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Hurley’s Coffee, Tea and Bistro – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Hurley's on Fourth Street

Hurley's on Fourth Street

“May you have food and raiment,
a soft pillow for your head.
May you be forty years in heaven
before the devil knows you’re dead.”
– An Irish Blessing

Cynics who used to deride Irish food as the worst in the planet would have cautioned you to say a prayer before you ate it, but not necessarily in Thanksgiving for what you were about to receive.  For years the Emerald Isle has captured the imagination with its numberless shades of lush greens, smooth as silk whiskey, stout Guinness beer and poetry that can bring you to the depths of desolation or the heights of alacrity.  What the land of saints, sinners and poets had not, until recently, ever been known for, however, is its cuisine.

Historically, just about the kindest things that were said about Irish food is that it was mundane and uninspired.  The stereotypical cavalcade of culinary mediocrity included boiled potatoes, boiled cabbage and boiled corned beef.

That, as they say, is then.  Conscious of their beloved nation’s reputation, a new breed of creative Irish chefs (“wacky renegade cheese makers, people curing meat, exploring traditional Irish food ways, cooking well” in Anthony Bourdain’s words) has debunked the myth that Irish food is the worst in the world.  Best of all, they did it by using locally grown ingredients: freshly caught seafood from local waters, high-quality produce grown on fecund Irish soil, regional cheeses and free-range pork, beef and lamb.  Discerning palates need no longer fear Irish food.

The interior at Hurley's

The interior at Hurley's

Hurley’s Coffee, Tea and Bistro on Fourth Street is betting the old reputation of Irish food won’t deter potential guests.  It certainly didn’t deter  Amy Horowitz, associate broker at Re/Max Premier Realtors who was effusive in praising Hurley’s and encouraging me to visit.  Amy, in fact, collected much of the information on which this review is based.

Both the Hurley family which owns the restaurant and chef/general manager Dan Brittingham have a proud Irish heritage.  They feel their menu represents the Irish “roving/wanderlust” idea and takes its influence from many cultures. Irish-influenced items (or interpretations) on the menu include the Irish farmer’s breakfast, breakfast scones and potato leek soup.

Unlike the “Irish pub in a box” template, Hurley’s Irish themed concept was designed and built entirely by the staff.  The Hurley family collected many of the items over a number of years, with an eye toward opening an Irish-themed restaurant when the time was right.

That Irish theme is definitely not overdone.  In fact, it’s surprisingly subdued and includes one wall dedicated to traditional Irish musical instruments including a mandolin, fiddle, banjo and even the mournful Uileann bagpipe.  Crossed cricket bats hang over the station at which the wait staff picks up their orders.  The Irish theme also applies to several menu items which bear the names of Irish landmarks (such as Limerick) and names (Maigan).  The atmosphere is casual and includes both a fireplace and big screen television.  Wi-Fi connectivity is available for diners who like to stay connected.

"Best Salsa in Town"

"Best Salsa in Town"

Chef Brittingham, a recent transplant from Seattle with more than 18 years in the restaurant business, has been with Hurley’s almost from its inception.  He came in pre-opening and helped with the restaurant’s construction, menu and recipe development, hiring, training, and implementing the point-of-sale system.  The chef has essentially done it all in the restaurant business, from “fine dining to short-order and everything in between.”  He worked in some of Seattle’s best kitchens, including the world-famous Beth’s Café, home of the 12-egg omelet.  What inspires him most is reinterpreting comfort foods.

Hurley’s opened for business on December 15, 2008 and business has been growing ever since.  Discerning diners have come out in droves to support Hurley’s and some have already become daily regulars.  Weekday lunch business has been steady while weekends are typically busier, drawing patrons from both the neighborhood and several groups, including a BMW motorcycle club, a cycling club, a women’s club, and the after-church crowd.

The facts that it is wonderfully eclectic and everything is made from scratch are undoubtedly the keys to its early success.  Made-from-scratch offerings include soups, sauces, relishes, tarts, scones, pastries, jams and jellies. Breakfast showcases omelets, huevos rancheros (albeit made with that bane of my spell-checker’s existence “chili”), build-your-own and grab-and-go breakfast burritos, pancakes, Belgian-style waffles, and a hearty Irish Farmer’s Breakfast.

 

Beauteous sandwich at Hurley's (Courtesy of Sergio Salvador)

Beauteous sandwich at Hurley's (Courtesy of Sergio Salvador)

Lunch offerings include grilled panini, soups, salads, daily specials, and Reuben sandwiches, a specialty of the house Amy calls “the best.” Hand-battered onion petals, homemade seasoned chips, hand-cut French fries, and fresh spring mix salads are offered as sides.  Hurley’s serves breakfast (6:30 – 11AM Monday through Friday and 8AM through 3PM on weekends).  The menu includes four varieties of freshly ground coffee, and nine blends of Tea Forté’s handcrafted, gourmet teas.

Hurley’s rotates the styles and flavors of coffee to keep things interesting.  Their offerings have included Snickerdoodle, Dark Secret, Mesa Sunrise, Colombian and “Cuppa Joe,” among others.  The haven’t actually offered Irish (flavored) coffee, but may try putting it into their rotation.

All Hurley’s soups are made from a house-made vegetable stock.  The big hits were some classics – Tomato and Basil Bisque, and Potato Leek Soup.” When the weather gets warm, Chef Brittingham plans to serve a chilled avocado cucumber soup garnished with a watermelon-jicama slaw, and a chilled fresh pea soup.  Next winter, he says he’ll offer an Irish Beef Stew.

Limerick Philly with Home Fries

Limerick Philly with Home Fries

Dinner has, thus far, been offered only on one very special occasion, the day in which people of all ethnicities are Irish–St. Patrick’s Day.  That event was so very well-received, the restaurant will look for other opportunities to do special dinners.  According to the chef,  specials will also reflect holidays and other occasions–like offering matzoh ball soup at Passover, Friday fish specials, and a Lenten lunch special on Ash Wednesday.  Hurley’s is also are looking at offering a dinner service down the road, but wants to be careful about expanding its service too quickly.

Hurley’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner, by the way, featured a number of Irish-influenced offerings that by themselves might dispel any myths about Irish cooking:  the Connolly Cobb salad (an old Gaelic recipe with fresh dill, parsley, scallions tossed in a warm mustard vinaigrette and topped with carrots, beets, eggs and potatoes), corned beef and cabbage, Gardner’s pie (shepherd’s pie), bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes) with sautéed asparagus and Guinness gravy, fish and chips, and a dessert trinity that included Chranachan (toasted almond and oat cream pudding), Young’s double-chocolate stout cake, and Irish cream cappuccino.

Visit an Irish pub or restaurant and the last thing you’d ever expect to read on the menu is the audacious claim “best salsa in town!”  Ron’s Homemade Salsa and Chips makes that claim on the appetizers section of the menu.  It’s not a conventional New Mexico style salsa.  In fact, in the parlance and practice of New Mexican restaurants, it’s more a “pico de gallo” than it is a salsa.

Hand Battered Onion Petals

Hand Battered Onion Petals

Semantics not withstanding, it’s a colorful salsa crafted with chopped red tomatoes, red onion (which has always looked more purple than red to me), cilantro, green pepper, salt, pepper and garlic.  That’s it!  No chile or jalapeno.  It is a very fresh salsa packing a lot of flavor if not piquancy.  The homemade chips have the fortitude to hold the weight of the salsa, but not the width I like for Gil-sized scoops.

Other appetizers include Maigan’s parmesan artichoke spinach dip and Jenny’s chicken quesadilla.  It’s okay that there aren’t a lot of appetizers on the menu because lunch entrees are accompanied by appetizer-like sides.  Besides, between the entrees and the sides, you’ll have more than enough to eat.

The Reuben is quite good, one of the very best in the Albuquerque just as Amy told me.  Thin-sliced corned beef is piled high with melted Swiss cheese then topped with Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut on toasted marbled rye.  The tanginess of the dressing and sauerkraut are the perfect counterpoint to the distinctive sweet and full-bodied taste of the gorgeously swirling marbled rye.  The rye is lightly toasted, just enough to bring out the bread’s vibrant flavor.

The 3 B's burger with green chile coleslaw

The 3 B's burger with green chile coleslaw

Another sandwich option is the Limerick Philly made in a way you might not see in the mean streets of the City of Brotherly Love.  Like many interpretations of the iconic Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich, Hurley’s rendition takes license.  If you’re expecting to duplicate an experience at South Philadelphia’s legendary Pat’s King of Steaks, you might be disappointed.  If you want an excellent sandwich, you’ll be happy with this one.

Like the classic Philadelphia cheesesteak, the Limerick Philly is crafted with thin-sliced steak but there similarities end. Other Limerick ingredients include sauteed onions and mushrooms with Provolone and cream cheese on a hoagie.  The steak is of high quality and absolutely delicious, a perfect complement to the rich cheeses and sweet onions.  The sandwich is served hot which means the two cheeses melt and make a delicious mess of things, but it’s a delicious mess that may leave you wanting to lick your plate afterwards.

Five creative burgers are also available, including a vegetarian burger (substituting Hurley’s veggie black bean patty for meat).  All burgers are served with the restaurant’s house-made burger sauce, leaf lettuce, tomato, red onion and your choice of sides.  The “Old Fashioned” burger, served with American cheese, is the only one which might not capture the imagination.  That’s not to imply that it’s boring in any way.  It’s just that the other burgers are constructed with more flair and imagination.

 

French fries at Hurley's (Amazing Photo courtesy of Sergio Salvador)

French fries at Hurley's (Amazing Photo courtesy of Sergio Salvador)

The 3 B’s burger, for example, is comprised of bacon, blue cheese and Hurley’s house-made red chili espresso BBQ sauce.  While the combination of blue cheese and bacon can be very salty, the saltiness is tempered if you pile your burger with the other ingredients.  It also helps that the red chili espresso BBQ sauce is an interesting amalgam of taste combinations that prove very complementary as well as moistening for the burger.

Like the mad scientist mixing chemical beakers hoping to concoct something brilliant, I took my side dish of green chili coleslaw and spooned some of it atop an already engorged burger.  A burger which didn’t need any improvement was indeed improved by the sweet-piquant flavor combination of the coleslaw.  It’s probably not for everyone but fellow culinary experimenters.

The sides are worthy accompaniment to the sandwiches.  Choices include plain, apple or garlic mash; hand-cut French fries, hand-battered onion petals, sauteed vegetable of the day, a green side salad or homemade and seasoned chips.  Our waiter candidly informed us that the sides most often left on the plate at meal’s end are the chips and the sauteed vegetables.

We didn’t leave any country potatoes (a compromise from an accommodating waiter) on our plate.  That’s because these potatoes are perfectly fried, skins and all.  Cubed into bite sized pieces and salted lightly, they’re soft on the inside with a dark golden sheen on the exterior with the taste you would like from French fries.

The hand-battered onion petals are also quite good.  Lightly battered onion petals and shavings are piled high on a vertical wire basket.  They’re reminiscent of onion rings without the extraneous batter some restaurants tend to lay on thickly.  My dining companion, a discerning onion ring aficionado, called them among the best she’s had in the Duke City.

Cherry cheese Danish

Cherry cheese Danish

Baked goods are showcased under glass by the register.  They include cherry cheese Danish (pictured above) and one of the largest apple turnovers I’ve ever seen.  Though the pastries are sizable, much of their girth is a superfluity of puff pastry.  The amount of fruit is drastically underwhelming.

Hurley’s is one of those restaurants in which you just might utter a prayer or two of thanksgiving afterwards for thoroughly enjoyable meal.  My thanks to Amy Horowitz for recommending the restaurant and her outstanding fact-gathering for this review.

Hurley’s Coffee, Tea and Bistro
6100 4th Street
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 9 September 2009
1st VISIT: 15 March 2009
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET:  Waterford Rueben, Limerick Philly, Chips and Salsa, Hand Battered Onion Petals, 3 B’s Burger

Village Grill – Moriarty, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Village Grill in Moriarty

Village Grill in Moriarty

Since the mid 1920s, New Yorker magazine has been providing insightful commentary on popular American culture in all its star-spangled idiosyncrasies.  One of its most popular features in the 1970s  was the “American Journal” written by the inimitable Calvin Trillin who traversed the continent in search of where real people ate.  The “Walt Whitman of American eats” chronicled his dining experiences with the same enthusiasm with which he ate the native cuisines most appreciated by locals.  Peppering his reviews with humor, he culled a reputation as one of America’s best food writers.

Trillin was adamant that America’s most glorious food was not the culinary fare proffered at the uppity upscale restaurants he cynically referred to generically as “La Maison de la Casa House, Continental Cuisine.”  Eschewing the trendy restaurants where “everything is served on a bed of something else,” he instead preferred the simplicity and authenticity of local specialties–posole in Santa Fe,  boudin in Louisiana, pumpernickel bagels in New York City and especially barbecue in Kansas City.

Kansas City was also home to Trillin’s favorite burger, a declaration he made in 1970 in Life magazine about Winstead’s, a burger emporium he said served the best hamburgers in the world.  A Kansas City native, he also pronounced that “anybody who doesn’t think the best hamburger in the world is in his hometown is a sissy.”  To its detractors, perhaps this is one explanation for Lota Burger’s popularity.

Judy owns the Village Grill in Moriarty

Judy owns the Village Grill in Moriarty

There’s no way you can ever call someone a sissy who smokes all his own meat and makes his own rubs and sauces, but Ryan Scott affirms that he’s not a sissy by Trillin’s criteria in declaring the hamburgers at the Village Grill in his hometown of Moriarty “the best I have ever had–and yes I have eaten at Bobcat Bite and other better known places.”   Better than Bobcat Bite!  I have friends who would call that audacious claim “fighting words.”

When I asked Ryan what made these burgers so special, he informed me that they are “hand-pounded and hand-formed daily.  There is a “toppings” bar and all the toppings are made fresh daily.  The owner is named Judy and she looks and cooks like your grandmother, and she consistently makes high quality burgers.  It’s simple food cooked the best way she knows how.  I’ve had nearly everything on the menu but the burgers shine the brightest.

The Village Grill sits on historic Route 66, the Mother Road which parallels I-40 through Moriarty, a ranch and farm community which celebrates America’s highway.  While the city has its share of the spangled neon signage so prevalent on Route 66, the Village Grill is almost entirely antithetical of the inviting luminescence which characterized the Mother Road.  That doesn’t mean the Village Grill looks out-of-place.  In fact, it looks as if it’s been there since the halcyon days of Route 66, albeit with a couple of facelifts.

The burger fixings bar

The burger fixings bar

The Village Grill opened on April 5, 2001 in an edifice which previously housed Chubby’s Restaurant which was built in 1988, so it’s a relatively new restaurant by Route 66 standards.  Though a novitiate in terms of chronology, the restaurant embodies the spirit of restaurants on Route 66 which characteristically served great food to weary travelers.

Judy McDonald is the Village Grill’s third owner, who does indeed look and cook like a grandmother (albeit a very young and spry grandmother).  She’s got that thick accent–make that drawl–a lot of New Mexicans east of Albuquerque pull off so well.  That would be people like New Mexico state attorney general Gary King whom we met at the restaurant during our inaugural visit.  Gary, like his father, former governor Bruce King and like our hostess Judy, has an endearing homespun charm and easy manner that gives one pause to ponder if life 37 miles east of the Big I inspires such affability.

The restaurant is, as Ryan Scott described it, a proverbial “hole in the wall.”  From the outside, the flax-colored structure has a beckoning feel to it.  Inside the most prominent color is a powder blue shade which covers most of the restaurant’s walls.  Festooned on those walls are framed photographs taken by Judy’s husband as well as glossy photographs of Hollywood luminaries.  The former are the type of photographs us amateurs wish we had the imagination and talent to capture.

Green chile cheeseburger at the Village Grill in Moriarty

Green chile cheeseburger at the Village Grill in Moriarty

Literally the first thing you see as you walk in is a counter separated by a soft-drink dispensing apparatus into “pick up” and “order” sections.  Above the counter is the menu, not a long menu by most restaurant standards, but a menu that packs them in.  A fellow diner and Moriarty resident told us the Village Grill is the most popular place in town Monday through Friday with lines out the door.

What the locals order most are burgers,  These are big burgers in which the beef extends beyond the buns.  It’s the type of beef that makes for the best burgers–hand-formed and nicely seasoned.  The buns are lightly toasted and the fixings bar is generous: two types of dill pickles, red and white onion, tomato, ketchup, mustard, pepperonici and more.  At the Village Grill you can truly have your burger your way.

My way is a green chile cheeseburger, the most popular sandwich in the Land of Enchantment.  Melted Cheddar cheese drapes over the beef and is covered by roasted green and red chile chopped finely.  Though the green chile has a nice flavor, it lacks the piquancy appreciated by food masochists like me who believe pain is a flavor.  Still, it’s easy to understand Ryan’s hometown pride in this excellent green chile cheeseburger.

Hamburger with French fries and onion rings at the Village Grill

Hamburger with French fries and onion rings at the Village Grill

A standard hamburger (sans cheese and green chile) is a better way to gauge how good the beef is–and how good a burger can be.  A little mustard, white onions and ketchup and you’ve got burger Nirvana.

All American accompaniment for the burgers can be found in the form of onion rings, French fries, potato salad and coleslaw.  The coleslaw is sweet and light on the salad cream which allows the crisp cabbage to shine.  The onion rings are crisp and sweet.

The Village Grill has a hamburger locals undoubtedly consider the very best in the world.  Moriarty has no place in it for sissies.

The Village Grill
136 Route 66 E
Moriarty, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 15 August 2009
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: 21
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Hamburger

Village Grill on Urbanspoon

Quesada’s New Mexican Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Quesada's New Mexican Restaurant

Quesada's New Mexican Restaurant

When we get together, native New Mexicans of my generation who grew up in the state’s mountainous regions sometimes reminisce about trudging a mile or more in feet-deep snow to get to school.  We wonder how we survived the furious snowstorms which killed  reception for weeks to all four (yeah, four) Albuquerque television stations in the dark, pre-historic days before color television (not to mention, cable), the Internet and iPhones.

Mostly, we trumpet the fact that we were  weaned on chile–and not just any chile.  We grew up eating the most gastronomic distress-inducing, tongue-searing, sweat-arousing chile possible–the type of chile which embodies the axiom that with some New Mexican food, pain is a flavor.  Listen to us and we’ll  have you believe that in comparison, the  stuff served in most  New Mexican restaurants today is as wimpy as ketchup and as piquant as spaghetti sauce.

Salsa and Chips at Quesada's

Salsa and Chips at Quesada's

Thankfully, the Internet has provided visual–albeit Photoshop image manipulated–evidence of the incendiary stuff on which we were weaned. A frequently forwarded image on many computers depicts a jar of Gerber Picante Sauce, but instead of the familiar cherubic baby with the tousled hair, pursed lips and smiling eyes, the red-faced baby on the manipulated image is in obvious and alarming distress.

The truth is, there are few remaining New Mexican restaurants which serve chile as piquant as our memories tell us it once was.  In fact, most of the chile served today has just slightly more piquancy than the innocuous bell pepper which on the Scoville scale is the baseline for “no heat” (this makes it doubly funny to see tourists unable to handle our chile’s “heat”).  Sometimes the red chile just sits there like some flour-thickened food coloring while the green chile would be green with envy of  the heat generated by a Greek pepperoncini.  Most restaurants acquire their chile from one of two distributors and seem, for the most part, to order and serve chile of the “mild” variety.

Carne adovada, eggs and potatoes

Carne adovada, eggs and potatoes

Expecting chile to be fairly tame in most restaurants, about the most we can hope for is chile with that unmistakable New Mexico sun-blessed flavor we’ve all come to love.  New Mexican restaurants generally do a better job in the flavor department than in the province of piquancy.  For the most part, green chile has a freshly roasted flavor while red chile can be velvety, earthy and rich.  The operative terms here are “for the most part” and “can be.”  With few exceptions (Mary & Tito’s and their amazing red chile come to mind), you never know what you’re going to get.

We frankly didn’t know quite what to expect from Quesada’s New Mexican Restaurant on San Mateo just north of Copper.  When he told me about Quesada’s, Steve Goatley described it as “a great little New Mexican cuisine restaurant” with “great food.”  He described the green chile as “being very tasty with a bit of a bite” and the carne adovada as “out of this world.”  For me, the proof is in the eating.

Carne Adovada Breakfast (Photo by Sergio Salvador)

Carne Adovada Breakfast (Photo by Sergio Salvador)

Quesada’s is housed in a small converted home on San Mateo just north of Copper, the same edifice which was once home to the Mediterranean Cafe, a rarity in the Duke City in that it served Tunisian and Moroccan entrees.  The restaurant has fewer than a dozen tables and the tables are of the two- to four-seat variety.  You’ll have to put two or three tables together to accommodate a larger group.  Fortunately the take-out traffic is robust because Quesada’s isn’t big enough to handle an overflow.  Parking is also a bit of a challenge, but you should be fine if you figure out how to navigate behind the restaurant.

Quesada’s is a true old-fashioned mom-and-pop restaurant.  It’s family-owned and operated by native New Mexicans.  The chef-proprietor is from Carlsbad, not exactly known as a hotbed for hot (or good) chile.  If the chile enhanced food at the restaurant is any example of the New Mexican food served in the gateway city to the world’s most accessible cave system, capsaicin craving foodies everywhere should descend upon Carlsbad like a colony of bats at a fruit-fly feast.

Three rolled enchiladas stuffed with roast beef, carne adovada and chicken

Three rolled enchiladas stuffed with roast beef, carne adovada and chicken

Before the menu is brought to your table, confusion might ensue as to whether Quesada’s is a New Mexican restaurant, a Mexican restaurant or a hybrid of the two.  On a table by the wait staff station are large jars, one filled with watermelon agua fresca ( a standard at Mexican restaurants) and one with ice tea.  A table tent lists such un-New Mexican specialties as hot and spicy barbecue ribs.  The menu, however, is mostly New Mexican: burritos, quesadillas (not a diminutive of Quesada), burgers, enchiladas, tacos, stuffed sopaipillas, combination platters, tamales, chile rellenos, flautas and more.  Everything–the salsa, aguas frescas, chile and more–is made from scratch from family recipes.

The salsa provided a precursor that we might be in for something special, something perfectly piquant and daringly delicious.  Quesada’s salsa has the type of incendiary bite that impresses itself on your taste buds, titillating them with piquancy, heat and flavor.  If Sadie’s Dining Room is the standard by which the Duke City’s hottest salsas are measured, Quesada’s may just set a new benchmark.  It’s not only piquant; it’s very flavorful, a red-orange jalapeno and tomato based sauce of medium thickness and maximum flavor.

Beauteous Burrito Christmas Style (Photo by Sergio Salvador)

Beauteous Burrito Christmas Style (Photo by Sergio Salvador)

As Steve Goatley told me, the carne adovada is indeed “out of this world.”  It’s the type of carne adovada my friend and frequent dining companion Ruben, an adovada adoring, carne connoisseur loves most (to find out how much, check out the amusing anecdote he relates in the feedback section below).  Unlike the salsa, the carne adovada doesn’t bite back.  The emphasis isn’t on piquancy, but on succulently tender pork marinated in a well-seasoned red chile.  For breakfast, it is served with two eggs and cubed, golden brown papitas.  If there’s one thing wrong with this carne adovada, it’s that there isn’t more of it.  A double-sized portion might not be enough to sate you; it’s good enough to make you weak at the knees.

Insofar as the chile, a worthy canvass for New Mexico’s favorite fruit and official state vegetable is Quesada’s enchilada plate–two or three white corn tortillas served rolled (flat upon request), topped with red or green chile (or Christmas style), cheese and that ubiquitous tomato and lettuce garnish so many people discard.  The chile is attention grabbing.  In its green chile hue, it has the tongue-tingling bite and roasted flavor of my youthful memories.  It also has a hint of sweetness that all members of the nightshade family seem to have, albeit not always discernible.  The red chile is not quite as piquant, but it’s even more flavorful–sweet and complex with a hint of earthiness.  Unlike the chile at Sadie’s which is more piquant than it is flavorful, the chile at Quesada’s is delicious first then piquant.  Ask for your enchilada plate to be topped by an egg for an additional flavor ameliorant, not that the chile needs any help.

Bunuelos at Quesada's New Mexican Restaurant

Bunuelos at Quesada's New Mexican Restaurant

Enchiladas are available in seemingly every variety but tofu.  There are cheese, ground beef, chicken, carne adovada and roast beef enchiladas available which you can mix and match in quantities of two or three.  The enchilada plate is served with the de rigueur beans and rice.  The beans are mashed and good.  The rice has a bit of a bite which places it in unique company considering most Spanish rice in New Mexican restaurants is bland and uninspired.

Quesada’s is one of only a few New Mexican restaurants offering buñuelos, a Mexican dessert made from fried dough.  In taste and texture, buñuelos resemble sopaipillas, but are flattened like Navajo tacos (which are also on the menu).  They are sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and are a good way to mollify any heat remaining on your taste buds and tongue.  Also quite good is the watermelon agua fresca, as refreshing and delicious a fresh water as we’ve had in New Mexico without the cloying quality of aguas frescas made by vendors.

Some readers of this blog have figured out that one way to gauge how much I like a restaurant is how soon after my first visit I make my first return visit.  After my first visit, I started craving Quesada’s carne adovada literally as we were driving away.  Alas, a scheduled lunch with my friend Ruben four days later was not to be due to my inattention (a woeful tale of my ineptitude is wonderfully related by Ruben in the feedback section below).  It wasn’t a total loss as Ruben loved the adovada…and made sure to tell me how much.

Carne Adovada Quesadilla with beans and rice

Carne Adovada Quesadilla with beans and rice

My second visit to Quesada’s  finally occurred five days after my inaugural visit when I introduced two other friends, Mike Muller and Bill Resnik to the chile that had so captivated me.  Carne adovada quesadillas were my choice.  A flour tortilla grilled crisp and folded over with melted cheese and generously engorged with carne adovada, it was melt-in-your-mouth good, one of the best quesadillas I’ve had in the Duke City.  The carne is the color of a magnificent sunset, the result of being marinated for hours in chile so good I could drink a vat of it.  The chile used on the carne adovada isn’t nearly as piquant as the chile served on other entrees.  In fact, it’s not a piquant chile, but it is so utterly delicious that you’ll fall in love with it.

The red chile at Quesada’s is so good, in fact, that the best way to have what would otherwise be a green chile cheeseburger is Christmas style–with both red and green chile.  The beef patty exceeds the circumference of the bun, spilling over by at least a half-inch.  Lettuce and tomato are the sole toppings but squeeze bottles of mustard and ketchup are also brought to your table so you can apply as much as you’d like.  The red chile is easily the star, so good that the best way to have this burger is smothered with the stuff.  Come to think of it, the French fries would be better smothered in the red chile, too.

Most of the highest heralded green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico don’t seem to be prepared in New Mexican food restaurants.  That’s not to say those restaurants who excel in enchiladas and boast of the best burritos can’t make a great green chile cheeseburger; it’s just that they’re not as renown for the most popular burger in the Land of Enchantment as they are for other entrees.  Quesada’s burger is good, but honestly, its other New Mexican food entrees are so much better that I’ll leave green chile cheeseburgers to purveyors who have perfected them.  Similarly I won’t order red chile at the restaurants who specialize in the green chile cheeseburger.  Red chile is what Quesada’s is for.

Quesada's green chile cheeseburger

Quesada's green chile cheeseburger

Not only does Quesada’s trigger memories of the chile of my youth, it elicited the promise of new memories at what promises to be one of my favorite New Mexican restaurants.

Quesada’s New Mexican Restaurant
513 San Mateo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 14 August 2009
1st VISIT:  26 June 2009
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 24
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Carne Adovada, Enchiladas, Aguas Frescas

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