Nob Hill Bar & Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nob Hill Bar & Grill on Central Avenue

The Nob Hill Bar & Grill

There’s talk on the street,
it’s there to remind you,

it doesn’t really matter which side you’re on
You’re walking away and they’re talking behind you
They will never forget you ’til somebody new comes along
New Kid In Town: The Eagles

As an independent observer of the New Mexico culinary experience, it’s always intrigued me just how fleeting and short-lived the popularity of new restaurants can be.   Perhaps indicative of our human need for constant new sources of stimulation and gratification, diners (and restaurant critics) flock to new restaurants like moths to a flame.   In our minds, new seems to translate to fresh and exciting.  We seem drawn to the spit, polish and promise of new restaurants in our constant quest for new and different.

The phenomenon of newness isn’t solely applicable to restaurants.  On the liner notes of “The Very Best of the Eagles,” Don Henley explained the meaning behind their number one song “New Kid in Town:” We’re basically saying, ‘Look, we know we’re red hot right now but we also know that somebody’s going to come along and replace us–both in music and in love.’  The fleeting, fickle nature of our fascination with newness is so strong that some restaurants actually peak in popularity within a few months after opening, particularly after their first glowing reviews.

The interior of the Nob Hill Bar & Grill

A decidedly masculine ambiance

In the National Football League (NFL), general managers and coaches recognize that the effectiveness of a draft (the signing of new players coming out of college) isn’t realized for three years.  New restaurants generally don’t have three years to prove themselves.  Many of them don’t make it past their first year.  Successful restaurants aren’t just another pretty face in the crowd.  They’re generally restaurants with substance, not just flash and panache–eateries which provide reasonable portions of good food in a pleasant ambiance served by an attentive staff.  Many of them are constantly reinventing themselves with new and exciting seasonal menu offerings.

In April, 2008, one of the pretty new faces gracing the Duke City dining scene was the Nob Hill Bar & Grill on Central Avenue.  The mere fact that it’s survived six years (as of this writing) is indicative that it’s doing things right.  The fact that there doesn’t appear to be any surcease in its popularity despite the onslaught of newer and arguably prettier competition says the Nob Hill Bar & Grill formula is working very well indeed.

Applewood Smoked Chicken Wings Tossed in Mango Habanero served with blue cheese

Perhaps one of the reasons the restaurant continues to thrive is the combination of staying true to its original vision while constantly introducing elements of newness the Albuquerque dining public craves.  The Nob Hill Bar & Grill’s  vision is to be a place in which everyone feels welcome to come as they are, but with the expectations that they’ll find top-notch food, service and interesting twists on the standards they might find at a neighborhood bar, pub or steakhouse. Think time-honored bar and comfort foods with an upscale gourmet interpretation.  Think gastropub done very well!

Situated in an east-facing adobe-hued stucco exterior and a beckoning red brick frontage facing Central Avenue, the Nob Hill Bar & Grill is a beacon for patrons in pursuit of delicious victuals and creative cocktails. The east-facing wall opens up to an exterior patio which nearly doubles the restaurant’s seating capacity.  The patio provides an excellent people-watching venue (and great place to bring your dog) even though the faux wicker chairs must have been designed by the Marquis de Sade.  The restaurant’s interior is decidedly contemporary and masculine with its exposed brick walls, high-backed booths with black leather seating, dark wood floors and an exposed ceiling.  An exhibition kitchen is the restaurant’s cynosure, a hectic, but not harried hub of activity. The menu, however, has more than enough variety to please both masculine and feminine palates.

St eamed Clams Little neck clams with roasted fennel, roma tomatoes and pork lardons in a white wine butter sauce topped with gremolata

Steamed Clams

The Nob Hill Bar & Grill’s innovative menu changes with the seasons.  To the greatest extent possible, the restaurant sources its beef and produce locally.  Hamburgers are crafted from premium-cut steak raised in Roswell (no UFO jokes, please).  This is no ordinary beef.  It’s a full carcass blend made from premium cuts–New York, tenderloin, ribeye– not scrap meat.   You’ll be able to taste the difference. 

Appetizers

19 August 2011: As down-to-earth as celebrity foodie Ryan Scott is, he is admittedly a barbecue snob. Years of trial and some error have made him a true smoke master and undoubtedly imbued him with the patience all barbecue purists must have.  Dine with him and you’re practically assured your meal will include smoked chicken wings if they’re on the menu.  The Nob Hill Bar & Grill’s wings are smoked in applewood, a “light” wood which imparts a fragrant smokiness without overwhelming the meats.  You can have the wings tossed in your choice of buffalo sauce or mango-habanero and served with your choice of blue cheese or ranch.  The mango-habanero is slightly tangy and only mildly piquant, allowing the applewood smoke to shine.  Shine it does.  These wings are so good Ryan eschewed dessert and opted for a second order of wings.

Jicama Duck Tacos: Shedded duck confit on fresh jicama t ortillas with an or ange cr anberry salsa and queso fresc

Jicama Duck Tacos

15 March 2014: In responding to my “Best of the Best for 2013” feature, my friends Hannah and Edward compiled their own list of the most memorable dishes they had in 2013.  Their list included a number of intriguing dishes I hadn’t tried.  Among the most compelling, a dish on which they both agreed, was the steamed clams at the Nob Hill Bar & Grill.  Since in my mind Hannah and Edward can do no wrong, the clams were the first item on which my eyes trained during a subsequent visit.   Be forewarned, that the steamed clams aren’t always on the menu.  Thankfully the menu does change seasonally and the restaurant even has a “suggestion box” in which you can request your favorite dishes be brought back onto the menu.

These steamed clams are indeed well worthy of adulation.  At seven to ten clams per pound, little neck clams are the smallest of American cold water quahogs, but they’re among the most delicious–especially when served in a white wine butter sauce topped with gremolata (chopped herb condiment usually made of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley),  roasted fennel, Roma tomatoes and pork lardons. It’s as good a sauce as we’ve found for clams, a sauce which would make an award-winning soup and for which you would want a half dozen slices of lightly toasted bread to dredge up every drop.  

Huevos Rancheros

15 March 2014: From its onset, the Nob Hill Bar & Grill has been one of the city’s very best eateries in showcasing the versatility and deliciousness of duck.  One of the more inventive ways in which it’s offered is in the form of Jicama Duck Tacos.  You’re probably thinking “what’s so inventive about julienne jicama on a taco” and you’d be right.  What makes this taco so innovative is that the fresh tortillas are made not from corn or flour, but from jicama, a versatile sweet root vegetable.  Four tacos per order are engorged with shredded duck confit with an orange-cranberry salsa and queso fresco.  These are some of the most moist and delicious tacos in town.  The shredded duck is rich, moist and infused with flavors complemented by a tangy-sweet salsa and a mild queso.  

In its annual Food and Wine issue for 2013, Albuquerque The Magazine‘s staff sampled “every dish of nachos in the city” and selected the Nob Hill Bar & Grill’s nachos as the sixth best in the city.  The magazine described these nachos as “Albuquerque meets Texas with this plate of nachos, which is filled with chili–you know, the Texas kind.”

Brunch

Sunday brunch is a special event at several Nob Hill restaurants. It’s the thing to do on lazy Sunday mornings and restaurants such as Zinc are the place to be. Look for the Nob Hill Bar & Grill to attract even more people to the cultural heart of the city.  When the Nob Hill Bar & Grill first opened, it offered a bountiful brunch buffet.  Bidding bonjour to that  brunch buffet is a blow softened by a memorable, weekly changing brunch menu.  Sure, you won’t engorge yourself with multiple trips to the buffet, but you’ll be treated to prepared to order entrees that don’t suffer the ignominious fate of sitting under a heat lamp (which will diminish the flavor of even the best entrees).

14 December 2008: Huevos Rancheros are just a little bit different, maybe just a bit better than huevos rancheros at most New Mexican restaurants.  Instead of piling ingredients atop a corn tortilla, these beauties start with two rolled duck meat enchiladas topped with both green chile stew and red chile sauce and a fried egg.  The green chile stew is fantastic–piquant and flavorful, albeit parsimoniously portioned.  The red chile has a beautiful purity with no discernible thickening agents.  It is earthy and delicious, but alas, there’s just not enough of it.  Not everybody wants a veritable lagoon of fluorescent red chile (a description shared with me by long-time friend of this blog Bruce Balto), but when it’s this good, you want more than to be teased.  The huevos are accompanied by old-fashioned refried beans which, honestly, would have benefited from some of that fabulous green chile stew.

Chips & Salsa Three Ways

Until a few years ago, you couldn’t find an imaginative pancake in all of Albuquerque. Sure you could find pancakes topped with every conceivable fruit you can find, but in terms of griddle greatness, buttermilk was about as good as it got. It took chefs like Dennis Apodaca at Sophia’s Place and the Nob Hill Bar & Grill’s Culinary Institute of America former owner-chef Matt Ludeman to elevate pancakes to a new level.  Matt and his brother Michael sold the Nob Hill Bar & Grill to Nicole Kapnison in 2014.

14 December 2008: The Nob Hill Bar & Grill’s contribution includes oatmeal Guinness pancakes topped with a Balsamic orange butter and whiskey syrup. Roughly the circumference of a coffee cup, these flavorful orbs are dense and thick instead of light and fluffy, but they’re good enough to eat sans syrup and butter, not that you’d ever want to considering the whiskey syrup is sensational. Accompanying the pancakes are two strips of candied pepper bacon and two eggs sunny-side-up. The candied pepper bacon will compete with the honey-chile glazed bacon at the Gold Street Caffe as the best bacon in town. It’s a flaccid bacon as opposed to the jerky textured bacon some restaurants serve. 

The Aptly Named Dirty Burger

14 December 2008: The “brunchies” portion of the menu includes several nice starters such as chips and salsa three ways.  Sweet, smoky and tart is one way in the form of smoked mango salsa composed of mangoes, tomatoes, cilantro and green peppers.  Another way is with creamy avocado sparsely dotted with corn niblets and replete with flavor.  It’s not a conventional guacamole per se, but if you like just the whisper of citrus influenced tartness with the buttery richness of avocado, you’ll love this one.  The third way is pico de gallo, a composite of tomato, green pepper, red onion and cilantro.  There’s not much pico in this rooster’s bite, but it’s delicious.  The red, white and blue corn tortillas are crisp and low in salt.

Lunch

19 August 2011: My friend Ryan Scott, the dynamic host of Albuquerque’s best YouTube channel program Break the Chain, (yeah, I’m a shill) and I shared a “Dirty Burger” which our waitress touted as one of the very best burgers in New Mexico. A better name might be “Messy Burger” in the best tradition of four napkin burgers whose ingredients run down your hands and face. The burger is constructed with your choice of Nob Hill’s ultimate blend steak or Snake River Kobe beef topped with chili (sic) con queso, frizzled onions, bacon fried egg and “beeronnaize” served with sea salt fries and chipotle ketchup. Because the chili con queso is made with the foul demon spice cumin, I deprived Scott of the experience of trying the Kobe crafted chili.

This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Meatloaf Local New Mexico all natural beef stuffed with applewood smoked bacon and smoked mozzarella cheese, served with garlic mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables and shallot gravy

This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Meatloaf

Sans chili, this is a terrific burger!  Lightly toasted brioche buns are hardly formidable enough to contain all the juiciness and flavor so you might have to eat this burger with a knife and fork.  The beef is most assuredly the star of this four-star burger.  It has the flavor of premium steak.  Cut into the over-easy fried egg and let its yoke cover the beef for a taste sensation savvy restaurants have caught onto.  The beeronnaize (not Bearnaise) has an interesting flavor–a somewhat salty, beer imbued mayo concoction applied generously.  Only the frizzled onions are truly extraneous, a wholly unnecessary additive. 

15 March 2014: It’s not every mama who serves meatloaf constructed from local New Mexico all-natural beef stuffed with applewood smoked bacon and smoked mozzarella cheese stacked atop a forest mushroom risotto then serves it with fresh vegetables (haricot vert and asparagus).  That makes this entree’s name–This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Meatloaf–so appropriate.  The pairing of applewood smoked bacon and smoked mozzarella makes smokiness the most prominent in a flavor profile.  It’s most definitely an adult meatloaf.  The forest mushroom risotto isn’t the usual accompaniment for the meatloaf, but a very accommodating server (Josh) aimed to please.  It’s a good risotto though its flavor was somewhat obfuscated by the shallot gravy intended for the meatloaf.

Fish and Chips Local Marble Brown Ale battered Cod, sea salt waffle fries, apple slaw and malt vinegar ar

Fish and Chips

15 March 2014: Not only is the meatloaf not constructed as your mama might make it, the fish and chips aren’t quite what we enjoyed by the netful in England.  Instead of flaccid fries which easily absorb the malt vinegar, the Nob Hill Bar & Grill serves sea salt waffle fries which seem to have a deflector shield preventing the absorption of malt vinegar.  The fish–two pieces of fresh cod–are delicious: flaky and delicate on the inside with a crispy Marble Brown Ale batter on the outside.  A small ramekin of apple slaw completes the entree.

30 April 2017:  Surf, turf and sky get equal billing on the menu with several menu item on each category.  Among the terrific dishes on the “sky” menu are the Mole Duck Enchiladas (shredded duck enchiladas with queso fresco, red chile mole, calabasitas and cilantro-lime Basmati rice).  There’s much to love about the dish though that love would be even more boundless if the enchiladas were more sizeable.  There are two stars on the enchiladas–the rich shredded duck and the sweet-savory-piquant mole with red chile notes blending well with the complex multi-ingredient mole.  Also a star are the calabasitas–al dente zucchini, corn niblets and green chile which are fresh and delicious with piquant notes from the green chile sneaking out with every bite.

Duck Mole Enchiladas

30 April 2017: Celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre calls steak frites the perfect date food, going so far as to crediting this popular French dish with helping win over his then girlfriend now wife.  Steak frites is a pretty good date food, too, even if you’re already married.  It’s one of my Kim’s favorite dishes and few do it as well as this restaurant.  The two components of this dish are, of course, steak and French fried potatoes.  At the Nob Hill Bar, that means a mountain of truffle fries so big we barely put a dent on the pile before giving up.  These fries have a twice-fried texture and a nice stiffness.  They’re served with two different ketchup types.  The steak is grilled and topped with a port wine compound butter that’s in the early melting sages.  You’ll want to spread the butter all over the steak.  A port wine demi sauce lends a deliciously rich finish.

Steak Frites

Desserts

Dessert options have included an Editor’s Pick in Albuquerque The Magazine’s 2008 Best of the City edition.  That would be the Cafe Con leche, a coffee lover’s lascivious dream.  It’s Thai coffee mousse with a white chocolate, coffee sponge cake and a crumbly trail of decaf coffee crumbles leading to sweetened condensed milk ice cream made in-house.  Wow!  It’s one of the most unique and intensely flavored desserts in town, a dessert you might not want to share no matter how much you might love your dining companion. 

Cafe con Leche

15 March 2014: Anthony Bourdain believes Guinness to be one of the best adult beverages in the world and as if to prove it downs several frothy pints with every meal of which he partakes in Ireland (that is when he’s not sipping on Irish whiskey).  It’s unlikely he’s had Irish libations in the manner they’re presented at the Nob Hill Bar & Grill in a dessert called the Guinness Fritter Bomb.   Three crispy fritters are served in a large bowl with Guinness ice cream, Bailey’s whipped cream and a Jameson’s caramel sauce.  Surprisingly the most memorable of the lot is the Bailey’s whipped cream.  The Jameson’s caramel sauce is actually sugar spun into twill patterns.

Guinness Fritter Bomb: Crispy Fritters, Guinness Ice Cream, Bailey's Whipped Cream topped with Jameson's Caramel Sauce

Guinness Fritter Bomb

In 2008, the Nob Hill Bar & Grill was selected by readers as Albuquerque’s best new restaurant in the Alibi’s annual “Best of Burque Restaurants” poll.  It earned the same accolade in Albuquerque The Magazine‘s annual “Best of the City” honors.   In subsequent years, this restaurant has continued to rack up honors and accolades, surely indicative that this is no flash-in-the pan.  The Nob Hill Bar & Grill is here to stay.

