Golden Pride Chicken – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Golden Pride restaurant near UNM.

The Golden Pride restaurant near UNM.

For years Albuquerque’s cruiser culture has made Central Avenue a favorite destination for showing off souped-up cars and causing windows to rattle and eardrums to hurt from the pounding bass in audio systems that reverberate far and wide.  My friend Carlos who understands urban subcultures more than most tells me cruising Central Avenue isn’t solely about seeing and being seen.  It’s about fried chicken, more specifically Golden Pride, Barbecue, Chicken and Ribs (Golden Pride for short).  Central Avenue  has a Golden Pride location on the Duke City’s far west (a couple blocks east of Coors) and one on the far east side (just west of Eubank).   It’s about 12 miles as the crow flies from the east side Golden Pride to its sibling on the west, but it could take you a good half hour (longer in rush hour) to drive that distance.  That’s a lot of good cruising.

A third location on Juan Tabo may be off the cruiser’s beaten path, but it’s close to family neighborhoods which flock to this poultry palace when in the mood for fried fowl.  Still another location, on Lomas just east of University, is an institution for UNM students, faculty and staff.  Students appreciate the free high-speed wireless internet connectivity and even more, they appreciate the restaurant’s low prices.  It’s a departure from the college student food pyramid which typically ranges from vending machine offerings to Red Bull, coffee, sodas and ramen noodles galore.

The counter where you place your order at the UNM area Golden Pride.

The counter where you place your order at the UNM area Golden Pride

Owned by Larry and Dorothy Rainosek, the good folks who bring us the Frontier Restaurant, Golden Pride offers both fried and BBQ chicken.  It also offers the Frontier’s famous sweet rolls, as good a reason for getting up in the morning as there is.  Golden Pride has been serving Albuquerque since 1973 and carries other Frontier items: green chile stew, tortillas, carne adovada and posole, for example.

Just how popular is this restaurant?  According to an Albuquerque Business Journal article published in 2003, Golden Pride has grown at an average of 20 percent per year.  The four restaurants go through 35 tons of green chile and seven tons of red chile powder each month.  Sure, that article was published more than a decade ago, but if traffic is any indication, there certainly appears to be no surcease in sight to the popularity of the Golden Pride brand.

An order of ribs and two sides: coleslaw and spicy beans.

An order of ribs and two sides: coleslaw and spicy beans.

That same article reports that more than fifty percent of Golden Pride’s daily meals are served before 11AM and that its patrons consume about 160,000 burritos each and every month.  These are staggering numbers, but they don’t completely spell out just what makes this restaurant so very popular.  I surmise Golden Pride’s popularity is based in part on convenience (four strategically placed locations), value (reasonable cost for hardy portions) and quality (many items are quite good).  These aren’t unknown secrets to success; they’re the hallmark of most restaurants which stand the test of time.

The Golden Pride concept is based on Gil’s Fried Chicken, owned and operated by Larry Rainosek’s brother Gil, in San Marcos, Texas.  The name must be reflective of the golden coating on every piece of fried chicken served at the restaurant. The fried chicken is somewhat thickly coated but doesn’t have the “run down your arms greasiness” of Church’s or other chain purveyors of poultry.  It’s a juicy chicken (and quite good) once you get past that coating (which I surmise seals in the juices).  

Award winning burritos are a staple at Golden Pride.

Award-Winning Burritos Are A Staple at Golden Pride.

The BBQ chicken definitely has a pronounced smoky taste (even though you won’t find a smoker on the premises) and is even better than the fried chicken.  Moist and delicious, the BBQ chicken is offered with a thin, tangy and just ever so slightly piquant barbecue sauce which is wholly unnecessary, but quite good.  White meat pieces include chicken legs and thighs which most restaurants prefer to breasts because breasts tend to be rather on the dry side.  Both the fried chicken and the BBQ chicken are available in quantities of two, three, four ten, sixteen or twenty pieces.  Value meal options include your choice of two sides and even if you opt for chicken only, you still get the restaurant’s yeasty rolls.

Several sides, ranging from passable to very good are available.  You can actually taste the cabbage and carrots on the coleslaw at Golden Pride which is not drowning in salad cream as you might find at KFC.  Mashed potatoes, on the other hand, are so thick, they’re difficult to pry away from the spoon–a pity considering the chicken gravy is actually quite good.  The green beans with bacon are my Kim’s favorites.  She must really like them because she doesn’t share them with me.

Award winning burritos are a staple at Golden Pride.

Fried Chicken with Sides of Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and Green Beans with Bacon.

If a restaurant serves 160,000 burritos a month, it’s got to be doing something right.  Duke City Fix readers have an idea what that might be and rave about the #9, the restaurant’s best seller.  The #9 is crafted with bacon, cheese, egg, hash browns and green chile–a combination that just might make anyone a morning person.  The #9 is indeed an excellent burrito.  My brother, an architectural engineer at Sandia, tells me that breakfast runs yield more orders of the #9 than any other burrito.  For folks on the run, it’s got another thing going for it–it’s as portable as a burger (but better, by far, than most).

The carne adovada adovada burrito is engorged with plenty of shredded pork marinated in Golden Pride’s chile.  While the pork is tender and the chile is pleasantly piquant, there’s a pronounced bitter aftertaste I surmise to be resultant from a surfeit of oregano.  It’s not an endearing quality for an otherwise very good burrito.  Of all chile impregnated dishes, carne adovada generally has the most mild, never acerbic flavor.

BBQ Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

My opinion of the Frontier-Golden Pride carne adovada isn’t universally shared.  Author Michael Stern who co-wrote the definitive 500 Things To Eat Before It’s Too Late listed the Frontier Restaurat’s (ergo, Golden Pride’s) carne adovada as the third best carne adovada in America. Calling it “the great bargain carne adovada–no less delicious for its $1.99 price–is a burrito at the Frontier in Albuquerque,” which he described as having “just enough chile-infused meat intense enough to turn the tortilla that wraps it the color of sunset.”

Tacos are available in either a fried hard corn shell or a soft flour tortilla.  The soft flour tortilla based tacos are about as large as Golden Pride’s burritos.  My favorite is engorged with ground beef, green chile, cheese, lettuce and tomato–pretty much the standard taco.  As for the hard-shelled tacos, you can’t go wrong with the chicken tacos.  The chicken is moist and shredded.

A carne adovada burrito from Golden Pride.

A carne adovada burrito from Golden Pride.

Whether or not Albuquerque’s cruiser culture frequents Central Avenue because of Golden Pride Chicken is irrelevant. Golden Pride is beloved by the cruiser in all of us who want good food at value prices.

Golden Pride Chicken
1830 Lomas, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-2181
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 7 January 2016
# OF VISITS: 9
RATING: 18
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Chicken Gravy, BBQ Chicken Value Meal, Fried Chicken Value Meal, #9 Breakfast Burrito, Green Chile Stew, Green Beans with Bacon, Sweet Rolls

Golden Pride on Urbanspoon

Philly’s N Fries – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Philly’s N Fries, formerly Itsa Italian Ice

But it’s a dry heat.”  You’ve probably seen that slogan emblazoned on tee-shirts depicting a sun bleached skeletal figure lying prostrate mere feet from a thirst-slaking, life-giving oasis.  You’ve gratefully expressed that sentiment every time Channel 13’s manic meteorologist Mark Ronchetti predicts yet another day of 90 degree plus weather as you rationalize that you could be in one of the South’s sweltering, sauna-like cities with temperatures comparable to our Duke City, but with 80 percent humidity.  You may even have muttered that phrase while scalding your feet as you scurry to a swimming pool the temperature of bath water.

For years, Albuquerque spelled relief from the oppressive heat “I-T-S-A” as in Itsa Italian Ice, a veritable oasis of cool refreshment on scalding New Mexico summer days.  Itsa was situated in a Lilliputian locale at Lomas and Washington, offering drive-up service for cavalcades of parched motorists.  The specialty at Itsa was a veritable phalanx of Italian ices, a flavor or more for each color on the ultraviolet spectrum.

