Fat Squirrel Pub & Grill – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

The Fat Squirrel Pub & Grille

The quaint names given to English pubs are sometimes nearly as interesting as the reasons for which those names were bestowed.  Take for example what is arguably England’s oldest pub, the Trip to Jerusalem.  Built into the rock face under Nottingham Castle, the brewhouse has been offering sustenance and sanctuary to weary sojourners since before 1189.  The genesis of its name comes from the fact that the inn served as a travel lodge in which crusaders relaxed–no doubt with a pint or eight–before heading off to battle the Saracens in the Holy Land.

Thee Fat Squirrel Pub & Grill in Rio Rancho, which launched in 2008, explains the genesis of its name this way: “The name Fat Squirrel comes from the old Turtle Mountain days.  One of the brewers discovered that a squirrel had  been stealing the grain from the alley and by the dumpster after brews were done.  Gorging on the spent grain, the squirrel quickly became so fat that she had a hard time running around the parking lot and had taken to lying on her belly in the shade under cars.  After the first winter she returned with her babies for the free and easy meals.  In the English pub tradition, we decided to name this restaurant after her and serve a namesake English style IPA that we contract with Turtle Mountain.”

The bar top has 21,000 pennies

The bar top has 21,000 pennies

No trip across the English countryside would be complete without the entertaining travel game of finding the most unique pub name–or even better, the name with the best double-entendre,  It’s easy to go into the gutter with suggestively connotative pub names which I won’t mention here since this is a family-friendly blog.   You’ll find some of the same double-entendre within the cozy confines of the Fat Squirrel.

The Fat Squirrel Pub & Grille is located on Southern Boulevard just a few blocks east of Rio Rancho’s most popular microbrewery, the Turtle Mountain.  In fact, the Fat Squirrel occupies the location which once housed Turtle Mountain.   Where the original Turtle Mountain was crowded and cramped (compared to a fraternity house basement by the Albuquerque Beer Scene blog), the completely revamped edifice is spacious,  upscale and classy (and not just in comparison to its predecessor).   The Fat Squirrel was founded and operated by Rico and Liz Ortiz until 2011 when Greg and Nicole “Nicky” Villareal became co-owners. Nicky is also the heart and soul of Nicky V’s Neighborhood Pizzeria, a West side institution.

Fried Deliciousness: Black and Tan Onion Rings, Mushroom Caps, Pickles

The Fat Squirrel is patterned like an upscale English style pub.  It is appointed with rich, dark oaks.  The decor includes squirrel themed signage warning patrons to protect their nuts from the furry, long-tailed rodent for which the pub is named.  Libation loving patrons might belly up to the penny bar (yes, a bar whose surface is covered in some 20,000 pennies) while guests wanting their favorite pub grub might choose to sit in one of the comfortable booths.  Laminated maps of the United States festoon each of the tables in the booths.  This would make  Miss Teen South Carolina very happy because of her concern for  people in our nation who don’t have maps and therefor can’t find the United States on a map of the world.

The Fat Squirrel has undergone some changes since Nicky V took over, but for the most part, the restaurant has retained the charm and personality which has made it a Rio Rancho favorite.  A full bar menu now welcomes guests who enjoy adult beverages–guests such as the “Geeks Who Drink” who visit the Fat Squirrel on Tuesdays for some spirited trivia.

The El McGoldrick with black and tan onion rings

The El McGoldrick with black and tan onion rings

29 February 2016: The starters portion of the menu is intriguing and diverse with such unique offerings as schnitzel strips and a Southern favorite, fried vegetables (black and  tan onion rings, pickle strips, mushroom caps).  The fried vegetables are beer battered and served with a creamy ranch dressing made in-house.  It’s an outstanding ranch dresssing.  Quintessentially Southern, the pickles are not the small, thin-sliced brined dills the type of which you’ll find on burgers, but thicker, longer strips sheared from whole pickles.  The batter is crispy and adheres well to the pickles as it does to the other veggies.  The black and tan onion rings are excellent and even the mushroom caps are notable.  While this appetizer may seem a bit anachronistic, a throwback to the 70s, the Fat Squirrel does such a good job with their vegetables that you’ll order them again and again.

8 January 2012: When we lived in England, we grew to love mussels steamed in cider (the hard stuff), but have yet to encounter that unique flavour combination anywhere in the colonies. White wine seems to be the most common agent used in New Mexico where it’s paired with anything from saffron to garlic to green chile. At the Fat Squirrel, Belgian style mussels–an entire pound of them–are steamed in beer and garlic butter with green onions, tomatoes and onions served with Parmesan crostini. The most prominent flavor notes are of saltiness, oft a consequence of cooking with beer. We also missed the fun and deliciousness of dunking soft bread into the broth. While the crostini reconstituted when dunked into the broth, it also broke apart.

Fish and chips

15 October 2013: Sandwiches and burgers play a prominent role in the menu.  All burgers are Angus beef, cooked to your desired level and served with your choice of French Fries, Coleslaw, Side Salad, or Black and Tan Onion Rings (for a pittance more). Lettuce, tomato, and onion served upon request at no charge.  Burgers are available at third-pound or half-pound sizes.  My favorite Burger is the El McGoldrick, named for my friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate and an avowed burger aficionado.   This burger is prepared “competition style” meaning it isn’t adorned with anything but beef, cheese and green chile.  The patty is prepared on the flat top, topped with Cheddar cheese and roasted Hatch green chile, just the way Larry likes it.  You can have extras if you’d like, but it’s a darn good burger just as Larry likes it.

13 December 2008: It seems most English styled American pubs serve fish and chips, but it’s a rare find whose fish and chips have a modicum of semblance to what you’d find in one of the thousands of fish and chip shops in the United Kingdom. Like many of those, the Fat Squirrel deep fries battered haddock filets and while they’re not quite like we were used to when we lived in England, they’re pretty darn good. For one thing, when your fork punctures the golden sheened beer batter, you actually encounter light, flaky and delicious haddock, not more batter. For another, the batter is crispy yet thin enough to allow good penetration from malt vinegar. You can ask for one, two or three fillets (you’ll want at least two). The Fat Squirrel’s fish and chips are the favorite of Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos, a frequent and valued contributor to this blog.

Jaegerschnitzel

The “chips” component of choice in the fish and chips combination served in most American pubs seems to be French fries, usually out-of-the bag which means thin, desiccated and tasteless. Some American pubs serve steak fries which are thicker and larger than the chips served in the United Kingdom, but which offer little in terms of taste. The Fat Squirrel’s chips aren’t quite steak fries, but they’re thicker, more substantial and much better tasting than French fries from a bag. They’re also perfect hosts for malt vinegar.

30 September 2009: Fittingly, the quintessential English comfort food is also available at the Fat Squirrel. That would be shepherd’s pie, sirloin tips served with vegetables and gravy topped with homemade red-skinned mashed potatoes and Cheddar cheese. On the one instance in which I had this entry, the vegetables were slightly undercooked, but otherwise this dish has some semblance to shepherd’s pie we’ve had in England. My preference would have been for lamb or mutton, but the sirloin tips are tender and delicious.

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

8 January 2012: Jaegerschnitzel isn’t something we saw often during our frequent forays into British gastropub dining so it was a pleasant surprise to see the “hunter’s cutlets” on the menu. The breaded and pan-fried pork cutlet is fork-tender and perfectly prepared, but what makes Jaegerschnitzel special is the “hunter sauce,” variations of which usually make this dish an adventure. The Fat Squirrel’s hunter sauce is replete with chopped mushrooms in a tangy brown gravy. The Jaegerschnitzel is served with housemade red-skinned mashed potatoes and a smoky apple cabbage. We didn’t get much of the “smokiness,” but thoroughly enjoyed the sweet-tartness of the apple cabbage. 

29 February 2016:  Another anachronistic dish Fat Squirrel does very well is Beef Stroganoff, which has largely gone the way of such 70s terms as groovy, spaz and far out.   There are probably fewer than a half dozen restaurants in the Duke City area that serve this dish which was so very popular in the 70s.   A large bowl brimming with tender, chunky beef in a sour cream sauce with mushrooms and egg noodles will remind you why Beef Stroganoff was such a popular comfort food favorite throughout the decade.  The noodles are buttery and delicious, but it’s the bite-sized bits of beefy deliciousness which evokes feelings of nostalgia among those of us who loved this dish in its halcyon days and continue to love it today.

Beef Stroganoff

A few visits to this Rio Rancho pub and grill just might have its guests resembling the well-fed Squirrel for which the pub is named.

Fat Squirrel Pub & Grille
3755 Southern Blvd, S.E.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 994-9004
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 29 February 2016
# OF VISITS: 7
RATING: 18
COST: $$
BEST BET:  Potato Bread Pudding, The El McGoldrick Burger, Fish and Chips, Shepherd’s’ Pie,  Jaegerschnitzel, Beef Stroganoff, Fried Vegetables, Black and Tan Onion Rings,

Fat Squirrel Pub & Grille on Urbanspoon

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.

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.

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 extoll the chef’s preternatural culinary skills to all their friends. Seeing Joe luxuriate in a bowl of cream of garlic coup 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. 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.

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.

Sausage and Peppers

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. 

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.

Country Apple Cobbler

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 Collins who made the trek to the Point and are still raving about it.

Pineapple Deliciousness

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: 24 January 2016
1st VISIT: 15 January 2016
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 24
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,

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

The Library – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Library Bar & Grill on San Mateo

Although my Kim has now lived in New Mexico for more than twenty years, her functional Spanish hasn’t improved much (sadly this places her in the company of many native New Mexicans).  She sings Spanish hymns like a songbird in church, perfectly enunciating each nuanced word, even when she has to roll her “R’s.”  On rare but well-deserved occasions she can direct a slew of choice Spanish expletives at moronic motorists.  She can also order all her favorite dishes at Mexican and New Mexican restaurants with fluency. What she can’t do is carry on or even understand a coherent conversation in Spanish.

