Possum shanks; pickled hog jowls; goat tripe; stewed squirrel; ham hocks
and turnip greens; gizzards smothered in gristle; smoked crawdads.
“Ewwww Doggies!,” now that’s eatin’.
~The Beverly Hillbillies
Guests at the Clampett residence always seemed to recite a litany of excuses as to why they couldn’t stay for dinner when Granny announced the mess of vittles she’d fixed up. Not even the opportunity to dine at the fancy eatin’ table (billiards table) and use the fancy pot passers (pool cues) under the visage of the mounted billy-yard (rhinoceros) was enough to entice the sophisticated city slickers to stay for dinner with America’s favorite hillbillies.
For the generation who grew up watching The Beverly Hillbillies, the notion of eating vittles elicits a broad smile and a warm heart. Those sentiments were rekindled when we drove east on Central Avenue just past Wyoming and espied a new restaurant named Vick’s Vittles Country Kitchen. Not only did it conjure memories of “heaping helpings of hospitality” from Jed and all his kin, the name “Vick’s Vittles” seemed so familiar and comfortable.
That’s because several years ago a restaurant named “Vick’s Country Vittles” plied its chicken-fried specialties for about an year on Central Avenue where Kasbah Mediterranean currently sits. Despite the similarity in names, there is no affiliation between the two restaurants. Vick’s Vittles Country Kitchen is named for proprietor Robert Vick who’s got a passel of credentials and awards in the hospitality industry.
An affable gentleman, Vick earned “Executive of the Year” honors in 2010 from the International Food Service Executives Association for his leadership at Kirtland Air Force Base’s food services. Before being launched as a restaurant, Vick’s Vittles excelled as a contract company that continues to operate the Thunderbird Inn Dining Facility at Kirtland. Under Vick’s auspices, the Thunderbird Inn earned two Hennessy Food Service awards signifying the best dining facility in the Air Force. Transforming a “chow hall” into an outstanding dining facility is no easy feat.
Robert Vick is a peripatetic presence at his restaurant, glad-handing and inviting guests to set a spell. His wait staff mirrors his friendliness and is on-the-spot to replenish your coffee. During our inaugural visit, we caught sight of several familiar faces–some of the same folks who frequented this familiar location when it was occupied by Roper’s Restaurant and before that, Milton’s Cafe.
Vestiges of its former tenant are still in evidence in the form of cowboy and western-themed accoutrements throughout the large dining room. Country music plays in the background while you dine. The menu also includes a few hold-overs from the Roper’s days, a melange of country cooking meets the Southwest. It’s an ambitious menu, offering American and New Mexican comfort food favorites as well as barbecue all served in prolific portions. Daily specials are available Monday through Friday with a daily lunch standard being green chile New England clam chowder in a sour dough bowl, a New Mexico meets New England treat.
The breakfast menu is extensive, offering pancakes, French toast and waffle plates for those of you craving a sweet start to your day. A bounty of breakfast burritos includes several sure to elicit double takes. There’s the corned beef hash burrito, for example. Breakfast plates, served with your choice of potatoes (country, spuds or hash browns) galore and three-egg omelets round out the menu for the most important meal of the day.
Vick’s Vittles also offers an extensive lunch menu with a number of appetizers, salads and soups available. New Mexican specialties, served with pinto beans and rice, include the “Lone Star Stack,” enchiladas layered with spicy beef and chile-con-queso, shredded chicken with green chile and melted Cheddar-Jack cheese with red chile. Sandwiches and burgers, served with your choice of a garden salad, soup, French fries or onion rings, are also available. Daily specials are displayed on a monitor directly above the greeter’s stand.
American novelist Lemony Snicket wisely noted “Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.” Though we arrived at Vick’s a little late for cinnamon rolls fresh out-of-the-oven, the hot, buttery cinnamon rolls were fresh nonetheless and delicious with a surfeit of sweet, rich icing tempered only slightly by the melting butter. The cinnamon rolls are about the size of the disc shape conveyance which crash-landed in Roswell a few decades ago. One of these calorific overachievers is large enough to share.
Everyone’s (including 2 KASA Style host Chad Brummlett who calls it “arguably the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my life) favorite breakfast burrito, according to the menu, is the Cowboy Burrito, a tortilla-encased behemoth constructed from scrambled eggs, country spuds, Cheddar-Jack cheese and chopped chicken fried steak smothered in green chili (SIC) cream gravy. While not your conventional New Mexico breakfast burrito, there’s much to like about this one. The green chili cream gravy topped with melting shredded cheese is very rich and quite good though not especially piquant. Texturally, the chopped chicken fried steak and country spuds (more like square tater tots than fried potatoes) are unexpectedly delightful. Perhaps only Jethro Bodine, lovingly referred to as “the six foot stomach” by Granny, could polish off an entire Cowboy burrito in one sitting.
For my Kim, seeing “carne adovada” on a menu means there’s no need to look any further at the menu. More often than not, she’s pleased with that choice. Sometimes, as in the case of Vick’s Vittles, she’s thrilled, calling the carne adovada “New Mexico quality.” Tender tendrils of marinated shredded pork are served with two eggs and country spuds. The red chile in which the carne adovada is marinated is only slightly piquant, but it’s got the time-honored flavor of well-made chile.
Robert Vick may not personally tell his guests they’re all invited back to this locality to have a heaping helping of hospitality, vittles, that is…Vick’s Vittles. It’s implied in the way you’re treated at this unpretentious restaurant in that oh, so familiar location. Vick’s Vittles Country Kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and for dinner on Thursday through Saturday.
Vick’s Vittles Country Restaurant
8810 Central Avenue
Albuquerque, New Mexico
# OF VISITS: 1