Backstreet Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Behind this Entrance to Old Town is the Backstreet Grill and its Capacious Patio

Old Town Albuquerque.  Locals love it.   We appreciate its unique architecture and have tremendous affection for its character and personality.  We hold its religious celebrations in reverence and admire the passion with which its secular fiestas are celebrated.   We delight in reminding “colonists” that it’s older than many New England cities which dominate history books.  Old Town is where we take all our friends and family who visit us.  Much as we love it…and we do love it, many of us don’t visit Old Town as much as its proximity and charm might warrant.

Ask locals why they don’t frequent Old Town and the more “honest” ones will likely tell you it’s because it’s no longer solely ours.  We have to share it.  While we don’t consider Old Town a “tourist trap,” we feel “trapped by visitors” when we can’t find convenient parking and when maneuvering around a shop is akin to an obstacle course with the primary obstacle being visitors walking around with mouths agape and eyes distracted by our local culture.  It’s a real quandary because we love visitors, too.  We’re very proud that they’ve chosen to spend a little bit of time (and hopefully a lot of their money) in this little paradise we call home.

Backstreet Grill Dining Room

The Old Town Merchants Association recognizes the value of local residents who visit and recommend Old Town throughout the year.  In 2015, the Association announced a “We Love Locals” promotion, a tangible way (that includes gift baskets, hotel stays, dining certificates, shopping sprees, guided tours and more) to show their appreciation.  Ever the proud gastronome, the emphasis of my promotional efforts would have centered on all the great restaurants in the Old Town area.  Yes, there are great restaurants in the Old Town area, several of which rank among the city’s most highly esteemed.

If its been years since you last visited Old Town for the sheer pleasure of dining in one of its esteemed eateries, it’s time to get reacquainted with dining at one of the city’s greatest treasures.  Perhaps you might want to take the love of your life to Restaurant Antiquity, named in 2015 as “one of the thirteen most romantic restaurants in America” by TABELog, a highly regarded online foodie community.  Two Old Town area restaurants–La Crepe Michele and Duran’s Central Pharmacy–were touted in 2015 by national real estate resource Moveto as among “15 Albuquerque Restaurants Will Blow Your Taste Buds Out Of Your Mouth.”

Backstreet Nachos

There’s probably no better way for locals and visitors alike to immerse themselves in culture than by partaking of our incendiary and incomparably delicious cuisine.  Old Town’s New Mexican restaurants include long established standards such as Monica’s El Portal, Ben Michael’s Restaurant, and La Placita Dining Rooms. There are a number of “new kids on the block,” too.  Recent restaurant additions (perhaps since your last visit) to the Old Town area include the Quesadilla Grille (2010), Vinaigrette (2012), Central Grill & Coffee House (2014) and Backstreet Grill (2012).

After our inaugural visit, my Kim was so impressed that she chided me for not having taken her to the Backstreet Grill before.  My pathetic and pitiful excuse was that I’d been tortured for nearly a decade with songs from the Backstreet Boys, one of the most popular boy bands of the 1990s.  Knowing full well that I actually liked “I Want It That Way,” (forgive the earworm) she didn’t buy my excuse.  Truth is, I’d wanted to try the Backstreet Grill for more than a couple of years, but didn’t want the commotion and hullabaloo of  teeming masses in an all too confining space (seating for fewer than 20 guests).

The Backstreet Supreme

When the Backstreet Grill moved from its Lilliputian location to a more capacious venue in June, 2014, my excuses started to make even less sense than some Backstreet Boys lyrics.  It wasn’t until discovering there’s a “back way” to get to the Backstreet that we finally made it.  The back way involves parking not in the Old Town Plaza (and good luck finding a spot there), but in the commodious parking lot south of the Albuquerque Museum.  From a parking lot space close to Old Town Road, you’ll espy an archway with a viga on which the Backstreet Grill name is scrawled.  It’s literally feet from the parking lot to the restaurant though the noisy world seems further and you’ll hardly notice the parked cars with an east-facing view that includes the verdant Tiguex Park.

The Backstreet Grill has grown up and out since its initial launch in 2012.  Now situated in Old Town Plaza’s former carriage house building, it can accommodate nearly 200 diners.  Weather permitting, many of them opt to dine al fresco in a spacious patio shielded from the sun by towering trees.    The interior dining room is resplendent in dark, masculine woods with a matching ceiling.  Both booth and table seating are available, the latter offering more personal space.  Walls are festooned with vintage black-and-white photographs of Old Town when the area was much more pastoral and certainly would not have been considered a tourist draw.

Duck Tacos

It didn’t take long for us to realize the amiable and extremely knowledgeable server attending to us was chef-manager Christopher “Chris” James. When we peppered him with our usual litany of questions (i.e., does the chile contain cumin) about the menu, his answers were a give-away.  With a rare precision, in-depth knowledge and passion, he explained nuances of the dishes which interested us.  More importantly, not only does he understand his dishes, he can “sell” them.   Chef James is a friendly and peripatetic presence at his restaurant, simultaneously overseeing the kitchen operation while lending a hand wherever it’s needed.  

Peruse the menu and you’ll quickly discern what while it’s got elements of both, it’s neither New Mexican nor Mexican cuisine.  Chef James calls it “an innovative hybrid” that showcases ingredients, dishes and techniques from throughout the Southwest as well as Baja California and coastal Mexico.  Call it a hybrid if you’d like, but in short order, you’ll be calling it delicious.  The menu is segmented into several distinctive categories: breakfast, starters, soups and salads, tacos and burritos, burgers and sandwiches, the Mexican pizza and sides.  Read solely the names of each dish and you might be inclined to think “been there, done that,” but study the composition of each dish and you’ll fully gain an appreciation for the chef’s creativity.

Sweet Potato Maple Layered Cheesecake

The triple-layered Backstreet Nachos, for example, are a wide departure from the gloppy cheese and vapid jalapeño-based nachos found at ballparks and bad restaurants. Think chile con queso, smoked pork shoulder, Hatch green chile and corn and black bean relish garnished with queso fresco, toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro and cool ranch sour cream.  All nachos should aspire to such deliciousness, such innovation, such sheer bravado.  Every ingredient lends something to the plate, a melding of tried and true flavors that go very well together both texturally and flavor-wise.  The cool ranch sour cream tempers the fiery Hatch green chile while the toasted pumpkin seeds and corn and black bean relish lend delightful textural properties. 

Some of those ingredients make their way onto one of the most innovative pizzas in the city.  The Backstreet Supreme, described as “the original that started it all – fully loaded and awesome” earns its name.  The canvas for this masterpiece is a fourteen-inch flour tortilla with a base of mozzarella and Menonita cheese topped with smoked pork shoulder, corn and black bean relish, pineapple pico de gallo, Hatch green chile, toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro and Cotija cheese.  The cheesy triumvirate lends elements of creaminess and saltiness in nice proportion to other flavor profiles.  When the pineapple pico de gallo makes its presence known, it’s a perfect foil for the Hatch green chile. Now, a flour tortilla “pizza crust” means some dry, brittle edges, but they won’t get in your way of enjoying this delicious orb.  Supreme seems to be a common descriptor for pizzas.  This one earns it! 

Several years ago uber chef Dennis Apodaca showed Albuquerque the delicious possibilities of incorporating rich, fatty duck into New Mexican and Mexican dishes at his pioneering restaurant Eli’s Place (formerly Sophia’s Place).  Perhaps the most popular dish at the Backstreet Grill also utilizes delectable duck in an innovative way.  Three duck tacos (red chile braised duck legs, topped with corn and black bean relish, mango mole sauce, Cotija cheese, cilantro and toasted pumpkin seeds stuffed into three corn tortillas) may have you craving canard for your next meal.  The mango mole sauce performs some sort of magic on the shredded thin shards of duck deliciousness, imparting that magic on your happy taste buds.  The cool element that seems to define contemporary tacos is provided by the ubiquitous corn and black bean relish. 

Desserts are limited, but interesting, especially the Spanish red chile flan.  Alas, sometimes seasonality trumps interesting–as in the case of a sweet potato maple layered cheesecake.   This wedge-shaped cheesecake is ultra-rich and decadent.  It’s not meant for one person alone.  As with so many cheesecakes served at so many restaurants in Albuquerque, this one isn’t baked on the premises, but comes from a restaurant supplier. 

The Backstreet Grill may just be the restaurant that brings locals back to Old Town and once there, it’s a good bet you’ll be back.

Backstreet Grill
1919 Old Town Road, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 842-5434
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 16 October 2015
COST: $$
LATEST VISIT: Duck Tacos, Backstreet Supreme, Backstreet Nachos, Sweet Potato Maple Layered Cheesecake

Back Street Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Canvas Artistry – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Canvas Artistry for edible masterpieces

“Edible art” isn’t just some trite phrase pedantic food critics use when food has aesthetic values that delight our senses. Mankind has been been intrigued by the concept of food as art since the dawning of rational thinking. Prehistoric cave paintings such as those in Les Trois Frères in Ariège, in southern France, depict families gathering around the fire to share the foods they had prepared, an event made possible by the discovery of fire.  Fire, it goes without saying, was also the catalyst behind  men first wearing aprons emblazoned with “kiss the cook.”

Moving past prehistoric taggers scrawling graffiti on cave walls, edible art became more urban when Egyptians painted food on the walls of the great pyramids (ostensibly to nourish the dearly departed who had transitioned to the afterlife). During the halcyon days of the Greek and Roman empires, the depiction of food took on a more realistic tone when glass bowls of fruit were painted to denote the delicacies enjoyed by the one-percenters of the day (and some of those paintings still hang on the walls of many a Midwestern grandmother’s home).

Canvas Artistry dining room

The reverence with which mankind esteems food in art has expanded almost as quickly as our waistlines. Today, depictions of food festoon the walls of restaurants, hotels and homes (not to mention fraternity houses) everywhere. We’re also bombarded with images of food on the sacred altars of our living rooms, the hypnotically mesmerizing 70-inch flat screen televisions which render the Big Mac big once more. It’s apparent we find food not only nourishing, but strangely comforting and soothing. If we can’t have it plated in front of us, we’re mollified by paintings, photographs and videos of food, hence the term “food porn.”

In more civilized cultures, edible art has come to mean actual food (what a concept) plated beautifully…and looking good enough to eat. It’s a concept lost on Andy Rooney, the late curmudgeonly commentator on television’s 60 Minutes. Rooney didn’t like food that’s “too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a picture I’d buy a painting.” Japanese diners, for example, not only enjoy, they expect eye-pleasing, artful plating in which everything is where it should be for optimum harmony, balance and appearance, a sort of plate syzygy. The balance of color, texture and appearance makes diners give pause to reflect on how great everything looks before their taste buds confirm what their eyes already know.

Carne Asada Tacos

Upon learning that a restaurant by the name of “Canvas Artistry” had opened in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill District, my first inclination was “just what we need, another pretentious and expensive restaurant with artistically plated highfalutin cuisine.” That notion was quickly dismissed upon discovering that Canvas Artistry’s chef was none other than Saul Paniagua, a creative culinary genius who can cook high-end stuff with the best of them, but prefers making his delicious creations affordable to the masses.

Chef Saul Paniagua, a name many of you will recognize from his stints at 4 Aces Grill and The Standard Diner among others, is a South Valley native who’s twice left the Land of Enchantment to hone his formidable skills. The first time away from home, he managed the galley (that’s kitchen for you landlubbers) for Norwegian Cruise Lines where his ports-of-call included Honolulu, Hawaii. His second out-of-state foray took him to Joplin, Missouri where he helmed the kitchen at a casino operation and learned that in Missouri, local tastes leaned toward basic meat and potatoes. Though he gained significant experience, his heart lies in the Duke City and with the chile-infused home-cooking with which he grew up.

Sriracha Chicharron Tacos

Canvas Artistry, it turns out, is the realization of a vision shared by Chef Paniagua and his business partner Jesus Gomez. With a September, 2015 launch, the passionate pair began showcasing international street food (think New Mexico meets Asia) in an attractive, comfortable milieu where diners are surrounded by the artwork of local artists. Thematically it works: artistic food and artistic mixology in an artistic, but homey and welcoming ambiance. Fittingly the menu is printed on canvas stretched over a wooden frame.

Located next door to B2B Bistronomy in the remaining half of the space where Vivace was a long-time fixture, Canvas Artistry is open for both lunch and dinner (though you’re well advised to call in advance for a daily schedule). The menu, which will change periodically, offers a variety of tacos with an artistic bent as well as such heretofore unseen in Albuquerque offerings as yogurt chicken banh mi, tempura fried Spam musubi and surf-and-turf corn dogs. At face value, it’s a menu adventurous diners will appreciate most though every diner will find something…make that several things to love.

Tempura Fried Spam Musubi

There could be only one logical choice to join me on my initial excursion to Canvas Artistry, my good friend and trusted insurance agent Ryan Scott. Several years ago, Ryan introduced the world to Chef Paniagua’s talents in a compelling interview for his ground-breaking YouTube TV program “Break The Chain.” Not only is Ryan a huge fan of Chef Paniagua’s talents, he’s the only person I know (save for maybe Andrew Zimmern) who can match me for adventurous eating.

So, what do you get when you put a Broncos (Ryan), Raiders (Chef Paniagua) and Cowboys (me) fan in the same restaurant?  A darn good time, for one thing.  Great food for another.  As is a common practice for both me and Ryan, we asked our server to “just have Chef Paniagua” send out whatever he’d like.”  How’s that for adventurous eating?   How’s that for trusting that whatever the Chef sends out will be great and that we’re going to enjoy it?

Chipotle Marinated Shrimp Tacos

11 September 2015: The first item out of the kitchen was an order of three carne asada tacos?  What’s adventurous about carne asada tacos, you ask?  For one thing, the carne is porcini crusted flank steak.  Chef Paniagua employs molecular gastronomy techniques to grind porcini mushrooms into “dust” which he uses to create a very thin crust for the tender, moist, delicious flank steak.  The porcini dust imparts an earthy flavor which melds deliciously with a sweet onion jam, cilantro and the apply-it-yourself smoked salsa verde.  The neon-hued salsa is addictive and it packs a piquant punch New Mexicans will appreciate.

11 September 2015: Our second Chef’s surprise was three Sriracha Chicharron Tacos.  Chef Paniagua renders the fat from pork belly into golden, crispy crackling bits as texturally delightful as they are delicious.  He then introduces just enough incendiary Sriracha sauce to impregnate the chicharrones with a light piquancy.   An even bigger surprise are the tempura fried nopales which are light, crispy and thoroughly delicious.  These tacos are also served with a smoked salsa verde which is wholly unnecessary.  New Mexicans who revere chicharrones as much as other people love popcorn will applaud these tacos.

Crispy Pork Belly Banh Mi

11 September 2015: Several menu items attest to Chef Paniagua’s tenure on the high seas.  Among them are an ahi tuna poke and tempura-fried spam musubi.  My previous experiences with “Spam sushi” haven’t been especially favorable courtesy of a pseudo-sushi in dire need of desalinization.  With one bite, both Ryan and I pronounced these Spam “maki rolls” the best Spam sushi we’ve had.  Neither the vinegared rice, Spam, tempura or honey-soy reduction were salty as you might think they’d be.  We also preferred the light tempura to the nori seaweed usually found on musubi.  There’s a reason more and more chefs are incorporating Spam into their menus and it’s exemplified in this surprisingly good entree.

12 September 2015: Attentive readers know how rare it is for me to make back-to-back visits to any restaurant.  It didn’t take much effort for my Kim to convince me that she had to experience Chef Paniagua’s culinary masterpieces once again.  As with Ryan, we shared three entrees, the first of which were also tacos.  The chipotle-marinated shrimp tacos (roasted corn guacamole, jicama slaw) proved every bit as good as the other tacos thanks largely to large, fresh shrimp which snap when you bite into them. The tortillas, redolent with fresh ground corn come from Tortillera Cuauhtemoc where we’ve been buying our tortillas for years. They’re the very best!

Grilled Elotes

12 September 2015: For years pundits have been predicting the proliferation of the banh mi across the fruited plain, but most have believed its nascent popularity would be courtesy of Vietnamese restaurants. While Vietnamese restaurants have been holding fast to traditions, avant-garde American chefs have been plying innovative ingredients and techniques to the Vietnamese sandwich. Count Chef Paniagua among them. Canvas Artistry offers two variations on the banh mi, one made with yogurt chicken and the other with crispy pork belly. Both are served on a hoagie bun with a Thai chili aioli and pickled veggies. If anything, it’s possible that the pork belly banh mi may be too much of a good thing (and we thought it impossible that you could ever have too much pork belly). The pork belly, delicious as it was, dominated the flavor profile. That’s wholly unlike your conventional banh mi in which ingredients coalesce beautifully to create and share a unified flavor profile.

12 September 2015: Having grown up on a farm in which we raised corn, pumpkins, peas and other vegetables, it never dawned on me that corn at a restaurant could be nearly as good as the corn we baked in my grandmother’s horno, a mud adobe -built outdoor oven. Canvas Artistry’s grilled elotes are nearly as good. Unlike elotes served on a cob, golden kernels from roasted corn are gently scraped off the cob and served generously in a bowl. The corn is sweet and moist, a perfect repository for the Cotija cheese, cilantro lime aioli and Chimayo red chile with which the elotes are seasoned. My Kim loves corn (except on my jokes) and certifies the elotes as swoon-worthy.

Truffle Trio and Salted Caramel Coconut Flan

11 September 2015: American writer Thomas Merton believed “art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”  It’s rare that any dish has this profound effect on me, but the salted caramel coconut flan did.  Quite simply, it’s the very best dessert of any kind we’ve had this year and one of three flans I’ve ever found to be more than just passable (the other two are at Ben Michael’s Restaurant and Sandiago’s Mexican Grill). Chef Paniagua speaks often and will all sincerity about love being an ingredient in his cooking.  Truly love must taste like this flan, a coalescence of deliciousness that will make sweet, slow love to your taste buds.

11 September 2015: Alas, both Ryan and I had so much love for the flan that we didn’t appreciate the truffle trio as much as we otherwise might have.  The truffle trio was terrific, a triumvirate of deeply flavored and delicious post-prandial treats: mocha honey truffle, white chocolate pistachio and dark chocolate red chile piñon.  The trio’s only fault is that it was served side-by-side with the salted caramel coconut flan so comparisons were natural.  Of the three complex truffles, the mocha honey truffle stood out thanks largely to local honey from the South Valley.

Canvas Artistry returns a true culinary artist to Albuquerque’s burgeoning restaurant scene.  With Chef Saul Paniagua creating beautiful edible masterpieces, artistry is as close as the kitchen.

Canvas Artistry
3120 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 227-6999
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 12 September 2015
1st VISIT: 11 September 2015
COST: $$
BEST BET: Carne Asada Tacos, Sriracha Chicharron Tacos, Chipotle Marinated Shrimp Tacos, Tempura Fried Spam Musubi, Grilled Elotes, Crispy Pork Banh Mi, Truffle Trio, Salted Coconut Flan

Canvas Artistry  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Coyote’s Rooftop Cantina – Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Coyote Cafe on Water Street

The Coyote Cafe on Water Street

National Geographic Traveler once described Santa Fe as “a hypercultural hybrid–equal parts Wild West and New Age, Native American and Hispanic, old money and old hippie”…a city “used to mixing things up and still creating an oddly seamless whole.”  It truly is the City Different, a city with  an identity, substance and style all its own.  Is it any wonder it has earned acclaim as one of the most popular travel destinations in the world?

Yet, to many people, Santa Fe is as much an escape as it is a destination.  It is an adobe colored Mecca that preternaturally calls seekers to a spiritual and creative fulfillment they just don’t find elsewhere. Santa Fe draws them with an amalgam of spiritual tranquility, piñon-perfumed air and its accepting, non-judgmental culture.  It holds them captive with its beauty and its cuisine.  One of the defining elements of contemporary “Santa Fe style” has been the howling coyote, an art phenomenon originated by woodcarver Alonzo Jimenez a couple of decades ago.

A popular dining destination

A popular dining destination

While the coyote is prevalent in contemporary Native American mythology and generally represents a cunning, treacherous scourge, to New Mexico artisans he has been a blessing, displayed on every conceivable medium.  The howling coyote became so omnipresent that it became synonymous with Santa Fe style. In the culinary arts, Santa Fe style is most often associated with the Coyote Cafe whose logo is surprisingly not a howling coyote, but a flute-playing (ala Kokopelli) coyote about town with an unusually long, shaggy tail.

The Coyote Cafe, founded in 1987 and going strong more than two decades later, is considered by cognoscenti to have created the template for modern Southwestern cuisine.  At the Coyote Cafe–under the direction of the “High Priest of Southwestern Cuisine” Mark Miller–Southwestern cuisine evolved and reinvented itself time and again, honoring its historical roots while introducing new elements and culinary techniques that both reflect and refine tradition.

Trio of Salsas

The most recent reinvention of the Coyote Cafe is in the form of a new ownership group that includes Eric Distefano, one of the best chefs in the entire southwest. Distefano has been at the helm at Geronimo for many years and from all indications, is restoring the Coyote Cafe back to its halcyon days when it was widely considered one of Santa Fe’s premier dining destinations.

My favorite Coyote Cafe restaurant family member has long been the Rooftop Cantina where seasonal open-air dining between April and late October is so quintessentially Santa Fe.  The atmosphere is casual and the views of Santa Fe’s bustling downtown are ever so cosmopolitan. Thematically, the Rooftop Cantina has the look and feel of Old Mexico.  As much as we enjoyed the Cantina, we somehow let eight years elapse in between visits and when we returned in August, 2015, we discovered a different Coyote Rooftop Cantina.  While the ambiance still resonates with fun and frolic, many of our favorite dishes had either evolved or were no longer on the menu.

Black Sesame Honey White Shrimp Tempura

When pressed, I would admit to the Rooftop Cantina’s fire-roasted salsa as being my very favorite in the Land of Enchantment.  While other salsas were more piquant, the Cantina’s salsa and its subtle citrus influence and tangy sweetness had addictive, capsaicin endowed properties that made it unrivaled for pleasure-inducement. We purchased Miller’s The Great Salsa Book so we could duplicate this salsa during the Cantina’s off-season when we couldn’t get it. 

15 August 2015: Alas, making it at home is henceforth the only way we’re going to be enjoying this wondrous salsa.  While a fire-roasted salsa is still on the Cantina’s menu, it isn’t the fire-roasted salsa we loved so deeply.  It’s now redolent with cumin.  We gleaned some consolation from the fact that the menu now offers a trio of salsas: the aforementioned fire-roasted salsa; a creamy avocado, tomatillo and lime salsa and a pico de gallo.   The avocado-tomatillo-lime salsa is superb, a creamy amalgam of lively flavors that go so well together.  Similarly, the pico de gallo (rooster’s beak) melds fresh ingredients into a pleasantly piquant, freshly flavorful delight.

Fiery Skillet

15 August 2015: The Cantina has long been the type of restaurant in which diners feel comfortable ordering two or six starters instead of a single entree. It’s not necessarily a cost-effective proposition, but the appetizers tend to be very good and are usually large enough to share (not that you’d want to). The starters menu includes a trio of seafood starters including a black sesame honey white shrimp tempura served with two sauces, an incendiary spicy atomic horseradish sauce and a pineapple sweet and sour sauce. Unlike some tempura dishes which are so heavily breaded that you barely discern and taste the sheathed item, this tempura is delightfully light, allowing the shrimp to shine. The shrimp is so fresh and delicious, it renders the sauces almost unnecessary though both enliven the five shrimp.

15 August 2015: Shrimp are also available on the “fiery skillet” entrée which by any name would still be fajitas. Landlubbers can opt instead for chicken and chorizo served with Alicia’s tortillas, fresh peppers, Mexican crema, pico de gallo and a fresh Ranchero sauce with refried beans and green rice on the side. As fajitas go, these are quite good. My Kim especially appreciated that the green and red peppers are sliced into thin strips and grilled to an optimum level, neither al dente nor mushy. The flavors of the chicken and chorizo go very well together. My favorite item on this entrée were the refried beans topped with melted yellow and white Cheddar.

The Cantina Gold Canyon Beef Burger

15 August 2015: If a green chile cheeseburger includes chile, but it isn’t New Mexico green chile grown in the Land of Enchantment, can it still be called a green chile cheeseburger? Apparently not because the Cantina’s sole burger offering features not the pride of New Mexico, but pickled Fresno chile which is grown throughout California. It’s called “The Cantina Gold Canyon Beef Burger” and it’s an “everything but the kitchen sink” burger. In addition to the pickled Fresno chile (in strips), this behemoth includes sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced smoked ham, crispy fried Vidalia onion, greens, tomato and cilantro mayonnaise and pickles with boardwalk fries and Habanero ketchup on the side. To take this burger to another level, you’ve got to smear the Habanero ketchup on heavily. It’s perhaps the tastiest element of a burger replete with ingredients.

15 August 2015:Ice cream used to be my Kim’s fallback dessert, the one to which she would resort if none of the other post-prandial treats enticed her. Over the years she’s happened upon so many excellent ice cream flavors that ice cream has now become her first choice. The Cantina’s ice cream trio validated her stance. A generous bowlful of three creamy, delicious, texturally delightful ice creams—cognac ice cream, canela chocolate ice cream and vanilla—proved swoon-worthy and satisfying to the greatest extent of the word. Only half-gallon sized portions could have made this triumvirate better for her.

Ice Cream Trio

15 August 2015: My preferred desserts lean toward strong flavor profiles, not desserts with cloying tendencies.  It’s one of the rare disagreements my Kim and I have.  For me, the stronger and darker the chocolate the greater the appeal; for her, it’s milk chocolate or it’s too strong.  She didn’t like the Cantina’s Banana Chocolate tart, a semi-sweet chocolate tart topped with caramelized onions and encircled by a tangy citrusy swathe.   There’s a lot going on with this dessert, highlighted by the strong chocolate.    

15 August 2015: On the adobe wall just before the final four steps leading to the Cantina is a metal sculpture depicting coyotes frolicking boisterously at a Cantina.  It’s somewhat reminiscent to a fight scene on a Western movie. One coyote is swinging from a chandelier, there’s a comely coquette coyote on the bar and two members of the Canis Latrans family are ready to come to blows. While the restaurant is never quite this animated, it does radiate fun and is one of the very most fun spots in Santa Fe.

Banana Chocolate Pie

Coyote’s Rooftop Grill is a bit on the pricy side even if you don’t order adult beverages, but sometimes fun times do come at a cost.

Coyote’s Rooftop Grill
132 West Water St.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
505 983-1615
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 15 August 2015
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Salsa and Chips, Banana Chocolate Pie, Ice Cream Trio, Fiery Skillet, The Cantina Gold Canyon Beef Burger, Black Sesame Honey White Shrimp Tempura

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