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Slate Street Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Slate Street Cafe (view from the southwest)

In 2005, Slate Street and an eponymous bistro just north of Lomas became the toast (a garlicky bruschetta) of the town. The Slate Street Cafe opened its doors in July, 2005 in a heretofore lightly trafficked, relatively unknown street north of Lomas. Nestled in the heart of the legal district, the Slate Street Cafe is so, make that Soho cool.  Its sleek, modern, high-ceilinged dining room, looming wine bar and capacious patio  is frequented by some of Albuquerque’s most hip and beautiful people. It’s a breath of fresh air in a burgeoning downtown district where revitalization appears to be working.

The Slate Street Cafe is the braintrust of a proven and very successful pedigree whose bloodline includes founding chef Albert Bilotti (Al’s NYPD and Kanome) and owner Myra Ghattas whose family owns Duran’s Central Pharmacy. The menu might best be described as eclectic, contemporary and fun with a playful twist to American comfort food favorites such as buttermilk fried chicken, chicken soup, mac and cheese, fish and chips and even homemade cupcakes for dessert. For breakfast, green eggs and ham might just be what the doctor ordered–and not just if your physician is Doctor Seuss. Slate Street’s version of green eggs and ham is an omelet with green chile courtesy of Duran’s.

The ambiance at the 7,400 square foot “bistro with a Western accent” is decidedly contemporary with an energizing bright color pallet. A hard plastic glass shields a half moon bar covered with vintage New Mexico postcards such as the perpetual tourist favorite depicting the uniquely New Mexican jackalope (which Texans have copied). The restaurant’s commodious loft serves as a wine bar (Ghattas is a certified sommelier) where upscale, meal-sized appetizers are served and a great view of the dining room is available.

With something for everyone, it’s easy to see why long lines typify the lunch hour and why the Slate Street Cafe is the place to be on weekends for brunch. An exhilarating menu will challenge you to limit your selection as you really will want to order more than one of each starter, entree and dessert. The starters are chic and eclectic with options ranging from Asian (Japanese style fried rock shrimp with orange Habañero dip) to Middle Eastern (house-made hummus and pita) to dishes that play on New Mexico’s ubiquitous chile.

Pear & Stilton salad: walnuts, Stilton blue cheese, field greens, port vinaigrette

19 September 2008: While many Duke City restaurants offer Bruschetta (grilled bread rubbed with garlic and garnished with sundry toppings), a Tuscan favorite, the Slate Street Cafe does it best. For a pittance you can have three different Bruschetta from a list of eight. Bountiful portions of lightly toasted bread two can share become the consummate canvas for such toppings as tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil; Feta, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts; calabasitas and queso blanco; muffaletta (salami, provalone and olive relish) and blue cheese, spinach and Balsamic reduction. The melding of ingredients makes for lively combinations that both complement and contrast in delightfully tasty ways.

Johnny Carson once defined happiness as “finding two olives in your martini when you’re hungry.” I’d wager he’d find happiness in Slate Street’s fried olives stuffed with garlic and Boursin cheese, a salty, albeit wonderful starter option. Having lived in the deep South for eight years, we thought we’d tried everything (pickles, okra, tomatoes, etc.) that could be fried, but fried olives were new to us. Seemingly equal flavor pronouncements between garlic, olives and cheese will tantalize your taste buds.

Fish tacos: tilapia, cabbage, avocado, tomatillo salsa, mango cream drizzle in corn tortillas

Lunchtime entrees are categorized as “mean greens” (the star of which appears to be a profuse Nicoise salad), “sandwich stuff” and “other stuff.” Other stuff includes brown bag fish and chips with a twist. Instead of the usual fried cod, you’re treated to a Guinness stout-battered salmon and house-made chips (American, not British) copiously sprinkled with sea salt served in a warm brown paper bag. We eschewed a very good lemon-basil tartar sauce for malt vinegar in honor of our former home in England. Biting into filets of lightly-breaded, pinkish salmon instead of the boring white flesh of cod is strange at first, but you’ll be won over quickly. The homemade chips, though paper-thin and wonderfully crisp, are  perhaps just a tad salty.

