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Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World on Southern Blvd in Rio Rancho

Nay-sayers, those nattering nabobs of negativism, have always had it in for hot dogs. First they plied us with horror stories and urban myths about what hot dogs are made of. Essentially, they decried, hot dogs are made of everything from pigs snouts and chicken feet to snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails. Then they ratcheted up our shock and awe by telling us how hot dogs are loaded with artery-clogging, cancer-causing saturated fats, not to mention those nasty nitrates and nefarious nitrites. They’ve even disparaged hot dogs as processed pink slime in a bun.

Despite all the brouhaha and rigmarole, hot dogs continue to thrive across the fruited plain as aficionados of the tantalizing tubular treats snub their noses at those who would abolish an American institution. What’s next—motherhood, apple pie, the Dallas Cowboys? Recent statistics reveal that the U.S. population consumes 20 billion hot dogs per year. That’s some 70 hot dogs per person per year (or about as many as Joey Chestnut ate in one sitting during Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest). In 2012, CNN compiled a list of America’s top fifty foods and the hot dog ranked fourth. That’s a lot of love for a beloved American icon some would deprive us of.

Nathan’s Hot Dog with Jalapeño Mustard, Onions and Relish

Unlike the humble hot dog which has been disparaged and bad-mouthed to no end, ice cream has been practically beatified. It is both loved and revered, a symbol of all that is good, wholesome and pure. Research findings from Cornell University revealed that both men and women consider ice cream one of their three favorite comfort foods (not that men will admit to it). CNN confirms this: “Think of any modern romantic comedy to come out of Hollywood; what do citizens of the United States reach for when their boyfriend leaves them for their therapist? A gun? A simple solution? Try a tub of ice cream.”

In the entirety of mankind’s history, there is only one ice cream that’s beyond contempt, a turn-off even to the most ardent aficionados. For some inexplicable reason, an ice cream brand in India bears the stern, mustachioed countenance and name of the Führer of Germany.  Sure, branding an ice cream Adolf Hitler is an exercise in the freedom of speech, but moreover, it’s a demonstration of extremely poor taste and insensitivity (and I need a shower just for mentioning it here).


Somehow nature decreed that ice cream and hot dogs become inextricably associated with one another, a sort of “saint and sinner” pairing of foods that just seem to go so well together. That’s especially true in sweltering spring and summer days when the outdoors beckon. Fortunately New Mexico averages nearly 400 days of sunshine a year so ice cream and hot dogs are a good idea any time of the year and in any season. The preternaturally delicious pairing of this dynamic duo wasn’t lost on Abrahan Montaño, an entrepreneur who in March, 2015 launched the Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World in Rio Rancho.

Though he may be a first-time restaurant owner, Abrahan is passionate about ice cream, blending unique ingredients into rich, creamy ice cream flavors you don’t often see.  The paleterias (Mexican Popsicle and ice cream shops) he frequented during his youth were one of the inspirations for his restaurant.  The other inspiration was his grandfather Fred Reade, a familiar name in the restaurant community.  Reade owned and operated Antonio’s Mexican Restaurant on Fourth Street for more than two decades before closing shop in 1996.  Reade has become a fixture at the ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World.

Frito Pie

Although not on the menu, a visit to this Southern Boulevard gem is guaranteed fun as might be expected from a shop offering ice cream and hot dogs.  One corner of the shop is dedicated to kids and includes a number of toys which might make the geriatrically advanced among us wish we were kids, too.  The menu also bespeaks of fun.  A number of aguas frescas are at the ready to quench your thirst while Italian ice and fresh fruit paletas (Popsicles) will quell the heat.  Ice cream flavors include two sure-to-become New Mexican favorites: red chile-chocolate and green chile pistachio.

Nathan’s hot dogs are featured fare and you’ll find all your favorite toppings, too, but if you really want to live a little, try “Grama Faviola’s Fabulous Homemade Jalapeno Mustard.” It’s got almost as much personality as Grama Faviola herself. Faviola and her brother Eddie are friends of the owners and serve as the shop’s unofficial ambassadors.  Much as we love them, we can’t live on hot dogs alone.  Fortunately the shop also offers tamales and Frito pies as well as corn-on-the-cob or in a cup.

Sonoran Hot Dog

The tamales are made for the shop in Santa Fe.  Even when not blanketed by chile, they pack a pleasant piquancy and are packed with shredded, tender tendrils of pork marinated in a very flavorful chile.  These are the type of tamales you would want two (or six) per serving.  The Frito pie is also quite good, a mound of Fritos corn chips topped with ground beef, red chile, lettuce, onions, and onions.  The vegetables offer a cool contrast to the hot chile and ground beef.  The chile won’t water your eyes with heat, but it’ll make you happy.

Among the specialty hot dogs are one you couldn’t find in Albuquerque five years ago.  The Sonoran Hot Dog has made its way into New Mexico and it’s been embraced by the masses.  The Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World offers an interesting and delicious version: a thick Nathan’s hot dog, meat candy (er…bacon), chopped tomatoes and an incendiary jalapeño mayo you can respect.  Had this hot dog been served in the traditional Sonoran bolillo style Mexican bread (resembling) a hot dog bun that hasn’t been completely split length-wise), it would have been even better.

Left: Red Chile Chocolate Ice Cream; Right: Chocolate and Vanilla

Our verdict on the red chile chocolate ice cream–if you’re not revving up your engine to head to Rio Rancho for a scoop or two, you probably didn’t read this far.  Surprisingly, this may be the most piquant dish we enjoyed during our visit.  The combination of chile and chocolate has been wowing diners since before Montezuma’s reign.  This one will definitely wow you.  So will the regular (if such a pedestrian word is appropriate) chocolate ice cream.  Then there’s the pumpkin ice cream, a true taste of autumn that’s wonderful all year long. 

The Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World pairs two of America’s very favorite foods in a fun, friendly shop that promises to be a haven for the hungry and solace for all who need soothing comfort.

Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World
2003 Southern Blvd., Suite 118
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 514-4598
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 3 October 2015
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Sonoran Hot Dog, Tamale, Nathan’s Hot Dog, Red Chile Chocolate Ice Cream, Frito Pie

Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pop Fizz – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Pop Fizz on the National Hispanic Cultural Center

The geriatrically advanced among us who grew up during the golden age (1950s through the 1970s) of the “jingle” were constantly bombarded with earworm-inducing singing commercials, those catchy and memorable short tunes used to convey advertising slogans.  We couldn’t help but sing along, often to the annoyance of our parents.  When, for example, the Garduño family visited the big city (Taos), the kids would belt out the familiar jingle “Let’s all go to A&W.  Food’s more fun at A&W. Have a mug of root beer, or maybe two or three.”  Our dissonant din rarely persuaded our parents to take us to A&W.  More often than not, we were ferried back to Peñasco for a home-cooked meal.

Researchers suggest that women may be even more susceptible to earworms than men.  That research was borne out when I suggested to my Kim that we visit Pop Fizz for lunch.  Instead of asking what kind of food Pop Fizz serves as she usually does when I suggest a heretofore untried restaurant, she began singing “plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.”  That jingle, as we seasoned citizens all recognize, once touted the heartburn healing properties of Alka Seltzer, an effervescent antacid still in use today.

The colorful ambiance of a delightful eatery

The name “Pop Fizz” obviously has nothing to do with effervescence or with Alka Seltzer.  The “Pop” portion of the name is short for “Popsicle” while “Fizz” represents the sound made when you open the carbonated beverages available on the premises.  Learning the reason for the name did nothing to mitigate my Kim’s singing of the jingle (now I know how my parents felt), but our inaugural visit went a long way toward helping us understand just why Pop Fizz has become such a phenomenon. 

Some of my more entrepreneurial readers probably never heard about Pop Fizz until it was featured in Inc ., a monthly American publication focused on growing companies.  Inc. doesn’t focus solely on Fortune 500 companies. It’s got a soft spot for the backbone of American business, the traditional mom-and-pop operation such as Pop Fizz, a humble homegrown, family owned and operated gem which has been winning over savvy Duke City diners since day one.

