and American wake-you-up items. Drive past Las Ristras and invariably you’ll see a slate board inviting you to try the latest du jour offering.

4 November 2017: Five appetizers and three “in the bowl” starters (posole, green chile stew and chile with beans) may not seem like many, but you’ll be hard-pressed to make a decision as to which to order. Luckily while you’re perusing the menus, a bowl of fresh salsa and chips is ferried over to your table. It may inspire you (as it did us) to order a Mexican inspired starter–the baked queso fresco topped with chorizo. Described as “a fresh slice of queso fresco baked and topped with sauteed chorizo served with chimi chips,” it’s presented beautifully. More importantly it’s flavored beautifully. The chorizo has a pleasant piquancy that permeates the entire dish with the queso fresco slice serving as a nice foil, maybe even palate-cleanser. Since my Kim found the chorizo a bit too piquant for her Chicago palate, it was only fair that I let her have both slices of the melted queso. We suspect that what the menu described as “chimi chips” may have been the three sopes-like fried dough circles on which everything else is piled. In any case, it was the canvas on which a masterpiece was created.

Half Rack Green Chile Rubbed Ribs

4 November 2017: Ever since a rib was taken from Adam’s body and fashioned into the first woman, both men and women (exempting vegetarians and vegans, of course) have craved ribs. Whether spare ribs, baby backs, rib tips or St. Louis cut ribs, they’re beloved by many, but don’t always offer many surprises. Chef Sanchez’s half rack of green chile rubbed ribs (fire-roasted baby back ribs with a Corrales green chile rub and sweet jalapeño sauce) surprised us. Most surprising is just how balanced and complementary the Corrales green chile and jalapeño sauce were. If you ever thought “never the twain shall meet,” you’ll be won over by just how much flavor can be extricated from that combination. The ribs themselves aren’t quite fall-off-the-bone tender, but then the best ribs aren’t. They have a little bit of give, indicative that they’re not overdone as those fall-off-the-bone ribs tend to be. These are competition worthy ribs which would fare well at Rio Rancho’s Pork & Brew.

4 November 2017: For my Chicago born-and-bred Kim, meat and potatoes have been a lifelong dietary staple, so you just have to know that she spent most of her time perusing the Steak House Menu. Not that she got very far even on that page. Mostly she contemplated at length the very first item on the menu, a beefy behemoth called “The Bad Boy.” Picture a sixteen to eighteen ounce bone-in ribeye, it’s described on the men as the “James Dean of the menu,” “so good, it’s bad.” That’s bad in a good way. At medium rare, this beauteous slab of beef has picturesque grill marks that preface flowing juices and a rich, beefy flavor with nice marbling throughout and after all, fat is where a lot of the distinctive flavor of beef comes from. In some places, ribeye is sold as “beauty steak.” The two-inch-thick Bad Boy certainly fits the bill. Steak House menu items are served with a terrific dinner salad drizzled with a creamy avocado ranch dressing. You also have your choice of sides: smoked Gouda green chile potatoes, pancetta vegetables or cilantro lime rice. Go for the former.

The “Bad Boy”

20 May 2018: During our first visit to Las Ristras two months after Chef Sanchez’s untimely passing, we expected a pall of gloom. Instead, our server related that the staff celebrates his life. His recipes are still prepared and his customer orientation values are still practiced. There’s no better way to honor a very well respected and liked chef who left us too soon. Service was terrific with our Dude being the talk of the restaurant. Several servers came out to the patio to meet our debonair dachshund. Our beverages were quick to be replenished and we were well accommodated with a couple substitutions (Gouda green chile potatoes instead of garlic mashed potatoes, fruit instead of papas).  His staff would have made Chef Sanchez proud.

On a leisurely Sunday, we decided to enjoy our appetizer—emanating from the “From The Garden” section of the menu—before ordering our entrees. It’s not very often we enjoy an appetizer so much it changes our thinking about what entrees to have. La Ristra’s fajita salad did precisely that. Described on the menu as “all the great taste of traditional fajitas in a new, fresh, crisp way,” this salad is constructed with bell peppers, onions, cheese, sour cream, corn tortilla strips and your choice of beef or chicken all topped with house avocado ranch dressing. The only thing missing is flour tortillas. My Kim loved this salad so much, she ordered…(wait for it)…fajitas as her entrée.

