Slate Street Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Slate Street Cafe (view from the southwest)

In 2005, Slate Street and an eponymous bistro just north of Lomas became the toast (a garlicky bruschetta) of the town. The Slate Street Cafe opened its doors in July, 2005 in a heretofore lightly trafficked, relatively unknown street north of Lomas. Nestled in the heart of the legal district, the Slate Street Cafe is so, make that Soho cool.  Its sleek, modern, high-ceilinged dining room, looming wine bar and capacious patio  is frequented by some of Albuquerque’s most hip and beautiful people. It’s a breath of fresh air in a burgeoning downtown district where revitalization appears to be working.

The Slate Street Cafe is the braintrust of a proven and very successful pedigree whose bloodline includes founding chef Albert Bilotti (Al’s NYPD and Kanome) and owner Myra Ghattas whose family owns Duran’s Central Pharmacy. The menu might best be described as eclectic, contemporary and fun with a playful twist to American comfort food favorites such as buttermilk fried chicken, chicken soup, mac and cheese, fish and chips and even homemade cupcakes for dessert. For breakfast, green eggs and ham might just be what the doctor ordered–and not just if your physician is Doctor Seuss. Slate Street’s version of green eggs and ham is an omelet with green chile courtesy of Duran’s.

The Slate Street Cafe’s fabulous Bruschetta

The ambiance at the 7,400 square foot “bistro with a Western accent” is decidedly contemporary with an energizing bright color pallet. A hard plastic glass shields a half moon bar covered with vintage New Mexico postcards such as the perpetual tourist favorite depicting the uniquely New Mexican jackalope (which Texans have copied). The restaurant’s commodious loft serves as a wine bar (Ghattas is a certified sommelier) where upscale, meal-sized appetizers are served and a great view of the dining room is available.

With something for everyone, it’s easy to see why long lines typify the lunch hour and why the Slate Street Cafe is the place to be on weekends for brunch. An exhilarating menu will challenge you to limit your selection as you really will want to order more than one of each starter, entree and dessert. The starters are chic and eclectic with options ranging from Asian (Japanese style fried rock shrimp with orange Habañero dip) to Middle Eastern (house-made hummus and pita) to dishes that play on New Mexico’s ubiquitous chile.

Pear & Stilton salad: walnuts, Stilton blue cheese, field greens, port vinaigrette

19 September 2008: While many Duke City restaurants offer Bruschetta (grilled bread rubbed with garlic and garnished with sundry toppings), a Tuscan favorite, the Slate Street Cafe does it best. For a pittance you can have three different Bruschetta from a list of eight. Bountiful portions of lightly toasted bread two can share become the consummate canvas for such toppings as tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil; Feta, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts; calabasitas and queso blanco; muffaletta (salami, provalone and olive relish) and blue cheese, spinach and Balsamic reduction. The melding of ingredients makes for lively combinations that both complement and contrast in delightfully tasty ways.

Johnny Carson once defined happiness as “finding two olives in your martini when you’re hungry.” I’d wager he’d find happiness in Slate Street’s fried olives stuffed with garlic and Boursin cheese, a salty, albeit wonderful starter option. Having lived in the deep South for eight years, we thought we’d tried everything (pickles, okra, tomatoes, etc.) that could be fried, but fried olives were new to us. Seemingly equal flavor pronouncements between garlic, olives and cheese will tantalize your taste buds.

Fish tacos: tilapia, cabbage, avocado, tomatillo salsa, mango cream drizzle in corn tortillas

Lunchtime entrees are categorized as “mean greens” (the star of which appears to be a profuse Nicoise salad), “sandwich stuff” and “other stuff.” Other stuff includes brown bag fish and chips with a twist. Instead of the usual fried cod, you’re treated to a Guinness stout-battered salmon and house-made chips (American, not British) copiously sprinkled with sea salt served in a warm brown paper bag. We eschewed a very good lemon-basil tartar sauce for malt vinegar in honor of our former home in England. Biting into filets of lightly-breaded, pinkish salmon instead of the boring white flesh of cod is strange at first, but you’ll be won over quickly. The homemade chips, though paper-thin and wonderfully crisp, are  perhaps just a tad salty.

19 September 2008: The menu includes several seafood entrees, including fish tacos, an entree few restaurants in New Mexico seem to do well. The Slate Street Cafe’s twist on this California favorite is to compose the tacos on deep fried corn shells, fashioning two crispy corn cups engorged with sundry ingredients. Similar to tostadas, these tacos are a challenge to eat and you might have to dredge the ingredients out of the cup with a fork because the shell falls apart otherwise. Insofar as taste, these are quite good with citrusy, briny and acidic tastes melding together quite well.

Slate Burger

3 August 2010: The “lunchy” section of the brunch menu includes a salad that’s not on the “mean greens” section of the regular lunch menu, but probably should be.  It’s a pear and Stilton salad constructed with walnuts, Stilton blue cheese, field greens and a port vinaigrette dressing.  Stilton blue cheese, a pungent cheese produced only in three English counties, is often eaten with pears, a combination that pits the strongly flavored cheese with the tangy-sweetness of pears.  It’s a combination that works, as does the addition of walnuts, not sugared but in their natural state.  The field greens are fresh, crisp and a perfect vehicle for the port vinaigrette, a lip-pursing tangy dressing.

19 September 2008: The Slate Burger crafted with black angus beef and served on a ciabatta bun is so good, it (this may sound like heresy coming from me) doesn’t need green chile. As with many New Mexicans, green chile has become a “crutch” and it’s hard to conceive of a burger being good without it. While you can ask for green chile on your Slate Burger, it’s absolutely unnecessary. The main reason is the perfectly seasoned, perfectly prepared to your exacting specifications (it’s perfect at medium) angus beef. It’s a high quality beef with nary a hint of sinew or excess fat. The Slate Burger is an excellent burger for which you can pick your toppings from a bevy of fresh ingredients!

Sausage sliders: green chile turkey sausage on housemade green chile cheddar biscuits, chipotle gravy

Salty might be the first adjective I’d used to describe the Cafe’s buttermilk fried chicken, but I’d also have to add zesty and mouth-watering. This free-range poultry features three prodigious pieces of mostly white meat with a thick coating of buttermilk-enriched batter seasoned with garlic and red pepper. Not quite as Cayenne potent as Popeye’s chicken, it’s as juicy and flavorful as any chicken we’ve had in the Duke City (which has never been known as a great city for fried chicken). 

28 September 2015: Green chile mac and cheese, on the other hand, may eventually grow into yet another dish for which Albuquerque gains acclaim.  Slate Street Cafe’s version is among the very best we’ve had: three cheeses–sharp Cheddar, Havarti and Gouda–and rotelli pasta with a pleasantly piquant green chile.  It’s an adult mac and cheese with plenty of flavor, richness and personality.  The cheeses and green chile go so well together that the flavor of this dish is a sum of this part, not distinct components.  That’s how well the ingredients complement one another.

Three Chile Green Chile Mac and Cheese

Breakfast at the Slate Street Cafe is an eye-opening experience that might begin with the aforementioned green eggs and ham (a multi-egg omelet folded with double roasted green chile, white cheddar and honey cured ham). Dr. Seuss would have been proud (and undoubtedly addicted to the endorphin rush from the Duran’s recipe for green chile). This delectable morning delight comes with white cheddar hash browns that don’t have that out-of-the-bag taste.

Slate Street’s fried egg sandwich (fried egg, white Cheddar and applewood smoked bacon on toasted ciabatta) will have you forever swearing off Egg McMuffins. It’s a delicious two fisted masterpiece that defines the best in breakfast sandwiches.  Applewood smoked bacon is magnificent on its own, each slice a thick and crispy best of the breakfast table example of pure deliciousness.  The bacon has a sweet-savory flavor combination resultant from a brown sugar and maple sugar glaze baked into each glorious piece.  It is on par with the award-winning honey-chile glazed bacon at the Gold Street Caffe.  It’s not the restaurant’s most celebrated sandwich, however.  That honor goes to the bacon, lettuce and fried green tomato sandwich which was named one of the city’s 12 yummiest sandwiches in Albuquerque The Magazine‘s annual food and wine magazine for 2012.

