Rudy’s Country Store & Barbecue – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Rudy’s Real Texas Bar-B-Q

I first sampled Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q’s products in 1993 in Leon Springs, Texas, a San Antonio suburb on the fringes of the magnificent  Texas Hill Country. At the time Rudy’s was just beginning to make inroads toward becoming a significant barbecue presence in Texas where beef and brisket are king.  Back then Leon Springs appeared to be a test ground for new restaurant concepts–and in fact, it is the site of the first Romano’s Macaroni Grill and the first Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q (as well as a concept called Nacho Mama’s which might have been the best of the lot.)

Before it was Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q, however, it was just Rudy’s Country Store. The country store was opened in 1929 by Rudolph “Rudy” Aue, the son of the founder of Leon Springs. The country store included a gas station, garage and grocery store.  In 1989, Rudy’s added Bar-B-Q to its country store’s name. Rudy’s was transformed into a meat market selling meats prepared on 100% oak-fired pits.

The sprawling dining room

My first impression was that this intriguing country store concept would be a perfect fit for for Albuquerque which until recent years has had pretty slim pickings when it comes to great barbecue. It took more than a dozen years for those hopes to be realized.  Today, Rudy’s now has two stores in the Duke City. This expansive enterprise also has restaurants in Colorado, Kansas, Arizona, Oklahoma and throughout the great state of Texas.

Rudy’s still offers Texas style tangy barbecue in a country store setting. Unlike many Texas barbecue bastions which seem to prefer acrid mesquite woods, Rudy’s meats are prepared using only oak, a slower-burning wood than mesquite.  Rudy’s meats are also imbued with a nice smoke ring characteristic of good barbecue. Those meats are flame cooked pit-style. The meats are dry-rubbed, not slathered with sauce before being placed in the smoker. The meats are characteristically moist, tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. You can purchase them in increments: quarter-pound, half-pound, pound or more if you so desire.  With a half-pound, you can build two to three stacked sandwiches.

The counter where you place your order

The meats are delicious with or without sauce (sause is how it’s spelled on Rudy’s menus). There are two kinds of sause–a hot sause which is better, bolder and more peppery than its counterpart, labeled “sissy sause.” New Mexicans who adore green chile give the hot sauce a healthy respect and might insult wimps who use the sissy sauce by calling them Texans.  To some, the secret to the deliciousness in Rudy’s barbecue starts with the distinctive sause and its peppery flakes which imbue a sweet tanginess and zesty kick (especially if you use the hot sause).

Surprisingly Rudy’s markets itself as the world’s worst barbecue. There are at least two explanations for this slogan’s genesis. Some surmise that this is just a clever advertising ruse intended to be taken ironically, not literally. It’s as much a “rib” as the meaty ribs on the menu. The other explanation is that “worst” is a play on the German word “wurst,” a type of sausage prepared in the Texas hill country by Germans who first settled this part of Texas in the mid-1850s.

A Half Pound of Brisket

A great meal features a pound or more of very good smoked meat wrapped in butcher paper with accompanying bread slices (rather ordinary wheat or white bread) that make for several sandwiches.  Rudy’s brisket is probably the number one selling item on the menu. It is tender, juicy, and melts in your mouth. You can smell the oak that’s used to smoke it in every bite.   The pork and brisket are very good, links are terrific and ham is excellent. If you’re a ham fanatic, Rudy’s serves some of the best in town.  A light, sweet glaze contrasts with the porcine saltiness of the ham to dance on your taste buds.

Seating is family-style on wooden picnic tables, but no one seems to mind sitting with strangers.  Perhaps that’s because most patrons are too busy with the entrees, but more than likely it’s because the environment seems to inspire friendliness.  Aside from the indoor seating with a view of the prep tables where the slicing and cutting is done, Rudy’s offers covered porch seating.  Our debonair dachshund The Dude enjoys the covered porch during inclement days that aren’t fit for man or his best friend.