Nob Hill Bar & Grill
3128 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, NM

(505) 266-4455
Web Site

1ST VISIT
: 27 April 2008
LATEST VISIT: 
30 April 2017
# OF VISITS
: 5
RATING
: 21
COST
: $$
BEST BET
: Oatmeal Guinness Pancakes, Huevos Rancheros. Chips & Salsa Three Ways, Cafe con Leche, The Dirty Burger, Applewood Smoked Wings, This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Meatloaf, Fish and Chips, Steamed Clams, Jicama Duck Tacos

Nob Hill Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Point Grill – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

The Point Grill in Rio Rancho’s Mariposa Development

“Get to the point!”  Archie Bunker, the irascible curmudgeon on the 70’s sitcom All in the Family frequently chided his doting wife Edith with the epithet “Get to the Point, Edith!”  One of the series occasional and most memorable bits depicted Archie’s pantomime suicides,  carried out  while Edith rambled on and on in her nasal high-pitched voice, wholly oblivious to his dramatic gestures.  In one episode Archie did himself in by tying a noose and hanging himself as Edith prattled on incessantly.  Archie also play-acted suicide by Russian roulette, overdosing on pills and slashing his wrist.  His facial expressions at the moment of death were priceless, often portraying him with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

Some visitors to Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog have echoed Archie’s sentiment. “Get to the point, Gil” they’ve expressed. They tell me they don’t want to wade through details or read the clever (okay, that’s debatable) introductions that preface my restaurant reviews. Others, such as my friend Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott actually look forward to my roundabout way of introducing a restaurant, my efforts at being a racounteur. For them as well as those who would rather I employ a more formulaic (translation: fishwrap-style) approach, I offer this advice (or retort): Get to The Point!

Point Grill dining room

That would be The Point Grill in Rio Rancho’s Mariposa master-planned community. If you’re thinking “that’s too far,” think of going there as a New Year’s resolution (we’re not that deep into 2016) to journey outside your neighborhood in pursuit of new culinary adventures.  Better still, think of it as a treat (you owe it to yourself) in that you’ll get to experience a meal that competes with Joe’s Pasta House and Namaste as the best in the city and among the best in the metropolitan area.  That’s what our friends Dave and Joe have done and they live almost as far east as you can go while still being in Placitas. Dave and Joe introduced us to The Point which has become one of their favorite restaurants, distance be damned.

The Point is actually only about four miles north of the Santa Ana Star Center which even much of Rio Rancho’s citizenry erroneously believes is as far northwest as you can go and still be in the City of Vision. From the intersection of Rio Rancho’s Unser and Southern Boulevards, The Point is almost equidistant to the Cottonwood Mall. There are far fewer traffic lights and you won’t encounter the typical urban traffic snarls. Beyond the Santa Ana Star you’ll encounter a vast expanse of sage and sand as far as the eyes can see on both sides of the two lane highway. “It’s where the bodies are buried,” my Kim remarked.

Mushroom Soup

The Point is about two miles west of the turn-off into Mariposa. It’s ensconced in a 1,200 square-foot corner space in the capacious two-story business center, a modern edifice with plenty of glass to take advantage of wondrous panoramic views. From the ground-level cafe, your views are of the Sandia, Sangre de Cristo, Manzano and Ortiz Mountains, views which seem even more spectacular from the patio. Your views will also include just a few of the state-of-the-art homes and community buildings entwined with the natural splendor of the hilly desert topography in which the 6,500-acre community is situated. The delicate balance of nature, architecture and community blend in harmoniously with each other.

The Point’s perceived distance will make it a true destination restaurant, an exclusive enclave far away from the bustling well-beaten and well-eaten path that defines the Rio Rancho’s dining scene. Two other highly regarded restaurants—The Outlook Café and The Timbuctu Bistro—gave it the “old college try” at this location, but neither was able to sustain a consistently reliable customer-base. What makes The Point different? The difference makers begin with owner and executive chef Michael White, a visionary who in his 18 years of professional experience has traversed the gamut of cooking—everything from  food trucks to high-end restaurants.  Originally from Virginia Beach (and reputed to prepare fabulous crab cakes), Chef White’s menu reflects his love of New Orleans’ dynamic culinary culture and its spices.

Chipotle Chicken Satay

Chef White’s menu offers everything from American comfort foods (six different macaroni and cheese dishes) to an innovative array of bounteous hand-crafted burgers and sandwiches, sumptuous salads, weekly soup specials, tapas and a variety of “chef’s favorites.” The dessert menu, while showcasing only four items, would tempt the most disciplined of dieters. Even the Sunday brunch menu, typically a boring after-thought for some restaurants, offers a number of dishes sure to be the best part of getting up. Best of all, the entire menu (save for brunch) is available at all hours in which the restaurant is open.

The Point opened its doors on September 15th and within two months had achieved 500 “likes” on Facebook. Guests certainly like the comfortable seating, accommodating 44 guests inside and 40 on the patio. They also appreciate all the special event menus such as a crawfish boil for Mardi Gras (already sold out) and a romantic dinner for Valentine’s Day. They’re grateful for the professional, attentive service and recommendations they can trust. Moreover, guests like the “get away from it all” feel of dining at a restaurant that may be a bit out of the way, but well worth the effort to get there.

Red Chile Grilled Corn and Garlic Sauteed Mushrooms

15 January 2016: On a cold winter day when the winds are biting and dark, somber clouds loom ominously, you can’t beat a soothing, soul-warming soup. If the soup-of-the-day is mushroom soup, don’t hesitate to order it. There are two qualities to appreciate most about The Point’s version. First, it’s not overly creamy, a quality often attained through the profusion of thickeners that obfuscate the flavor of the fetid fungi. Second, it’s served piping hot, a sure and instant offset to the cold. This mushroom soup is topped with croutons which soften when submerged under the soup as do the two pieces of ciabatta bread.