Cantaloupe and Watermelon Italian Ice

Cantaloupe and Watermelon Italian Ice

Unlike snow cones and other ice desserts, all ingredients–typically water, sugar and flavoring–used in making Italian Ice are blended together prior to being frozen.  Italian ice is baby-butt smooth and soft while snow cones have a granular, crunchy texture and the flavoring is added afterwards.  Most Italian ice is made with sugar, not corn syrup and has neither fat nor milk products.  It is far more refreshing than ice cream, gelato, snow cones or shaved ice.  It is the paragon of frozen pleasure.

Much to the dismay of Duke City heat-stroke candidates, Itsa Italian Ice shuttered its doors in 1996, a year after we moved back to Albuquerque.  Though you could still find Itsa products on the frozen food aisles at some grocery stores, it just wasn’t the same experience as rolling down your window to place your order and experience glorious heat relief and blissful, flavorful, sweet satisfaction seconds later.

Nostalgia Abounds at Itsa Italian Ice

In 2006, Steve and Cathy Garcia purchased Itsa and procured a refrigerated trailer they could ferry to outdoor events throughout the dessert-dry Duke City.  Three years later they actualized their vision for their Italian ice business by launching Itsa Italian Ice on the corner of Second and Phoenix, N.W., two blocks north of Menaul.  The facility isn’t set up for drive-up service, but you’ll want to take a seat and linger for a while at the 50s themed full-service restaurant where now you can get not only your favorite Italian Ice, but hamburgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, a Philly cheese steak, hand-cut French fries, Frito pies, Frontier cinnamon rolls and more. 

In February, 2015, Itsa Italian Ice was renamed Philly’s N Fries.  It’s not everyday a highly regarded and successful business tampers with an established brand identity, but the move was deemed necessary because (surprisingly) not everyone associated the name Itsa Italian Ice with food.  Then, of course, not everyone reads Food & Wine Magazine which, in October, 2010, featured Itsa in its Trendspotting segment.  No, they’re more apt to read Albuquerque the Magazine which spotlighted Itsa’s “better than Philadelphia Philly” in a feature entitled “The Ex-Pat’s Guide to Eating in Abq.”  The rename has proven very successful.

Double meat green chile cheeseburger with French fries

Double meat green chile cheeseburger with French fries

The panoply of Italian ice flavors includes lemon, watermelon, cantaloupe, lime, grape, black raspberry, tangerine, cherry, banana, blue moon (cotton candy) and chocolate.  The only flavor which  didn’t initially survive the decade plus was Root Beer, my very favorite flavor.  Fortunately, it was added to the menu in June, 2010.  It’s as wonderful as ever with a pronounced adult root beer flavor–strong and peppery.   Unlike some Italian Ices, these actually taste like the fruits (and chocolate) for which they are named. They are still as refreshing as a dip in a cold mountain lake.

Philly’s N Fries provides diners with a nostalgic trip back to a carefree, more innocent time before the infestation of chain restaurants.  Even if you’re not old enough to remember it, you’ll appreciate the sundry bric-a-brac from the Fabulous Fifties.  The Fifties theme starts with the black and white checkerboard tile of the era which blends thematically with the red and white kitchen-style chairs, brushed chrome tables, refurbished Conoco gasoline pump and on the northwest corner of the restaurant atop a vintage Pepsi machine, a bulky, boxy period era television set.

Green Chile Philly and French Fries

Although prices are hardly reminiscent of the 1950s (or 1996 for that matter), there are good meal deals on the menu.  Hamburger and hot dog combo meals (French fries and a soft drink with unlimited free refills) are a good bet for cost conscious consumers.  A regular ice goes for $2.50 while a large will put a slight dent in your wallet for two dollars more.  Still, this is Itsa Italian Ice we’re talking about and it’s worth it!

Philly’s N Fries doesn’t offer table-side service.  Cathy and her perpetual smile are  ready to take your order at a counter and she’ll deliver it to your table when it’s ready unless long lines prevent her from leaving her post (in which case, you’ll be called up to pick it up).  If there’s one thing reminiscent of the 50s (from what I’ve heard), it’s the service–friendly, accommodating and pleasant.  The service is enough to bring me back.  Steve and Cathy are among the most friendly restaurateurs in the Duke City.

Philly Cheesesteak at Itsa Italian Ice

Another View of the Fabulous Philly Cheesesteak (Photo courtesy of Sean O’Donnell)

2 May 2009: Philly’s N Fries may be just as adept at satisfying the pangs of hunger as it is refreshing your thirst and you won’t go away hungry.  That’s especially true if you order the double-meat green chile cheeseburger, a behemoth on sesame seed buns.  Prepared at just a shade beyond medium, the beef patties are thick and juicy.  American cheese, lettuce, tomato and of course, green chile adorn the burger.  This green chile cheeseburger is one of my Kim’s favorites, a burger for which she actually eschews the green chile Philly. The green chile lacks the piquancy New Mexicans love on their favorite burger, but it’s got a nice flavor and the restaurant doesn’t scrimp on it.  

The French fries are crisp inside and out, almost as if they’re fried twice in very hot oil.  These fries are fresh and hand-cut on the premises.  In a city in which most restaurants serve frozen French fries out of the bag, these fresh not-quite-shoestring thin fries are a welcome change.  You’ve got to order a combo meal (sandwich, fries and a drink) because a Philly without fries is like a day without sunshine.

Green Chile Chicken Philly with Fries

2 May 2009: Being a 50s themed restaurant, it’s only fitting that Philly’s N Fries offer a hot dog that was actually around in the 1950s.  Nathan’s Famous were first seen on the Coney Island boardwalk in 1916.  Not only have they stood the test of time, they’ve expanded nationwide and are available in grocery stores and food courts everywhere.  Despite being ubiquitous, Nathan’s hot dogs are a take it or leave it proposition with as many aficionados as there are detractors.  At Philly’s N Fries these fat all-beef dogs are griddled to a crispy exterior.  They’re browned outside but retain their juiciness inside.

During our inaugural visit, we overheard the owner tell a customer that Philadelphia natives who ordered Philly’s N Fries Philly Cheesesteak compared it to the one offered at Pat’s King of Steaks, arguably the City of Brotherly Love’s best cheesesteak.  I dismissed that as pride of ownership until Sean O’Donnell (the very entertaining former KOB FM radio personality), a Pennsylvania native told me he was “ecstatic” about finally finding “a place in town with a decent Philly Cheesesteak,” “a big deal for a PA transplant.” Considering Sean has steered me toward other great dining destinations, I place a lot of stock in his recommendation.

Nathan's Hot Dog

Nathan’s Hot Dog

9 May 2009: It’s a well-founded recommendation.  the Philly Cheesesteak is terrific!  Sweet white onions are grilled to perfection, not caramelized, but on that fine line between being crispy and soft.  Green peppers are grilled to a slightly crunchy consistency.  Two slices of white American cheese are arranged on each sandwich and it’s a wonderfully creamy and nice melting cheese.  The meat is chopped thin on the grill (a melodic percussion) and is seasoned well; you won’t find any fat or sinew anywhere.  The bread is a soft receptacle for the contents and is quite good.  This isn’t a huge sandwich except in terms of flavor.

17 December 2015: The only Philadelphia cheesesteak better in Albuquerque is the restaurant’s Green Chile Philly, a Philadelphia cheesesteak with New Mexican green chile.  Green chile makes everything taste better, especially when the chile has a piquant bite.  My friend “Señor Plata,” an aficionado of the Philadelphia cheesesteak ranks this sandwich even higher than his previous favorite at Petito’s Pizzeria in Rio Rancho.  The biggest difference, in his estimation, is the steak itself which isn’t shaved sliver-thin as at Petito’s.  It’s also not quite as lean which generally means just a bit of fat for flavor.  A Los Angeles native, Señor Plata has had the very best cheesesteak sandwiches America’s second largest city has to offer and he rates Philly’s N Fries higher.