Sonoran Hot Dog with what is left of Agua Fresca de Sandia (Watermelon Fresh Water)

Day one transpired on a balmy summer day in 2013 when brothers Lorenzo and Carlos Alvarez and their father Rafael launched their own version of relief, in this case relief from hot, sunny summer days in the Duke City.  Relief came in the form of homemade paletas (popsicles) made from all-natural, real fruits and cream as well as organic cane sugar (absolutely no high fructose corn syrup).  Also available were popular Mexican favorites such as aguas frescas, ice cream and a delicious innovation they called ice cream tacos. Duke City denizens clamoring for relief converged upon the Lilliputian storefront on Bridge Boulevard. 

The Alvarado family didn’t let grass grow under their feet before relocating their operation to the National Hispanic Cultural Center not quite two years later.  Their new digs are more capacious and include an uncovered patio with picnic tables.  With more spacious accommodations and an expansive industrial kitchen, the family has also been able to expand their menu, now offering a number of savory dishes such as Frito pie, several hot sandwiches and even a Sonoran hot dog.

Mint Chip Ice Cream Taco

The Sonoran hot dog has been referred to as the “quintessential food of Tucson.”  While it has achieved cult status throughout Arizona, it has only recently begun making significant inroads in the Land of Enchantment.  There are even more versions of this savory, smoky treat than it has ingredients.  The version at Pop Fizz is constructed from an all-beef hot dog, avocado, onion, chipotle mayo, cheese, bacon and salsa verde nestled in a bolillo bun.  It’s as delicious as it is messy with spillage guaranteed.  The bolillo bun is pillowy soft and slightly sweet, a nice complement to the smokiness of the hot dog and the piquancy of the salsa verde. 

Tacos are an excellent accompaniment to the Sonoran hot dog, but not the savory, meat-filled tacos of which you might be thinking.  Ice cream tacos, a Pop Fizz specialty are the perfect sweet contrast to the savory-smokiness of the hot dog.  The taco “shell” is a thin waffle shaped very much like a taco.  It is stuffed with dense, sweet, delicious ice cream and topped with chocolate.  We can vouch for the deliciousness of the mint chip, pecan and chocolate ice cream tacos.  The ice cream isn’t soft, creamy and custard-like, but dense and full-bodied.  The mint chip is especially addictive.

Paleta de Pina Y Habanero (Pineapple and Habanero)

While it’s often advised that in Mexico one should not drink the water, you’re also well advised to partake of as many paletas as you can.  Paletas are premium frozen delicacies made with real fruit and cream.  Typically proffered by street vendors with pushcarts, paletas offer a refreshing respite from sweltering summer days, but they’re wonderful any time of year.  Paletas are available in an amazing range of flavors including such exotic offering as pina and Habanero (pineapple and Habanero), a paleta that packs a punch.  It’s got more piquancy than the chile at far too many New Mexican restaurants, but it’s even more delicious than it is piquant. 

While Pop Fizz may have started as a neighborhood eatery, it’s garnered a reputation that far exceeds its South Valley home.  Savvy diners trek from far and wide to partake of cold treats that will warm your heart.

Pop Fizz
1701 4th Street, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 695-1180
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 5 September 2015
1st VISIT: 4 September 2015
BEST BET: Paleta de Pina Y Habanero, Agua Fresca de Sandia, Sonoran Hot Dog, Mint Chip Taco, Pecan Taco, Chocolate Taco, Watermelon Paleta, Raspberry Paleta

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Chillz Frozen Custard – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Chillz, Home of the Very Best Frozen Custard in Albuquerque

Chillz, Home of the Very Best Frozen Custard in Albuquerque

“Custard: A detestable substance produced by a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow, and the cook.”
Ambrose Bierce, American writer (1842-1914)
The Devil’s Dictionary (1906)

Ambrose Bierce’s scathing definition of custard is not necessarily an expression of his disdain for the popular frozen dessert, but an example of his lampooning of American culture and especially its lexicon.  Starting in 1881, the American satirist began writing The Devil’s Dictionary in which he published alternate and usually quite acerbic definitions of common words.  His biting wit and sardonic views earned him the nicknames “cackling king of cynics” and “Bitter Bierce.”

There are parts of the Midwest (the Milwaukee and St. Louis areas in particular) in which Bierce’s definition of custard would be considered sacrilege.  Midwesterners feel so strongly about their custard, that an utterance of such blasphemy would be an occasion for a noose, a tall tree and a short drop.  Their passion for frozen custard is akin to the love New Mexicans have for chile and never mind that winter temperatures throughout the Midwest can drop to near Arctic levels, custard is an year-round obsession.

A fabulous menu listing all the wonderful toppings for Chillz' frozen custard

A fabulous menu listing all the wonderful toppings for Chillz’ frozen custard

Just as most New Mexicans have a strong antipathy toward “chili” from Texas, Midwesterners abhor the “franchised soft-serve fare pumped full of air” which passes off as custard in New Mexico (and throughout the fruited plain) and which Jane and Michael Stern denounce in their terrific tome 500 Things To Eat Before It’s Too Late.”

The Sterns appreciate only the best custard—“dense and smooth, not as rich as ice cream, but even more luxurious.”  In their sagacious estimation, the very best frozen custard in America is found at the legendary Ted Drewes, a Saint Louis institution for nearly eight decades. Despite copious cajoling by custard aficionados to franchise, Ted Drewes will not compromise on quality and remains a two store operation in Saint Louis.

Chocolate frozen custard on a cone

Chocolate frozen custard on a cone

Albuquerque native Kurt Nilson attended a Saint Louis area university where he discovered and fell in love with the premium frozen custard at Ted Drewes.  Before moving back to the Duke City, he completed courses at the Frozen Dessert Institute so that he could bring one of his favorite parts of the Midwest back to his beloved high mountain desert home.  He figured frozen custard would be perfect for those scalding Burque summer days.

Nilson launched Chillz in June, 2009, the height of the summer’s blistering onslaught.  Situated directly across Central Avenue from the University of New Mexico, it’s two doors down from Walker’s Popcorn Company, another favorite of Midwest transplants who may have frequented Garrett’s Popcorn, a Chicago staple.  In 2012, Nilson sold his interest in the shop he founded to his partner, an affable Minnesotan well acquainted with custard.

Chocolate and vanilla frozen custard on a waffle cone topped with raspberries

Chocolate and vanilla frozen custard on a waffle cone topped with raspberries

Though nearly eighty years behind Ted Drewes in experience, Chillz has actually two-upped the elder statesman of frozen custard by offering three flavors every day to Drewes’ one flavor (vanilla).  Chillz features a flavor of the day in addition to chocolate and vanilla.  The flavors of the day are inventive and exciting.  Chillz has even taken to creating ballots on which customers can vote for the flavor of the day they’d next like to see.  You can cast a vote for up to five choices on each ballot.  The menu, scrawled on the wall, includes more than thirty toppings–from the unusual (gummy bears, cinnamon toast crunch, Lucky Charms) to the standards (hot fudge, toffee, Oreos).

There are some things you should know about frozen custard–the real stuff, the stuff Chillz makes and serves. Sure, it may look like ice cream, but there are vast differences. First, eggs are added to make frozen custard–1.4 percent egg yolk, in fact. Second, it is much lower in butterfat content than conventional ice cream: ten percent compared to sixteen percent. Through a churning process, the custard is blended with air to increase its volume, but it not nearly as airy as the franchised soft-serve ice cream served throughout New Mexico. Frozen custard isn’t churned as long as ice cream and isn’t nearly as cold. The result is a thicker and creamier texture than ice cream as well as a softer consistency.

A turtle sundae made with chocolate custard and the flavor of the day for June 26th, key lime

Chillz makes its frozen custard fresh every day as well as its waffle bowls and cones.  The menu also includes sundaes, shakes, floats, baked treats (cookies, Rice Krispy treats and brownies) and something which, at first browse, might sound unappetizing, but is quite good–concretes.  In his phenomenal blog, Barry Popik describes concretes as “custard blended with any of dozens of ingredients.  Concretes are blended so thick that they and their spoon do not fall out when their cup is turned upside down; servers often demonstrate this before handing customers their order.”  If this description sounds familiar, you’ve probably had a Blizzard shake at Dairy Queen which is made with the soft-serve ice cream and not real frozen custard.

Real frozen custard–Chillz custard–is exquisite. It’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom with an amazing taste and texture. The chocolate has a rich, indulgent and expensive taste (but at a reasonable price). The raspberries provide a tangy yet surprisingly complementary contrast to the sweet (but not cloying), creamy, oh-so-good custard. This custard is so good you’ll want at least a couple of scoops; some will want even more. For them, Chillz has a gurgitator’s challenge few will surmount.


S’mores with chocolate custard

The Chillz Challenge: eight scoops, eight waffles, eight toppings in thirty minutes and your frozen feast is free.  You’ll also get your photo prominently displayed on Chillz’ wall of fame, Web site, Facebook and MySpace sites.  The current record-holder is Stephanie Torres, a petite dynamo who completed the Chillz Challenge in just over eight minutes.  I’m easily twice her size and couldn’t approach her eating feat on my best day.

As of July 28, 2013, some fifteen competitors have surmounted the challenge for which, to date, no UNM athlete has manned or womaned up.  Neither did Man Versus Food star Adam Richman who didn’t include Chillz on his itinerary when he visited the Duke City in 2010. Richman who doesn’t ever eat ice cream or ice cream-like products during the “off season” (when he’s not taping his show). In fact, he finds sweet challenges the most difficult, particularly when they involve rich, dairy product.

Banana Split made with Fudge Caramel Eclair Custard

Banana Split made with Fudge Caramel Eclair Custard

Much as I love custard, it’s challenge enough to polish off a turtle sundae and it’s only got two scoops of the sinfully rich custard.  My turtle sundae, made with one scoop of the exquisite chocolate and one scoop of the flavor of the day for June 26th, key lime, was wonderful, an exemplary rendition of the popular dessert.  The key lime makes for an unconventional turtle sundae, but other ingredients (hot fudge, toasted pecans, whipped cream) are right out of the recipe book for sundaes.

Chillz has an excellent rendition of a banana split. It’s pretty much a standard banana split only it’s made with custard instead of ice cream.  If the flavor of the day happens to be fudge caramel eclair, it makes an outstanding foundation for the strawberry, chocolate fudge and pineapple toppings.  Chocolate custard, on the other hand, is a terrific foil for the S’mores: marshmallow, hot fudge, graham cracker, whipped cream and a cherry.  It’s wonderful!

More than a dozen competitors have surmounted the Chillz Challenge

More than a dozen competitors have surmounted the Chillz Challenge

In July, 2013, Andrea Feucht, author of the must have Food Lover’s Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos wrote an article for The Guardian, one of the largest daily British newspapers, in which she named the top ten restaurants, cafes and diners in Albuquerque.  Andrea, a Wisconsin native, thinks so highly of Chillz that it made her hallowed list.

In recent years, the influx of Midwesterners has added much to the Duke City dining scene. From the aforementioned Walker’s Popcorn Company to Pizza 9 (home of sloppy and sumptuous Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches) and now Chillz, Albuquerque may not yet compete with Chicago, but then the Windy City doesn’t have anything like our chile. They don’t have Chillz either. We do, and for that, Duke City diners will be grateful every time the mercury approaches the century mark and every day it doesn’t. At any time of year Chillz is a great destination.

Chillz Frozen Custard
2720 Central Ave
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 265-5648
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 27 July 2013
1st VISIT:  6 February 2010
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET:  Chocolate Custard, Vanilla Custard, Banana Split, S’mores

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