19 September 2008: The menu includes several seafood entrees, including fish tacos, an entree few restaurants in New Mexico seem to do well. The Slate Street Cafe’s twist on this California favorite is to compose the tacos on deep fried corn shells, fashioning two crispy corn cups engorged with sundry ingredients. Similar to tostadas, these tacos are a challenge to eat and you might have to dredge the ingredients out of the cup with a fork because the shell falls apart otherwise. Insofar as taste, these are quite good with citrusy, briny and acidic tastes melding together quite well.

3 August 2010: The “lunchy” section of the brunch menu includes a salad that’s not on the “mean greens” section of the regular lunch menu, but probably should be.  It’s a pear and Stilton salad constructed with walnuts, Stilton blue cheese, field greens and a port vinaigrette dressing.  Stilton blue cheese, a pungent cheese produced only in three English counties, is often eaten with pears, a combination that pits the strongly flavored cheese with the tangy-sweetness of pears.  It’s a combination that works, as does the addition of walnuts, not sugared but in their natural state.  The field greens are fresh, crisp and a perfect vehicle for the port vinaigrette, a lip-pursing tangy dressing.

19 September 2008: The Slate Burger crafted with black angus beef and served on a ciabatta bun is so good, it (this may sound like heresy coming from me) doesn’t need green chile. As with many New Mexicans, green chile has become a “crutch” and it’s hard to conceive of a burger being good without it. While you can ask for green chile on your Slate Burger, it’s absolutely unnecessary. The main reason is the perfectly seasoned, perfectly prepared to your exacting specifications (it’s perfect at medium) angus beef. It’s a high quality beef with nary a hint of sinew or excess fat. The Slate Burger is an excellent burger for which you can pick your toppings from a bevy of fresh ingredients!

Sausage sliders: green chile turkey sausage on housemade green chile cheddar biscuits, chipotle gravy

Salty might be the first adjective I’d used to describe the Cafe’s buttermilk fried chicken, but I’d also have to add zesty and mouth-watering. This free-range poultry features three prodigious pieces of mostly white meat with a thick coating of buttermilk-enriched batter seasoned with garlic and red pepper. Not quite as Cayenne potent as Popeye’s chicken, it’s as juicy and flavorful as any chicken we’ve had in the Duke City (which has never been known as a great city for fried chicken). 

28 September 2015: Green chile mac and cheese, on the other hand, may eventually grow into yet another dish for which Albuquerque gains acclaim.  Slate Street Cafe’s version is among the very best we’ve had: three cheeses–sharp Cheddar, Havarti and Gouda–and rotelli pasta with a pleasantly piquant green chile.  It’s an adult mac and cheese with plenty of flavor, richness and personality.  The cheeses and green chile go so well together that the flavor of this dish is a sum of this part, not distinct components.  That’s how well the ingredients complement one another.

Three Chile Green Chile Mac and Cheese

Breakfast at the Slate Street Cafe is an eye-opening experience that might begin with the aforementioned green eggs and ham (a multi-egg omelet folded with double roasted green chile, white cheddar and honey cured ham). Dr. Seuss would have been proud (and undoubtedly addicted to the endorphin rush from the Duran’s recipe for green chile). This delectable morning delight comes with white cheddar hash browns that don’t have that out-of-the-bag taste.

Slate Street’s fried egg sandwich (fried egg, white Cheddar and applewood smoked bacon on toasted ciabatta) will have you forever swearing off Egg McMuffins. It’s a delicious two fisted masterpiece that defines the best in breakfast sandwiches.  Applewood smoked bacon is magnificent on its own, each slice a thick and crispy best of the breakfast table example of pure deliciousness.  The bacon has a sweet-savory flavor combination resultant from a brown sugar and maple sugar glaze baked into each glorious piece.  It is on par with the award-winning honey-chile glazed bacon at the Gold Street Caffe.  It’s not the restaurant’s most celebrated sandwich, however.  That honor goes to the bacon, lettuce and fried green tomato sandwich which was named one of the city’s 12 yummiest sandwiches in Albuquerque The Magazine‘s annual food and wine magazine for 2012.

3 August 2010: Perhaps even better, if possible, as a morning sandwich option is a brunch-only offering of sausage sliders.  Housemade green chile Cheddar biscuits are the canvas for thick disks of green chile turkey sausage, giving you an eye-opening one, two punch of green chile to wake you up.  If all that green chile doesn’t do the trick, the chipotle gravy will.  It looks innocuous, just like any other brown gravy, but it packs a piquant punch.  Unlike the flaky, fall-apart biscuits that don’t hold together, the green chile biscuits hold up well against the moistness of the absolutely delicious turkey sausage.

The restaurant has become famous locally for its gourmet cupcakes and may have, in fact, been responsible for the introduction of cupcakes as a viable dessert option in the Duke City. Gourmet cupcake favorites include chocolate with cream cheese frosting, coconut, blueberry with lemon icing and a Boston cream cupcake drizzled in chocolate ganache and filled with vanilla custard. The cupcakes are so good many guests don’t realize there’s more on the dessert menu than these decadent gems.

Bread pudding

3 August 2010: There is, for example, chocolate cake like your mother used to make.  There’s a bread pudding with a warm rum sauce–and there’s also a banana split big enough for two.   This banana split includes some departures from the conventional Dairy Queen style banana split and its de rigeur vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice creams.  The Slate Street Cafe’s version replaces the strawberry ice cream with a rich, flavorful and tangy blueberry ice cream and its chocolate ice cream has more of an adult (less cloying) flavor.  The bananas are caramelized and both peanuts and cashews are piled on top of the real whipped cream for a nice salty taste contrast.  This is a calorie-laden bit of heaven.

Slate Street Cafe is pure gold, one of Albuquerque’s paragons of the locavore movement and one of Albuquerque’s best reasons to visit downtown.  The restaurant partners with local farmers and producers who provide fresh, high-quality ingredients ranging from organic eggs at breakfast to heirloom tomatoes at dinner.  A second-story wine loft is reputed to offer exquisite wine pairings that complement the restaurant’s innovative menu.  Wine tastings are held on the first Tuesday and last Thursday of the month.

Slate Street Cafe
515 Slate, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 243-2210
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 28 September 2015
COST: $$
BEST BET: Fried Olives Stuffed With Garlic & Boursin Cheese; Bruschetta; Fried Chicken; Brown Bag Fish & Chips; Green Eggs & Ham; Sausage Sliders, Bread Pudding; Boston Cream Cupcake; Green Chile Mac & Cheese

Slate Street Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Burger Boy – Cedar Crest, New Mexico

Burger Boy for man-sized green chile cheeseburgers and so much more

The vividly hued threads that comprise a beautiful community tapestry are its diverse and unique characters. Some are quirky and eccentric, some are brash and loud, others are indistinct and don’t stand out, but all are essential in weaving that beautiful community tapestry, that compendium of personalities that make up a whole.  One of the most vivid threads in the rich and diverse tapestry that is the alpine community of Cedar Crest, New Mexico was prolific artist, carver and tinkerer Ross Ward.

Before settling in New Mexico, Ross was a show painter for carnivals, traversing the country for more than three decades.  It was in Cedar Crest that Ross built Tinkertown, a folk art environment replete with an impressive array of miniatures and memorabilia of all kinds.  Note:  The next best thing to visiting Tinkertown is learning all about it on New Mexico True Television (Season 3, Episode 3).   Tinkertown is his legacy, the manifestation of his belief in self-determination and freedom.  Now a roadside attraction, it welcomes thousands of guests each year.

Green Chile Bill

One of Ross Ward’s most well-known artistic endeavors hangs not on a wall of a prolific art collector’s mansion or within the well-trafficked confines of an art gallery, but on the humble wall of a simple dining room at Burger Boy, a popular little restaurant on North 14 in Cedar Crest.  Hanging on that wall is a painting of a grizzled and cherubic prospector seeking his fortune on the autumnal golden hued Turquoise Trail.  Scrawled on the prospector’s covered wagon are the words “Burger Boy” while the canteen on the provision-laden pack mule reads “Green Chili Bill – Best Burgers on the Turquoise Trail.” 

From the south parking lot, you’ll espy  another mural.  This one is painted on Burger Boy’s exterior brick wall and it depicts a small village in the style of old western towns.  One edifice is called “Green Chili Bill’s Chili Barn” and its next door neighbor is Burger Boy where an anthropomorphic burger peers out the door.  Green Chili Bill’s cherubic countenance appears on the bottom right corner of the mural.

Exterior mural depicting the legendary Green Chili Bill

Green Chili Bill would be Bill Cushing, who along with his wife Kathy purchased Burger Boy, a converted Tastee Freez franchise in 1983.  Like Ross Ward, Bill Cushing was one of the vibrant threads that have made Cedar Crest a colorful and  vivacious  tapestry of intricately woven characters and personalities.  In 2001, he joined his friend Ross in enriching a more celestial tapestry.

Bill Cushing was renown for his positive outlook and gift for quickly turning strangers into friends.  When I asked his lovely bride Kathy about the kindly looking gentleman on the painting, she told me that she and Bill opened the restaurant so they could spend more time together.  She had been working as a nurse and he as a contractor at the time.  They were very happy together and developed quite a loyal following for their restaurant venture.

The double meat green chile cheeseburger with Fries

Today Kathy operates the restaurant with her daughter Barbara Johnstadt (also a trained nurse), who tragically lost her husband a year after her mother was widowed.  Though slowed a bit by the ravages of time, Kathy remains the genial and energetic hostess she’s always been.  When she’s not on the register, she’s delivering radiant smiles and trays of deliciousness to her eager guests.  On Sundays you might also find Kathy’s sons helping out in the kitchen.  It’s obvious  from the friendly, familial banter between them that the family which cooks together stays together.

While some restaurants festoon their walls with framed photographs of all the celebrities who have dined there, two corner walls at Burger Boy are dedicated to family and to some of the clerics with whom the family has grown close, including retired Archbishop Michael Sheehan of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.  Kathy calls this her “Wall of Faith.”

Pancakes with Chocolate Shake

To say Burger Boy is a small restaurant is an understatement.  At best, it may seat twenty patrons comfortably.  Where it lacks in size, it makes up in large flavors.  The menu includes sandwiches, burgers and New Mexican food, all very popular, but it also includes more healthful low-carb menu items and not just salads.  Other carb-smart offerings include burritos crafted with low-carb tortillas.  Because of its size, Burger Boy’s take-out business is quite robust.  Some locals take their Burger Boy bounty to nearby picnic areas where they dine among tall, cool pines.

Perhaps the most popular item on the menu are Burger Boy’s green chile cheeseburgers which savvy citizens drive for miles to eat.  These are some of the best in the Land of Enchantment, ergo the universe.  It’s so good it made the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail  in 2009, one of 48 select burgers on that list.

Posole with a tortilla

6 September 2015: Unlike the uniform in size and sawdust in texture hockey pucks lamp-heated into desiccation by the fast-food franchises, Burger Boy’s burgers are absolutely fresh and delicious.  The patties are thick and juicy, grilled to just a whisper above medium.  The patties are hand-formed from beef ground daily.  Your best bet is a double-meal burger with all the fixings as all the flavors and condiments achieve such a happy harmony.  The Hatch green chile is of mild piquancy, but makes up for lack of bite with a nice roasted flavor.  Molten melted cheese drapes over the meat which extends beyond the boundaries of its sesame seed bun host.

Adventurous burgerphiles can also have ostrich burgers and buffalo burgers.  No matter what you order, make sure you wash it down with with a Burger Boy milk shake.  These are thick, rich and brain-freeze cold shakes, as good as any shakes in the Duke City area.  They’re the cure-all for hot summer days in the east side of the Sandias.

Other components of the Paul Bunyan breakfast include sausage, bacon, hashed browns and three eggs

3 October 2010: Citizens on the morning side of the mountain which is Cedar Crest like to start the morning off with breakfast at Burger Boy, a meal so filling you might not need another the rest of the day.  That’s especially true if you order the Paul Bunyan breakfast, a mammoth plate that can easily sate two hardy eaters.  The Paul Bunyan includes four fluffy pancakes, two slices of toast, two slices of bacon, a disk of pork sausage and three eggs prepared any way you want.

The pancakes are golden (ginger-blonde might be a more apt description) hued orbs nearly the circumference of the plate.  They’re thick, fluffy and absolutely delicious.  Ask the staff to heat the syrup to maximize their deliciousness.  They’re easily big enough to share (not that you’d want to) and so good you might want to order a short stack for later on.

Patty Melt with Potato Chips

6 September 2015:  New Mexican food favorites available for breakfast are huevos rancheros, a breakfast burrito and a breakfast quesadilla.  The lunch and dinner menu lists everything from taco plates and Frito pies to a combination plate.  Posole is an any time of year favorite that Burger Boy does exceptionally well.  A bowlful showcases perfectly puffed kernels of corn served in a red chile with pork blanketed by melted Cheddar cheese.  You’ll enjoy spooning it onto the tortilla with which the posole is served. 

6 September 2015: While a green chile cheeseburger is a no-brainer for me, my Kim prefers the patty melt which some liken to “not quite a burger” but “more than a sandwich.”   At its most elemental form, it’s simply a beef patty, Swiss cheese, and caramelized onions on griddle-toasted rye bread.  That’s it.  No mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes.  The canvas for Burger Boy’s version is a marble rye with the same type of hand-formed beef patty used on burgers.  My Kim’s assessment is that it can use even more caramelized onions, but she still enjoyed it.

In the rich tapestry that is the community of humankind, some of its threads stand out for their character and vitality.  So too it is with green chile cheeseburgers and the restaurants which serve them.  One of those which truly stands out is the Burger Boy restaurant in Cedar Crest, New Mexico.

Burger Boy
12035 NM-14 N
Cedar Crest, New Mexico
(505) 281-3949
LATEST VISIT: 6 September 2015
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Breakfast Burrito, Chocolate Shake, Paul Bunyan Breakfast, Posole, Patty Melt,

Burger Boy on Urbanspoon

The Library – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Library Bar & Grill on San Mateo

Although my Kim has now lived in New Mexico for more than twenty years, her functional Spanish hasn’t improved much (sadly this places her in the company of many native New Mexicans).  She sings Spanish hymns like a songbird in church, perfectly enunciating each nuanced word, even when she has to roll her “R’s.”  On rare but well-deserved occasions she can direct a slew of choice Spanish expletives at moronic motorists.  She can also order all her favorite dishes at Mexican and New Mexican restaurants with fluency. What she can’t do is carry on or even understand a coherent conversation in Spanish.

During her first visit to the Land of Enchantment, my Kim inventoried her vocabulary of Spanish words and terms in anticipation of meeting my mostly Spanish-speaking grandmothers.  Interestingly, her limited vocabulary included such tongue-twisting words as “albondigas” (meatballs) and the phrase “donde esta la biblioteca” (where is the library?).  Neither would serve her well in discourse with my grandmothers who were as worried about their command of the confounding English language as Kim had been about her Spanish.

The sports bar ambiance of the Library

One early September morning, she asked if i had any suggestions for lunch.  My response “vamos a la biblioteca” (let’s go to the library) drew a quizzical look.  My invitation was not to visit a literary milieu, but a bar and grill with the curious appellation “Library.”  A voracious reader, she was more than intrigued, prompting the only retort which made sense: “donde esta la biblioteca?.” 

La Biblioteca, the Library is located on San Mateo Boulevard, in a 6,700 square-foot edifice which was previously home to the short-lived Rosati’s Pizza.  The Library Bar & Grill is the second Albuquerque instantiation of a popular eatery-drinkery founded in Tempe, Arizona near Arizona State University.  The other Duke City location is on Central Avenue in the Downtown district.

The Trio: Chips and Housemade Sauces: Fire-Roasted Salsa, White Queso and Guacamole

The Library is a combination sports bar and restaurant which should appeal to sports fans and families alike.  It will certainly appeal to bearers of the XY chromosome who may have fantasized during their pubescence about the school girl attire of short plaid skirts and white blouses with plunging necklines.  When not ogling the waitresses, they’ll be paying rapt attention to the many wall-mounted flat screen televisions all tuned to sporting events positioned throughout the dining rooms.  On the day of our inaugural visit, Duke City sports luminary Henry Tafoya was broadcasting his popular Henry T. show from the main dining room.

Most will pay attention to the menu, a jumble of typical bar and grill favorites that includes some nine appetizers (not counting chips and sauces); three “south of the border” entrees; five half-pound, 100-percent Angus beef burgers; seven sumptuous sandwiches; six make it a wrap or salad options; six pizzas; a kid’s menu and two “favorites.”  There isn’t much on the menu for vegetarians; it’s as if vegetarians don’t enjoy sports or adult beverages.

Four Sliders with French Fries

Admittedly when other appetizers don’t immediately appeal to us, we opt for our stand-by of salsa and chips though by no means do we consider this a “Miss Congeniality” of appetizers.  Your best bet at the Library is the Trio, a tasty triumvirate of white queso, guacamole and fire-roasted salsa.  All are surprisingly good, especially the white queso, a gooey, creamy bowl of melted cheese with fiery properties and addictive qualities.  The fire-roasted salsa, impregnated with jalapeños and smashed tomatoes, has sweet, savory and piquant notes while the guacamole is rich, smooth and buttery.  Best of all, the Trio is easily large enough to share.  You’ll run out of the red, blue and yellow chips before you run out of any of the sauces.  

Available both on the appetizers menu and the burger menu is a quadrumvirate of sliders and not just the de rigueur hamburger slider.  You can mix and match your slider choices from among beef, chicken and pork on toasted Hawaiian rolls with a side of creamy horseradish.  That’s it.  No lettuce, pickles, onions or other condiments.  They’d just get in the way and aren’t needed.  That’s especially true of the pork slider, shredded pork in a sweet-smoky-sticky barbecue sauce.  Frankly, the beef and chicken sliders paled in comparison with the pork slider and need the punch of the creamy horseradish to make them as good as they can be.

Grandpa Ben’s BBQ Ribs

The aforementioned “Favorites” section of the menu lists only two items, a smothered green chile chicken plate and Grandpa Ben’s BBQ Ribs, described as “marinated in the family recipe rub, smoked low and slow ’til the meat falls off the bone.”  Don’t look for the smoker anywhere near the premises.  These are likely oven-baked and don’t have the telltale smokiness of real barbecue.  This doesn’t mean the ribs aren’t delicious and they certainly are “fall-off-the-bone” tender.  A half rack of ribs will get you six meaty bones slathered with the same sweet-smoky-sticky sauce used on the pork slider.  Grandpa Ben’s BBQ Ribs are served with your choice of fries (sweet potato or regular) and coleslaw. 

If you’re ever asked “donde esta la biblioteca,” your response should be 5001 San Mateo, N.E., a Library in which hushed tones and conformance to propriety is certainly not expected.  This Library bespeaks of fun and food, a winning combination for families and sports fans alike.

The Library Bar & Grill
5001 San Mateo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-2992
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 5 September 2015
COST: $$
BEST BET: Grandpa Ben’s BBQ Ribs, Four Sliders, Trio

Library Bar and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato