The Supper Truck – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Supper Truck, A Taste of South in Your Mouth

On December 20th, 2014, a part-paean, part elegy graced this blog.  The opening stanza read:  “Supper Truck, I hardly knew you!  Inexplicably and to the detriment of my taste buds, I didn’t partake of your delightfully creative interpretation of Southern cuisine until your very last day of serving Albuquerque.  So, why do I miss you so much already?  Most likely it’s the lost opportunities to partake of Southern cuisine inspired by the dynamic food truck scene of Charleston, South Carolina, one of my very favorite culinary destinations in America.   It begs a paraphrase of a time-honored question is it better to have loved and lost the chance to further enjoy your edgy, contemporary, fusion twists on classic Southern comfort food favorites than never to have loved them at all?” 

To write a second chapter about the Supper Truck is to write a tale of rebirth, of starting over.  Some six months after our inaugural visit,  founding owner Amy Black sold both the truck and naming rights to Kristen Galegor and Claude Freeman.  Because Amy had emphasized she wouldn’t sell until she found “the right person with the rare combination of drive, creativity and community-mindedness” which epitomized her purview, Duke City diners have every reason to be optimistic about the future of one of the city’s stellar mobile kitchens. Kris and Claude seem primed to deliver as The Supper Truck Web site indicates: “Claude and Kris have kept the fan favorites and are working to expand this creatively Southern menu.  The pair have many years experience in restaurants and are the visionaries of what SUPPER is to become!

Grits

The Supper Truck rolled into town in September, 2012, inviting Duke City denizens to “put a little South in your mouth.”  Savvy diners (in whose ranks I obviously don’t belong) responded immediately and with a rare fervor, according “best of the city” honors in both the Alibi and Albuquerque The Magazine‘s annual “best of” issues for 2013 and 2014.  More than perhaps any other motorized conveyance in Albuquerque, The Supper Truck brought people together, its crepuscular rays seemingly beckoning the city’s hungry huddled masses yearning for great Southern cuisine.

Fittingly, The Supper Truck served its last meals while parked on the south side of the Marble Brewery on an unseasonably warm Saturday.  For regulars the event was akin to one last pilgrimage to a beloved culinary shrine which had assuaged their hunger and pleased their palates for more than two years.  For newcomers (like me) and curiosity-seekers wondering if The Supper Truck warranted all the hullabaloo, it was an event that would ultimately leave us with mixed emotions–regret for not having visited sooner and sheer pleasure for having partaken of a rare excellence in esculence.

SupperTruck03

Fried Chicken Banh Mi

20 December 2014: The South takes its grits very seriously–so much so that unbeknownst to Yankees and those of us not blessed to have been born in the South, there are ten commandments of grits.   One of the principle commandments considers it blasphemous to eat Cream of Wheat and call it grits.    The Supper Truck’s grits are every bit as good as the best grits we enjoyed while living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for nearly eight years.  These gourmet-quality grits are made with grilled shrimp, bacon, roasted red pepper coulis, green onion, parsley and white wine cream sauce over creamy stone-ground South Carolina grits.  They’re so good even Yankees will enjoy them. 

20 December 2014: While the Old South tends to hold fast to tradition, the contemporary South has embraced change, particularly in the culinary arena.  At the forefront of this evolution is the city of Charleston, South Carolina (where Amy cut her teeth) which has become a bastion of culinary expansiveness.  Though Charleston has a very vibrant Vietnamese culinary community, it’s unlikely they’ve seen anything like The Supper Truck’s South Carolina meets Vietnam offering of a fried chicken banh mi. Yes, a fried chicken banh mi.  The canvas for this unlikely but uncommonly delicious sandwich is a fresh, locally-baked baguette into which are piled-on house-seasoned fried chicken, pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro and a housemade momo sauce of Sriracha, mayo and lime juice.  It’s one of the best banh mi we’ve ever had.  Ever!  Anywhere!

BBQ Beef Tacos

20 December 2014: The Supper Truck’s tacos are on par with Cafe Bella’s street tacos and the scallop tacos at Eli’s Place (formerly Sophia’s Place) as my favorite tacos in the metropolitan area.  Traditionalists might decry them as nontraditional and unconventional even as their taste buds experience one foodgasm after another at every bite of their sheer deliciousness.  The shrimp taco ( grilled shrimp, Sriracha sour cream, Asian slaw, pickled red onion and cilantro on a grilled corn tortilla and the  BBQ beef taco (Coca-Cola braised New Mexico beef, Sriracha-Hoisin bbq sauce, Asian slaw, pickled red onion, cilantro on a grilled corn tortilla) don’t even need red or green chile to make them addictive.  It’s heartening to know Duke City diners won’t have to miss out on these gems.

20 December 2014: Among foreigners (anyone who’s not from the South), boiled peanuts (sometimes called goober peas) may just be the most hard to grasp of sacrosanct Southern culinary traditions.  In the South, unroasted and unshelled peanuts are boiled in salt water for hours, rendering the peanuts soft and salty.  Then they’re consumed while still hot and wet.  The Supper Truck’s boiled peanuts are terrific, the type of snack you might offer friends in hopes they’ll snub it so you can enjoy them all yourself.

SupperTruck03

Boiled Peanuts

26 November 2016: Our second visit to The Supper Truck also took place at the Marble Street Brewery, albeit the Westside version of the popular watering hole.  Similar to its elder sibling, the Westside location invites food trucks to park on its premises and feed its patrons.  The Supper Truck doesn’t often frequent the Westside Marble Street, but its reputation preceded its November, 2016 as long lines of hungry diners will attest.  Kris was very effusive about some of the civic projects in which The Supper Truck crew has been involved and raved about an online commercial for eHarmony in which Supper Truck made a brief cameo appearance.  More than anything, she waxed enthusiastic when discussing how well the new owners have been received.

Credit much of that reception to the graciousness of the Supper Truck crew and to the continuity of Amy Black’s creatively Southern inspired fusion cuisine.  Southern fusion is very much in evidence, especially the fusion of Southern elements with Vietnamese, New Mexican and Mexican ingredients.  The South meets the Far East in such daringly different items as the fried chicken banh mi and Vietnamese beef and grits.  New Mexican beef finds its way into several items, among them BBQ beef tacos and borrachitos (more on them later).

Chicken and Waffles

26 November 2016: John T. Edge, the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and author of Fried Chicken: An American Story calls chicken and waffles “a Southern dish once or twice removed from the South,”  meaning it’s “a dish most popular among Southerners now living in urban areas.”  Though the unlikely combination of fried chicken and waffles was popularized largely in restaurants throughout Los Angeles and New York City, today that pairing can be found virtually everywhere–even in food trucks.  It should come as no surprise that the Supper Truck’s version is terrific even if served on a paper vessel.  Available in quantities of two each pieces of chicken and waffles, this terrific twosome will make a Southerner of us all.  Though the fried chicken is boneless, it is still quite good with a crispy, golden hue sheathing tender white meat.  The waffles are roundish and on the small side.  They’re slathered with peach butter and syrup dusted with confectioners sugar and topped with strawberries.

26 November 2016: Spanish-speaking New Mexicans tend to ascribe small size, youth, affection or contempt to objects and people by appending their names with the suffix “ito.”  A short man named Juan, for example, might be called Juanito.  We had to wonder what the heck a “borachito” might be.  Being that a drunk is a borracho, could a borachito be a small drunk (and why is it spelled with only one “r”?  It turns out a borachito is a deliciously different burrito (unwrapped below) constructed on a large flour tortilla engorged with Coca Cola braised New Mexico beef with rich Vietnamese flavors, Cheddar, fries, sriracha sour cream and cilantro.  The diminutive terminology is out-of-place considering the size of this behemoth.  Its size is matched only by the flavorful melange with sweet, savory, tangy and piquant profiles.  Very much in evidence on the beef, in particular, are bold Vietnamese flavors.  The fries are an interesting foil which works very well with other ingredients.

Vietnamese Beef Borrachitos, a Unique Fusion Burrito

The Supper Truck Web site advises diners to “Be prepared to pull out your first aid kit because your mind will be blown when you experience the taste of SUPPER. Keep your eyes open for what’s to come!!!”  That’s pretty good advice from a purveyor of deliciousness we’re glad to have back serving the Duke City.

The Supper Truck
Location Varies
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 796-2191
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 26 November 2016
1st VISIT: 20 December 2014
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET:  BBQ Beef Tacos, Shrimp Taco, Fried Chicken Banh Mi, Grits, Boiled Peanuts, Vietnamese Beef Borachitos, Chicken and Waffles

Supper Truck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheesy Street – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Cheesy Street for Grown-up Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and More

There once was a sandwich with cheese,
That quickly brought me to my knees.
Toasted, roasted. Oh sweet bliss.
I’d be completely remiss
Not to say, I’ll take two please.
~Ode To Grilled Cheese
Courtesy of Clean Eats, Fast Feets

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to joke that “I’m at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life.  In fact, I’ve just had a mirror put over my kitchen table.”  Masterfully delivered in his inimitable perennial loser persona, that joke followed the thematic formula of his landmark 1980 album “No  Respect.” With that joke, the pudgy bug-eyed comic unabashedly hinted at the importance of food porn in his life without actually uttering the term.  Fittingly, Dangerfield, who based his entire comedy routine on getting no respect, isn’t even given the respect and credit for first suggesting the notion of food porn.

In fact it wasn’t until 1984 that the term “food porn” was coined when author Rosalind Coward wrote in her groundbreaking book Female Desires: How They Are Bought and Packaged:  “Cooking food and presenting it beautifully is an act of servitude. It is a way of expressing affection through a gift… That we should aspire to produce perfectly finished and presented food is a symbol of a willing and enjoyable participation in servicing others. Food pornography exactly sustains these meanings relating to the preparation of food. The kinds of picture used always repress the process of production of a meal.”

Place Your Order and In Minutes, You’re on Cheesy Street

Today food porn is both an art and a science, perhaps best exploited to its utmost by an enterprising advertising industry.  The Huffington Post believes “food commercials sexualize food, likening it to a lewd pastime that could replace sex altogether.”  Artfully arranged culinary concoctions are presented in print ads and television commercials designed to entice viewers to make a run to nearby fast food chain emporiums which promise to assuage our  lascivious cravings for deliciously depicted Big Macs, Whoppers, Quesalupas and Footlongs from Subway.  “Real” foods almost never look anything like the posed foods depicted in media.

Were it not for the remote control which allows us to change channels during commercials, many of us would be powerless against the unrelenting enticement of the food porn which dominates the airwaves in thirty second segments during prime-time.  Alas, Hollywood still manages to ensnare our attention by depicting food porn in all its mouthwatering, hunger-inducing, gotta-have-it-now glory.  Television shows and movies elevate simple food to true food pornography, as sensual and stimulating as any carnal act.  The raw sensuality and unadulterated allurement of food is perhaps most effective when the construction of sandwiches is aired in close-up.

The Dubliner with Bacon

Who can ever forget Adam Sandler lovingly constructing “the greatest sandwich in the world” for Paz Vega in the 2004 comedy-drama-romance Spanglish?   Relying heavily on high-quality ingredients, the sandwich–constructed from a rustic white bread, Monterey Jack cheese, mayonnaise, butter lettuce, fresh tomato slices, bacon and a fried egg over-easy–even manages to pull the attention of every XY-chromosome paired, red-blooded viewer away from the sultry Spanish siren.

Then there’s the scene in the movie Chef in which Jon Favreau’s character constructs a simple grilled cheese for his ten-year-old son.  Though the scene has our rapt attention from the moment butter is slathered on a slice of bread, the first sizzle on the grill evokes salacious salivation.  When the sandwich is sliced in half and a cascade of molten cheese slowly oozes out from between perfectly golden slices of crisped bread, our wanton lust reaches a crescendo.  We have to have a grilled cheese sandwich now!

Spaghetti Grilled Cheese

Such was our recent experience during our nth viewing of Chef.  Alas, we were unable to duplicate the magic of carefully orchestrated food porn.  We decided to leave it to the pros, determining we’d visit Cheesy Street the next time it was in the neighborhood.  Cheesy Street, one of the metropolitan area’s most revered food truck virtually since its launch in September, 2013, has elevated the grilled cheese from simple comfort food to creative and innovative grilled cheese you will crave.  Cheesy Street is a mobile purveyor of food porn, featuring a rotating selection of grilled cheese deliciousness along with fresh soups and desserts. 

Fortunately for us, Cheesy Street is a frequent guest of the Westside Marble Brewery not too far from our humble abode.  Cheesy Street is easy to spot with its shamrock-green countenance and long queues of hungry diners waiting to place their order.  The Westside Marble Brewery is a perfect host.  Place your order at the food truck’s order counter and you can saunter over to the comfy confines of a very friendly watering hole where your order will be delivered in due course.  If you don’t partake of adult beverages, the Brewery offers excellent non-alcoholic libations (and they’re not the usual Coke or Pepsi suspects).  Ostensibly they all pair well with grilled cheese.

Tomato Basil Soup

Only five grilled cheese sandwiches graced the menu during our inaugural visit, each one a tempting combination of flavor and innovation.  We did a double-take at seeing The Dubliner, a grilled cheese sandwich sharing the name of one of my favorite burgers from The Placitas Cafe.  Described as a “St. Paddy’s Special” constructed from “decadent Irish Cheddar cheese with tart green apple slices,” this is a superb version of grilled cheese food porn made even more sultry with bacon.   Dubliner Cheddar has a distinctive flavor, imparting a sweet, lingering aftertaste.  Despite a firm and slightly dry texture, it melts nicely.  The richness of the molten Dubliner pairs magnificently with the tartness of the green apples and the smoky saltiness of the crisp bacon.

My Kim’s choice, Spaghetti Grilled Cheese, is aptly reflective of her playful nature.  As described on the menu this sumptuous sandwich “sounds funny, tastes amazing.”  Between two golden-hued slices of  bread grilled in garlic butter you’ll find mounds of sausage spaghetti topped with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Strands of spaghetti escape their crispy confines on all four sides, but unlike with their plated brethren, you won’t have a red sauce mustache from slurping them up.  If you’ve always enjoyed the combination of spaghetti and garlic bread, you’ll enjoy this Italian inspired sandwich.

Irish Cream Bread Pudding

Few food pairings go as well as grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Cheesy Street’s homemade tomato and basil soup is not only soul-warming and comforting, it’s healthy, always vegetarian and gluten-free.  It’s not especially thick or creamy, but it does accentuate the acidity of tomatoes and the brightness and freshness of the basil very well.  This is the type of soup that transcends the seasons; it’ll be good any time of year and with any type of  weather.

Cheesy Street’s version of Irish Cream Bread Pudding is surprisingly good, especially considering it’s served in a Styrofoam cup.  What makes it uniquely delicious is just how much of the bread pudding is caramelized. Biting into those crispy edges we initially thought were burnt bread was akin to biting into bread pudding candy.  Texturally, the contrast between the soft, eggy bread and the caramelized edges is an enjoyable postprandial experience, a fitting way to complete a meal of luscious food porn.

April is National Grilled Cheese Month. There’s no better way to celebrate this momentous month than a visit or ten to perhaps the metropolitan area’s best purveyor of creative grilled cheese deliciousness. It’s a good thing food porn isn’t illegal because it’s out in the open at Cheesy Street.

Cheesy Street
Location Varies
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 352-4151
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 13 March 2016
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Irish Cream Bread Pudding, Tomato-Basil Soup, Spaghetti Grilled Cheese, The Dubliner with Bacon

Cheesy Street Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rustic On The Green – Albuquerque, New Mexico

First Came Rustic: A Divine Food Truck

Pop culture’s most famous exemplar of teenage angst may have been Napoleon Dynamite, a socially awkward daydreamer constantly tormented by bullies. Napoleon frequently lamented his ineptitude: “I don’t even have any good skills. You know, like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” Napoleon’s best friend Pedro, on the other hand, possessed skills Napoleon coveted: “Well, you have a sweet ride. And you’re really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you’re the only guy at school who has a mustache.”

In a previous review I bemoaned my lack of skills in the manly art of grilling (though not nearly as much as my dear Kim bemoaned my having ruined thousands of dollars of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables). Despite voracious absorption of the collected works of Bill and Cheryl Jamison, America’s foremost grilling and smoking gurus, my grilling skills are probably not even at the equivalent of Napoleon’s nunchuck skills. It got so bad, my saintly Kim confiscated my treasured “kiss the chef” apron (which admittedly I set afire numerous times).

Then Came Rustic on The Green

Unlike Napoleon who doggedly persisted in his indefatigable efforts to develop skills, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that you either have them or you don’t…and if you have skills, you can ply them virtually anywhere. How else can you explain all the virtuosos and prodigies who coax sheer, unbridled deliciousness in the motorized conveyances we not long ago chided as “roach coaches?” The food truck revolution has unleashed upon the fruited plain, a phalanx of peerless purveyors of the gourmet arts. These folks have mad skills.

Rather than envy them, it’s been my multi-year obsession to explore strange new dining opportunities, to seek out new eateries in all forms, to boldly dine where I haven’t dined before. Food trucks are indeed the final…or at least, the next frontier. Several of them undertake a weekly voyage to Talin, the largest international grocer in the Land of Enchantment. There they congregate in pods, converging in the sprawling parking lot every Wednesday at around high noon. Diners seem preternaturally drawn (in a sort of pied piper fashion) to Rustic: A Divine Food Truck. That is until December, 2015, when Rustic metamorphosed from the Alibi’s 2015 “Best of Burque” award-winning best food truck to a “steel and mortar” restaurant now dishing up its burgers at the Green Jeans Farmery.

The Rustic Menu

Now located on the community-oriented commercial plaza constructed entirely with repurposed shipping containers as modular, architectural building blocks, “Rustic: A Divine Food Truck” is now “Rustic On the Green.” The transformation means a larger space–albeit still under 500-square-feet–in which to prepare and serve burgers you’ll love. Rustic On The Green bears more than a passing resemblance to gymnasium concession stand. After placing your order at a counter, you’ll saunter over to your choice of several indoor and outdoor seating areas, none attached to a restaurant (although some seating areas are on the roof of the restaurants they serve). Your burger will be delivered in a few minutes.

1 April 2015: Perhaps it’s divine intervention or (more likely) the enticing aromas emanating from Rustic’s mobile kitchen, but I found myself queuing up with the teeming masses yearning to be fed.  You might think it wouldn’t take much deliberation or time to choose from among only four burgers on the current menu.  You’d be wrong.  Each of the four burgers is constructed from freshly ground chuck, local Fano brioche buns and a creative array of ingredients which ostensibly go very well together.  Burgers are always made to order. The alluring aromas come standard.

The Sacred, Rustic’s version of the green chile cheeseburger

Curse my advancing geriatric progression as I forgot which burger Thomas Molitor, a very discerning diner and good friend of this blog, recommended (it was the Divine Intervention: bleu cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary Balsamic reduction, Romaine lettuce and tomato).  Oh well, that just means I’ll have a Divine Intervention next time.  The Sacred (Wagner Farm’s green chile, American cheese, Romaine lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard), Rustic’s version of a green chile cheeseburger is hardly a consolation prize.  It’s a beefy behemoth with a lot of flavor.  Even though the beef patty is thick and nicely seasoned, it doesn’t obfuscate the piquancy and roasted goodness of the green chile. The Fano brioch bun is hard-pressed to hold in all the moistness without falling apart on your hands. The interplay between the sweet-tangy rosemary Balsamic reduction and the smoky, fiery chile is a mouth-pleasing experience you’ll want to repeat.

11 February 2016: As enjoyable as partaking of food truck fare can be, not every one of Albuquerque’s 310 days of sunshine per year are ideal for ordering and eating outdoors. That makes the experience at the Green Jeans Farmery much better. Indoor seating means you won’t be buffeted around by spring winds, or worse, have dust (a poor condiment) blow onto your burger. Burger deities intended for the Divine Intervention to be enjoyed in optimal conditions so that your focus can solely be on the harmonious mélange of ingredients that make this an award-winning burger. While the combination of bleu cheese and caramelized onions has been done ad-infinitum, Rustic’s Balsamic reduction converts the flavor profile of the caramelized onions from sweet to tangy-sweet, a nuance that works very well. The bleu cheese is sharp and pungent enough to wreck your breath for a while, but offending someone is a risk burgerphiles will take. The Divine Intervention is indeed divinely inspired.

The Divine Intervention (doesn’t apply to really bad photo) with French Fries

Whether mobile or stationary, the talented crew at Rustic On The Green prepares some of the very best burgers in the city. For a pittance more you can enjoy them with sweet potato fries or regular French fries, all of which you can wash down with Mexican Coke or bottled water.

Rustic On The Green
3600 Cutler Avenue, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 944-5849
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 11 April 2016
1st VISIT: 1 April 2015
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 19
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET:The Sacred, French Fries, The Divine Intervention

Rustic On The Green Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bang Bite Filling Station – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Bang Bite Filling Station in Santa Fe

“When people pile seven things onto one burger, it drives me nuts!”
~Bobby Flay

Seven ingredients? That’s not a burger! It’s a hodgepodge, a medley, a potpourri! It’s everything including the kitchen sink. Perhaps other regions in America need the Iron Chef’s sage advice, but New Mexicans certainly don’t. For us, a burger with minimal ingredients is just common sense. That’s because we’ve got green chile and when you’ve got green chile, who needs anything else? In the Land of Enchantment, our green chile cheeseburger is sacrosanct, a celebrated cultural tradition and an iconic food. The very best green chile cheeseburgers are made with no more than three to five ingredients (including the green chile and cheese) and those ingredients are intended to complement the green chile, not mask it.

In the Land of Enchantment, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that almost every restaurant, drive-in, diner, dive, joint, cafe, roadside stand, eatery, greasy spoon, lunch counter and bowling alley slinging burgers is going to brag about its green chile cheeseburger being the best to be found anywhere. That is everyone but Santa Fe’s Bang Bite Filling Station which gregarious owner-chef Enrique Guerrero contends doesn’t even offer a green chile cheeseburger. Instead, he defers to the number two, the “Bite Burger,” a mix of jalapeno, poblano, green chile, Serrano and chipotle peppers blended right into the meat.

Award-Winning
Bite Burger with French Fries

In a fit of delicious irony that can happen only in New Mexico (or an early episode of MASH), that “not a green chile cheeseburger” earned the distinction of being selected Santa Fe’s very best green chile cheeseburger during the third annual Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown in 2015. Aside from five different chiles, the number two that earned number one honors is constructed with bacon, avocado, pepper Jack and jalapeno aioli. Not including the chiles and the cheese, that’s three ingredients. Bobby Flay would be proud.

So is Chef Guerrero, perhaps Santa Fe’s most accomplished vagabond chef, an impresario with very impressive culinary pedigree that includes presiding over the kitchens of some of most highly acclaimed restaurants during their halcyon periods. That includes the now defunct La Mancha at Galisteo Inn when it garnered recognition from Bon Appetit as among “ten of our favorite dining spots in vacation destinations around the country.” Under his watch, La Mancha was also named by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the nation’s 26 “Hot Tables.” More recently, Chef Guerrero was the founding executive chef for the O Eating House in Pojoaque, Mangiamo Pronto in Santa Fe and Ancient Spirits in Bernalillo.

Oyster Po’ Boy with French Fries

A food truck isn’t a step down for the uber-talented chef. It’s a change in direction and in the fashion of his celebrated culinary career, that direction is up, up and up. In 2014, Bang Bite was selected by readers of Edible for a “Local Hero Award,” an honor which celebrates the region’s best loved food leaders, proving leadership isn’t always exercised in fine-dining kitchens. Santa Fe’s 10Best expert, the fabulous Billie Frank likened Chef Guerrero’s efforts to “right out of Jon Favreau’s hit film Chef,” citing him as “a man with an impressive culinary CV” who “traded his chef’s coat for a tee-shirt.” It’s the proverbial “toque to baseball cap” story and it’s playing out just as Chef Guerrero likes it.

Situated on an otherwise nearly vacant graveled lot off Old Santa Fe Trail (directly across the street from Kaune’s Market), the bright orange Bang Bite might be mistaken for one of the New Mexico Highway Department’s storage bins were it not for the pervasive bouquet emanating from its gleaming stainless interior. That bouquet wafts onto your motorized conveyance like a smoky, appetite-arousing siren beckoning you to stop and uncover its source. That source is an ambitious menu belying the relative Lilliputian size of the food truck. The menu lists ten burgers, eight “sammies,” six “things with cheese” and a number of sides.  Specials round out one of the most interesting menus in town (and that’s saying something). 

Despite all the possibilities, for aficionados of the fabled green chile cheeseburger, there’s only one choice.  That’s the Bite Burger, the number two that’s number one in the hearts of Smackdown judges.  At just south of eleven dollars, it’s a rather expensive burger you might expect would be gargantuan in size and flavor.  From a flavor standpoint, it hits the mark.  It’s a moist, juicy and delicious burger.  Alas, and I paraphrase fellow burgerphile Dr. Sheldon Cooper, its meat to bun to condiment ratio wasn’t satisfactory in that the meat did not extend across the circumference of the bun.  When you get your hands on a good burger, you don’t want to be shortchanged in any way. 

When we lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we enjoyed oyster po’ boys by the boatful.  In fact, we may have had nearly as many oyster po’ boys in New Orleans as we’ve had green chile cheeseburgers in Santa Fe.  It seemed to make sense we should have an oyster po’ boy in Santa Fe.  With a sandwich architect such as Chef Guerrero, you’re ensured of a next best to just-off-the-boat oyster po’ boy.  Bang Bite’s version is served on a burger-type bun instead of on a standard po’ boy roll, but other than that it’s as good as many a po’ boy we had–even in New Orleans.  In addition to a healthy amount of crispy fried oysters, the sandwich is overfilled with crispy applewood bacon, trailer-made pickles, avocado and a smear of spicy bayou aioli.  The oyster po’ boy isn’t on the everyday menu, but it should well be. 

Both the Bite Burger and the Oyster Po’ Boy are served with trailer fries, maybe the best fries in Santa Fe.  They’re hand-cut and texturally perfect–light and crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.  Fries this great deserve better than those annoying packets of ketchup which my ham-sized hands can’t seem to open. 

The Bang Bite Filling Station may not have a green chile cheeseburger on its menu, but it’s got just about everything else burger, sandwich and cheese lovers will love.  It’s also got the cachet of a legendary, down-to-earth chef plying his inimitable skills of his own volition in a food truck that’s elevating dining in the City Different.

Bang Bite Filling Station
502 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 469-2345
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 10 October 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Oyster Po’ Boy, French Fries, Bite Burger

Bang Bite Food Trailer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Firenze Pizzeria – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Firenze01

Firenze Pizzeria at 900 Park Avenue, S.W., near Central Avenue and 8th Street adjacent to Robinson Park

We’ve got a wood-burning pizza oven in the garden
– a luxury, I know, but it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made.”
~Gwyneth Paltrow

There really is a lot of veracity in the axiom that “your eyes are the mirror to your soul” because eyes truly do provide visual clues as to what we’re thinking. Some psychologists would have you believe that your choice of pizza toppings is also a window to your soul. So what do your favorite pizza toppings say about your personality and behavior?

One psychologist and longtime pizza lover would have you believe people who adorn their pies with pepperoni are “good team players, prepared to sacrifice their personal interests to those of the majority.” Another purports that people who prefer pepperoni have “been shown to “forget” obligations on occasion and miss out on opportunities at work and home.” Hmmm, contradictory assessments by two so-called experts. Perhaps such assessments say more about their creators than they do about the personality traits of subjects they claim to understand so well.

Firenze03

The interior of Firenze Pizzeria

Extending the premise that an accurate personality assessment could be discerned from your choice of toppings, why not a personality assessment based on your preference for slices instead of a whole pie? What does it say about you if you’d rather have a thick Brobdingnagian pizza over a thin wisp of a pie? Somewhere out there, an analyst is creating a profile of diners who prefer pizza from a mobile conveyance (food truck, if you will) over pizza from a pizzeria.

For those of us who love the Italian wood-fired pizzas from Firenze Mobile Wood Fired Pizza and the Italian wood-fired pizzas from the Firenze Pizzeria equally, the personality assessment would probably read something like “indecisive, timid and easily manipulated, fearful of offending others” and other such psycho-babble. From a pizza preference standpoint alone, it’s impossible to decide which is better–dining al fresco on a pizza from the Firenze mobile oven or dining under climate-controlled comfort in the pizzeria.

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The unique pizza oven in which your pie is prepared

If you didn’t know the good folks who brought us Firenze pizza on wheels have expanded their operation and given Duke City pizza lovers another option for enjoying their pizza, you’re probably not alone. The Firenze Pizzeria opened its doors in May, 2013. Now, however, if you didn’t know of Firenze Mobile Wood Fired Pizza, you might not be attuned to the Duke City’s burgeoning food cart scene. Albuquerque has become a cosmopolitan cow town, joining such cities as Portland, Los Angeles and Austin as a haven for (take your pick) food trucks, food carts, mobile canteens, catering trucks and mobile kitchens. Just don’t call them roach coaches.

Firenze may well be the first of the Duke City’s mobile eateries to diversify its offerings by launching a brick and mortar operation. It wasn’t solely the success of the mobile operation that precipitated the move. Felicia and Steve Meyer matriculated into the food service world with the intention of determining whether or not they would enjoy the challenge and all the work entailed without going broke. Purchasing an Italian-made oven was less expensive than renting a storefront. Long story short, the Meyers found out they not only enjoyed making pizzas for hungry patrons, they were pretty darned good at it. Firenze quickly made it to every diner’s short list, leaving us pining for the next time we happened upon the location in which the magnificent mobile oven was parked.

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The Don Corleone Pizza

Being booked every weekend for nearly two years for special events, catering and a semi-permanent gig at the Downtown Growers’ Market at Robinson Park facilitated the decision to seek a permanent venue. They found the perfect spot at 900 Park Avenue, S.W., virtually adjacent to Robinson Park. The two-story edifice Firenze now calls home has plenty of character and personality, previously having housed an art gallery and before that, El Hispano News.

The pizzeria’s cynosure is an inlaid brick oven imported from Italy. It’s not an exact replica of the mobile oven, but works similarly. Firenze burns locally sourced elm, a soft wood which isn’t especially good for smoking meats, but imparts a nice flavor to pizza dough. The oven generates temperatures of up to 800 degrees. That doesn’t portend getting your pizza quickly. Expect your order to take up to fifteen minutes to be filled as the Firenze pizzaioli stretch the dough by hand and meticulously apply the ingredients for your pie.

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​Quattro Formaggio: Garlic Oil, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Feta, Pecorino Romano, Roasted Garlic & Parsley

Firenze pizzas are individually sized at eleven-inches–perfect for one. The pizza isn’t exactly thin crust and not exactly New York style, but somewhere in between. The dough is made on the premises and is hand-stretched. Firenze touts its use of “only the freshest, most organic ingredients” sourced locally as much as possible. “Market specials” are made with ingredients from local farmers and purveyors. Firenze also offers a ten-inch gluten-free crust and gluten-free salad options. All pizza crusts are dairy-free and if you ask, any pizza can be made without cheese. Signature teas are housemade daily and lightly sweetened with pure cane sugar. No fountain drinks or artificially flavored beverages are served.

8 June 2013: The Pizzeria’s menu lists three “classics:” the Margherita (the pizza which started it all), a cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza (don’t expect the Meyers to conduct a personality assessment should you order this one). The real showcase of the important Italian oven is in its preparation of eleven artisan pizzas, some of which are very inventive. For her inaugural taste of Firenze, my Kim opted for the Quattro Formaggi, a turophile’s delight made with four cheeses: mozzarella, ricotta, feta and Pecorino Romano as well as garlic oil, roasted garlic and parsley. It’s amazing how the four cheeses complement and contrast one another: the pungent sharpness of the feta against the delicate richness of the ricotta; the familiar creaminess of the mozzarella with the hearty sheep’s milk undertones. Fromage fanatics, this one’s for you!

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The Firenze mobile pizza oven

8 June 2013: Sign up for the Firenze newsletter and you’ll receive periodic updates and news. That’s how we found out about the Don Corleone special, a pizza available only to newsletter subscribers. If ever a pizza was worthy of being considered the “Godfather” of pizzas, this would be it. Picture on a slightly charred dough canvas: tomato sauce, mozzarella, Italian sausage from Keller’s Farm, pepperoni, green olives and Copocollo ham. This is a magnificent pizza, so good I eschewed my usual practice of saving three slices for later…so good I wanted a couple more slices…so good it made it to my short list of best pizzas in New Mexico.

What makes the Don Corleone so good? Farina fanatics might find it blasphemous to learn that not everyone believes char should be part of a pizza’s flavor profile. The pies at Firenze have a light char, just enough so that you might catch a hint of it on a bite or two; it’s not the taste of “burnt” some diners complain about at Farina. The ingredients are top notch and are apportioned just a bit on the parsimonious side which lets you glean a good appreciation for the well-seasoned tomato sauce and magnificent crust. Your pie isn’t weighed down with excess which makes eating it a challenge. Moreover, it is a delicious, uncomplicated pie.

The Godfather

3 January 2015: In its January, 2015 report Pizza Magazine Quarterly revealed that only four states across the fruited plain love pizza less than New Mexico does  (another quality of life category for which we can be grateful for Mississippi).  With only 1.55 pizza joints per 10,000 residents, the Land of Enchantment ranks 46th in terms of number of pizzerias.   Worse, only 38.4 percent of those pizzerias are independent.  Perhaps if more pizzerias in New Mexico offered a pizza as good as The Godfather, our ranking would be much higher.  The Godfather (tomato sauce, mozzarella, Keller’s Farm Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and Kalamata olives) is a beautiful pie that arrives at your table steaming hot with the mozzarella burbling to a tempting sheen.  The high-quality toppings are strewn atop a golden dough canvas in the manner worthy of Michelangelo with each bite rewarding you with pleasurable deliciousness.