Top: Chocolate Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting; Bottom: Boston Cream Cupcake

3 August 2010: Perhaps even better, if possible, as a morning sandwich option is a brunch-only offering of sausage sliders.  Housemade green chile Cheddar biscuits are the canvas for thick disks of green chile turkey sausage, giving you an eye-opening one, two punch of green chile to wake you up.  If all that green chile doesn’t do the trick, the chipotle gravy will.  It looks innocuous, just like any other brown gravy, but it packs a piquant punch.  Unlike the flaky, fall-apart biscuits that don’t hold together, the green chile biscuits hold up well against the moistness of the absolutely delicious turkey sausage.

The restaurant has become famous locally for its gourmet cupcakes and may have, in fact, been responsible for the introduction of cupcakes as a viable dessert option in the Duke City. Gourmet cupcake favorites include chocolate with cream cheese frosting, coconut, blueberry with lemon icing and a Boston cream cupcake drizzled in chocolate ganache and filled with vanilla custard. The cupcakes are so good many guests don’t realize there’s more on the dessert menu than these decadent gems.

Bread pudding

Banana Split Slate Street style

3 August 2010: There is, for example, chocolate cake like your mother used to make.  There’s a bread pudding with a warm rum sauce–and there’s also a banana split big enough for two.   This banana split includes some departures from the conventional Dairy Queen style banana split and its de rigeur vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice creams.  The Slate Street Cafe’s version replaces the strawberry ice cream with a rich, flavorful and tangy blueberry ice cream and its chocolate ice cream has more of an adult (less cloying) flavor.  The bananas are caramelized and both peanuts and cashews are piled on top of the real whipped cream for a nice salty taste contrast.  This is a calorie-laden bit of heaven.

Slate Street Cafe is pure gold, one of Albuquerque’s paragons of the locavore movement and one of Albuquerque’s best reasons to visit downtown.  The restaurant partners with local farmers and producers who provide fresh, high-quality ingredients ranging from organic eggs at breakfast to heirloom tomatoes at dinner.  A second-story wine loft is reputed to offer exquisite wine pairings that complement the restaurant’s innovative menu.  Wine tastings are held on the first Tuesday and last Thursday of the month.

Slate Street Cafe
515 Slate, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 243-2210
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 28 September 2015
COST: $$
BEST BET: Fried Olives Stuffed With Garlic & Boursin Cheese; Bruschetta; Fried Chicken; Brown Bag Fish & Chips; Green Eggs & Ham; Sausage Sliders, Bread Pudding; Boston Cream Cupcake; Green Chile Mac & Cheese

Slate Street Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Jhett’s Restaurant – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

The Rio Rancho Country Club, home to Jhett’s Restaurant

In its halcyon days, the Chamisa Hills golf course and country club in Rio Rancho was considered one of the city’s crown jewels.  Its undulating 18-hole championship course with strategically placed deciduous trees and challenging water hazards once hosted the Charley Pride Golf Fiesta, one of the most prestigious tournaments in the state.  Built in 1970, the 212-acre development was flanked by upscale gated communities and boasted of magnificent panoramic views showcasing the reddish hues of the Sandias at sunset and the twinkling city lights of Albuquerque at night. 

Alas, over time escalating water rates made operating the course economically onerous.  Soon denuded fairways and eroded bunkers replaced the once verdant grounds.  In 2013, the Chamisa Hills golf course and country club was auctioned off to be purchased nearly a year later by visionary entrepreneurs Bob Gallagher and Jhett Browne who immediately began putting into action their plans for restoring the operation to prominence and profitability.  The two negotiated significant water rate reduction rates and plan for reduced turf areas to conserve water.  At fruition, they hope to revivify the facility into one of the area’s best event centers, not just golf clubs.