15 January 2016: The chipotle chicken satay offers another type of heat—the heat generated by the piquancy of peppers. This satay is the antithesis of the satay served in Thai restaurants which is punctuated by pungent curry and served with a cloying peanut sauce. Instead of curry, the chicken is marinated in a spicy chipotle blend then chargrilled and served over coconut rice, all topped with tzatziki, scallion and lemon wedges. The flavors are lively and offer a wonderfully immersive dining experience in which complementary flavors and textures compete for your rapt attention. The tzatziki and scallions offer cooling contrasts to the chargrilled chicken and help cool off your tongue, too.

Baked Ziti

15 January 2016: The menu’s market side selections, all priced at three dollars, are intended to complement your main entrees, but they can be treated as appetizers as well. After enjoying the charbroiled chicken so much, we thought the pairing of red chile grilled corn and garlic sautéed mushrooms would be a good follow-up. Great call! Golden nibblets of sweet corn are lightly dusted with a pleasantly piquant red chile then roasted nicely to preserve moistness while providing more than a hint of char. We were surprised at how well garlic and mushrooms married together. Neither of the two strong flavor profiles is dominant with both garlic and mushrooms blending their personalities well.

15 January 2016: Among the “Chef’s Favorites” in the winter menu is baked ziti (meatballs, Italian sausage, roasted peppers and onion baked with ziti marinara and Italian cheeses), a classic Italian-American hybrid showcasing a medium-sized tubular pasta baked with a “chunky” sauce and meats. Chef White’s rendition is very reminiscent of the baked ziti I enjoyed so much in the East Coast, save for the fact that The Point’s version is served in a pho-sized bowl instead of in a casserole dish. This version is replete with meatballs and sausage, both as flavorful as you’ll find at any Italian restaurant. The baked ziti is yet another dish that works best in winter, but which would be very enjoyable any time of year.

BRUNCH

Not everyone has a high opinion of brunch. In his terrific tome Kitchen Confidential, fellow sybarite Tony Bourdain blew the lid off brunch, explaining that “brunch menus are an open invitation to the cost-conscious chef, a dumping ground for the odd bits left over from Friday and Saturday nights” adding that “you can dress brunch up with all the focaccia, smoked salmon, and caviar in the world, but it’s still breakfast.” New York Times columnist and writer Mark Bittman calls brunch “a huge fat-bomb,” no doubt a recognition that Americans will eschew fresh fruit and veggie frittatas to swill a few Bloody Marys with their heavy on the Hollandaise eggs benedict. In his defense, Bittman’s recent foray into Michelle Obama inspired healthy food activism has probably starved his thought processes of the clarity made possible only with a diet replete with processed foods and animal products.

Cream of Garlic Soup

Some brunches offer sumptuous all-you-can-choke-down buffets with gleaming silver trays overfilled with fried, gloppy, saucy, sweet, savory and otherwise not-good-for-you options sure to be a big hit among caloric overachievers. This is the arena in which ordinary Americans do their best to emulate the behavior of gurgitators, the competitive eaters who can eat more in one seating than most of us can eat in a week. It’s where belts are loosened, fabric is stretched and civility (especially table manners) goes out the window. Albuquerque has its share of bounteous buffet brunches, the magnetically appealing, calorie-laden Vegas-style all-you-can-eat Bacchanalian feasts, but it also has the type of high-quality, off-the-menu brunch offerings that have lessened the frequency of my trips to Santa Fe on Sunday. Restaurants such as the Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro, the Gold Street Caffe, Sophia’s Place and a spate of others serve up brunch that’s worth climbing out from under the covers to indulge in.

Add The Point to the list of the metropolitan area’s very best spots for brunch.  Quite frankly, it’s one of the area’s best restaurants of any genre.  My friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate and Albuquerque’s most prolific and trusted contributor to Zomato calls The Point the “best new restaurant of 2015” and “well worth the pleasant drive to the Mariposa boonies.”  If Larry vouches for it, you can take it to the bank that this is a restaurant you have to experience.

Caesar Salad

24 January 2016: During our inaugural brunch visit, we ran into our friends Joe and Dave who were enjoying their umpteenth visit to The Point. Practically ambassadors to this great restaurant, they extol the chef’s preternatural culinary skills to all their friends. Seeing Joe luxuriate in a bowl of cream of garlic soup inspired us to order it, too. If Ludwig van Beethoven’s aphorism “only the pure in heart can make a good soup” holds true, Chef White’s heart must be chaste because his soups are fabulous. How he managed to create a soup that renders garlic so thoroughly delicious despite its distinctly pungent and odoriferous qualities speaks volumes to his skills. Rather than warding off vampires, this garlic soup will bring them in like ants to a picnic.

24 January 2016: Dave rhapsodized about The Point’s Caesar salad (Parmesan, hard-boiled egg and croutons with Caesar dressing). The side salad portion is about a pitchfork sized amount of beauteous Romaine lettuce punctuated liberally with shaved Parmesan. If there are any anchovies on this Caesar, they may have been incorporated into the rich, creamy, garlicky dressing. It’s not a point we debated for too long as we were all too busy enjoying this intricate concoction. While many variations of Caesar salad exist and many high-end restaurants prepare it table-side, few versions are as delicious as The Point’s. There are three other salads on the menu.

Grits & Shrimp

24 January 2016: Having lived in the Deep South may explain my affinity for grits, a “Rodney Dangerfield” type of dish in that it gets no respect outside the South. At their essence, grits are small, broken grains of corn, but let’s face it, when you order them outside the South, you’re playing “Southern Roulette” in that you have a one-in-six chance of them being palatable. The best we’ve had in New Mexico come from The Hollar in Madrid and Blades Bistro in Placitas. Equal to those are the shrimp and grits (jalapeno, maple bacon and white Cheddar; topped with Cajun shrimp, sunny-up egg and scallions) at The Point. Its fragrant properties will get to you before anything else. You’ll swear you’re imbibing the aroma of waffles and bacon. That’s the suggestive power of the maple bacon at work. The Cajun shrimp (succulent and sweet with the snap of freshness), jalapeno and scallions provide a pleasant punch while the sunny-up egg is like a molten blanket of gooey goodness. These are grits that will make you forget all the nasty things you may have heard about grits.

Sausage and Peppers

24 January 2016: There are so many enticing options on the hand-crafted sandwiches and burgers section of the menu that you’ll be hard-pressed to make a decision as to which one you’ll enjoy first. For my Chicago born-and-bred Kim, it’s a no-brainer. She grew up with sausage and peppers sandwiches, but none in her Windy City neighborhood included goat cheese and basil. Perhaps they should. This is a superb sandwich, due in no small measure to some of the best sausage we’ve had at any restaurant in the area. It’s somewhere between spicy and assertive with lots of flavor. The tangy-pungent goat cheese is a perfect foil for the peppers while the basil lends freshness. 

Southwest Burger

15 January 2017: It should come as no surprise that burgers at The Point are more than a cut above.  In large part that’s because these burgers showcase great beef, not a plethora of ingredients that compete with the beef for your rapt attention.  Chef White constructs his burgers with seven-ounces of Akaushi premium beef, a Japanese red cattle Wagyu sourced from Harwood, Texas.  This prized beef if renowned for its marbling, taste and texture.  It’s great stuff!  There are five burger options on the menu, but New Mexicans will gravitate toward the Southwest burger which doubles up on our official state vegetable and favorite color combination–red and green chile.  The Akaushi patty is crusted with red chile and topped with roasted green chile and Cheddar.  The chile is more than a colorful adornment.  It’s got a nice bite, but not so much that it overwhelms the unctuous Akaushi beef.  This is a memorable burger, one of the best in Rio Rancho.

Flatiron Steak with Papitas

15 January 2017: The brunch special of the day during our inaugural visit in 2017 was a flatiron steak served with papitas and two eggs prepared to your exacting specifications.  Flat iron steaks are a value-priced cut that is tender, juicy and which some experts say has the “beefiest” flavor of any cut of beef on any steak. Chef White exploits these qualities to their utmost, serving a fork-tender steak sliced into one and two-bite segments that is juicy, delicious and absolutely beefy.  The exterior of the steak has a nice crust, but inside it’s medium-rare with a nice shade of pink.  The accompanying papitas would be excellent on their own, but are made irresistible with the simple addition of sauteed onions and red and yellow peppers.

DESSERT

As talented as Chef White is in crafting incomparable appetizers and entrees, it’s in the dessert arena that he really shines. With much of his culinary career having been spent in the operational side of restaurant management, Chef White used his free time to conceptualize and create hundreds of dishes with two goals in mind. First, he dreamed of owning and operating his own restaurant where he could showcase the dozens of diverse menus he formulated. Second, he hopes to someday soon participate in the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen program. With the launch of The Point, he’s achieved his first goal. He persists in applying for Cutthroat Kitchen. 

Bacon-Toffee Sundae

15 January 2016: It took us even longer to decide upon a dessert than it did our shared entrée. The Point’s dessert menu is like a siren’s call, leading guests willingly into temptation. If there’s one dessert which is even better than it sounds, it has to be the bacon-toffee sundae (cinnamon and brown sugar ice cream topped with bacon, toffee, maple-caramel and fresh whipped cream). My “best of the best” for 2015 list is heavily laden with desserts and already the bacon-toffee sundae is primed for inclusion in my 2016 list—and not just because it’s got bacon. This dessert is a montage of deliciousness, a sweet succor for the dessert-starved, a masterpiece in every respect.

Country Apple Cobbler

24 January 2016: One of the dishes Chef White conceptualized is country apple cobbler. In and of itself that name doesn’t come close to doing justice to this dessert. Not even close! In fact, the name “country apple cobbler” may conjure images of the type of cobbler you’ll find at many barbecue joints, not that there’s anything remotely wrong with that type of cobbler. As is often the case with the barbecue joint type of cobbler, Chef White’s version is served a la mode. The greatest difference between his version and the usual suspect is in the candied apple-cranberry mix sans crust topped not with streusel, but with a crunchy granola and with ice cream drizzled with caramel. The ice cream is sixteen percent milkfat which means it’s richer and creamier than most ice cream. It’s also more delicious. You’ll want to make sure every spoonful of this inspired dessert rewards you with a little bit of every single component.

Pineapple Deliciousness

24 January 2016:  Though not on the menu, if your server or the chef recommends the grilled pineapple dessert, grab it before someone else does. This is not grilled pineapple prepared as you may have had it at a Brazilian churrascaria (prepared on a grilled and served on a skewer). It’s Chef White applying his creativity to elevate what would be a great dessert if grilled pineapple was all you found on your plate. Instead, this grilled pineapple is topped with caramel and designed to look like New Mexico’s Zia symbol. Atop the pineapple are two scoops of the aforementioned rich, creamy, delicious ice cream. The concoction is then sprinkled liberally with coconut flakes. The sweet, juicy, tangy pineapple marries so well with the sweetness of the caramel and ice cream that you may have to subdue a swoon or three.

By popular request, Chef White has figured out how to package his magnificent desserts for guests who want to enjoy them at home.  While it’s possible their aesthetic appeal may lose something by virtue of being jostled on the ride home, they’re bound to be just as delicious once you get there (at least during the winter when the cold prevents ice cream from melting).  These are desserts you’ll dream about.  Just ask my friends Larry McGoldrick and Dazzling Deanell who’ve made the trek to the Point several times and are still raving about it.

LAISSEZ BON TEMPS ROULER: Mardi Gras 2017

Crab Hush Puppies

28 February 2017: In 2017, Mardi Gras took place on Tuesday, February 28th, marking the the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins.  In celebration of “Fat Tuesday,” The Point Grill featured a two-day crawfish boil.  From 12PM through 9PM Monday and Tuesday, diners were treated to a menu showcasing such New Orleans staples as crawfish, shrimp, sausage, jambalaya, gumbo, crab cake hush puppies and Cajun shrimp or roast beef po’ boys.  By popular demand, The Point rented a giant tent for the event which went on despite 55 mile-an-hour winds.  My friend Bruce “Sr Plata” and I visited The Point during lunch.  Had we not arrived early we wouldn’t have found a seat for this well-attended, very popular event. 

According to legend, hush puppies may have been named on account of Southern fishermen and Civil War making  the golden nuggets from scraps just to toss to barking and begging dogs with the command to “Hush, puppy.”  Today cooks throughout the Deep South prepare these crisp-fried fritters from cornmeal shaped into an orb and served alongside fried fish and tartar sauce.  Chef White’s version is made not from cornmeal, but from crab.  Available in quantities of six or ten, the crab cake hush puppies are much better than their cornmeal counterpart.  A couple squeezes of lemon are enough to provide a tangy contrast to the rich, sweet, succulent crab.

Bruce “Sr Plata” Silver Enjoys a Roast Beef Po’ Boy

28 February 2017: Most people know New Orleans is a Mecca for seafood, but there are other dishes prepared incomparably well throughout the Crescent City.  The Roast Beef Po’ Boy is, along with oyster and shrimp po’ boys, one of the most popular sandwiches in The Big Easy.  What distinguishes roast beef po’ boys in New Orleans from roast beef sandwiches elsewhere is moistness.  In the birthplace of Jazz, roast beef sandwiches are judged by how many napkins used to keep your chin semi-dry.  Many of the very best roast beef po’ boys are replete with debris, all the tiny bits and pieces that fall of the roast and wallow in its juices as it cooks and is carved

The roast beef po’ boy at The Point isn’t nearly as moist and messy as some of its New Orleans counterparts (the one from Mother’s Restaurant, for example), but it’s far more moist than the desiccated roast beef sandwiches oft served in the high dessert of New Mexico.  Chef White adds a light smear of creamy horseradish to give the roast beef a little oomph.  Tender tendrils of thinly sliced roast beef engorge a lightly toasted sandwich roll.  My friend Sr. Plata enjoyed this sandwich very much.

Gumbo

28 February 2017: It wouldn’t be a true Mardi Gras celebration without gumbo, that hearty, spicy, soul-warming stew.  Chef White’s version included many of the usual suspects such as chicken and sausage along with green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and herbs.  While quite good, for my tastes it could have had a tad more heat (and I didn’t ask for hot sauce).  It’s immediately obvious Chef White spent quite a bit of time in Louisiana.

Get to The Point! It may be a bit of a drive for many of you, but the destination is worth the drive. The Point is destination dining at its best!

The Point Grill Gastropub
2500 Parkway Avenue, N.E.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 903-7453
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 28 February 2017
1st VISIT: 15 January 2016
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 22
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Bacon-Toffee Sundae, High Point Mac, Baked Ziti, Mushroom Soup, Chipotle Chicken Satay, Red Chile Grilled Corn, Garlic Sauteed Mushrooms, Grits & Shrimp, Caesar Salad, Cream of Garlic Soup, Southwest Burger, Flatiron Steak

The Point Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gecko’s Bar & Tapas – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Gecko’s Northeast Heights Location Opened In the Fall of 2006

One of the best examples of the dichotomy of human nature can be illustrated in the way we react to lizards.  The mere sight of a lizard scurrying around can send shivers down the spine of otherwise reasonable and intrepid people.  Many of us are repulsed or frightened in the presence of any slithering reptile.  In Tripoli the sight of a lizard is held to cause women to bear speckled children.  To others, however, lizards are a portend of good luck, a source of entertainment and a symbol of plenty.  Biographies written by several former prisoners of war in Vietnam recount being entertained by the scampering of geckos.  Throughout the Mediterranean, the lizard is fondly regarded as an old family friend. 

In Manhattan’s bustling Madison Avenue, long metonymous with the American advertising industry, the gecko is viewed as a wildly popular success story.  Since the GEICO gecko made its debut in the Millennium year, it has been an advertising icon and one of America’s favorite anthropomorphic characters. The gecko’s sense of humor, affability and selfless nature (exemplified by his desire to help people find the best values in insurance) endear him to children of all ages and reinforces the advertising notion that animal images create strong ties between customers and companies.

Gecko Dining Room

That notion certainly wasn’t lost on former Duke City restaurateur Mark Zanoni who changed the name of his popular bar and restaurant from Chez What to Gecko’s Gallery and Grill in the mid-1990s, predating the world-famous GEICO gecko by about half a decade.   The original Gecko’s menu featured pasta, pizza, burgers, appetizers and some of the city’s best Buffalo chicken wings.  It wasn’t until Chef Jay Wulf created the original tapas menu–complete with a conceptual rename to Gecko’s a Bar & Tapas–that the restaurant began its ascent into greatness.  Chef Todd Lovell succeeded Wulf, building on and improving the concept.  Gecko’s came to be recognized as one of the city’s first gastropubs.

Gastropubs not only emphasize the quality of food served, they provide a relaxed milieu in which dining patrons can obtain cuisine (as opposed to grub) comparable to what they might receive at the very best restaurants–and ostensibly, at reasonable prices.  Until recent years, mentioning bar food in America has conjured images of dank, dark, smoky and loud watering holes serving greasy, tasteless food you have to be four sheets to the wind to consume.  Not so at Gecko’s, where  an imaginative menu of upscale comfort food favorites and exceptionally well done traditional bar appetizers became a major draw to Nob Hill.

Chorizo Bleu Cheese Queso

The second instantiation of Gecko’s launched in the far Northeast Heights (5801 Academy Road, N.E.) in December, 2006. At first glance, the new Gecko’s (where all the pictures on this review were taken) looks as if it should be called “The Bijou” or something cinematic. It’s a colorful antithesis of the Nob Hill location in many ways.  Aside from its gaudy polychrome facade, the exterior frontage includes an anthropomorphic gecko (a true lounge lizard) performing a champagne toast.  The gecko closely resembles the British accented GEICO gecko (say that five times fast).

The original Gecko’s might not be the type of pub David Frizell had in mind when he penned the lyrics to his country hit “I’m going to hire a wino to decorate our home.” Several tastefully done and colorful murals by famed local muralist Karen Deaton festoon the South-facing wall.  One mural, “Deviled Eggs at Gecko’s” depicts happy hour patrons at Gecko’s enjoying tapas and spirits. Another “Who Left the Curtain Open” shows the serving staff unwinding (in various states of undress including one “cheeky” waitress with a gecko tatoo) after a busy shift at Gecko’s.

Buffalo Chicken & Bleu Cheese Sandwich with Jalapeño Chicken Corn Chowder

The interior of the new Gecko’s isn’t nearly as dark as the original. It’s ultra-modern with none of the dark woods so prevalent in the founding restaurant. It’s got a mural, too, albeit one of a seaside cityscape in which two geckos dance under a starry, moonlit sky.  Smoking is no longer permitted at either Gecko’s location, though the malodorous ghost of cigarettes past is faintly noticeable at the original which had years’ worth of a head start for the odoriferous emanations to penetrate.

Gecko’s specialty remains tapas, the ubiquitous small snacks most people associate with Spain.  Gecko’s menu explains that tapas represent a dining philosophy where small plates of small appetizers are to be shared amongst friends and family in a relaxed fashion.  Talented chefs transform simple ingredients into elaborate creations that with a few, can make a meal in themselves. The tapas menu changes periodically which may be a good thing in that you get variety, but may be a downer if you get too attached to some of the great little plates which might not make it back into the “rotation” for a while. Many of them are served with sauces obviously inspired by genius tempered with experience and creativity.

Triple Decker BLT

The shrimp and cabbage spring rolls, for example, are served with a hot, sour and sweet soy dipping sauce that while not Asian created, are inspired by the spirit and taste of Asia. They are better than 95% of the spring rolls served in Albuquerque’s Asian restaurants, many of which only hint at shrimp, but which are mostly cabbage.  Ditto for the tempura chicken skewers accompanied by a fiery chipotle cherry barbecue sauce that melds sweet, savory and piquant flavors to create a sensational taste sensation.  Tempura lightly sheathes the chicken so that it’s poultry you taste, not batter.  Similarly the sauce complements the chicken instead of making it taste like candied chicken.  Another A+ appetizer is the jerk spiced pork short ribs smothered with a smoky barbecue queso sauce–again, a pairing of seemingly disparate tastes that work exceptionally well together…and who but a creative genius might pair smoked kielbasa with a twany port reduction to form perhaps a sausage dish you might find to be the best of its kind in the Duke City.

It’s not just tapas at which Gecko’s excels. The “bar apps” (referred to as the “ol’ standby” on the menu) include thinly-sliced and lightly spiced buttermilk onion rings which are most assuredly among the very best in town. If chile con queso is what you crave, Gecko’s treats you to an extraordinary creation of chorizo blue cheese queso, perhaps the best in town of that genre. We’ve tried to duplicate some of Gecko’s masterpieces but have fallen consistently short.

Not surprisingly, Gecko’s also serves some of the best soups in town, including a rich and savory green chile chicken stew and a flavorful red chile clam chowder. While the green chile stew is standard daily fare, the chowders are rotated daily. Just how good are the soups at Gecko’s? Look above you as you walk in to the Academy restaurant and you’ll see three Souper Bowl awards including a third place award in 2012 for a sumptuous fire-roasted chipotle carrot chowder. Gecko’s has also been recognized by Local IQ readers as the best place in Albuquerque to take your dogs.

The one sandwich we’ve ordered more often than any other is Gecko’s  Triple Decker BLT.   This is no simple sandwich. Stacked in triplicate with applewood smoked bacon, green leaf lettuce and ripe tomatoes on wheatberry bread, it puts to shame just about every other BLT we’ve ever had. It’s maybe even better, if possible, with a fried egg.  The wheatberry (a term which refers to the entire wheat kernel) bread is lightly toasted and the applewood smoked bacon is the type of bacon only restaurants seem able to find.  The tomatoes are indeed ripe, a welcome respite from the ubiquitous artificially ripened but consistently green tomatoes most restaurants serve.

There’s a lot to like at either location of Gecko’s Bar & Tapas, a surprisingly good gastropub with tapas that can’t be topped and sandwiches ranging from sensational to sublime.

Gecko’s Bar & Tapas
3500 E. Central
Albuquerque, New Mexico

(505) 262-1848
Web Site

LATEST VISIT
: 11 November 2016
# OF VISITS
: 11
RATING
: 18
COST
: $$
BEST BET: 
Onion Rings,  

Gecko's Bar & Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gecko's Bar & Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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