3 January 2015: With a name like “Picante,” you might expect a pie pulsating with piquancy.  Instead, the “wow” factor on this pizza comes from a melange of ingredients (tomato sauce, mozzarella, Capocollo ham, rosemary pineapple and fresh sliced jalapeños) that go very well together.  The jalapeños are baked with the pizza which renders them nearly caramelized and tame.  With pineapple and Capocollo ham, the Firenze folks could have paid tribute to the Aloha state in naming this pie, but unlike far too many “Hawaiian” pizzas, this one isn’t nearly as fruity and sweet as others.  It’s got just enough sweetness from the pineapple to meld magnificently with the saltiness of the ham and the slight heat of the jalapeños.

The Picante

The menu also includes three salads: house salad (Romaine, cherry tomato, cucumber, Pecorino Romano, house vinaigrette), creamy pesto salad (Romaine, Parmesan, cracked black pepper, croutons and a creamy pesto dressing) and the one which most piqued our interest, the Gorgonzola salad (mixed greens, Gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and Balsamic vinaigrette). Wash down your meal with Firenze’s basil mint iced tea, a black tea infused with basil and mint or with a lavender lemonade, an herbal bend of lavender tea, Italian lemon juice and pure cane sugar. You won’t miss Coke or Pepsi in the least.

Whether or not you buy into the notion that your choice of pizza ingredients says a lot about your personality, you’ll probably join the soon to be legions of pizza aficionados headed for the Robinson Park neighborhood for one of the best pies in town–a wonderful pizza whether you get it from the oven on wheels or the venerable two-story building.

Firenze Pizzeria
900 Park Avenue, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242.2939
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 3 January 2015
1st VISIT: 8 June 2013
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 22
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Don Corleone, Quattro Formaggio, Lavender Lemonade

Firenze Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

El Chicken 100% Carbon – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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My friend Bruce “Sr Plata” waits to place an order for a whole chicken at El Chicken on San Pedro and Central

My environmentally conscious friend Bruce “Sr. Plata” Silver doesn’t have a large carbon footprint.  No environmental activist would ever condemn him for fouling the air and water with a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, Sr. Plata leaves large “carbon fingerprints,” the finger-licking kind you get from frequenting restaurants which specialize in pollo al carbon, chicken prepared over charcoal. 

Pollo al carbon has spoiled Sr. Plata.  He craves those juicy, golden-skinned birds speckled with black char, chicken so meaty and delicious it makes store-bought rotisserie chickens look positively anorexic in comparison.  Who can blame Sr. Plata?   Pollo al carbon is absolutely addictive.  It’s truly finger-licking good, much better (by legions) than you’ll find at the Colonel’s place.

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A whole chicken

Fortunately the Duke City has several outstanding purveyors of pollo al carbon. Sr. Plata’s current favorite is El Pollo Real Colombiano, but when it comes to great chicken, he’s hardly monogamous.  When the cleverly sobriqueted O-U-8-1-2 responded to Sr. Plata’s plea for more pollo places to try, we knew we’d have to visit El Chicken, a food truck stationed on the southwest corner of San Pedro and Central.  You can tell you’re getting close by the mouth-watering aroma emanating from the large yellow truck.  The fragrant bouquet is a precursor of the flavors soon to come.

Why does El Chicken’s poultry taste so good?  You can read why on the El Chicken food truck itself: “We start with whole, fresh chickens.  We marinate them in our exclusive juices, herbs and spices.  Then our grill masters slow roast them on Mexican mesquite charcoal (carbon).  Our chickens take more time and cost more than others, but you will taste the difference.”  The wait for your order to be fulfilled will take no more than five minutes, but in the immortal paraphrased words of Carly Simon, anticipation will keep you waiting.

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Standard sides with a whole chicken

A sole picnic table makes up the entire dining area around the food truck, but if you head west on Central then north on Valencia, you’ll find a very nice park where you can eat on shaded picnic tables.  Pollo al carbon makes for an excellent picnic lunch.  A whole chicken will feed two people with regular appetites or one Sr. Plata who makes quick work of his favorite dish. 

The pollo al carbon is terrific with its enticing aroma wafting invitingly toward you.  That aroma is imprinted on your hands as you pick up each moist, delicious piece.  The marinade isn’t as prominent as the citrus marinade used at the aforementioned Pollo Real Colombiano and the chicken is only lightly salted, but that charcoal flavor certainly comes across.  Perhaps that’s the point.  Every piece of the chicken is succulent and replete with charcoal-infused flavor. 

A whole chicken order includes two incendiary salsas–a light green guacamole-based salsa and an even more fiery red salsa.  They’re both rather strong and will dominate the flavor of the pollo so apply them judiciously.  Better yet, create a sandwich from the accompanying sweet grilled onions and corn tortillas.  The whole chicken also includes some of the very best beans in New Mexico.  Seriously!  The beans are infused with a smoky flavor and chunks of pork.  The rice is moist and buttery. 

El Chicken is one of Albuquerque’s most unique and delicious options for increasing your own carbon fingerprints.   The pollo al carbon should come with a warning that you might not want to wash your hands after they’ve been handling the charcoal flavor imprinted chicken.

El Chicken
212 San Pedro Drive, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 903-4537
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 24 May 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: *
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Whole Chicken, Beans, Rice, Salsa

El Chicken - 100% Carbón Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato