Turtle Mountain Brewing Company – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Turtle Mountain in Rio Rancho

The Tewa name “Oku Pin”  which translates in English to “Turtle Mountain” has three meanings of significance to the people of Okay Owingeh, one of New Mexico’s great Tewa speaking Northern New Mexico Pueblos. “Oku Pin” was the the Indian name given to Dr. Alfonso Ortiz who obtained worldwide prominence as an anthropologist and ethnologist until his death in 1998.  Ortiz was born and raised in San Juan Pueblo which in 2006 officially changed its name to Okay Owingeh.

“Oku Pin” is also the Tewa name for Sandia Peak, the 10,678-feet high mountain which provides a spectacular backdrop for Albuquerque, Bernalillo and Rio Rancho.  When Nico Ortiz, son of the famous anthropologist launched his inaugural restaurant and microbrewery in 1997, it just made sense that it should be called Turtle Mountain, a name which pays homage to his father and to the magnificent peaks under whose shadow his enterprise would flourish.

Hummus with Pita at Turtle Montain

Hummus with Pita at Turtle Montain

Today, Turtle Mountain has also become synonymous with good food and (ostensibly) very good beer.  Nico Ortiz has dedicated his life to the pursuit and production of good beer and has garnered tremendous recognition for his efforts, including a multi-page spread on the November, 2005 edition of New Mexico magazine.  His brainchild has also been discovered by Brewpub magazine, All About Beer magazine and other national and local publications, all of which have come away singing the praises of Rio Rancho’s first and only brewpub.

The inaugural Turtle Mountain microbrewery and restaurant was situated in a strip mall on Southern Boulevard, across from what was then the City of Vision’s City Hall. In addition to quality libations, it quickly earned a reputation as a friendly neighborhood tavern in which you could actually get a very good pizza, calzone or grinder (the term used in the Northeast United States for a large sandwich), all named for New Mexico’s incomparable natural landmarks and several being crafted with an inventive flair you don’t find in many brewpubs.

Potato Skins: Crispy potato boats stuffed with cheese, bacon tomatoes and chives with sour cream on the side

There was no pretense as to what the original Turtle Mountain was–a microbrewery which just happened to serve high quality food.  Parents wanting their children to experience some of the very best pizza in the metropolitan area knew it meant subjecting them to the choking haze of cigarette smoke (before New Mexico banned smoking in restaurants),  the cacophonous din of adult beverage inspired revelry and sometimes long waits for a table to come available.  Those factors may have made the Turtle Mountain a less than family friendly environment.

This wasn’t lost on Ortiz who, in November, 2006, opened a larger, family-friendly Turtle Mountain location about half a mile away from its Rio Rancho birthplace.  Smoking isn’t permitted at the new location and the menu has expanded to include panini-style sandwiches, salads, appetizers and burgers heretofore unavailable to Rio Rancho residents.

Spin Dip

Turtle Mountain’s previous location (3755 Southern) is now home to the Fat Squirrel Bar & Grill, also owned by Nico Ortiz and his wife.  None of the inventiveness that has made Turtle Mountain a local favorite has been lost on the new restaurant and pub which launched in the summer of 2008.  In 2011, Ortiz joined the ranks of Duke City area restaurant impresarios with more than two restaurants when he launched Timbuctu Bistro in the city’s westernmost fringes. 

The guiding principle of Turtle Mountain Brewing Company is to provide the people of Rio Rancho and surrounding communities with delicious, high-quality foods and beverages at an affordable price in a comfortable, friendly environment. Turtle Mountain’s employees are encouraged to get to know customers by name. If this sounds like the show “Cheers,” it’s by design.  That’s how Nico wants it.

Niff Sticks – Pizza bread topped with bacon, garlic oil, jalapeños and mozzarella.

The Turtle Mountain’s appetizers include the Cochiti Combo, house-made tortilla chips with the terrific triumvirate of salsa, con queso and guacamole.  While the salsa recipe has changed over time (it used to have a sweet bite that had its genesis in sunflower seeds, a crunchy treat we’ve never seen before in salsa), it’s still quite good.  Its current rendition is much more piquant, a bit tangy and more akin to a pico de gallo.  The chile con queso is no longer the most piquant of the three saucy appetizers despite the prominent presence of jalapeno.  It’s still the velvety smooth, creamy guacamole that steals the show.

While several Albuquerque area restaurants offer calamari, it’s not Camel Rock Calamari with a pesto aioli and marinara.  The difference is that most restaurants feature the batter-coated, deep-fried squid in the shape of ringlets.  At Turtle Mountain, the calamari is Spanish rabas de calamar–deep-fried squid tentacles.  They’re of the thickness of human fingers and about twice the length.  They’re also tender and delicious with a light batter coating.  The pesto aioli and marinara are flavorful accompaniment, but not absolutely necessary as these calamari are quite tasty on their own.

The Adam Bomb

The Adam Bomb

The appetizer we’ve enjoyed least is Turtle Mountain’s hummus with triangles of pita bread.  That doesn’t mean it’s a bad hummus.  It is, in fact, a good hummus.  It’s just the type of hummus you might expect a brew pub to serve.  Where we found it lacking is in some of the subtle touches that the more practiced hands of a Mediterranean restaurant’s hummus chef would impart: the sheen of olive oil and lemon juice to provide moistness, a tad more garlic to provide fragrance and flavor.