During her first visit to the Land of Enchantment, my Kim inventoried her vocabulary of Spanish words and terms in anticipation of meeting my mostly Spanish-speaking grandmothers.  Interestingly, her limited vocabulary included such tongue-twisting words as “albondigas” (meatballs) and the phrase “donde esta la biblioteca” (where is the library?).  Neither would serve her well in discourse with my grandmothers who were as worried about their command of the confounding English language as Kim had been about her Spanish.

The sports bar ambiance of the Library

One early September morning, she asked if i had any suggestions for lunch.  My response “vamos a la biblioteca” (let’s go to the library) drew a quizzical look.  My invitation was not to visit a literary milieu, but a bar and grill with the curious appellation “Library.”  A voracious reader, she was more than intrigued, prompting the only retort which made sense: “donde esta la biblioteca?.” 

La Biblioteca, the Library is located on San Mateo Boulevard, in a 6,700 square-foot edifice which was previously home to the short-lived Rosati’s Pizza.  The Library Bar & Grill is the second Albuquerque instantiation of a popular eatery-drinkery founded in Tempe, Arizona near Arizona State University.  The other Duke City location is on Central Avenue in the Downtown district.

The Trio: Chips and Housemade Sauces: Fire-Roasted Salsa, White Queso and Guacamole

The Library is a combination sports bar and restaurant which should appeal to sports fans and families alike.  It will certainly appeal to bearers of the XY chromosome who may have fantasized during their pubescence about the school girl attire of short plaid skirts and white blouses with plunging necklines.  When not ogling the waitresses, they’ll be paying rapt attention to the many wall-mounted flat screen televisions all tuned to sporting events positioned throughout the dining rooms.  On the day of our inaugural visit, Duke City sports luminary Henry Tafoya was broadcasting his popular Henry T. show from the main dining room.

Most will pay attention to the menu, a jumble of typical bar and grill favorites that includes some nine appetizers (not counting chips and sauces); three “south of the border” entrees; five half-pound, 100-percent Angus beef burgers; seven sumptuous sandwiches; six make it a wrap or salad options; six pizzas; a kid’s menu and two “favorites.”  There isn’t much on the menu for vegetarians; it’s as if vegetarians don’t enjoy sports or adult beverages.

Four Sliders with French Fries

Admittedly when other appetizers don’t immediately appeal to us, we opt for our stand-by of salsa and chips though by no means do we consider this a “Miss Congeniality” of appetizers.  Your best bet at the Library is the Trio, a tasty triumvirate of white queso, guacamole and fire-roasted salsa.  All are surprisingly good, especially the white queso, a gooey, creamy bowl of melted cheese with fiery properties and addictive qualities.  The fire-roasted salsa, impregnated with jalapeños and smashed tomatoes, has sweet, savory and piquant notes while the guacamole is rich, smooth and buttery.  Best of all, the Trio is easily large enough to share.  You’ll run out of the red, blue and yellow chips before you run out of any of the sauces.  

Available both on the appetizers menu and the burger menu is a quadrumvirate of sliders and not just the de rigueur hamburger slider.  You can mix and match your slider choices from among beef, chicken and pork on toasted Hawaiian rolls with a side of creamy horseradish.  That’s it.  No lettuce, pickles, onions or other condiments.  They’d just get in the way and aren’t needed.  That’s especially true of the pork slider, shredded pork in a sweet-smoky-sticky barbecue sauce.  Frankly, the beef and chicken sliders paled in comparison with the pork slider and need the punch of the creamy horseradish to make them as good as they can be.

Grandpa Ben’s BBQ Ribs

The aforementioned “Favorites” section of the menu lists only two items, a smothered green chile chicken plate and Grandpa Ben’s BBQ Ribs, described as “marinated in the family recipe rub, smoked low and slow ’til the meat falls off the bone.”  Don’t look for the smoker anywhere near the premises.  These are likely oven-baked and don’t have the telltale smokiness of real barbecue.  This doesn’t mean the ribs aren’t delicious and they certainly are “fall-off-the-bone” tender.  A half rack of ribs will get you six meaty bones slathered with the same sweet-smoky-sticky sauce used on the pork slider.  Grandpa Ben’s BBQ Ribs are served with your choice of fries (sweet potato or regular) and coleslaw. 

If you’re ever asked “donde esta la biblioteca,” your response should be 5001 San Mateo, N.E., a Library in which hushed tones and conformance to propriety is certainly not expected.  This Library bespeaks of fun and food, a winning combination for families and sports fans alike.

The Library Bar & Grill
5001 San Mateo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-2992
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 5 September 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Grandpa Ben’s BBQ Ribs, Four Sliders, Trio

Library Bar and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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