View to the East from the dining room patio

Rebranded as Club Rio Rancho, the sprawling complex includes two nine-hole golf courses, six resurfaced and lighted tennis courts, a remodeled swimming pool, a members-only restaurant and lounge with an outdoor cigar bar, a three-level bar and grill with televisions and outdoor patio seating and a remodeled indoor restaurant with a patio facing the Sandias.  While some of the facilities and amenities remain available only to club members, the priceless “billion-dollar views” are available to the general public as is what promises to be an exciting fine-dining venture.

From its sprawling patio, the eponymous Jhett’s Restaurant may just have the very best views of any restaurant in the metropolitan area with the possible exception of Sandiago’s Mexican Grill.  There’s a view for all seasons and times of day from the east-facing large picture windows, too.  Jhett’s offers live music and dancing every Friday and Saturday starting at 8PM and a bountiful Sunday brunch, the type of which have seemingly become an anachronism.

The dining room in which Sunday brunch is served from 11AM to 2PM

The dinner menu bespeaks fine-dining belied by a price-point that’s surprisingly competitive with fine-dining establishments in far less ostentatious digs.  Whether your choice emanates from the land (such as the Bleu Cheese Crusted Angus Filet, Ribeye Steak or Lamb T-Bone) or sea (Stuffed Filet of Sole, Honey Ginger Shrimp or Lobster tail), you’ll find it on the menu.  Soups and salads as well as “nothing but noodles” entrees (such as Baked Lasagna Bolonaise and Spinach Ravioli) are also available. 

The all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch is quickly becoming a Rio Rancho Sunday tradition.  Available from 11AM through 2PM, the buffet-style brunch is the antithesis of the grab, gobble and go fare one associates with the terms “all-you-can-eat” and “buffet.”  A fusillade of well-laid out tables with silver heating trays offer dish after dish of beautifully edible creations arranged aesthetically.  An omelet station with eight different fillings is at the ready as is a carving station where a deft server cleaves generous slices from a large roast beef prepared at medium rare.  Desserts aplenty and a beverage table round out the cavalcade of deliciousness.

Some of the magnificent brunch offerings

4 January 2015: Rightfully so, the hand-carved roast beef is the primary draw.  The roast beef has a deep brown, crisp, crackly, unctuous crust around the edges.  The medium-rare interior is moist and tender, signs of optimum temperature control and cooking time.  You can have your roast beef with au jus or with a creamy horseradish that’ll water your eyes.  There are a number of other proteins on the buffet trays: bacon, sausage, fish and more.  The macaroni and cheese is some of the best we’ve had in a while while the Eggs Benedict dish is delightfully creative.  Instead of an English muffin, the poached egg and Hollandaise sauce rest inside a hollowed-out tomato.

13 September 2015: On Sundays in which the roast beef isn’t featured fare, you’ll find a large hand-carved ham served with a cranberry-pineapple glaze.  The ham is hardly a consolation prize.  It’s pulchritudinously pink with a salty-smoky deliciousness that complements the glaze so well.  Few things go as well with ham as au gratin potatoes and Jhett’s version is seconds-worthy.  We honestly couldn’t remember the last time we had a second portion of au gratin potatoes.  That’s how good these are.


The dessert table doesn’t have tremendous variety, but what it lacks in quantity, it made up for in deliciousness. Alternatively you can sate your sweet tooth with the various fruits. The cantaloupe, honeydew melon and pineapple have an in-season freshness and flavor. Throughout our meal we were well taken care of by an attentive server staff who replenished our beverages and made savvy recommendations. All this and million dollar views of the Sandias.

Jhett’s Restaurant is a welcome addition to the Rio Rancho fine-dining scene. An excellent brunch is just the prelude to future fine-dining ventures in what is once again becoming one of Rio Rancho’s crown jewels.