Fajita Salad

20 May 2018:  The fajitas, available with your choice of beef, chicken or shrimp are much more conventional though presented with less flair than at some New Mexican restaurants. That is, they didn’t arrive at our table on a sizzling hot iron skillet with aromatic steam trailing behind. Otherwise, every expected element is there. The marinated grilled beef is more tender than most skirt steak and who can complain about that. A tangle of sweet, caramelized onions and a finely chopped pico de gallo along with the requisite cheese and sour cream were all in good proportion to the beef.  The flour tortillas were thick orbs of pinto pony charred deliciousness.  We filled them to capacity as we enjoyed every bite of Kim’s fajitas.

20 May 2018: Wild game–elk, quail, wild boar and Chilean trout –is featured on the Chef’s Seasonal menu for Spring, 2018.  Tempting as these are, the ten-ounce, bone-in chile-honey glazed pork ribeye beckoned loudest.  When the menu describes its pork ribeye as “bone-in” it just might be two bones as was the case with the one delivered to our table.  Prepared with nary a hint of pink, the pork ribeye is porcine perfection.  The chile-honey glaze has the sweetness of honey with the piquancy of chile in balanced proportion to each other.  The ribeye is tender and absolutely delicious.  Instead of the “sauteed seasonal vegetables” being code for the seemingly de rigueur vegetable medley of peas and carrots, the accompanying vegetables were sauteed onions, asparagus and mushrooms.  Now these are vegetables I can eat all the time.

Fajitas

4 NOVEMBER 2017: OUR VISIT WITH CHEF JUDE SANCHEZ: To say Chef Sanchez came a long way is an understatement. Unlike many chef luminaries who aspire from a very young age to pursue the culinary arts, he had no such designs. Fate—and a famous New Mexico chef—intervened. After committing a teenage indiscretion, Chef Sanchez found himself in front of a judge about to impose a sentence of community service. Chef Jim White, then at the helm of Corrales institution La Casa Vieja, convinced the judge to let the young rapscallion perform his community service at his restaurant. The rest, as the proverbial “they,” say is history.

Initially, Chef Sanchez was assigned to what the military terms as “kitchen police,” or “KP,” a punishment calling for washing and drying mountains of soiled dishes. When the repentant teen proved himself adept at following instructions and performing quality work, Chef White taught him how to cut and peel vegetables, the next tasking to which he was assigned. Laboring in the fast-paced kitchen environment went from judicially imposed community service to a career path Chef Sanchez wanted very much to pursue. After his stint at La Casa Vieja, he made it his life’s quest to learn as much as he could about the vast diversity of culinary arenas, hence his sojourn to Chicago and New York.

Chile-Honey Glazed Pork Ribeye

The domain of some chefs is solely the kitchen where they toil in relative anonymity and rarely mingle with the dining public. Other chefs glad-hand diners and let others actually prepare meals for their guests. Not so with Chef Sanchez who not only made it a point to check up on his guests, he prepared meals. When we met him, he was toting heavy boxes of locally grown produce for use at Las Ristras, but the prospect of spending time with our debonair dachshund Dude lured him toward our table under a porch at the back of the restaurant. Chef Sanchez was an outgoing gentleman with an easy smile and ebullient passion for his restaurant. He loved his  pit bull terrier like many of us love our children.  How can you not appreciate a chef like that?  Godspeed Jude!

Ristras is part New Mexican, part steak house and a one-hundred percent destination restaurant.

Los Ristras Restaurant
4940 Corrales Road, N.E., Suite 400
Corrales, New Mexico
(505) 433-4192
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 20 May 2018
1st VISIT: 4 November 2017
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chips and Salsa, The Bad Boy, Green Chile Rubbed Ribs, Fajita Salad, Fajitas, Baked Queso Fresco, Dinner Salad, Chips and Salsa

Las Ristras Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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