Bosque Brewing Company – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Bosque Brewing Company, Almost as far North on San Mateo as you can go

In 1978, the number of breweries across the fruited plain had fallen to an all-time, post-Prohibition low of 89.  That year President Jimmy Carter signed into law, a bill that legalized home brewing on a national level.  Since the craft brewing market began to pick up steam in the mid- to late-1980s  there has been no surcease in  sight. Today, there are more than 2,500 breweries operating across the United States with another 1,500 breweries in the planning stage.  According to the Brewers Association, as of 2013 the craft beer industry experienced  double-digit growth four straight years in both dollar sales and volume.

So what accounts for such growth in popularity of local beer?  Experts theorize that similar to the locavore trend in the culinary world, cervisaphiles (aficionados of beers and ales) have grown tired of being subjected to industrially brewed swill (anyone remember the “skunky” beer commercials?) and have discovered the pleasures of carefully crafted beer flavors made under the same roof where it’s consumed.  A similar evolution among consumers also transpired among oenophiles (wine connoisseurs) and coffee-drinkers.

A busy Saturday Afternoon at the Bosque Brewing Company

These trends have not been lost on the Duke City which in 2014 was named by as “America’s best mid-sized city in the country for beer.”   According to the Web site, Albuquerque is known for its “cultural diversity, authentic landscapes and genuine characters – and that extends to its brews. Residents here enjoy mostly sunny days and have their pick of micro-breweries that always have fresh beer on tap.”  As of July, 2016, Yelp listed more than thirty brewery restaurants in the metropolitan area from which cerevisaphiles can pick with new ones launching virtually every month.  

The Bosque Brewing Company entered the keenly competitive craft beer foray in November, 2012 and, despite a location far from the beaten path, has experienced significant growth.  Thanks to a March, 2014 expansion, the brewery now has a production capacity of 3,500 barrels per year–ten times more than what it sold during its first year of operation.  A second location on Girard just south of Central Avenue in the University of New Mexico area launched in late spring of 2014.  I wouldn’t be writing about The Bosque Brewing Company, however, if it didn’t also serve food that’s a notch or two above most pub food.

Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda Soup

Surprisingly–considering the quality of the food–the Bosque Brewing Company didn’t (during my inaugural visit in 2014) boast of a large kitchen in which a staff of chefs, sous chefs, expediters and servers prepared and served your food.  Instead, all the food was prepared behind the bar on small countertop stoves and a panini press.  The kitchen’s motto “Flavor Is Boss” was an ambitious expression considering the spartan cooking capacity, yet large flavors emanated from that Lilliputian kitchen.     In June, 2016, after my friend Ryan “Break the Chain” Ryan apprised me that the Brewery had “completely reimagined their menu” and now served “outstanding” food, a return visit became inevitable. 

During our return visit our server informed us that the brewery now had a full-service kitchen and is now able to prepare and serve more than just sandwich-type fare.  The menu now offers true gastropub fare–high quality, freshly prepared food that may surprise discerning diners.  It’s a diverse menu, several orders of magnitude superior to the stereotypical pub grub of yore.  Small bites include duck confit egg rolls, long the domain of the Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro.   The “something to share” section of the menu offers so many intriguing options that you’ll be hard-pressed to decide what to have.  Similarly, burger and sandwich fare is mouth-wateringly inviting.  Then there’s the “Big Appetites” section of the menu which lives up to its name though it could just as well be called “Big Flavors.”  Cumin is used in the chile recipes.

Thai-Style Mussels

11 May 2014: The special of the day during our inaugural visit was a German brats made with a housemade tarragon sauce and sauerkraut.  The tarragon with its sweet-tangy flavor and anise-like notes should be bottled and sold. It is that good! The bratwurst sandwich is thick, meaty and heavily spiced while the sauerkraut has a tangy, zesty flavor without the lip-pursing qualities of some sauerkraut. The German brats weren’t available during our second, but our server informed us the menu changes frequently and that the brats might someday make a triumphant return.  Even if the brats aren’t available, the tarragon is (on the tarragon turkey sandwich).  It’s too good not to grace the menu.

11 May 2014: Soup of the day is not to be missed if it’s roasted red pepper and smoked Gouda soup.  While it’s undoubtedly even better on a cold winter day, it’s a delight any time of year and would probably taste just as good cold as it does steaming hot.  The smooth, mellow flavored smoked Gouda pairs exceptionally well with the vibrant sweet-savory-tangy flavors of the freshly roasted red peppers for a full-flavored and hearty soup. The salad and soup section of the menu also lists New Mexico’s ubiquitous green chile pork stew, always a crowd-pleaser but especially good on blustery days.


2 July 2016: Perhaps no sandwich is as ubiquitous on deli and sandwich shop menus as is the Reuben, (corned beef, house-made sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing served on rye) a sandwich with several variants, most of them delicious.  The Bosque Brewing Company’s version is very admirable in that the corned beef is piled high (or at least high for Albuquerque) and the sauerkraut is plentiful.  The marbled rye is a perfect canvas, offering an assertiveness that counterbalances the sweetness of the thousand-island dressing.  No longer served solely with a heaping helping of Kettle chips, you can have your burger or sandwich with your choice of fries or seasonal veggies or you can substitute house or Caesar salad or soup for two dollars.

2 July 2016: Mussels are offered two ways on the “something to share” section of the menu.  Now, if mussels are prepared well, they’re too good to share unless you really love someone.  Few Thai restaurants could have prepared mussels quite as good as the Thai-style mussels (blue point mussels with a spicy coconut milk broth with ginger, garlic, Thai chile, and cilantro served with a baguette to sop up the juicy goodness).  The blue point mussels are fresh and meaty with none of the characteristic off-putting “fishiness” that defines bad mussels.  The broth is wonderful, reminiscent of an excellent Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut soup).  While the baguette does its job admirably and dredges up the broth with efficiency, you’ll probably ask for a soup spoon, too.

Duck Poutine

2 July 2016: Poutine, an artery-clogging Canadian delicacy, is to Toronto, Canada what red and green chile are to New Mexico.  In other words, it’s a long-time favorite, a tradition and a way of life.  At its very core, poutine combines three simple ingredients: fresh-cut pomme frites (French fries), homemade gravy and toothsome cheese curds.  Beyond these three ingredients, poutine is open to both interpretation and augmentation.  On the “Big Appetites” section of the menu, the Bosque Brewing Company offers an Albuquerque meets Toronto poutine dish big eaters will enjoy.  That would be the duck poutine (a heaping mound of fries topped with red chile duck gravy, white Cheddar cheese curds, and shredded duck confit).  The red chile doesn’t register much in terms of heat, but its flavor does sneak in just a bit.  Molten white Cheddar cheese curds and a plenitude of shredded duck confit bring out the best in the fries (which don’t appear to be the standard out-of-a bag variety).  Ryan may confiscate my man card when he finds out I could finish only about half the prodigious portion.

The Bosque Brewing Company is located almost as far north as you can go on San Mateo before its terminus, but if you’re thinking San Mateo east of I25, you’d be wrong. Make sure to consult your favorite mapping application before heading there. If the beers are comparable in quality to the food, this brewery is going places.

Bosque Brewing Company
8900 San Mateo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 750-7596
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 2 July 2016
1st VISIT: 11 May 2014
COST: $$
BEST BET: German Brats, Reuben Sandwich, The Italian Sandwich, Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Gouda Soup, Duck Poutine, Thai-Style Mussels

Bosque Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.


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
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.


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 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
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
COST: $$
BEST BET: Grandpa Ben’s BBQ Ribs, Four Sliders, Trio

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

Nick & Jimmy’s Bar & Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nick & Jimmy's Bar & Grill on Pan American Frontage Road

Nick & Jimmy’s Bar & Grill on Pan American Frontage Road

Legendary American chef, author and television personality Julia Child was often exasperated with what she perceived as American’s propensity for culinary laziness, once commenting that “the trend in the U.S.A. was toward speed and the elimination of work.”   “Americans,” she noted, equated as “gourmet” such “horrible glop” as “TV dinners, frozen vegetables, canned mushrooms, fish sticks, Jell-O salads, marshmallows and spray-can whipped cream.

Julia Child obviously didn’t know Dave Hurayt, a good friend and fellow gastronome who’s shared some wonderful recipes with me.  While Dave may not have spent two years and nearly 300 pounds of flour attempting to bake the perfect loaf of French bread as Julia Child once did, he experiments painstakingly with the recipes he creates, laboring assiduously until those recipes achieve his high standards of perfection.  Perfection can sometimes be painful as he found out while experimenting with a recipe utilizing burnt bourbon.  Much like a mad scientist adding a catalytic chemical to a burning beaker, the results were dramatic.  He blew the glass right out of his new KitchenAid oven.

Basket of bread and Spanakopita

When a true kitchen warrior and gourmet such as Dave eschews his culinary domain and eats at one restaurant for seven out of nine consecutive weeks, that restaurant has got to be special.  A restaurant capable of besotting his sophisticated palate has got to offer extraordinary quality and quality.  Like me, Dave is not a monogamous gastronome when it comes to restaurants.  When he does go out to eat, he typically will visit a variety of restaurants, not a select few like the truly culinarily lazy Americans to which Julia Child referred.

The restaurant which captured Dave’s heart and taste buds is Nick & Jimmy’s Bar & Grill on restaurant row off the Pan American Highway on the west side of I-25.  Nick & Jimmy’s has been wowing dining patrons since it launched in September, 2009.   One of the high wow factors is the restaurant’s redesign which might more appropriately be called a metamorphosis because Nick & Jimmy’s occupies what was once Johnny Carino’s, a middling quality Italian chain.

Preparing our flaming Kaseri cheese appetizer

Preparing our flaming Kaseri cheese appetizer

The estimate as to what the transmogrification cost ranges from one-million to two-million dollars, either amount impressive.  The restaurant is an oasis of elegance in a restaurant row landscape dominated by chains.  The walls are festooned in muted earth tone colors that seem to beckon hungry diners.  Overhead, large wooden beams painted brown seem to signify strength and solidity.  As you walk in, you have the option of dining in a sprawling dining room in which tables are in fairly close proximity to one another or in a more casual room in which a well-provisioned bar holds prominence.  The two rooms are separated by smoked glass accented half walls.

A semi-exhibition kitchen is partially obfuscated from diners by the smoked glass accents.  It’s a nice touch that gives you a hint of the bustling activity at a busy kitchen without being too distracting.  As luxurious as the setting is, not all the improvements are readily apparent.  One thing diners can’t see, but which is most definitely a hallmark of the restaurant is the 1400-degree broiler reputed to sear in all the juices and flavor.

Dolmades Avgolomono

The menu is inventive and eclectic, offering a smattering of steak and seafood entrees as well as Greek, Italian and American inspired cuisine.  You’ll also see more than just a perfunctory tribute to the Land of Enchantment’s red and green chile, starting with posole which is often the “soup” of the day.  Almost all the entrees on the lunch menu are also available for dinner.  It’s a very diverse menu which includes steak, chops and chicken entrees the likes of which every great steakhouse offers, but few prepare exceptionally well. 

Most entrees are served with your choice of soup or salad, seasonal vegetables and one of the following: oven-roasted potatoes, rice pilaf, old-fashioned mashed potatoes or au gratin potatoes.  Unlike some of their peers in the upscale casual market, Nick & Jimmy’s have a price point to which more patrons will relate and no a la carte offerings.  Portions are generous so you shouldn’t walk out hungry.

Pan Seared Scallops

As you peruse the menu, a basket of bread will be brought to your table and your attendant will prepare a dish of olive oil and seasonings in which to immerse the bread (which just happens to be some of the very best bread in town).  The bread is courtesy of Fano’s Bakery, a local institution.  It encapsulates all that is wonderful about the staff of life–a hard-crust surrounding a soft, yeasty bread.  Also served in the bread basket are small wedges of the restaurant’s pizza bread which are infiltrated with Parmesan cheese and chili flakes.

More than half of Nick & Jimmy’s appetizer options are succulent selections from the sea: shrimp cocktail, crab cake, Parmesan prawns, baked crab and artichoke heart dip, sesame seared Ahi tuna, fried calamari, shrimp scampi and pan-seared scallops (raved about by Dave).  The sole landlubbers are hummus served with toasted pita wedges, jumbo steamed artichoke, chicken quesadilla, dolmades avgolemono and Saganaki, flaming Kasseri cheese, also served with toasted pita wedges.

Seafood Soup

14 November 2009: The Saganaki is almost as much fun to see prepared tableside as it is to eat it.  Alit courtesy of a common lighter, the flames ascend toward the heavens, leaving blue and orange plume trails in their aromatic wake.  Your well-trained attendant turns the cheese over with but a steak knife, manipulating the flames so they lick the cheese, imparting high heat through and through and with an evenness that ensures every bit of the cheese is flame-kissed.

In Greece, Kasseri cheese is made from sheep’s milk while its American counterpart is made with cow’s milk.  Nick & Jimmy’s Kasseri is made from an amalgam of goat milk and cow’s milk.  Its flavor is of medium sharpness with a salty prominence.  It’s not meant to be spread on the pita wedges so much as it’s intended to be placed atop the pita, akin to a crown of cheesy deliciousness.

Beef and barley soup at Nick & Jimmy's

Beef and barley soup at Nick & Jimmy’s

30 October 2010: Dolmades (grape leaves rolled around rice, ground beef and herbs) Avgolomono (an egg and lemon sauce) is another great Greek starter.  If you’ve ever lamented the fact that most dolmades in the Duke City come from a can, you’ll appreciate these housemade gems which, also unlike at most other Albuquerque restaurants, are served warm.  The herbaceous aroma and flavor of the ground beef and rice combination coupled with the tangy richness of the Avgolomono sauce make these (five to an order) stubby cigar-shaped beauties some of the very best in the city. 

16 May 2015: Finding scallops on an appetizer menu is as rare as a “good hair day” for Donald Trump.  In fact, Nick and Jimmy’s might be the only restaurant in the metropolitan area to do so.  Best of all, an order of pan-seared scallops won’t break the bank…and we’re not talking the smallish bay scallops here.  This appetizer features three large scallops served over a single grilled tomato and topped with bay shrimp in a lemon-caper butter sauce.  Usually “fruity” sauces, especially tart-tangy sauces detract from the natural sweet brininess of scallops, but not so at Nick and Jimmy’s where the lemon-caper butter sauce is so rich, so delicious and so complementary of the scallops that you’ll sop up any remaining sauce with bread.

Spicy Beef Short Ribs with Roasted Potatoes and a Vegetable Medley

Spicy Beef Short Ribs with Roasted Potatoes and a Vegetable Medley

The soup of the day rotates frequently and as noted previously, is served complementary with many of the restaurant’s entrees.  Separately, soup is available for five dollars a bowl.  Alternatively, the menu offers five salads: Caprese Salad, Iceberg Wedge, Dinner Salad, Greek Salad and a Caesar Salad with your choice of dressing: Bleu cheese, Ranch, Greek, Caesar, Thousand Island or Raspberry Vinaigrette.

Legendary French chef and restauranteur Auguste Escoffier once said “Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.”  Not all soups warrant such lavish praise, but some soups seem to have been the inspiration for Escoffier’s sage words.  Nick & Jimmy’s Beef Barley Soup is one of these.

Gyros with potatoes au gratin

Gyro Sandwich with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce, served with pita bread

14 November 2009: The beef and barley soup is rich, hearty and tasty, replete with a thick, savory beef stock ameliorated by a generous amount of tender beef.  It is served piping hot with steam wafting upwards to tease and tantalize your olfactory senses.  This soup exemplifies all that people equate with the comforting and nurturance of a truly good soup.  It is a soup Nick & Jimmy’s should consider for the daily menu–or at least as a seasonal offering available in cold weather.

30 October 2010: Another soul-warming soup, one which might make you long for a cold day, is the seafood soup, showcasing calamari, squid, crab, fish and shrimp in a heavily-seasoned broth with potatoes.  Heavily seasoned in this case doesn’t mean the seafood flavor is obfuscated in any way.  Especially delightful are the calamari ringlets which are chewy and delicious.  This is wholly unlike most chowder-like seafood soups which are thick and seem to beckon for oyster crackers.  The only things this soup cries out for are a large spoon and a second helping. 

Greek Style Roasted Chicken with Rice Pilaf and a Vegetable Medley

Greek Style Roasted Chicken with Rice Pilaf and a Vegetable Medley

16 May 2015: Menus at New Mexican restaurants don’t usually offer soups unless they involve green or red chile and more often than not, they’re more along the lines of a stew than they are a soup.  At Nick and Jimmy’s, the soup-of-the-day might also include posole, a Land of Enchantment standard.  Though this rendition is more akin to hominy than to true posole, it does include a generous amount of cubed pork and a chile sauce that livens things up quite a bit. 

The lunch and dinner menus both include eight Italian inspired pasta dishes as well as four wood-oven fired pizzas.  For lunch you can also order a hamburger with green chile, a traditional gyro sandwich or a chicken gyro sandwich, all served with French fries and a house salad served with your choice of dressing. The lunch menu lists five items on the steaks, chops and chicken section, a number which doubles on the dinner menu.  You might be surprised to find such upscale meat entrees as oven braised lamb shank and spiced, braised short ribs on the lunch menu.  Don’t hesitate to order either.

Beef Tenderloin Tip Rigatoni in cayenne cream sauce with wild mushrooms and red peppers

14 November 2009: The spiced, braised short ribs come six to an order.  Braised slowly and marinated for hours, they are fall-off-the-bone tender and taste like very good, very expensive Irish pot roast seasoned very well though the “spiced” adjective doesn’t appear to equate to piquant.  Coupled with roasted potatoes, this entree reminded me very much of the wonderful comfort meals we’ve had in Irish restaurants. 

16 May 2015:  New Mexicans have been known to incorporate red and green chile into virtually every savory entree.  Intrepid cooks will even add a smidgeon or more to various dessert dishes.  It makes good sense then that green chile be part and parcel of an American comfort food standard.  Nick and Jimmy’s green chile meatloaf is an amalgam of two great tasting items that taste even better together.  A thick slab of dense, moist meatloaf punctuated with a discernibly piquant green chile and slathered with a peppery red gravy goes very well with mashed potatoes in which a well has been dug out for even more gravy.  These are real mashed potatoes, not out-of-a-box.  During our inaugural visit to Nick and Jimmy’s in 2009, my sole complaint was about the uninspired vegetable medley.  How things have changed!  The vegetable medley is reminiscent of the French preparation style for vegetables.  Carrots, pea pods, zucchini and red peppers all are redolent with sweet freshness.  All vegetables should taste this good!

Green Chile Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Vegetable Medley

14 November 2009: Another entree at which Nick & Jimmy’s excels is the roasted spring chicken which is slow-roasted with fresh herbs, prominent among which are garlic and oregano.  The chicken is comprised of a breast, leg, thigh and wing, all moist and thoroughly delicious.  Easily large enough to share, you probably will want this chicken all to yourself.  An excellent complement to the chicken is the buttery and rich rice pilaf, each grain of which is imbued with flavor. 

16 May 2015: A half dozen pizzas fired on the restaurant’s wood oven are a popular draw.  if the Athenian Pizza (spinach, roasted garlic and feta) is any indication, Nick and Jimmy’s could compete with the city’s pizzerias.  This thin-crusted beauty is generously endowed with ingredients: enough roasted garlic cloves to ward off a werewolf or two, enough feta to wreck your breath for a day and a nice blanket of spinach over a crusty canvas lightly slathered with tomato sauce.  It’s not always the case that a pizza will taste even better cold than it does warm, but this one does.  Thankfully we took half the pizza home and enjoyed it for breakfast the following day.

Athenian Pizza

30 October 2010: If Greek entrees are what appeal most to you from the menu, but you also want a sandwich, Nick & Jimmy’s offers a gyro sandwich with tomatoes, onion, tzatziki sauce and an amalgam of beef and lamb nestled in a thick, warm pita.  Though a good sandwich, this one isn’t overstuffed with beef and lamb the way I enjoy my gyros. Thankfully it is very moist and very well-seasoned, a perfect foil for the thicker than usual tzatziki sauce.

30 October 2010: Dave Hurayt often extols the excellence of Nick & Jimmy’s pasta dishes.  No longer exclusively the domain of Italian restaurants, pasta dishes are often better prepared in fine-dining  eclectic establishments than they are in their more well-practiced Italian brethren.  That’s certainly the case with the Beef Tenderloin Tip Rigatoni, a swimming pool-sized bowl brimming with rigatoni in a cayenne cream sauce with wild mushrooms and red peppers studded with beef tenderloin.  The cayenne cream sauce is redolent with a peppery piquancy that New Mexicans will love.  The pasta is perfectly prepared at a shade beyond al dente while the beef tenderloin, at medium-rare, is tender and succulent, a real treat.

Pineapple Upsidedown Cake at Nick & Jimmy's

Pineapple Upsidedown Cake at Nick & Jimmy’s

14 November 2009: The dessert menu includes such seemingly de rigueur standards as creme brulee and bread pudding.  It also showcases a pineapple upsidedown cake, not a very common dessert offering in New Mexico restaurants.  This is wholly unlike other pineapple upsidedown cakes I’ve ever seen as it’s not sliced from a large sheet cake.  These are individually portioned cakes sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and surrounded by rich whipped cream and fresh berries.  The cake is moist and thoroughly delicious, not too sweet as some of its ilk are apt to be.

30 October 2010: Another Greek-inspired dessert favorite is the Baklava Sundae, a sundae glass in which two mounds of Blue Bunny’s vanilla ice cream are topped with a triangle of moist and rich baklava replete with sweet honey.  The baklava sweetens the ice cream all the more, forming a decadent marriage sure to appease the most discerning of dessert aficionados.

Coconut Cream Pie

16 May 2015:  Not even Gilligan’s crew enjoyed coconut cream pie as good as prepared at Nick and Jimmy’s.  From its frothy whipped cream top sprinkled with shreds of toasted coconut to its flaky Graham cracker crust, this thick pie served cold is an absolute delight.  Texturally, it’s thicker than most puddings though not quite as thick as a cheesecake.  It’s the type of dessert for which you’d risk your svelte figure.

Nick & Jimmy’s Bar & Grill is owned by Albuquerque’s dynamic partnership duo of Nick Kapnison and Jimmy Daskalos, restaurant impresarios with a small empire of restaurants throughout the Duke City.  A hallmark of their restaurants is great service.  You can’t do better than Michelle, one of the best servers in town.  Ask for her.

Nick & Jimmy’s Bar & Grill
5021 S Pan American Freeway,  N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 344-9169
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 16 May 2015
1st VISIT: 14 November 2009
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET:   Pineapple Upsidedown Cake, Spicy Beef Short Ribs, Greek Style Roasted Chicken, Saganaki, Gyros Sandwich, Baklava Sundae, Dolmades Avgolomono, Beef Tenderloin Tip Ravioli, Seafood Soup, Coconut Cream Pie, Athenian Pizza, Green Chile Meatloaf.

Nick & Jimmy's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Effingbar and Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Effingbar in Albuquerque

The late comedian and beloved social critic George Carlin might be surprised at how far America has come (some might say how much we’ve regressed) when it comes to uttering foul invectives, especially the “seven words” he postulated “you can never say on television.” While most of us still won’t vocalize the infamous “F-word” in polite company, its diminutive version has become part of our vernacular. Whether on screen or in print (or on shirts emblazoned with the abbreviation F.U. (which doesn’t stand for Florida University)) it’s “F this” and “F that.” 

It’s been said that the F-word is the most versatile word in the English language in that it can be used as an action verb, passive verb, adverb, noun, adjective and even conjunction.  Make it a gerund by adding “ing” and the F-word’s utility as an adjective is virtually unlimited.  Like something and it’s “effing great.”  Hate something and it “effing stinks.”  At the very least, a bar and grill with the unique name “Effingbar and Grill” will get your attention.  It’s not until you visit that you’ll determine whether it’s effing good or effing bad.

The interior of the Effingbar & Grill

Our server jokingly apprised us that the “effing” part of the bar and grill’s name can essentially mean whatever we want it to mean, then clarified that the “Effingbar” is actually named for the owner’s hometown, Effingham, Illinois.  While that may be the case, the menu is replete with items prefaced by “effing” and even if they’re not, you may just find yourself asking for the effing hot dogs or effing nachos then effing thanking your server when she effing delivers them.  It’s a good bet she’s heard it all before. 