Jhett’s Restaurant
500 Country Club Drive, S.E.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 896-5000
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 13 September 2015
1st VISIT: 4 January 2015
COST: $$
BEST BET: Sunday Brunch

Jhett's on Urbanspoon

Sandia Chile Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sandia Chile Grill, Smokehouse and Microbrewery

If perspiration is (as the proverbial “they” have declared) the mother of invention, Mickey and Clinton Coker may just be two of the most glistening guys in the Duke City. Since 2004, the Cokers have “reinvented” their restaurant four times. If you’re thinking, they’re just try, try, trying again until they get it right, you couldn’t be more wrong. Mickey Coker, the entrepreneur behind the four make-overs, started with a culinary concept that was so wildly successful, it prompted almost immediate growth. His second effort, a brick-and-mortar operation, also achieved significant acclaim. Some might have considered the third Coker transition strictly a sideline…until it started garnering one award after the other. The fourth step in the evolution of the Sandia Grill may be the most revolutionary of all.

For Mickey Coker, the route to entrepreneur was inauspicious. He got his start selling New Mexican food at a gas station-convenience store. Yes, the very notion of a gas station-convenience store food conjures images of salty, cylindrically shaped dry meat snacks with the texture of sawdust and air-filled bags of Cool Ranch Doritos.  Now mention New Mexican food and gas station in the same sentence and the likely image would make all the sophomoric six-year-olds among us giggle, the notion of “gas” not having anything to do with petroleum.  Despite these stereotypes, Coker had the confidence in his New Mexico food products to launch his business in 2004, ensconced within the confines of a convenience store-gas station in the Winner’s Circle gas station at Harper and Barstow. A second location, on Montgomery just east of I-25, followed shortly thereafter.

Once strictly a New Mexican Restaurant, Now Showcasing Barbecue and New Mexican Food

From its onset, the Sandia Chile Grill’s made-to-order burrito concept elevated gas station dining from a fast food grab-and-gobble experience to a uniquely sublime New Mexico dining extravaganza, albeit one without on-the-premises seating. The aroma of tortillas on the grill quickly had patrons making a bee-line to the little grill that could at the back of the convenience store portion of the gas station. While relatively little space is required to operate what is essentially a to-go diner, Coker saw his business grow to the extent–as many as 4,000 meals in a busy month–that a real restaurant storefront was in order. He launched the Sandia Chile Grill restaurant at the Del Norte Shopping Center, essentially moving from the Winner’s Circle gas station not that far away.

A native New Mexican (born in Belen), Coker saw two obvious reasons for the name Sandia Chile Grill, the first being Sandia chile which grows in the Mesilla Valley. Sandia chile ranges from four to six-inches long and dries to a deep burgundy color.  It’s one of the most delicious of all red chiles and is served at such fabled New Mexican food treasures as Mary & Tito’s.   Sandia is also the name of the mountain range backdropping the city of Albuquerque.

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Twice Baked Potatoes and Calabasitas

At the restaurant, the staff had the room to operate and customers had comfortable seating in which to enjoy New Mexican food favorites. Though much of the restaurant’s business remained carry-out, it was nice to have had an alternative when you wanted it. As at the service station, burritos dominated the menu: breakfast burritos, steak burritos, steak and chicken burritos, chicken burritos, pork burritos and even veggie burritos. Some burritos were named for professional wrestlers (Ultimate Warrior, Undertaker, Junkyard Dog, Mankind and the Macho Man). There were also burritos named for Mexican western characters: El Matidor (sic), Bandito, Caballero and El Jeffe. The menu also included stuffed sopaipillas, enchiladas, tamales, rellenos and tacos–the New Mexican food essentials which couldn’t be prepared at the gas station sites.

In 2009, the facility was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to can all its chiles and sauces for nationwide distribution. In 2012, the Cokers opened a microbrewery on the premises–and an award-winning brewery at that. Within months after launching, they entered seven items in a New Mexico State Fair competition, earning five medals including a “best of show” in the professional division. The blue and red-ribbons are on display in the restaurant. The menu also began featuring several gluten-free items (nachos, green chile chicken stew, chicken quesadillas, chicken enchiladas, steak tacos and more).

House Sauces: Hot (with Habanero), Tangy (Mustard-Based) and Sweet

The Cokers determined that an even more natural accompaniment to award-winning adult libations than New Mexican food is barbecue. Yes, barbecue! Though their New Mexican dishes were beloved by the masses who frequented the Sandia Chile Grill, the Cokers are not ones to stay still. They transitioned to a smokehouse concept in March, 2014, positioning a smoker near the Wyoming entrance to the shopping center. Aficionados of Sandia’s New Mexican food weren’t left in the cold, however. The new menu also includes several popular New Mexican food favorites (burritos, enchiladas, stuffed sopaipillas, quesadillas, huevos rancheros and a green chile chicken bowl ) prepared with smoked meats instead of the more conventional meats used on New Mexican food.

Because the concept of transitioning from a New Mexican restaurant to a smokehouse may seem radical, you’re probably wondering if this is a haphazardly undertaken venture. In truth, the Cokers have had a smoker for more than a decade. That’s plenty of time to master low-and-slow smoke manipulation on meats. Brimming with confidence from the great reception their barbecue has received, the Cokers have plans for a larger smoker with a much greater capacity. The barbecue menu is replete with the essentials: pulled pork, smoked chicken, brisket, St. Louis ribs and street tacos. You can purchase them in increments ranging from a quarter-pound through ten pounds. You can also partake of a sandwich meal with two sides for a ridiculously low price. Three sauces–a tangy sauce similar to what you’d find in the Carolinas, a spicy sauce redolent with Habanero and a sweet sauce–are available though because it’s good barbecue, they’re wholly unnecessary.

Brisket Enchiladas

29 June 2015: The pulled pork sandwich features a hoagie type bun brimming with tender tendrils of pulled pork. It’s good to go as is though you might want to experiment with the three sauces to see if one suits your taste. The spicy Habanero-based sauce provides a “slow burn,” a deceptive “sneak up on you” burn that may water your eyes if you apply too much of the sauce. If you’re from New Mexico, you can handle it. Make one of the two sides the calabasitas. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill calabasitas. They’re prepared al dente and paired with a green chile as incendiary as the Habanero sauce. Another excellent side is the twice-baked potatoes which have a smooth, creamy texture and are punctuated with sour cream.

3 July 2015: The pairing of New Mexican food and barbecue is a match made in New Mexico and that’s about as close to heaven as there is on Earth.  One of the most surprisingly natural couplings is smoked brisket with “Christmas” style enchiladas, available in quantities of one, two or three.  Atop tortillas redolent with corn are heaping helpings of smoked brisket, shredded Cheddar, lettuce and the red and green chile with which Duke City diners fell in love when the Ultimate Warrior was on the menu.  The chile has a pleasant piquancy that doesn’t obfuscate the smokiness of the brisket.  Brisket enchiladas are a surprisingly good way to enjoy the best of two flavor combinations.

St. Louis Ribs with Macaroni and Cheese and Calabasitas

16 August 2015:  In the Duke City area, barbecue restaurants tend to favor baby back ribs over St. Louis ribs even though the St. Louis ribs are more substantial and meaty. So, what’s the difference? St. Louis ribs are actually spareribs that have been trimmed down, removing what is commonly known as the rib tips.  St. Louis ribs come from the belly section of the pig, near where the sacrosanct bacon can be found.  As their name suggests baby back ribs come from the back side of the pig, near where the loin is.  The St. Louis ribs at the Sandia Chile Grill aren’t quite as thick, meaty and substantial as other ribs of the kind we’ve had, but the meat they do have includes the caramelized “bark” barbecue aficionados love.  This is meaty magnificence at its best.

Mick Coker and his son Clinton are immensely proud of their New Mexican heritage and like most proud New Mexicans, know one of the day’s most difficult decisions is whether to have red or green chile…or both.   They help make that decision easier for their guests by offering excellent New Mexican cuisine showcasing both. They also showcase some of the best adult libations and barbecue in town.

Sandia Chile Grill
7120 Wyoming Blvd, N.E.,
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 798-1970
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 16 August 2015
1st VISIT:  18 August 2007
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Pulled Pork Sandwich, Calabasitas, Twice Baked Potatoes, Brisket Enchiladas, St. Louis Ribs, Macaroni and Cheese

Sandia Chile Grill on Urbanspoon

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