A Half Pound of Pork

Between the unholy hours of seven and ten in the morning, Rudy’s offers “grab and go” tacos which you can customize with your favorite smoked meats.  Once you’ve had tacos made with smoked meats, you might never again be satisfied with ground beef tacos (or any Taco Bell faux-simile thereof).  The grab and go options include bacon, egg and chile; sausage, egg and chile; brisket, egg and chile; jalapeño sausage wrap; sausage wrap; carne adovada wrap; chop taco and beans and cheese.  Any option with chile–red or green–is best.

Rudy’s also serves something called the “brown cow taco” which is made from barbecue brisket (or you can substitute pulled pork), chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese and sour cream inside a warm flour tortilla.  It’s a much larger taco than the other breakfast tacos and can be ordered any time of day.  The Turkey Joe taco is somewhat similar except that it’s constructed from the smoked turkey and Ranch dressing.  Both are full-meal-sized and quite good.

Rudy’s Sissy Sause and Bar-B-Q Sause

The menu includes several sides: potato salad, green bean salad, coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob, green chili stew, pinto beans, cream corn, new potatoes and a jumbo smoked potato (nearly the size of a football).  The buttery boiled potatoes are a popular favorite which many guests seem to love.  The cream corn, which is also quite good, uses large niblet corn and a sweet, creamy, buttery sauce.

Rudy’s employees wear shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “We didn’t claw our way to the top of the food ladder only to eat vegetables.” That’s the way most diners feel as well.  The walls nearest the entrance are festooned with accolades proclaiming the self proclaimed “world’s worst barbecue” Albuquerque’s very best several years running by publications such as Albuquerque The Magazine, The Alibi and Local IQ.

Sausage, Bacon and Green Chile Breakfast Taco

Since man cannot live on barbecue alone, a collection of sure to please desserts are available: banana pudding, pecan pie, chocolate pudding, buttermilk pie, Rice Krispy treats, ice cream and peach cobbler.  Buttermilk pie, despite its deeply Southern roots has become somewhat of a big hit at Rudy’s in New Mexico.  This custard pie with its faintly caramelized top is almost cloying in its degree of sweetness, but it’s perfect for sweet-toothed diners.

Rudy’s was one of the first restaurants to introduce Albuquerque diners to Stewart’s sodas which come in several varieties including a root beer which was named the top root beer at the 2006 World Cup of Root Beer.  Stewart’s sodas evoke nostalgic tangs among people who grew up with Nehi sodas and their colorful variety.

Pecan Pie and Banana Pudding

Rudy’s is perhaps the best Texas import to land in the Land of Enchantment since UNM basketball star Kenny Thomas transferred from El Paso to Albuquerque High School.  It’s become a barbecue landmark in its two Duke City locations.

Rudy’s Country Store & Barbecue
10136 Coors Blvd, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 890-7113
Web Site | Facebook Page

LATEST VISIT: 25 March 2018
# OF VISITS: 25
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Brown Cow Taco, Pork Sandwich, Brisket, Ham

Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

South Bourbon Kitchen – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The South Bourbon Kitchen, New Restaurant in a Familiar, Completely Redone Location

“I got a plate of chicken and taters and a lot of stuff like that
All, all I need is a biscuit, but I wish you’d look where they’re at
I guess I could reach across the table but that’s ill-mannered, Mom always said
I wish I had a biscuit, I just can’t eat without bread.”
~ Jimmy Dean: Please Pass the Biscuits

Country music is renowned for songs that tug at your heart strings. The very best sad country songs render us weepy and melancholic because our very souls can relate to and empathize with the sad, touching lyrics, mournful melodies and tear-jerking tempos. Jimmy Dean’s Please Pass the Biscuits may just be the saddest song ever in country music. This song recounts a boy desperately trying to get someone to pass him biscuits to eat with Sunday dinner. Tired of being ignored by the grown-ups, he finally decides to stop being polite and just reach for one. Alas, by that time, nary a biscuit is left.

Just a Portion of the Capacious Dining Area

How can a song about a little boy not getting a biscuit with his dinner be sadder than He Stopped Loving Her Today? Or Old Shep? Or Chiseled in Stone? Or How Can I Help You Say Good Bye. Sad songs all, but if you’ve ever been cruelly deprived of a biscuit prepared at a true Southern kitchen, you know the sadness of which I speak. Before the Civil War, biscuits were so revered and celebrated that they were usually reserved for Sundays alone. A century and a half later, Southerners still consider the biscuit a delicacy. So do those of us who lived in the Deep South and experienced the incomparable deliciousness of fluffy, flaky golden biscuits slathered in melting butter or strawberry jam.

Come to think of it, the dearth of great Southern restaurants in New Mexico would be a great topic for a sad country music song. When we left Mississippi, we bid adieu to stifling humidity, rampant poverty, high unemployment and politics as corrupt as…New Mexico’s. We also said good bye to great friends, lush greenery, beautiful beaches and close proximity to some of the best Southern restaurants in the country. On a ledger of deficits and surpluses, the biggest deficit might be those Southern restaurants we frequented. Lest you condemn me for undervaluing great friends, you’ve got to understand that in the South, dining is synonymous with family and friends sharing great food and warm conviviality.

Southern Sliders

Nowhere is this better conveyed than in John Egerton’s Southern Food, a magnificent tome which–despite being widely considered the definitive book on Southern cooking–was not as much a cookbook as it was a study on how food could be a unifying force among people of different backgrounds. “Within the South itself,” Egerton wrote, “no other form of cultural expression, not even music, is as distinctively characteristic of the region as the spreading of a feast of native food and drink before a gathering of kin and friends. For as long as there has been a South, and people who think of themselves as Southerners, food has been central to the region’s image, its personality, and its character.”

When we learned of the March, 2018 launch of a Southern restaurant called South Bourbon Kitchen, we had high hopes of recapturing the spirit of Egerton’s declaration that “a meal in the South can still be an esthetic wonder, a sensory delight, even a mystical experience.” Those hopes were somewhat dashed when we asked where the chef was from (expecting somewhere in Dixie) and our server responded “Deming.” Deming! That’s about as South (attitudinally, not latitudinally) as Springville, New York. If learning the chef was from Deming was somewhat deflating, perusing the menu and not seeing biscuits made me even more simpatico with the little boy in the Jimmy Dean song. Thankfully, the rest of the menu restored our hopes (more on the menu below).

Fried Green Tomatoes with Housemade Pimento

While co-owner and executive chef Dru Ruebush may have been born in Deming and raised in Silver City, previous generations of his family did hail from the South. That’s a huge plus! So is the menu’s proclamation “Southern inspired. Locally sourced. Served fresh.” South’s location is both familiar (at least in terms of address) and brand new. South is located at the former home of several short-lived eateries (Heimat House and Beer Garden, Independence Grill, Los Compadres) and the legendary Liquid Assets. Unlike previous tenants who didn’t do much to the tired and aged space, the South has risen again courtesy of a complete make-over. The transformation is stunning inside and out. In fact, the entire retail center has metamorphosed. It’s now comprised exclusively of restaurants (such as the Curry Leaf and Tap That) with inviting patios where once there was only dull views of the back of the edifice. A dog-friendly patio made our debonair dachshund The Dude feel welcomed.

Though the menu lists several of our favorite Southern dishes, albeit several tinged with the decidedly New Mexican predilection for piquancy, we were torn between our yen for tradition and the excitement of disparate culinary traditions melding together. You’ll find, for example, smoked pork ribs with a chipotle Carolina sauce, habanero chicken lollipops with Taos honey, pork chop stew with Hatch green chile and a roasted beet salad with a pinon vinaigrette. It’s a menu wholly unlike that of other attempts at winning over persnickety Duke City diners to the nuances and joys of Southern cuisine.

Langoustine and Scallop Po’ Boy

While bologna sandwiches are ubiquitous across the fruited plain, the fried bologna sandwich is especially beloved in the South where it’s considered the “poor man’s steak.”  Thin-sliced bologna won’t do.  Aficionados like their bologna thick, the way it’s offered at the South Bourbon Kitchen.  The very first item on the “Snacks” portion of the menu is, in fact, are two fried bologna sandwiches  fittingly called Southern Sliders (two thick fried beef bologna slices, pickles and mayo nestled between a soft bread roll).  Everyone who’s ever loved a fried bologna sandwich (and there are plenty of New Mexicans who have) will enjoy these very much.  If I had my druthers, the bologna would have been even more deeply fried, not just at surface level and instead of a bread roll, one of those great Southern biscuits.

While Fannie Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and a subsequent movie by that name may have introduced much of the fruited plain to fried green tomatoes, at least one culinary historian contends they were actually as unusual in the South before 1991 as they were anywhere else. Robert F. Moss, wrote “they entered the American culinary scene in the Northeast and Midwest, perhaps with a link to Jewish immigrants.” Knish, kugel, fried green tomatoes. Who would have thought? If the birthplace of fried green tomatoes sounds heretical, it might shock you to learn that pimento cheese, the preternaturally delicious combination of shredded cheese, mayo and diced red pimentos, got its start in New York (or so says another source).

Roasted Beets Salad

Regardless of origin (and my money is still on the South), the best fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese come from the South! Exclamation point! End of story! South Bourbon Kitchen pairs fried green tomatoes and house pimento cheese with chili threads in an appetizer so good, it might transport you to the South (where you dare not share the genesis of this delicious duo). The pimento cheese is especially memorable, reminding us why pimento cheese is commonly referred to as “the caviar of the South” and “the pate of the South.” The fried green tomatoes are a bit on the thick side with a light batter so they’re very juicy. Topping them with a bit of the pimento cheese is a preview of what heaven, or at least Charleston, South Carolina is like.

Entrees include Nashville Hot Chicken, the South’s answer to red chile. It was my second choice, right behind a langoustine and scallop po’boy with heirloom tomatoes and an Old Bay aioli. A netful of fried langoustine and scallops is piled into every po’boy. You’ll have to extricate about half the seafood bounty and eat it with your fork (a nice remoulade would have been welcome). Similarly, we removed the thick, meaty, juicy tomatoes and ate them sans sandwich. In our eight years living in Mississippi, we enjoyed a treasure trove of po’boys, not all of which showcased seafood this sweet and succulent.

Chocolate Jar

My Kim has been on a roasted beets kick lately, but it wasn’t the beets which influenced her to order the beet salad instead of one of the myriad Southern entrees. It was the pinon vinaigrette with which that salad (roasted beets, arugula, bleu cheese, pecans) was served. While many Americans were first introduced to the pinon when basil pesto was popularized in the 1980s, New Mexicans (and by extension, my Kim) have long enjoyed the roasted flavor of piñon with its subtle hint of pine and sweetness. That inimitable flavor is prevalent in the vinaigrette though the sharp intensity of the bleu cheese threatened to overpower everything else. Kim raved about every element of the salad (especially the sweetness of the beets) save for its size. We’ve had side salads about the size of the entrée portion at South.

You know you’re in a Southern (or Southern-inspired) restaurant when things are served in a jar (usually Mason). At many Southern restaurants, it’s usually tea or soft drinks, but because Southerners consider the jar a most utilitarian vessel, jars can be used for virtually everything. Consider South Bourbon Kitchen’s Chocolate Jar (fudge brownie, salted caramel, chocolate pudding and peanut brittle). It’s not the most capacious jar we’ve seen, but it’s brimming with flavor combinations that just work well.  The salt caramel is just salty enough to counterbalance the fudge brownie.  Our favorite component surprisingly was the peanut brittle, as good as we’ve had anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line.

