Perea’s Tijuana Bar & Restaurant – Corrales, New Mexico

Perea's Tijuana Bar in Corrales

Perea’s Tijuana Bar & Restaurant in Corrales

The curious appellation “Tijuana Bar” dates back to the 1920s when the 18th amendment to the Constitution established Prohibition in the United States during the period 1920 to 1933.  Because Prohibition forbade the sale of alcoholic beverages, many Americans got their alcohol illegally or they went to Mexico. Tijuana was a popular vacation and honeymoon destination and it happens to be where  Teofilo C. Perea, Sr. and his bride honeymooned in the 1920s.  The newlyweds visited a bar called the “Tijuana Bar” and decided then and there to use that name should they ever open a bar. Bureaucracy being what it is, once a license to dispense alcohol is issued, it’s very difficult to change the name on the license–hence Tijuana Bar.  It fits.

Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Corrales, a 200 year plus old structure constructed of “terrones” or thick slabs of earth rather than adobes, Perea’s Tijuana bar & Restaurant doesn’t subscribe to the notion that all food served in Corrales has to be of high-brow fru-fru variety. In fact, for outstanding home-cooked New Mexican food, Perea’s is one of a handful of restaurants vying for “best restaurant” in the Duke City area. In my humble opinion and that of Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate, it is in rarefied company as one of the very best New Mexican restaurants not only in the Albuquerque area, but in the state.

John (at left) and T.C. Perea, the genial braintrust of Perea's Tijuana Bar & Restaurant.

John (at left) and the late T.C. Perea, current and former owners of Perea’s Tijuana Bar & Restaurant.

The operative word here is “home-cooked” as in prepared the old-fashioned way by members of the Perea family, a prominent Corrales presence for generations.  T.C., the affable family patriarch who took over the restaurant operation in 1968 tended the bar until his untimely passing on June 20th, 2012.  His genial son John continues to oversee the restaurant operation while either his charming wife Stella or his lovely mom prepares the traditional favorites which have made Perea’s a hugely popular dining destination.  For most of my eighteen years at Intel, Perea’s was a refuge, a sanctuary, a home-away-from home.

Old-fashioned doesn’t just apply to traditional home-cooking.  It’s part and parcel of the wonderful service provided to each and every guest.  The Perea family is a genuinely warm and friendly bunch.  Until September, 2005, perspicacious granddaughter Carina, an aspiring lawyer, waited on us during our every visit and became our favorite member of a genuinely warm and friendly family that makes each visit feel like a return home.  Carina is now a mom with a degree who visits the restaurant as often as living in Bend, Oregon will allow.

The lovely and talented Mayling Garcia bringing a green chile cheeseburger to our table. We've got the best seat in the house, by the fireplace.

The lovely and talented Mayling Garcia bringing a green chile cheeseburger to our table. We’ve got the best seat in the house, by the fireplace.

Fortuitously, the vivacious Mayling Garcia just happened to be looking for a job shortly after Carina’s departure and has now become a restaurant fixture, serving Perea’s faithful for a dozen years before striking out into the “real world.”  Thankfully she’s back at Perea’s where she’s practically family.  Mayling is a rare beauty in many ways, becoming one of only thirteen people (out of six billion) in the world to play the airmonica, an instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin.  Mayling’s Web site includes a video clip from her appearance on “America’s Got Talent.” 

Serving lunch from 11AM to 2PM Monday through Saturday, this charming one-story adobe bar and restaurant features red chile that isn’t just red food coloring like in most restaurants; it’s ground from chile pods, flakes of which are visible on your entrees.  The chile has bite without being acerbic, taste and bite without being overwhelmingly piquant (but has on occasion, been known to be hot enough to cause hiccups).  Its chile is consistently among the very best chile in the Albuquerque area with the red chile usually being hotter than the green, and even when it’s not especially piquant, it’s always delicious.

Chips and salsa at Perea's

Chips and salsa at Perea’s

16 January 2016:  The menu doesn’t list a lot of appetizers.  That makes good sense considering the entire menu covers only one laminated page and lists probably no more than twenty items in total.  Among available appetizers are the de rigueur chips and salsa, nachos and a cheese quesadilla served with salsa.  The salsa is terrific though not a complimentary offering.  It’s thick and rich, punctuated with piquant jalapeños.  The chips aren’t made on the premises, but they’re good chips–round, low-in-salt and formidable enough to hold up against Gil-sized scoops of salsa.

16 January 2016:  That salsa is part and parcel of another appetizer, the cheese quesadillas.  In an age when every sandwich-like dish seems to incorporate as many ingredients as possible, this quesadilla is engorged with nothing but melted, molten Cheddar cheese.  Nothing else (though you can add chopped tomatoes and lettuce if you’d like)!  A gigantic tortilla with a pinto pony char is sliced into five triangular wedges, each stuffed with gooey cheese.  The salsa is a perfect foil, offering piquancy and freshness to an otherwise savory Frisbee-sied masterpiece.

Cheese Quesadillas with Salsa

Perea’s serves the best Frito Pie in New Mexico!  Period!  End of story!  A generous portion of beans, seasoned ground beef, that wondrous red chile and of course, Fritos corn chips is big enough for two to share, but might lead to a tableside tiff if one of you manages to abscond with a larger share of this delicious bounty.  You can also have your Frito Pie made with carne adovada for an even more wonderful taste sensation. How many restaurants do you know that offer Frito pie “Christmas style” (with both red and green chile)?  Perea’s does and it’s a terrific way to have your Frito pie.  You can also top your Frito pie with onions and (or) sour cream. 

The very best Frito pie in New Mexico!

The very best Frito pie in New Mexico!

16 January 2016: The carne adovada plate features tender pork bathed in Perea’s red chile and served with beans and posole, an unbeatable combination.  My Kim, an adovada devotee swears Perea’s version competes with the carne adovada at La Choza and at Mary & Tito’s for best in New Mexico honors.  It’s a tender, shredded pork redolent with red chile flavor–pure porcine perfection for the discerning New Mexico diner.  Perea’s tops it with shredded Cheddar and my Kim enjoys it most with a fried egg or two.

Another coveted “best” (though a case could certainly be made for the legendary El Modelo) are Perea’s tamales which also feature that oh-so-tender shredded pork and just enough corn masa to ameliorate, not dominate the taste.  This delicious entree is also available Christmas style (with red and green chile) and with or without onions.  Each tamale is roughly four inches long and about half as thick.  As with the carne adovada, the tamales aren’t as piquant as other entrees at Perea’s.  The marinated pork has some bite, but moreover, it has the smooth flavor that characterizes great tamales.

Carne Adovada with a fried egg

16 January 2016: The green chile cheeseburger is one of the top ten of its kind in New Mexico (ergo the universe)–even though it was somehow left off the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.  It is roughly six inches in diameter and is always garnished with the freshest ingredients–mustard, lettuce, tomato and green chile.  It’s simplicity itself, but done exceptionally well.   One of its many fine qualities is just how moist the beef is; there’s obviously no spatula mashing with these patties.  Oh, and make sure you ask for a double-meat burger for twice the flavor.   This burger is accompanied by a bag of potato chips (no fries here).

Unique to this gem of a restaurant is an enchilada casserole–corn tortillas layered with chicken and green chile in a creamy sauce.  It is absolutely wonderful.  It’s the very first thing we had when we discovered Perea’s in 1996 and one of the entrees we order most often.  Enchilada casseroles are rarely found on menus in the Land of Enchantment’s wonderful New Mexican restaurants, but attend any high school graduation or funeral in Northern New Mexico and you’ll be served some of the best homemade enchilada casseroles you’ll ever have.  Perea’s is even better!

Green Chile Cheeseburger

Perea’s beef stew is a perfect remedy for a winter day doldrums (and is best consumed on the table nearest the restaurant’s wood-burning fireplace).  This is the type of stew that best defines comfort foods New Mexico style–with green chile.  Perea’s tortillas are thick and substantial, unlike the paper-thin aberrations offered at other restaurants.  The sopaipillas are puffy clouds of goodness just waiting for honey.  The salsa is fresh and lively (with a slightly sweet taste that complements the green chile), made with plump red tomatoes and the chips are served warm, my favorite combination. 

Many New Mexicans who hold fast to long-established traditions celebrate New Year’s eve with steaming bowls of posole, a hearty stew of pork, onion, garlic, chile and processed corn kernels.  Some (like me) feast on posole year-round.  Note: It’s a cardinal sin to say posole is synonymous with hominy.  While they’re both processed corns, hominy is unimaginative and soft while posole is earthy, robust and delicious.  At Perea’s posole is a seasonal offering available as a side with one of the plates.  It’s also available separately if you’re looking for lighter fare.  It’s some of the very best posole you’ll find anywhere.  You’ll agree it’s not just for Christmas eve.

Perea's tamales with beans and posole

Perea’s tamales with beans and posole

Perhaps because Americans are so used to foods which practically need desalinization, you will notice that Perea’s cuisine is somewhat under-salted.  To me, that’s a good thing because it allows salting to taste.  Too many New Mexican food restaurants salt their entrees in greater quantities than the blocks of salt given to cows. 

Stacked Enchiladas with Carne Adovada, Beans and Posole

Stacked Enchiladas with Carne Adovada, Beans and Posole

There’s no pretentiousness in the cordial, attentive service you receive at Perea’s.  The Perea family is down-to-earth and as friendly as can be.  Mayling is one of the very best waitresses in the state with no surcease to her talent or charm.  There’s nothing pretentious about the food either.  It’s just great New Mexican home cooking–the way it should be done!

Perea’s Tijuana Bar & Restaurant
4590 Corrales Road
Corrales, New Mexico
(505) 898-2442
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 16 January 2016
# OF VISITS: 35
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Frito Pie, Enchilada Casserole, Green Chile Stew, Beef Enchiladas

Perea's Tijuana Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Village Pizza – Corrales, New Mexico

Village Pizza in Corrales, New Mexico

Village Pizza in Corrales, New Mexico

Research has proven that taste buds are dulled by high altitude and cabin pressure, so as an aircraft climbs, our sense of taste diminishes by as much as 30 percent. That explains why many passengers praise airline food on flights in which meals are actually served.  It’s probably not that the food is good; it’s more likely that their sense of taste is diminished.  Alas, it’s not solely high altitude and cabin pressure which can diminish the sense of taste.  On this blog I’ve catalogued some of those factors: the use of spices (i.e., cumin) that mask the purity, earthiness and richness of red chile; the use of inferior ingredients that can’t mask the lack of quality; the impairing effects of alcohol on the senses of smell and taste; improper preparation time and so forth.  One factor I have not touched upon is “too much of a good thing.”

At Village Pizza, your sense of taste may actually be diminished by “too much of a good thing.”  Perhaps, more accurately “too much of a good thing” might focus your attention away from what should be the subject of your attention…and affection.  At least this holds true for the name on the marquee: pizza.

Village Pizza is a sprawling complex

Village Pizza is a sprawling complex

I’ve long thought that underneath the formidable mound of unfailingly fresh ingredients piled high on a Village Pizza combination pizza lies a pretty good pie, but the effort to get to it and the tastes you experience beforehand do diminish its enjoyment.  Take the Village combo, for example.  When the menu describes it as “a real combo piled with smoked ham, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, hot or mild green chile, bell peppers, red onions, ground beef and hot or mild sausage,” the emphasis should be on “piled.”  The ingredients on this baked behemoth are stacked so high you don’t know whether to eat them, make a salad out of them or organize an expedition to climb them.

While these are all ingredients most carnivorous pizza aficionados enjoy immensely, moderation might be in order.  That and perhaps some cooking time.  Some of the veggies–mushrooms, bell peppers and red onions–seem to be added on well after the pizza has slid into the oven.  The result is room temperature and uncooked ingredients atop an otherwise steaming, hot out of the oven pie.  Not only are the aforementioned veggies uncooked, they tend to be oversized.  Green peppers are sliced into rather thick ribbons, not small pieces.  Rather than being a fairly innocuous complementary ingredient, the thick-walled, fleshy bell peppers tend to dominate the pizza with their characteristic sweet and bitter taste sensations.   The mushrooms could stand some sautéeing, too.

The Village Combo

The Village Combo

Even the meat ingredients are generously apportioned.  Thick ground beef and sausage chunks top the Village combo, but neither is especially noteworthy.  The sausage lacks in the fennel flavor so prevalent in good Italian sausage.  Unless you order the hot sausage, it also lacks punch.  The one meat ingredient most conspicuous, however, might be the smoked ham, but it’s conspicuous because of its absence…or maybe it’s buried under an avalanche of other ingredients.

Okay, so “too much of a good thing” can be not a good thing.  Take that aforementioned Village combo home, strip off a plateful or so of sausage, ground beef and bell peppers and even cold, you’ll uncover a pretty good pizza.  In fact, any pie made on the premises is pretty good if you order it if it’s not buried under an avalanche of ingredients.

Two Pizza Slices and Two Slices of Garlic Bread from the Buffet

In Corrales it may be said that if it takes a village to bake a great pizza, that village is the Village Pizza and if pizza dough is the canvass on which great pizza is made, Village Pizza creates the canvass on which masterpiece pizzas are made.  The dough–conventional or whole wheat–is made on the premises.  Thin, regular or “thick” varieties shaped into 12″, 14″ and 16″ sizes (three sizes, three thicknesses) are available for appetites of varying capacities.  Each pizza is hand-tossed and baked in slate ovens.  Fresh ingredients and real cheese are a standard as is the generosity of ingredients.  An array of exotic ingredients such as eggplant, artichoke hearts, feta and roasted pine nuts are available for pizza aficionados who don’t want a conventional pizza.  Village Pizza even offers a “take and bake” option so you can bake the pie at home.

The homemade sauce is very good, obviously made from rich tomatoes at the peak of freshness.  It is seasoned very well with basil, garlic and other complementary ingredients.  If you prefer pizza sans tomato sauce, the restaurant can accommodate you there, too.  In addition to the original red sauce, you can have a wonderful bianco (garlic and ricotta) sauce or pesto if you please.  There’s even a “gourmet” sauce option where you can choose two from the sauce triumvirate of tomato, bianco or pesto.

Salad from the Buffet

An all-you-can-eat buffet is available every day from 11AM – 2PM and Monday and Tuesday nights from 5PM until closing.  The buffet, which includes pizza, soup, salad and breadsticks, is one of the biggest draws to this Corrales institution.  Whether you order off the menu or opt for the buffet, your portions will be profligate.  Village Pizza is not a restaurant you visit if when you want a small meal.  Though we often eschew buffets, this is one we enjoy–even when having to share a dining room with a passel of party-goers. 

Several types of pizza are available on a large silver table spotlighted by heating lamps.  You needn’t worry about the pizza growing stale or cold because it doesn’t spend much time on the table.  A procession of hungry diners forms quickly after the pizza is replenished.  The buffet features many of the most popular pizzas–pies adorned with green chile, pepperoni, cheese and more.  The Hawaiian-style pizza (pineapple, Canadian bacon) is quite good, showcasing the contrast of tangy-sweet pineapple and salty-savory Canadian bacon.  Alas, the green chile would barely register on the Scoville scale.  It’s got virtually no heat and that’s a mortal sin in New Mexico.

Green Chile Stew from the Buffet

The salad bar allows you to indulge your creativity with a melange of fresh ingredients.  The foundation for your salad starts with either a conventional iceberg lettuce or spinach base.  Trays of ingredients include discs of pepperoni, sliced mushrooms, sliced black olives, chopped green peppers, flower seeds and some of the largest, most juicy pepperoncini (which packs more punch than the chile) in the area.  Salad dressings include all the usual suspects and a raspberry vinaigrette we enjoyed for dipping the bread sticks. 

Soup of the day is a celebrated event when the featured fare is green chile chicken stew.  A large crock of piping hot green chile chicken stew has its own place separate from the buffet as well as its own legion of admirers who queue up to ladle it onto their bowls.  This is a good green chile stew even though we were hard-pressed to glean any piquancy or smokiness.  What is discernible, however, is finely cut chicken and a thick broth.  We love that this stew is served hot, a much welcome respite from the chill of winter.

Calzone at Village Pizza in Corrales

Calzone at Village Pizza in Corrales

As someone for whom Spanish was the first and only language I knew until starting school, the word “calzone” has always amused me.  In Spanish and in Italian, a calzone is a trouser, so the first time I saw “calzone” on the menu of an Italian restaurant, confusion and humor abounded.  After having consumed one, it could have been called ropa interior (underwear in Spanish) and it wouldn’t have mattered.  This wondrous Italian turnover crafted from pizza dough baked golden brown and stuffed with rich Ricotta absolutely captivated me.

Village Pizza’s rendition, the Corrales Calzone, is much like those calzones with which I fell in love in Massachusetts.  It’s made from hand-formed dough whose outer borders are formed into bread knots you can tear off and dip into the accompanying red sauce.  The golden brown bread is heavenly, very much reminiscent of bread right out of the oven.  The calzone is about the size of a flattened football so there’s plenty of room in which to stuff it with mozzarella and Ricotta cheeses.  It’s brushed with pesto after it’s baked.  As with the pizza, you can have your calzone with additional ingredients.  Spicy sausage is a good choice here.

Tequila Lime Chicken Wings with Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream

Tequila Lime Chicken Wings with Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream

The menu features four appetizers: breadsticks, nachos (yes, nachos), chicken wings and a veggie plate.  The chicken wings are available in two varieties, a tangy honey barbecue sauce and tequila lime.  The tequila lime chicken wings are served with blue and yellow corn chips, sour cream and pico de gallo.  Unlike what most fried foul fanatics fantasize about, these are not deep-fried and therefore, don’t have a crispy texture.   The skin has a bit of an unappetizing “elastic” feel as you bite into it.  Discard the skin and you’ll find the tequila lime flavors do penetrate into the delicious, albeit chintzy chicken meat. 

There aren’t many dessert options on the menu, but it’s unlikely unless their to-go boxes are full, many diners will have room left over for dessert.   One option is a parfait-like dessert, a frothy mousse topped with whipped cream, piñon and two cherries.  It’s available in three sizes up to 16-ounces which means it’s big enough to share.

A chocolate mousse parfait at Village Pizza

A chocolate mousse parfait at Village Pizza

Cognizant of its location and of environmental concerns, Village Pizza gives discounts to diners who ride their bike or horse to eat at this converted home.  The restaurant has two large dining rooms as well as an outdoor patio and during buffet hours, all three can be quite crowded and at times rather loud.  Most diners get loud singing the praises of this popular Corrales mainstay.  In January, 2014, Village Pizza branched out to the southwest corner of Griegos and Rio Grande which served for years as the home of Geezamboni, a popular barbecue restaurant.

Village Pizza
4266 Corrales Road
Corrales, New Mexico
(505) 898-0045
Web Site | Facebook Page

LATEST VISIT: 10 January 2016
# OF VISITS: 6
RATING: 17
COST: $$
BEST BET: Tequila Lime Wings, Village Combo Pizza, Chocolate Mousse Parfait, Salad Bar, Green Chile Chicken Stew

Village Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Las Ristras Restaurant – Corrales, New Mexico

Las Ristras Restaurant in 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.

The capacious Las Ristras Restaurant dining room

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 is 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?

Green Chile Meatloaf

Las Ristras is a rather capacious restaurant with good spacing between tables.  With upscale touches, it bears little resemblance to other New Mexican restaurants, but its soundtrack is true Northern New Mexico.  That means the Purple Haze (Felix and Milford Salazar), Sparx and other Norteño favorites.  My friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate gives 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.” 

As always, Larry’s assessment is spot-on.  From the ambiance on down to the menu and service, this is not your stereotypical New Mexican restaurant (if there is such a thing).  The menu, for example, offers such heretofore unseen appetizers as cheese sticks with red chile marinara and an Indian enchilada.  Entrees include many New Mexican standards such as tamales, chiles rellenos, carne adovada and tacos, but you’ll also find “from the grill selections” such as a 14-ounce ribeye with green chile cream sauce, red chile ribs and green chile meatloaf.  Entrees in which ground beef is used are seasoned with cumin.

Chiles Rellenos with Papitas

The green chile meatloaf is deeply infused with plenty of pleasantly piquant green chile.  It’s also topped generously with a green chile sauce that runs over the sides.  Alas, it’s served on a sizzling cast iron plate (the type often used for fajitas) which has a desiccating effect on what might otherwise have been a moist and juicy meatloaf.  Grilled entrees are served with your choice of two sides: mashed potatoes, daily vegetable or wild rice.  In the spirit of hospitality, your server will bring you papitas instead of mashed potatoes if you so desire. Desire it! These papitas are killer. 

If more traditional New Mexican entrees are more your speed, both Larry and my Kim will vouch for the chiles rellenos.  Perhaps because of the lateness of the chile season, one of the two rellenos on the plate was a roasted red chile which has a wholly different flavor profile than roasted green.  Roasted red chile tends to be a bit sweeter with a more earthy depth of flavor.  The cheese with which the rellenos are stuffed seems to retain molten qualities longer than the cheese used on other rellenos (where the cheese become stringy).  in any case, these are very good rellenos with a crispy, flavorful crust sheathing the chiles.

Sopaipilla Delight with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

You won’t find your abuelita’s desserts on the menu, but you will find avant-garde versions of desserts you thought you knew.  Instead of the de rigueur New Mexico dessert offering of sopaipillas with honey, Las Ristras offers a “Sopaipilla Delight,” a flattened sopaipilla drizzled with honey and topped with your favorite flavor of ice cream (provided it’s vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cookies and cream or mint-chocolate chip) and chocolate sauce.  There’s a lot going on with this dessert and it’s all good. 

More traditional is a bowl of ice cream (your favorite flavor) flanked by four biscochitos.  It’s a surprisingly good combination best eaten as a combination instead of serially.  The biscochitos are redolent with cinnamon and anise, as hospitable a pairing as you’ll find on any cookie.  They’re crisp. flaky and light with the memorable qualities for which the biscochito was named New Mexico’s official state cookie.

Biscochitos with vanilla ice cream

Perhaps if the over-indulged ingenues who make great sport of besmirching the Land of Enchantment visited Las Ristras in Corrales and experienced true New Mexico hospitality, they’d think twice about bad-mouthing our state.  You can’t bad-mouth something when your mouth is so full of good things.

Los Ristras Restaurant
4940 Corrales Road, N.E., Suite 400
Corrales, New Mexico
(505) 433-4192
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 19 September 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Meatloaf, Chiles Rellenos, Sopaipilla Delight, Biscochitos with Ice Cream

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

Katrinah’s East Mountain Grill – Edgewood, New Mexico

Katrinah’s East Mountain Grill in Edgewood

It’s interesting that the New Mexico State Constitution bars “idiots” and “insane persons” from voting, but quips about votes being cast by dead people, family pets and farm animals have been pervasive over the years in some counties and municipalities.  In some of the same counties and municipalities, the saying “vote early and vote often” has seemed more a way of life than an aphorism.  Not all citizens of the Land of Enchantment exercise their right to vote, but some, it seems, exercise it vigorously…and often. 

Perhaps realizing the enthusiasm some New Mexicans have for the right to vote, the New Mexico Tourism Department allowed them to cast their vote daily for their favorite breakfast burrito in the statewide Breakfast Burrito Byway contest and tourism initiative.  Voters cast some 46,766 votes for their favorites among 400 nominated restaurants.  The top fifty vote-getters became “founding members” of the inaugural Byway. Katrinah’s East Mountain Grill in Edgewood garnered the most votes, tallying 2,623 votes (not quite one vote per resident in the community of 3,379 souls). 

The front dining room at Katrinah’s

In a “get the vote out” campaign utilizing Facebook, whiteboards and the ever-effective personal touch, Katrinah’s proved that in New Mexico the popular vote still counts (often more than once) and small communities do have a voice.  In the case of Katrinah’s, it’s a very active and powerful voice that drowned out the behemoth burrito-making bullies on the block in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.  It’s a voice that garnered more support than breakfast burrito assembling megaliths such as Lotaburger, Twisters and The Flying Star.  

Quite unlike many other election results in New Mexico which generally end up with voter dissatisfaction or antipathy, the result of the Breakfast Burrito Byway voting was viewed by many with curiosity and a sense of adventure.  How far away is Edgewood?  How do we get there?  New Mexicans may not always be willing to drive ten blocks to cast a vote, but we’ll drive tremendous distances for a great breakfast burrito just as we would for a great green chile cheeseburger.

Fried Green Beans With Green Chile Ranch Dressing

Since it was announced that Katrinah’s breakfast burrito reigns supreme in the Land of Enchantment, visits to the small strip-mall eatery have increased significantly.  Initially Katrinah’s was “slammed” with out-of-town and even out-of-state diners and while the hullabaloo has slowed just a bit, first-timers area an almost daily occurrence.  Shame on New Mexicans who believe they’re in Texas the second they cross the Sandias going east; they can get to Katrinah’s in under half an hour from the Big I.   It’s well worth the drive!

Even if you weren’t visiting Katrinah’s for the breakfast burrito, the menu has a number of intriguing offerings which will warrant return visits.  The “Thunder Burger” (triple battered deep fried 1/2 lb burger with green chile and Cheddar), for example, sounds too good not to return, arteries be damned.   The fried green beans with your choice of housemade dressing are worth a return trip on their own, especially if you opt for the green chile ranch dressing.  These fried green beans will make a convert out of anyone who thinks they don’t like green beans.  They’re lightly battered, crispy and have the snap of freshness when you bite into them.

Katrinah’s famous breakfast burrito with green chile, green chile sausage and pinto beans

The breakfast burrito is a beauteous behemoth, bulging at its seams with fluffy eggs and cubed potatoes then topped with shredded yellow and white Cheddar cheeses and your choice of red or green chile (or even Texas “chili” if you’re so inclined).  Cumin is used in the preparation of both the red chile and the Texas chili.  The green chile is delicious and since you can’t have enough of a good thing, ask for your burrito to include the housemade green chile sausage, too.  The burrito is served with pinto beans, the other official New Mexico state vegetable.  This is an excellent breakfast burrito, large enough for two to share, but so good you won’t want to.

Breakfast is served until 2PM.  The rest of the menu is available all day long.  If you have vegetarian, gluten-free or other dietary concerns, your server will be happy to give you suggestions.  A fully-stocked coffee bar features Starbucks coffee or espresso.  Desserts include fountain-style shakes and malts, baked goods and ice cream treats.  The cinnamon rolls are so generously iced that it surprised me when my convivial server offered to slather it with melted butter.  That would have been a bit too rich and cloying for my tastes.

Cinnamon Roll

What’s surprising about Katrinah’s East Mountain Grill is not that it garnered more votes than any other purveyor of excellent breakfast burritos in New Mexico.  What’s surprising is that if it hadn’t been for New Mexico voters, many of us might never have heard of Katrinah’s.

Katrinah’s East Mountain Grill
150 Highway 344
Edgewood, New Mexico
(505) 281-9111
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 29 October 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Breakfast Burrito, Fried Green Beans,Cinnamon Roll

Katrinah's East Mountain Grill on Urbanspoon

The Spot Cafe – Corrales, New Mexico (CLOSED)

The Spot Cafe in Corrales, New Mexico

Big Bang Theory wunderkind Sheldon Cooper has a spot he describes as the “singular location in space around which revolves my entire universe.”  That spot is the left side of his couch, a location he has placed “in a state of eternal dibs.”  In scientific terms, Sheldon relates his spot as “a single point of consistency in an ever-changing world.”  His attachment to that one spot borders on obsession, but he’s not the only television character that possessive of his spot.

In television comedies, characters have always had their favorite spots and show little tolerance for anybody who tries to sit in them.  Cheers barflies Norm Peterson and Cliff Claivin had their favorite bar stools.  Jerry Seinfeld, George Costanza and Cosmo Kramer always sat at their favorite table at Monk’s Diner.  Heaven help anyone who sat on Archie Bunker’s favorite chair, the most famous and only one of the aforementioned spots on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Interior of the Spot Cafe

Television personalities are often based on and mimic real life characters.  As such, it will be interesting to see what Corrales resident will develop an attachment to a favorite spot at its newest eatery (as of May, 2014), fittingly named The Spot.  That’s an appropriate appellation for a cafe which promises to be a very popular gathering spot in the heart of the village.  The Spot opened its doors in May, 2014 and is open for breakfast and lunch every day but Tuesday from 7AM until 3PM. 

The Spot occupies the spot previously held by the Oasis Cafe within the Village Plaza, an 11,000 square-foot complex just north of the Corrales fire station.  At the help are Aaron and Deb Worrell, veteran restaurateurs with more than two decades in the industry.  In addition to The Spot, the couple own and operate two Aaron’s Sandwich Time restaurants in the Duke City.  It goes without saying, therefore, that sandwiches are part and parcel of the cafe’s menu.

Milk Shakes made from Blue Bell Ice Cream

Interestingly, the cafe’s ambiance bespeaks fine dining with linen tablecloths, cloth napkins and table service but the menu is more akin to an over-the-counter operation with an emphasis on contemporary comfort food at great prices. It’s an inviting menu both during breakfast and lunch.  Start the morning off with build-your-own omelets, panini-stuffed French toast, breakfast sandwiches and a nice line-up of breakfast burritos.  Sandwiches and burgers highlight the lunch menu, but no ordinary burgers are these.  A one-half pound Angus beef burger is available with your choice of toppings and is prepared to your exacting specifications.

Reason enough to visit The Spot are the housemade milk shakes made from Blue Bell ice cream, arguably the best ice cream in America.  When we moved from Mississippi to Albuquerque, Blue Bell ice cream was what we missed most–even more than blackened redfish and oysters.  The Spot’s milk shakes remind us why.  The Dutch Chocolate milk shake is rich and creamy with an adult dark chocolate flavor and a decadent fudge swirl.  The Spot offers a number of different Blue Bell flavors, all on display in a freezer.  You’ll want to try them all.

Green Chile Steak Melt with Sweet Potato Fries

10 May 2014: Over the years, my friends and I have, like Indiana Jones in pursuit of historical treasure, trekked throughout the city in pursuit of the best green chile Philly.  Only a handful (the very best being from Itsa Italian Ice) meet our exceedingly high standards.  The Spot’s green chile steak melt ranks right up there with them.  It’s a sandwich Philadelphia would be proud to call its own.   This gem of a sandwich is constructed from very high quality ingredients: tri-tip steak, a full-flavored, low fat content cut of steak; red, green and yellow peppers; caramelized onions and plenty of New Mexico green chile on your choice of bun (including one impregnated with green chile).

10 May 2014: Half-pound Angus burgers, with your choice of toppings, are sure to please the most discerning of burgerphiles.  The list of toppings options truly allows you to have it your way.  My way was with green chile, bacon and cheese along with the standard toppings of lettuce and tomato.  Not surprisingly, the Angus beef patty is very flavorful courtesy of nicely marbled beef prepared at a juicy medium.  Served on a green chile bun, this burger warrants further exploration with different toppings.  It’s a good one.

“Kobe” Burger with Baked Beans

10 May 2014: Sandwiches and burgers are available with a number of sides including sweet potato fries and baked beans.  The baked beans are terrific, so good I wiped them out before even trying the burger.  Unlike far too many baked beans, these are not candy cloying, but have a depth of flavors that’s very enjoyable and which might transport you to memories of barbecues.  The sweet potato fries are also quite good.

13 July 2014: When my friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate, declared The Spot’s biscuits and gravy “the best I have ever had.  Anyplace.  Perfection,” it created a dilemma for me.  Biscuits and gravy border on traumatizing, the result of having been subjected in Air Force cafeterias to absolutely horrible renditions of this popular Southern breakfast staple.   On the other hand, when Larry is as passionate about a dish as he is The Spot’s biscuits and gravy, you’re well advised to try it…and soon.

Biscuits and Gravy–quite possibly the best in New Mexico (if not the universe)

13 July 2014: Biscuits and gravy combine various textures and flavors into each bite, making it a deliciously diverse, palate pleasing breakfast entree. Crumbled sausage links enliven the flavor of a tasty milk, flour and butter-based gravy served over three split biscuits topped with two eggs made the way you want them. The fluffy, steamy interior of the split biscuits coupled with the sturdy biscuit exterior are a perfect repository for the smooth, delicious body of the sausage gravy.  The eggs (Larry likes them over-easy) blanket the biscuits and provide runny yoke deliciousness.  This dish is served on a “too hot to handle” skillet.

13 July 2014: While the standard breakfast menu includes waffles, there’s just something special about the combination of chicken and waffles.  It’s a combination which has become increasingly popular in the Food Network age.  Several Duke City restaurants serve fairly standard versions.  The Spot stands out for its unique take on this Belgian culinary specialty.  To truly appreciate this entree, available with or without bones, ask for the honey-BBQ glaze instead of the standard waffle syrup.  The honey-BBQ glaze is reminiscent of sauces used on Asian dishes–not the sweet and sour type of sauce, but the sauces which impart proportionate measures of sweet, savory and tart flavors.  It’s probably not everybody’s cup of sauce, but adventurous types will enjoy it. The chicken itself is perfectly fried with a golden crust.

Chicken and Waffles

In time, The Spot Cafe promises an even more inviting menu, one replete with comfort food favorites diners will appreciate. This is a restaurant which just might become your spot.

The Spot Cafe
4940 Corrales Road
Corrales, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT:  13 July 2014
1st VISIT: 10 May 2014
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 20
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Wagyu Burger, Baked Beans, Chile Melt, Sweet Potato Fries, Milk Shakes, Chicken and Waffles, Biscuits and Gravy

The Spot Cafe on Urbanspoon

Hannah & Nate’s – Albuquerque & Corrales, New Mexico

The original Hannah & Nate’s on Riverside Plaza in Albuquerque’s West Side

There are just some restaurants at which the stereotypical Ralph Cramden hungry man shouldn’t dine. Hannah & Nate’s is one of them. It’s not that the food isn’t good. That’s certainly not the case.  It’s just that  it’s part of the troglodytic nature  of men to whine and complain when we have to wait more than two minutes for our meals and we become doubly obnoxious when the portions aren’t large enough to feed a small bull elephant. Thankfully, my Kim has been a great civilizing influence on me and I’m able to enjoy restaurants such as Hannah & Nate’s as much as she does.

Hannah & Nate’s is a home decor and market cafe ideally suited for gentrified ladies with a lot of leisure time on their hands. It’s not a restaurant at which a boorish lout will sit patiently then be satisfied with what he would consider “finger foods.” Take for example the “beef & bleu” sandwich featuring sliced roast beef, caramelized onion and sautéed mushrooms topped with bleu cheese on grilled sourdough. It’s not four inches thick the way such men would want it and the bleu cheese isn’t powerful enough to give them the belch inducing halitosis powerful enough to clear a room.

Tuscan Meatloaf Sandwich:  Rustic Tuscan Meatloaf topped with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and jack cheese, Served on a grilled baguette (add Green Chile for only $.99)

Launched in 2002, Hannah & Nate’s is ensconced within the Riverside Plaza, a mixed-use development with convenient access from both Montano and Coors.  The plaza’s charming campus-like environment seems tailor-made for the home decor and market cafe which is named for the children of Beth and Phil Salazar.  Phil manages the food operations side of the business while Beth manages the decor operations.  The cafe is open from 8AM to 2PM while the home decor  operation remains open until 5:30.

The ambitious full-service breakfast menu belies the relatively small (call it comfy cozy) dining room which tends to get quite busy.  Many eyes are drawn immediately to the menu section entitled “Local Flavor” for Hannah & Nate’s take on New Mexican breakfast favorites such as huevos rancheros, breakfast enchiladas, breakfast quesadillas and the intriguing Eggs Benedict de Nuevo Mexico (two poached eggs served on top of an English muffin smothered with homemade carne adovada and melted Cheddar cheese.  This is the favorite breakfast entree of my learned friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate.

Rio Grande Turkey: Sliced Breast of Turkey, avocado, and green chile, topped with jack cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, served on grilled sourdough and green chile stew

More traditional eggs Benedict dishes are also available on the “Traditional Favorites” section of the menu where you’ll also find quiche and sourdough French toast.  A number of breakfast burritos and omelets are also available for the most important meal of the day.  The lunch menu is apportioned into several sections: Appetizers, Sandwich Board, Garden Fresh Salads, New Mexican Food Favorites, “Hot” From the Grill and The “Lite” Side (a half-sandwich with your choice of potato salad, fresh fruit, side salad or cup of green chile stew).

Lunch enjoyment might start with the carne adovada crisp, a quesadilla in which crisp flour tortillas envelope lean pork marinated in red chile and melted cheese. Why more quesadillas don’t feature carne adovada is beyond me, but even if they did, it’s doubtful they can duplicate this artfully crafted appetizer. Although the red chile isn’t especially hot, it’s very flavorful with a garlicky taste which complements the rich red chile.

In the spring of 2006, Hannah & Nate's Market Cafe launched its second restaurant, this time in Corrales.

In the spring of 2006, Hannah & Nate’s Market Cafe launched its second restaurant, this time in Corrales.

Among the many hot-off-the-grill sandwiches we’ve enjoyed from the sandwich board are:

  • Nate’s Melt (sliced beef roast, green chile, red peppers, caramelized onions, avocado and cheddar on grilled sourdough bread) in which the green chile has that pronounced roasted green chile aroma and taste New Mexicans love as much as life itself. This is an outstanding sandwich!
  • Tuscan Meatloaf Sandwich (rustic Tuscan meatloaf topped with caramelized onion, roasted red peppers and Jack cheese served on a grilled baguette). This is meatloaf at its comfort food best, the type your mother made for you as a child.  The meatloaf isn’t overly thick which means you’ll actually taste the other ingredients, a harmonious mix of complementary toppings.
  • New Mexico BLT (crispy bacon, fresh tomato, roasted green chile and lettuce on grilled sourdough bread). This isn’t the boring BLT you make at home. The bacon has a smoky taste; the sourdough bread a buttery, grilled texture; and neither the L or the T dominate as they’re apt to do.
Carne Adovada with a fried egg

Carne Adovada Breakfast Enchiladas:
3 Stacked enchiladas, stuffed with carne adovada, topped with red or green chile, cheddar cheese and 2 eggs any style, served with a side of hash browns and tortilla

All sandwiches and grilled items are served with your choice of homemade potato salad (a  boring celery and dill pickle based potato salad that is the only thing we haven’t liked at Hannah & Nate’s), fresh fruit or ridged potato chips. Invariably, the fresh fruit seems to be in season no matter the time of year. We’ve had watermelon in November and it had a fresh flavor. The chips are always crisp and fresh and thankfully not the “bottom of the bag” bits some restaurants serve.  Eschew these sides altogether and ask for a cup of green chile stew.  It’s served warm and has a nice piquant bite of green chile complemented with just enough Mexican oregano.

For an additional two bits, make sure you ask for one of the five (chipotle, cucumber dill, cranberry, herb, olive) specialty mayonnaise offered. Even though the sandwiches don’t need any additional accoutrement whatsoever, the mayonnaise can be used as a dip for your chips.  The chipotle mayo and the cucumber dill (similar to the Greek tzadziki sauce but maybe even better) are our early favorites.

Steak burrito

Steak & Egg Burrito

Corrales Addition: In the spring of 2006, Hannah & Nate’s Market Shop launched a second Albuquerque area restaurant, this one in the former site of the very popular Calico Cafe which burnt down in 2004. If anything, the Corrales version of Hannah & Nate’s is even better than the Riverside Plaza restaurant.

For one thing, the Corrales restaurant has a full breakfast menu–three pages of traditional and New Mexican favorites. My early favorite would have to be the steak and egg burrito served Christmas style (red and green chile).  This burrito is engorged with three eggs, sautéed onions, roasted red peppers, cubed potatoes and steak–not a cheap cut of meat either, but grilled top sirloin. This is an excellent breakfast burrito made with high-quality ingredients and served hot.  Both the red and green chile at Hannah & Nate’s are very good with a slight nod going to the red chile which is almost burgundy in color and which possesses the rare earthiness I love in red chile. 

Breakfast Enchiladas with two fried eggs

Breakfast Enchiladas with two fried eggs

For my Kim, carne adovada is the standard-bearer against which she measures just how good a New Mexican restaurant is.  To her consternation, some restaurants which don’t use cumin on anything else (for some inexplicable reason) add it to carne adovada, bringing about the ruination of a delicate dish which requires no amelioration.  Hannah & Nate’s carne adovada is among her very favorites, especially when served on the carne adovada breakfast enchiladas plate: three stacked enchiladas stuffed with carne adovada and topped with red or green chile, Cheddar cheese and two eggs any style served with a side of hash browns and a tortilla.  If a breakfast dish can foretell a good day, this one will do it.  The carne is porcine perfection as tender as a mother’s love, marinated in chile that doesn’t shy away from its heat. 

There are a couple of perspectives about huevos rancheros. The “glass is half empty” perspective is that huevos ranchers are a rather uncomplicated dish constructed from a limited number of ingredients. Glass half full folks rave that having few ingredients allows those ingredients to shine.  At its essence, huevos rancheros are little more than eggs, corn tortillas, Cheddar cheese and your choice of red or green chile.  Both the red and green chile at Hannah & Nate’s are top tier, some of the best in the metropolitan area.  The corn tortillas have a pronounced corn taste, are relatively grease-free and are fried perfectly.  The eggs are prepared to your exacting specifications and have a farm-fresh flavor.  Count me among the glass half full folks.  Count the huevos rancheros at Hannah & Nate’s among the very best in the area.

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros

Hannah & Nate’s also features a daily special and if the market smoked porchetta is any indication, the specials are indeed special. Porchetta generally refers to a boneless, rolled roast of pork studded with garlic and herbs.  Hannah & Nate’s takes the pork and stuffs it into a baguette then tops it with a roasted garlic aioli, green onion marmalade, sage and tomato. The flavor combinations are sensational!  

Hannah & Nate’s doesn’t have a long line-up of desserts (muffins, chocolate brownies), but who needs more options when you’ve got cranberry bread pudding.  It’s not on Larry McGoldrick’s Bread Pudding Hall of Fame, but it could be the professor with the perspicacious palate hasn’t tried this bread pudding.  Quite simply, it borders on spectacular, providing a balance of flavors most bread pudding can’t approach.  The tangy cranberries and savory almond shavings temper the sweetness of the sweet sauce surrounding the soft, spongy bread.  

Cranberry Bread Pudding

Cranberry Bread Pudding

Another plus in favor of the Corrales restaurant is its patio which allows you to watch expensive cars drive by while you dine under a sun-lit sky. During the winter months, sitting indoors and enjoying the fireplace is nearly as nice.

Hannah & Nate’s
6251 Riverside Plaza, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 922-1155
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 26 April 2014
# OF VISITS: 9
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: Carne Adovada Crisp, Nate’s Melt, Market Smoked Porchetta, New Mexico BLT, Tuscan Meatloaf Sandwich, Steak & Egg Burrito, Cranberry Bread Pudding, Huevos Rancheros

Hannah & Nate's Place on Urbanspoon

Indigo Crow Cafe – Corrales, New Mexico

The Indigo Crow on a moonlit spring night

The Indigo Crow on a moonlit spring night

Now I lay myself down to sleep
I pray oh lord my soul to keep
Cause if I should die before I wake
I hope up in Heaven they’ve got lobster and steak
It’s a sin if Heaven ain’t got an Indigo Crow
Best food down here up there they’ve gotta know.
A Sin if Heaven ain’t got an Indigo Crow
But if they don’t then why the hell should I go.

Now I’ve tried every joint around here
I’ve had green chile stew, I’ve had had my root beer
But when I want to treat my taste buds right
I know this place is drop-dead tight
It’s a sin if Heaven ain’t got an Indigo Crow
Best food down here up there they gotta know.

– Oscar Butler

What would possess troubadour Oscar Butler to rhapsodize in his inimitable melodious timbre about a charming rural retreat in Corrales, New Mexico which serves some of the very best food in the metropolitan Duke City area?  A native New Yorker now living in Albuquerque, Butler sums it up in four words, “Great food, great atmosphere!”

    The Indigo Crow's garlic infused bread and an olive oil dip with several herbs and spices

The Indigo Crow’s garlic infused bread and an olive oil dip with several herbs and spices

There’s a lot to love about the Indigo Crow and it starts with ambiance (atmosphere, if you prefer).  During a moonlit autumn or spring night, savvy diners will dine on the restaurant’s patio where very little light pollution interferes with the twinkling of celestial bodies punctuating the ebony night skies.  When spring is in the air and trees are starting to bloom, the melodic songs of birds provide nature’s best entertainment.  When the weather turns cold, a raised fire pit is set up on the patio and though plumes of smoke ascending toward the skies obscure the stars, the fragrant bouquet of piñon more than makes up for it.

Ambiance isn’t lost on the inside of the restaurant, especially on cold winter nights when the restaurant is dimly lit and the crackling firewood on the Kiva hearth provides a gavotte of light and shadows.  It’s especially memorable if you have the occasion to be seated across the restaurant from Marla Tellez, KOB’s pulchritudinous former morning anchor whose smiling countenance and beauty are accentuated by the undulating lights of the fireplace.  A January, 2010 visit to the Indigo Crow was made more memorable because I was fortunate enough to have been seated with just that perfect vantage point.

Gorgonzola Wedge: iceberg lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, marinated red onions, creamy Gorgonzola dressing

Gorgonzola Wedge:
iceberg lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, marinated red onions, creamy Gorgonzola dressing

Ms. Tellez and the aforementioned Mr. Butler aren’t the only local celebrities who love the Indigo Crow.  KRQE’s manic meteorologist Mark Ronchetti revealed in the 2009 edition of Albuquerque The Magazine’s “Best of the City” magazine that his favorite restaurant is Indigo Crow.  Tending to be more star-struck by food than television personalities, I’d better not think much more about the beauteous Marla Tellez or I might never finish this review.

The Indigo Crow is nestled beneath towering deciduous trees in what was once a family home which also housed the Desert Rose, one of the village’s most popular restaurants back in the early to mid-1990s. The Indigo Crow has been wowing patrons for more than a decade now and despite the economic downturn, there appears to be no surcease to its popularity. This is a restaurant for which reservations are definitely recommended, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, but even if you don’t make a reservation, the staff will do their best to accommodate you.

Skewers of orange glazed beef with sesame seeds and a tangy teriyaki sauce

Skewers of orange glazed beef with sesame seeds and a tangy teriyaki sauce

That may mean eating at the bar which is in close proximity to a kiva fireplace, something for which you might  be thankful on winter nights because most diners enter through the bar.  The bar is reputed to have a very good wine list, one worthy of the food destined to accompany the fruit of the vin.  During the summer, the Indigo Crow offers live music on the patio featuring local musicians like the aforementioned Oscar Butler.  During the winter, the restaurant features acoustic solo artists at the bar.

Since the Crow’s menu tends to be seasonal, ingredients also tend to be incomparably fresh. No vegetable is served before or after its time; they’re all served at the optimum of in-season freshness. Even avowed vegetable haters can be converted at the Indigo Crow. Salad lovers will appreciate the nine salads on the menu, especially if you want a back to basics salad that doesn’t include every ingredient conceivable.  There’s plenty to love on the Gorgonzola Wedge (iceberg lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, marinated red onions and creamy Gorgonzola dressing).  On most restaurant’s menus, it would probably be the most popular salad, but at Indigo Crow, that honor goes to The Catalina (chopped romaine, tomatoes, eggs, bacon, avocado, Gorgonzola, Parmesan, Louie dressing), the chef’s unique interpretation of a Cobb salad.  It’s a beautifully presented masterpiece prepared in a large bowl then shaped in a circular timbale to give it a memorable and enticing appeal.  Half and full portions are available.

Indigo19

Grilled Ham and Smoke Gouda Sandwich:
grilled ham, smoked Gouda with jalapeno Dijon mustard, lettuce and tomatoes on a french baguette

Our favorite appetizer when on the menu is the Crow’s rendition of satay, the popular Thai street food which is essentially marinated meat skewered onto bamboo sticks and grilled over an open flame.  At some local Thai restaurants, the grilled meat is so thin that the grilling dries it, leaving it chewy and tasteless.  The Crow’s satay is somewhat thicker and grilled to about medium, imparting it with a moist deliciousness.  A nearly as terrific lunch-time alternative sometimes on the menu is an orange glazed beef with sesame seeds and a tangy teriyaki sauce. 

The lunch menu showcases a number of sandwiches, wraps and burgers, none of which are the standard “you can make it at home” variety.  Most of us can craft a fairly decent  grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  It takes genius to craft something like the grilled ham and smoked Gouda sandwich (grilled ham, smoked Gouda, jalapeño mustard, lettuce and tomatoes on a French baguette).  The jalapeño mustard is nearly as incendiary as Chinese hot mustard, lending a delicious kick that counterbalances the saltiness of the grilled ham, the sweet creaminess of the Gouda and the acidity of the tomatoes.

Chefs Hobo Burger green chile cheddar cheese kaiser, portobello mushroom, bacon, smoked Gouda cheese and guacamole

Chefs Hobo Burger
green chile cheddar cheese kaiser, portobello mushroom, bacon, smoked Gouda cheese and guacamole

My friend Larry McGoldrick, the esteemed professor with the perspicacious palate, rates the Indigo Crow’s green chile cheeseburger as one of New Mexico’s top ten.  For uniformity of comparison, he orders his burgers “competition style” meaning bun, patty, cheese and green chile only; no adulterants or contaminants.  Alas, my good intentions to try a plain green chile cheeseburger were quashed by the Chefs Hobo Burger, the very antithesis of competition style.  The canvas for this behemoth burger is a thick green chile Cheddar cheese kaiser roll in which both green chile and Cheddar are baked right onto the bun (which would make a great dinner bread on its own).   As with Hobo stew which is made with virtually any ingredient you can find, the Hobo Burger is a virtual mishmash of ingredients inventively put together.  Standard offerings are portobello mushroom, bacon, smoked Gouda and guacamole.  Green chile isn’t a standard ingredient on the burger unless you request it.    It’s a unique take on a green chile cheeseburger and is large enough for two to share. 

The dinner menu  includes a surprising number of seafood items, the hallmark of each being uncommon freshness. You may forget you’re in land-locked New Mexico when your palate is luxuriating on the very best mussels anywhere in the Land of Enchantment.  There was a time, just a few years ago, in which a bowl of mussels at the Indigo Crow was big enough for a party of four to share.  During a visit in January, 2010, our serving of this magnificent mollusk was miniscule, a penurious portion of twelve mussels, just enough for three a piece among the four of us.  The mussels were submerged in a saffron and white wine sauce which by itself would have made a superb soup.

Indigo08

The Indigo Crow’s version of Moules Frite (Mussels and Fries)

Though we felt deprived of the briny sweetness of the mussels, we indulged lustily in the perfume-like essence of fragrant saffron sauce which we sopped up with the Indigo Crow’s wonderful garlic-infused bread. Tiny cloves of roasted garlic were actually embedded in the yeasty, oven-warm bread, a perfect complement for the sauce. An olive oil dip resplendent with fresh herbs, red pepper flakes and garlic proved an excellent complement for the more tempered saffron sauce. The Crow’s bread is among the very best in New Mexico and it’s replenished faithfully by the always attentive wait staff.

The mussels are served with perfectly salted shoestring fries, perhaps an Indigo Crow tribute to the French favorite Moules Frite (mussels and fries).  The shoestring fries, as thin as the name suggests, straddle that fine line between crispy like a potato chip and just soft and pliable enough to be considered fries.  They are delicious, particularly when dipped in whatever saffron sauce you may want to allocate to these waifishly thin fries.

Grilled rack of lamb

Grilled rack of lamb

Another certain to satisfy seafood starter you will savor are the chipotle clams, delicious bivalved mollusks in a white wine, sun-dried tomato and chipotle broth.  As with the mussels, the bowl isn’t exactly brimming with a profusion of clams, but the flavor combinations–smoky and slightly piquant chipotle, acidic and rich tomato, sea-savory clams–go so well together, you’ll relish each and every bite, all the while wishing there were more.

The Indigo Crow incorporates seafood in several pasta entrees, one of our favorites being the lobster ravioli, an open face ravioli with a three cheese (Mascarpone, Asiago, Parmesan) triumvirate (four if you count the ricotta filling), spicy lobster cream sauce, fresh slipper lobster tail, and lobster claw meat. It’s a plate-licking concoction that melds piquant, sweet and creamy flavors and textures, not to mention the richness and utter sea spawned deliciousness of lobster. As much as you may want to ravage this ravioli, take your time because there’s not a lot of it.  (I have a theory that all my favorite Indigo Crow entrees are in smallish portions just to keep me wanting more.)

Seared scallops and shrimp (herbed truffle butter)

Seared scallops and shrimp (herbed truffle butter)

If your lobster lust isn’t sated by the lobster ravioli, Indigo Crow’ summer menu has offered a bucket of five slipper lobster tails served with garlic butter and spicy fries. Slipper lobster meat is almost pearly white in color and has a sweeter taste than regular rock lobsters.  Slipper lobsters are fairly uncommon, some say even rare, and tend to be used mostly in soups such as bouillabaisse.  Interestingly, the French refer to them as “sea cicadas” because the sound the slipper lobster makes when it cracks its claws sounds like the chirping of the cicada, an insect with which New Mexicans are well acquainted.

Carnivorous types will love the Lolly Pop Pork Chops grilled and served with a raspberry chipotle sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and the sweetest snap peas you’ve ever had. Despite the name, those pork chops are formidable–almost an inch thick and as tender as any pork chops you’ll find anywhere.  The raspberry chipotle sauce imbues the chops with a smoky, sweet and slightly piquant flavor.  It’s an excellent entree.

Bailey's Irish Cream - Milk Chocolate Mousse with Pretzel Crust

Bailey’s Irish Cream – Milk Chocolate Mousse with Pretzel Crust

The restaurant’s most expensive entree (and my favorite) is the grilled rack of lamb served with a roasted red pepper and cucumber mint relish, parmesan risotto and garlic sauteed baby spinach and carrots.  To me, this is the epitome of a fine-dining, gourmet entree and one of my very favorite meals.  Lamb is the Rodney Dangerfield of meats, not accorded with the respect it richly deserves.  Dissenters decry it as a gamy meat and while that may be the case with inferior lamb, it’s certainly not so at the Indigo Crow where the lamb is succulent and utterly delicious.

Desserts take a backseat to no restaurant in the Albuquerque area. In the summer, the epitome of seasonal freshness can be found in the Indigo Crow’s fruit pizza, a sugar cookie crust topped with cream cheese and a panoply of berries–raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Not only is this dessert rich in antioxidants, it’s absolutely delicious, a melange of sweet and tangy flavors sure to please even the most discerning diners. The winter equivalent may be the Lemonberry cake, a rich white cake layered with mascarpone and imbued with berries. Oh, the delicious decadence. It’s almost sinful.

Three Berry Bread Pudding

Three Berry Bread Pudding

The chef’s creativity certainly extends to desserts.  A sliver of chocolate mousse pie certainly demonstrates this.  The chocolate mousse is a decadent combination of Bailey’s Irish Cream and milk chocolate.  The Bailey’s Irish Cream leaves a faint reminiscence of the cream-based liqueur and tempers the sweetness of the milk chocolate.  What makes this dessert special is the pretzel crust which lends just enough saltiness to balance the sweeter, creamier ingredients.  The pretzel crust also provides a delightful textural contrast. 

Rating number four (as of May 1st, 2013) on Larry McGoldrick’s bread pudding hall of fame is the Indigo Crow’s Tree Berry Bread Pudding.  It’s one of my very favorite bread puddings, too.  There are many elements that make this a very special bread pudding.  Texturally it is about as perfect as bread pudding can be and the tartness of the berries prevent it from being cloying, but one of my favorite elements is the dash of salt.

The Indigo Crow’s ambiance is hard to beat and it remains one of the most romantic restaurants in the Albuquerque area, particularly on nights when the moon is full.  In nearly two dozen visits over the years, we’ve sampled many menu items and have enjoyed almost everything we’ve had.  It’s so good we just might join Oscar Butler in a chorus or two of his Indigo Crow song.

Indigo Crow
4515 Corrales Road
Corrales, New Mexico
(505) 898-7000
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 27 April 2013
# OF VISITS: 21
RATING: 23
COST: $$ – $$$$
BEST BET: Mussels, Lobster Ravioli, Lolly Pop Pork Chops, Slipper Lobster Tails, Lemonberry Pie, Fruit Pizza, Grilled Rack of Lamb, The Catalina Salad, The Hobo Burger, Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich, Three Berry Bread Pudding

Indigo Crow Cafe on Urbanspoon

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