Itsa’s Frito Pie (Photo courtesy of Bill “Roastmaster” Resnik

17 December 2015: Not that very long ago, a chicken Philly would have been considered sacrilege, especially in the City of Brotherly Love where the Philly cheesesteak originated.  Today, chicken Phillys are ubiquitous throughout Philadelphia.  It stands to reason that persnickety, variety-oriented diners would want a non-red meat option and chicken, after all, is the other white meat.  As with the more conventional steak-laden Philly, the chicken is finely chopped (it’s a wonder Steve doesn’t have carpal tunnel syndrome) and is available with green peppers and sweet white onions.  Risking the guilt of betrayal for not having our beloved cheesesteak, my  friend Bill Resnik and I were inaugurated into the chicken Philly option in December, 2015.  The date is significant because it’s the day we found a viable alternative to the sacrosanct cheesesteak.

20 July 2010: New Mexico’s contribution to Health.com’s “50 Fattiest Foods,” a state-by-state hall of infamy, was our ubiquitous Frito pie.  The version low-lighted in the article contained a pants-popping 46 grams of fat and 14 grams of saturated fat.  Still, it’s hard to resist the Land of Enchantment’s most egregious fat-offender, especially since it looks like a healthy lettuce and onion salad when it’s delivered to other tables.  Underneath the lettuce and chopped onions, however, is a mound of ground beef covered in chile and cheese surrounded by Frito’s corn chips.  It’s a classic New Mexican Frito pie.  Alas, the restaurant’s chile has a “canned” flavor with very little bite.  Canned chile is the best way to ensure I won’t indulge in this Frito fat-fest.

Cantaloupe Italian Ice

Dessert offerings include the aforementioned Italian ice as well as an old favorite, the Nutty Buddy.  Philly’s N Fries also carries the fabled Frontier rolls, those hot, buttery, gooey rolls of pure deliciousness with a cinnamon sugar glaze.  They pack a day’s worth of tooth-decaying, waist-expanding calories, the kind you love to consume.  Among the very best cinnamon rolls in the Land of Enchantment, they’re worth the extra time at the gym.

Italian Ice–it’s a refreshing, fat free, non dairy dessert that’s an Albuquerque tradition now energizing and winning over yet another generation of thirsty, overheated residents. The green chile Philly cheesesteaks are the very best in Albuquerque (certified by experts like Sr. Plata) and the service is warm and hospitable.

Philly’s N More
215 Phoenix Avenue, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 17 December 2015
1ST VISIT: 1 May 2009
# OF VISITS: 19
RATING: 22
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Double meat green chile cheeseburger, French fries, Italian Ice, Hot Dog, Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, Green Chilly Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, Frontier Roll, Green Chile Chicken Philly

Itsa Italian Ice on Urbanspoon

ChocGlitz & Cream – Albuquerque, New Mexico

ChocoGlitz & Cream in Albuquerque (Just Barely)

To whom should you turn when you want a recommendation you can trust for great ice cream?   Your natural inclination is probably to ask a kid.  Kids, particularly those in the age group two through twelve, consume more ice cream than any other American demographic.  Alas, kids in the aforementioned age group are like Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials. They like everything (except maybe coffee flavored ice cream) and aren’t quite as discerning as ice cream paramours in other age groups.  So, why not trust an adult for a recommendation?  Research has shown that contrary to children, adults tend to prefer the same few flavors for which they’ve developed a preference over the course of their lives (talk about getting set in their ways and losing the sense of adventure).

So, to whom does this overgrown kid in an adult’s body turn for advice on great ice cream?  Would you believe I get my ice cream advice from one of my two favorite baristas at Rio Rancho’s sublime Cafe Bella.  Here’s why.  Baristas tend to have rather refined palates–they have to considering coffee has almost twice as many flavor characteristics discernible by human senses than wine does–and are able to discern flavor nuances and qualities most of us can’t detect.   When barista extraordinaire Stefan, told me about his favorite place for ice cream, he didn’t just tell me he liked it.  He gave me a detailed flavor profile analysis, describing flavors, ingredients, textures, milk fat content and other qualities only a connoisseur would understand.

Kaylyn Stuffs Our Waffle Cones Generously

When we stepped into ChocGlitz for the first time, owner-chocolatier Celeste Davis asked how we found out about her charming establishment.  No sooner had we told her our barista recommended it than she responded with “oh, you must mean Michael” as in Michael Gonzales, the effusive owner of Cafe Bella.  Michael, it turns out, frequents ChocGlitz with his beautiful family.  It didn’t surprise us in the least that culinary professionals we respect so much would visit ChocGlitz which just might be Albuquerque’s very best chocolate and ice cream shop.  It’s almost Rio Rancho’s very best chocolate and ice cream shop, too, being situated just south of the Presbyterian Rust Medical Center on Unser Blvd. near the demarcation line between the Duke City and the City of Vision.

ChocGlitz & Cream opened its doors in July, 2014 and almost immediately began garnering not only local accolades, but national attention.  In February, 2015, ChocGlitz staffers created a five-foot chocolate sculpture depicting trees, fairies and woodland creatures for a Food Network program called Outrageous Chocolate.  That painstaking effort took a bit longer than 200 hours.  While Celeste doesn’t have to take nearly as much time in crafting the tempting chocolates on display daily at the shop, it’s obvious hers is a labor of love…and of deliciousness.   ChocGlitz literally surrounds you with eye candy everywhere you turn.

Temptations Galore Everywhere You Turn at ChocGlitz

Celeste hand-crafts almost all the chocolates sold at the store using fair-trade certified chocolate (ensuring cocoa farmers are paid fair wages and don’t use child or slave labor).  ChocGlitz offers a treasure trove of beguiling treats such as fudge, caramel apples, caramel corn, chocolate-dipped Oreos, hand-made truffles, cheesecakes and many other chocolate specialties.  A whopping 95-percent of the chocolates sold at ChocGlitz are made on the premises with a handful of fair-trade chocolates (and such rarities as Mallow Cups) brought in to complement the locally made product.  All ice creams are also made on the premises.

With a sensory overload of aromas and sights threatening to engulf us, we started our ChocGlitz adventure with ice cream: a scoop each of raspberry-red chile and salted caramel on a waffle cone for me and a scoop each of egg nog and pumpkin spice, also on a waffle cone for my Kim.  The raspberries for the raspberry-red chile ice cream come from Heidi’s Raspberries in Corrales so you know they’re of the highest quality.  Common denominators in all four ice cream flavors are smoothness, creaminess, delicateness and richness.  These are the hallmark of ice cream greatness, the qualities of which Stefan bragged.  Those qualities make for the type of ice cream with which you want to take your time, the type that releases its nuanced flavors as it melts on your tongue.  A good amount of milk-fat contributes the quality of “mellowness,” coupling with the natural flavors to seduce your taste buds, not attack them.

Left: Raspberry-Red Chile and Salted Caramel; Right: Egg Nog and Pumpkin Spice

The Cracker Jacks jingle with which some of us grew up boasts of “candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize!  That’s what you get in Cracker Jacks!”  After sampling the bacon caramel corn at ChocGlitz, I became immediately convinced that Cracker Jacks got it wrong.  Instead of candy-coated peanuts, Cracker Jacks should have used bacon.  During the third annual Southwest Bacon Fest, ChocoGlitz introduced a number of bacon products which were very well received.  The bacon caramel combines two great ingredients–possibly the very best caramel corn you’ve ever had and bacon, that addictive pork candy America loves. 

If you’re not happy with the ice cream you’re finding in your neighborhood, there’s no guarantee your barista will be able to recommend something better.  That is, unless that barista has been to ChocGlitz & Cream, quite possibly the best chocolate and ice cream shop in the metropolitan area.

ChocGlitz & Cream
10660 Unser Blvd, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
505-898-GLTZ (4589)
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 21 November 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Raspberry-Red Chile Ice Cream; Salted Caramel Ice Cream; Egg Nog Ice Cream; Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream; Bacon Caramel Corn; Dark English Toffee; Cashew Turtle

ChocGlitz & Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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