We all like to think that the adult beverage establishment we frequent is the proverbial place “where everybody knows your name.” The Effingbar truly may be that place. Like Cheers barflies Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin, regulars–and there seem to be many of them–belly up to their favorite bar stool for an unfettered view of one of the fourteen high-definition televisions, all turned to sporting events.  The Effingbar and Grill also offers karaoke and live music as well as daily lunch specials.

Chips and Salsa

Established in 2010, the Effingbar and Grill seems to have fallen under Albuquerque’s culinary radar a bit with nary an Urbanspoon review and only eight (mixed) reviews on Yelp as of this writing.  Frankly, it might have escaped my notice, too, had it not been for a posting on the “Best Burger Review” blog touting the “best burgers we ate in 2014.”  Described as “one of the most under-rated burgers in Albuquerque” and “nothing fancy, but, juicy and full of flavor,” far be it for me to pass up such a tempting appraisal. 

With its masculine ambiance of dark wood accents and darkness punctuated by generous dabs of light emanating mostly from televisions and illuminated bar signs, the Effingbar and Grill won’t be mistaken for a fine dining establishment, but its culinary offerings are head and shoulders better than dive bar food.  The menu offers an array of New Mexican entrees, certified Angus beef burgers (fresh, never frozen), sandwiches, hot dogs and even steak.

The Effing Burger with Green Chile and Chile Cheese Fries

If you’re tired of insipid salsa that tastes good, but doesn’t bite back, the Efingbar and Grill has salsa you can truly respect.  If  you don’t exclaim out loud “this salsa is effing hot!,” you’ll at least be thinking it.   It’s among the most piquant salsas in town, on par or even more piquant than the incendiary offering at Sadie’s Dining Room.   We usually have a surfeit of chips remaining after quickly polishing off the salsa, but that wasn’t the case with this flame-eater’s delight.  The queso isn’t especially piquant, but it’s got a very good flavor and perfect viscosity. 

Visit the Effingbar’s Facebook page and you might be tempted to lick the screen.  That’s because the page’s cover photo depicts the Effing Burger, ten ounces of fresh ground Angus beef cooked to your exacting specifications (though medium-well to well are recommended) and topped with American and Swiss cheeses, sauteed mushrooms, bacon, green chile and a large onion ring on a sourdough bun with lettuce, tomatoes and pickles served on the side.  Perhaps the best thing about this burger is how the melange of fresh ingredients take a supporting role to the thick, nicely seasoned beef.  The next best thing is how the green chile actually bites back.  Though you can have this burger with fries or onion rings, its best pairing might be with the chile cheese fries Christmas-style.

Taco Plate with rice and beans

New Mexican dinner offerings include an enchilada plate, huevos rancheros, burrito plate and taco plate.  The taco plate is a terrific threesome of (your choice) tacos constructed either on hard-shells or soft tortillas engorged with seasoned ground beef, shredded cheese and chopped tomatoes served with a ramekin of salsa and sides of beans and rice.  While the tacos are quite good, you might find yourself surprised at how good the rice is.

Pursuers of cheap eats will appreciate an occasional special of two hot dogs for under four dollars. You can have these fabulous franks dressed your way (mustard and relish for me) within a split wiener repository, but you’ll probably come away with a higher appreciation for how well they’re grilled.  Few things in life are as satisfying as a simple hot dog or two.

Hot Dogs with Lays Potato Chips

The Effingbar and Grill is one of the Duke City’s most effing good surprises–a friendly, easy-going milieu that actually serves effing good food (and maybe even a PBR or six for my friend Bob).

Effingbar & Grill
5300 Sequoia Rd. N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 833-3765
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 31 January 2015
COST: $$
BEST BET: Hot Dogs, Taco Plate, Effing Burger, Con Queso, Salsa with Chips

Effingbar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Omira Bar & Grill – Santa Fe, New Mexico


Omira Brazilian Steakhouse on the southeast intersection of Cerrillos and St. Michael’s in Santa Fe

HOLLY: I can’t believe you’ve never taken anybody here before.
JERRY: Well, I’m not really that much of a meat eater.
HOLLY: . . . You don’t eat meat? Are you one of those. . .
JERRY: Well, no, I’m not one of those.
~ Seinfeld

“One of those!”  Around my Chicago born and bred Kim and her family, that term fits me to a tee.  As with many Midwestern families, my in-laws are rapacious carnivores.  Their dining room table is a pantheon of pork and a bastion of beef.  It’s a Bacchanalian feast of multitudinous meats.  Similarly, meals at Windy City  restaurants are veritable meat-fests where diners unleash their innermost meat-eating-machine.  In the city’s chophouses (what every other city calls a steakhouse) heavily marbled flesh is displayed under glass, trophies of edible excess.  Is it any wonder the city’s defining foods include humongous Italian beef sandwiches, slabs of Flintstonian-sized ribs and steaks the size of manhole covers. 

This obsession with meat isn’t solely a Midwestern phenomena.  People throughout the world are eating more meat and fat than ever with worldwide meat consumption expected to double by 2020.  In the western world alone, the per capita consumption of meat is a whopping 176 pounds–or about what my in-laws eat in a week.  When they decide to lose weight or live more healthily, meat mongers eschew carbs and happily sink their teeth into…even more meat, a much-appreciated dietary byproduct of the most popular meat-centric diets in the world.


The massive Salad Bar at Omira

Carnivores–and those among us who, unlike Jerry Seinfeld, are “one of those”–can dine together in perfect harmony, eating side-by-side at veritable meatatoriums known as Brazilian Churrascarias.  Strictly speaking, calling a Churrascaria a Brazilian “steakhouse” is a misnomer in that you don’t plop yourself down and order a slab of beef (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  Instead, you pay a fixed price (preco fixo) for the decadent indulgence of sitting down for bounteous portions of magnificent meats and full access to a sumptuous salad bar.  For carnivores, this is basically heaven on Earth.  For those among us who are “one of those” there’s still  much to enjoy.

The rodizio service is almost as entertaining as it is indulgent.  Machete-wielding servers channeling their inner gaucho traverse the room with oversized skewers of freshly prepared meats.  They risk life and limb to appease ravenous carnivores, some of whom would just as soon not wait for the meats to be sliced and apportioned.  On each table, you’ll find a “signaling” apparatus (not wholly unlike the famous bat signal in the campy Batman series) that apprises your server you want more meat.  This carnivorous cavalcade doesn’t end until you turn off the signaling device.


While the light is on, your server will continue to bring food to your table

Perhaps someday Santa Fe’s resident carnivores will celebrate the summer of 2013 as the “summer of meat,” a tribute to the launch of the Omira Bar & Grill.   While the marquee is subtitled “Brazilian Steakhouse,” Omira is Brazilian only in the spirit and style of the Churrascaria.  Its world-cuisine offerings are more than a tad more sophisticated and of significantly higher quality than at other Churrascarias we’ve frequented while holding to a much appreciated price point.  Within months of opening, the Santa Fe Reporter named Omira one of Santa Fe’s ten best restaurants for 2013, a tremendous accomplishment considering the quality and diversity of the city’s restaurant scene.

Omira is the brainchild of Ziggy Rzig, a Tunisian-born entrepreneur who also owns the Pyramid Cafe, a popular Mediterranean restaurant on Cordova Road.  Ziggy is as hands-on and personable as any restaurant owner we’ve met.  He’s a peripatetic presence at the cavernous Omira, flitting from table-to-table while simultaneously acting as host, server, busboy and all-around ambassador.  The only job he doesn’t do is chef.  That’s the bailiwick of his beauteous bride Sally.  Ziggy credits being actively involved in every facet of day-to-day operation as one of the reasons Omira is able to maintain such high quality at a surprisingly low price point.


Owner Ziggy Rzig

It’s certainly not the only reason.  Ziggy frequents the farmers’ market to find fresh, local produce where the tremendous variety and seasonal diversity allows for frequent menu changes.  Meats are also sourced locally.  Lamb and pork, both grass-fed, are procured from the Talus Wind Ranch Heritage Meats in Galisteo.  Beef is sourced from 4 Daughters Land & Cattle Company in Los Lunas.  While technically an all-you-can-eat (AYCE) restaurant, the quality at Omira is wholly antithetical to your typical AYCE pantheon of the pig-out.

Ziggy jokes that Omira is named for the Spanish expression “¡O, mira!’” which translates from Spanish to “oh, look” as in “oh, look at all the wonderful food.” (Actually, Omira is a portmanteau for the names of Zigg’s children, Omar and Samira.)  You won’t just look.  You’ll do a double- or triple-take.  As you walk past the front dining room into the larger, main dining room, your eyes will instantly train on a glimmering, glinting steely salad bar, one unlike any salad bar you’ll find in New Mexico.  It’s a veritable cornucopia of freshness, variety and pulchritude.  The burnished salad containers aren’t overfilled with their contents replenished faithfully to ensure freshness and minimize wastage.


From the salad bar and a bowl of butternut squash soup

If your idea of salad is the anachronistic concept of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and gloppy blue cheese, you’re in for a surprise.  The salads, about two dozen in all, are already prepared for you.  Clearly marked cards are labeled with the names of artistic composed salads: mushrooms in Balsamic vinaigrette, Greek salad, kale salad, Basmati rice, watermelon and cantaloupe in mint dressing, chopped beets and feta, Asian coleslaw and so much more.  If you discern an Asian influence throughout the menu, credit Sally, of Southeast Asian descent. 

There are a number of very pleasant surprises in the salad bar experience though because of the rotating menu, it’s likely some of those we enjoyed most won’t be available in future visits.  Among our early favorites were a butternut squash soup, as warm and comforting as any soup.  It’s a soup with personality, seasoned assertively but not so much that it takes anything away from the flavor of the squash.  The Thai chicken curry is as good as we’ve had at some Thai restaurants.  Bread rolls are yeasty and delicious, perfect for sopping up the curry and soup.


Egg Rolls

The fried bananas, a popular dish in Malaysia where they’re known as pisang goring, bring together sweet, ripe bananas sheathed in a light batter.  Traditionally a street food favorite, they’re wonderful even without coconut sprinkles or ice cream (hint here). The mushrooms in Balsamic vinegar are only lightly dresses so  as to allow the fleshy fungi to sing with delicious earthiness.  Surprisingly, the freshly-made Caesar salad is as good as you’ll have at fine dining restaurants.  It’s a daily salad bar standard.

If you’re not carnivorously inclined (or you’re “one of those”) you can opt out of the cavalcade of carne altogether and you’ll be perfectly happy (understatement) with the salad bar.  Better still, focus on the salad bar one visit and the meat next time.  Only certified gurgitators will have the caloric overachieving capacity to eat everything they want on both during one visit.  My friend Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott and I certainly tried, but were woefully inadequate for the task.


At top, Bottom Sirloin Steak; At bottom: Panko Encrusted Pork Sirloin wrapped in Bacon

Though the meats are slow-cooked to bring out the optimum smokiness and delicate flavors of the nicely marbled grass-fed stock, you may quickly find yourself falling behind if you’re still attacking your salad when the parade of meats begins.  Depending on where in the meaty rotation your server (likely Izzy himself) is, you might start with German sausage, a nicely seasoned, not too assertive sausage with a smoky flavor.  Maybe it will be with the crispy egg rolls stuffed with ground beef.  The egg roll plating isn’t only decorative, it’s deliciously functional with swirls of a Sriracha and a soy-Hoisin sauce for your dipping pleasure.

The meat-fest features both bottom sirloin and top sirloin, two distinctly different cuts of beef from a one to two foot section of the cow.  Top sirloin, along with tenderloin, is considered one of the “better” cuts.  From the bottom sirloin comes a personal favorite, the tri-tip.  Both the top and bottom sirloin are flavor-rich though not necessarily as tender as one might think.  The meat with which I fell most in love is the panko-encrusted pork sirloin wrapped in bacon.  Panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, imbue the sweet, tender pork with a delightful crispiness while bacon imbues everything it touches with deliciousness.  For my friend Ryan, it was the Picanha, the most prized cut of meat in Brazil.  Picanha is the cap that sits on top of the top sirloin butt roast.  It’s a wonderfully beefy, magnificently marbled and superbly flavored cut of beef.


Two chicken hearts and Tokyo style beef

For the intrepid among you (Franzi, I have you in mind here), chicken hearts are not to be missed. Probably closer in flavor to dark meat chicken than to white meat, chicken hearts have a musky offal flavor and impart a slightly metallic aftertaste.  More to the liking of most diners is Tokyo style beef, folded flank steak with the complementary contrasting flavors of soy and teriyaki for savory and sweet notes.  Among carnivores filet mignon is a universal favorite.  Often referred to as “beef tenderloin,” filet mignon is a tender cut resplendent with superb beefy flavor.  The leg of lamb is a moist, tender dark meat with a wonderful flavor and very little of the gaminess for which lamb is renowned.  One commonality among all meats is absolutely impeccable seasoning.  Every dish is served as well as it can possibly be made–an optimum in deliciousness.  You could happily make a meal of any one of the cavalcade of meats, but you’re treated to all of them.  It’s truly a carnivore’s paradise.

There are about a dozen meat offerings on the lunch buffet with filet mignon and leg of lamb added for dinner.  As an intermediary in between meats, Omira serves grilled pineapple sliced tableside.  It’s a good palate cleanser that prevents a meaty overload.  Moreover, it’s the very best grilled pineapple I’ve ever had.  Glazed with a combination of butter, brown sugar and Amaretto, it may remind you of the best pineapple upside down cake you’ve ever had without the cake part.  Seriously, this is one addictive pineapple.  Great fortune smiled upon us during our inaugural visit as the talented Sally had just prepared a loaf of pecan bread, a moist, tender and delicious post-prandial treat.  Other  desserts may be offered when you visit.


Pecan Bread

For sheer quality and value Omira Bar & Grill may be unmatched in Santa Fe, but it’s certainly no slouch in the department of deliciousness with something for everyone to love–even if you’re “one of those.”

1005 South St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 780-5483
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 06 December 2014
1st VISIT: 15 December 2013
COST: $$-$$$
BEST BET: Panko Encrusted Pork Loin Wrapped in Bacon, German Sausage, Fusion Dolmas, Egg Rolls, Grilled Pineapple, Top Sirloin, Bottom Sirloin, Filet Mignon, Tokyo Style Beef, Mediterranean Chicken Wrapped in Bacon, Picanha, Lamb Kefta

Omira Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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