John T. Edge, a disciple of John Egerton, believes “it’s not impossible to serve Southern food outside of the South, but it must be done respectfully.” The South Bourbon Kitchen exemplifies that respect. The South has risen again.

South Bourbon Kitchen
6910 Montgomery, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 508-1899
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 17 March 2018
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chocolate Jar, Langoustine and Scallop Po’ Boy, Fried Green Tomatoes with Housemade Pimento, Roasted Beet Salad, Southern Sliders
REVIEW #1033

&South Bourbon Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yellow Brix Restaurant – Carlsbad, New Mexico

Entrance to the Yellow Brix Patio

Gastronomes (people with sensitive and discriminating culinary tastes), cerevisaphiles (aficionados of beers and ales) and oenophiles (connoisseurs of wines) have a vernacular of their own. Most of us need a universal translator to understand what they’re saying when they’re waxing eruditely about their passions. The commonality among the three is their pursuit of sensual pleasures, an indulgence of the senses. Being singularly passionate about one of these epicurean pursuits doesn’t necessarily mean you’re conversant in the vernacular of another.

Case in point, as we were enjoying our al fresco dining experience at the Yellow Brix patio in Carlsbad, I contemplated what theme to wrap my review around.  Yellow brick road?  Nah, too cheesy.  Bricks as a foundation for success?  Too boring.  Bricks as in yet another of my jump shots bouncing off the rim?  Too embarrassing.  Fortunately the couple on the table to our left bailed me out.  Obviously “grape nuts” (yes, that’s a synonym for oenophile), they were speaking what seemed to be Klingon as they raised their glasses to their lips and sipped in a manner that was both studious and appreciative.  Terms such as “tannin,” “body,” “terroir” and “brix” were interspersed with conversations about the day’s activities.

Yellow Brix Patio

What the heck could “bricks” possibly have to do with wine, I wondered.  Could there possibly be a grape-pressing method involving the use of bricks?  And does the restaurant’s name Yellow Brix portend something about the color of bricks used in the grape-pressing process?  It finally dawned on me that the key might not be in the pronunciation “bricks,” but in the spelling “brix.”  As it turns out, when our neighbors were using the term “brix,” they were talking about a way to measure grapes to determine how much alcohol a wine will have.  It’s not as complicated as Stephen Hawkings gravitational singularity theorems as Wine Folly  explains below.

“Brix (°Bx) is a way to measure the potential alcohol content of a wine before it’s made by determining the sugar level in grapes. Each gram of sugar that’s fermented will turn into about a 1/2 gram of alcohol. Of course, different winemaking techniques will affect the final alcohol content, which is why Brix is interesting to us inquisitive wine explorers.”  It’s very scientific, much like molecular gastronomy principles where techniques from chemistry and physics are used to transform the textures of food into innovative eating experiences. Sous-vide anyone?

Roasted Grape Salad

Yellow Brix does indeed have an impressive wine list…and the edifice is constructed of yellow bricks, an architecturally beautiful and historic yellow-brick home built in 1928.  Some eight decades later (2011) owners Dan and Barbara Remplel began the conversion to a commercial restaurant with the goal of preserving the historic integrity of this stately home.  Initially they launched as a unique coffeehouse, but toward the end of their first year they decided to offer more to the community of Carlsbad, transitioning into the full service restaurant it is today.

Its website indicates “YellowBrix Restaurant strives to be the epicurean restaurant of choice for the community of Carlsbad.”  If our inaugural visit is any indication, it’s a wonderful community gathering space that would be right at home anywhere.  “Anywhere” doesn’t necessarily have Carlsbad’s moderate climes.  We had our first al fresco dinner for 2018 on a short-sleeve worthy March day on the Yellow Brix patio with our debonair dachshund The Dude.  The interior dining room is beautiful, but the patio is the place to be.  It’s well lit and shielded from the North Canal Street traffic.  Portable patio heaters stood at the ready should they be needed, but it was warm for the entire duration of our stay.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

The Yellow Brix menu bespeaks of a guest-centric mission statement: “We believe in providing an exceptional dining experience and unbelievable food. We offer an extensive selection of lunch, dinner, and kid’s items made from scratch every day, that are sure to satisfy any appetite.  For even more favors, we have incredible salmon, prime rib, pork chops, margarita chicken and grilled steak options you won’t find anywhere else. After dinner, we welcome you to try our famous cheesecake or homemade gelato, while sipping one of our specialty coffee drinks. We even roast our own beans!”  Sure enough, the menu gave us plenty to contemplate.

While the starters menu included an inviting array of tempting appetizers, we wanted to try something heretofore new to us.  The roasted grape salad (baby spinach with fresh roasted grapes, craisins, candied walnuts and goat cheese with brandied vanilla dressing) did the trick.  Sure we’ve had roasted grapes on salads before, but that brandied vanilla dressing heralded something special.  Brandy, with its depth of nuanced flavors, was easily discerned.  Its pairing with a thin (not quite the consistency of pudding) sheen of vanilla is something we’ll try to reconstruct at home.  The brandy counterbalanced the sweetness away from the vanilla and proved an excellent foil to the tart, earthiness of the goat cheese.  Similarly, the juicy grapes provided a nice textural contrast to the candied walnuts.  This salad was a pleasant surprise!

Roasted Half Chicken

With her entree, my Kim had her choice of sides, all inviting, but it was the chicken tortilla soup (vegetables, chicken breast, avocado, cheese and tortilla chips) which beckoned. At far too many New Mexican restaurants, chicken tortilla soup is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, usually “good enough” but rarely memorable.  Yellow Brix’s version is in rarefied air as one of the most satisfying of its ilk we’ve ever had.  Not only is the portion size generous (brimming), the ingredients are of high quality and prepared well.  Each vegetable contributed mightily to our enjoyment as did notes of musky achiote.  After you’ve dispensed with all the vegetables, this is a soup you’ll want to slurp up.

Thinking she would certainly order one of the chef-cut char-grilled Angus steaks, my carnivorous Kim surprised me by requesting the roasted half chicken (herb-rubbed and served with chimichurri).  Admittedly she had seen the pulchritudinous poultry platter destined for other tables.   She would never otherwise eschew a good steak.  What made this particular chicken a great choice was the chimichurri.  There are many variations of this popular Argentinian meat sauce.  Yellow Brix’s rendition is among the best we’ve had.  It’s a complex (not complicated) sauce in that it imprints itself on your taste buds in so many different places.  Kim’s only regret is not having requested a second portion.  It enlivened an otherwise ordinary chicken.

Sashimi Tuna

My entree choice actually came from the starters menu where I couldn’t get past the Sashimi tuna (seared ahi slices with wasabi, ginger and a hot-spiced soy sauce).  It was a nice choice though the soy-wasabi combination was a bit on the salty side, making me crave vinegared rice, the element on sushi that makes it less salty.  Sans soy and wasabi, the seared ahi was beautiful in both appearance and flavor.  Perfectly pink and rare, the ahi was moist and delicious.  Nine thinly sliced little slabs of sumptuous ahi made for a great entree indeed. 

Not only did Yellow Brix feed us, well, our visit taught me a new term to use on my oenophile friends.  For al fresco pet-friendly dining in Carlsbad, there’s no better option!

Yellow Brix Restaurant
201 North Canal Street
Carlsbad, New Mexico
(575) 941-2749
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 10 March 2018
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Sashimi Tuna, Roasted Half Chicken, Chicken Tortilla Soup, Roasted Grape Salad
RESTAURANT REVIEW #1032

YellowBrix Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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