The Turtle Mountain’s specials of the day sometimes surprise even frequent visitors.  One special imparting a dramatic effect is the Thai peanut soup, a thick, rich, comforting soup the flavor of which you normally don’t find in American restaurants, much less a brew pub.  This soup is comparable to the sweet peanut sauce often served with satay at Thai restaurants.  It is replete with vegetables such as onion, okra and tomato, all sliced small.  A bowl of this isn’t quite the swimming pool size of a Vietnamese pho, but one bowl is more than filling.

Buffalo Pizza: Chicken Tenders, Buffalo Wing Sauce, Tomatoes, Green Olives, Ranch Dressing

Another special of the day we hope will someday make it to the daily menu is a pizza called the Spicy Blue, a 12-inch canvass of peppercorn encrusted dough topped with a base of cream cheese blanketed by salty prosciutto and smoked jalapenos draped by melted mozzarella cheese.  It is a thing of beauty, more oblong than round with its sole hint of red coming from the prosciutto.  Its most prominent flavors are saltiness and heat, a palate-pleasing combination.

Not quite a pizza, but close to it is a curiously named starter called Niff Sticks, yet another special-of-the-day good enough to make the starting line-up for just about any other restaurant in town.  Niff sticks start off with the restaurant’s thin-crust dough which is then topped with garlic oil, bacon and jalapenos all covered by mozzarella.  Normally I don’t advocate a bread appetizer prior to having pizza, but this is just too good to pass up especially for bacon lovers who will love the generous portion of bacon in each bite.

Spicy Blue Pizza - Pepper encrusted dough, smoked jalapenos, prosciutto and mozzarella on a cream cheese base.

Spicy Blue Pizza – Pepper encrusted dough, smoked jalapenos, prosciutto and mozzarella on a cream cheese base.

Incomparable might be a good adjective for the pronounced roasted green chile taste you’ll find in all the Turtle Mountain’s pizzas.  Call it heresy if you will, but this restaurant’s pizzas are better than  just about all Duke City purveyors specializing in the thin-crust, gourmet ingredient genre.  Move over Il Vicino.  Stand aside Farina Pizzeria.  Surrender Scarpa’s.  Turtle Mountain’s pizza reigns supreme, particularly the Adam Bomb pizza (Mozzarella, pepperoni, green chile, sausage, spinach, pine nuts, sauce).  Not only does the green chile have the roasted taste New Mexico’s citizens demand, it’s got a bite to it.  It is truly the bomb!  If you want your bomb to be twice as explosive, ask for the Turtle Mountain’s cracked peppercorn crust.  Coupled with green chile, it’ll give your taste buds a thrill.

The pizzas are about twelve inches of thin-crusted deliciousness.  Though thin crust, they’re definitely not New York style with the type of pliability that allows you to fold them vertically.  The crust is painfully thin, stiff and crunchy in places, but it’s not overdone and has only hints of char.  It’s a great canvass for the creative ingredients offered at the Turtle Mountain.  Each pizza leaves its own unique imprint on your taste buds, quite unlike at some pizzerias where every pizza seems to be a cheese pizza whose sole taste differentiation comes from the different ingredients piled atop.  There is serious inventiveness going on at the Turtle Mountain.

The Cabezon

Some of those pizzas showcase the brew pub’s award winning brews.  One is the Ojo Caliente, a pizza crafted with Habanero stout barbecue sauce, mozzarella, chicken and Cheddar.  Some might consider barbecue sauce on a pizza a heretical concept, especially when topped with chicken.  The Ojo Caliente will make converts out of the nay-sayers.  First of all, the sauce is tangy, piquant and absolutely tongue-tingling delicious.  The chicken is shredded instead of cubed as served in some pizzas.  The two cheeses are complementary.

Perhaps the city’s best culinary collaboration is the pairing of barbecue and pizza on the restaurant’s Smokehouse BBQ Pizzas, a pizza partnership between the Turtle Mountain Brewing Company and Rio Rancho’s Smokehouse Barbecue Restaurant.  One pizza is topped with sliced pork, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and your choice of red or green chile.  Add a fried egg and you’d technically have an enchilada on a pizza.  The Smokehouse barbecue flavor profile is prominent on this pie with a very discernible hint of smoke.  The red chile packs a punch, moreso than the green chile, but both are a terrific alternative to tomato sauce.

Smokehouse BBQ Pizza

Smokehouse BBQ Pizza

The calzones are roughly the size of a flattened football and prepared in the same wood burning oven as are the pizzas.   In fact, you can have any of the restaurant’s signature pizzas made into a calzone.  The Adam Bomb calzone, for example, is made from the same ingredients as my favorite Turtle Mountain pizza.  They’re just packaged a bit differently.

Also available are five different “grinders,” the name given to sub sandwiches in New England.  For perspective, a grinder is essentially the same as a hero, hoagie, po boy, submarine, torpedo, wedge or zep.  It’s a large sandwich made of a long crusty roll split lengthwise and filled with meats and cheese (as well as sundry condiments such as tomato and onion).

The Adam Bomb on a calzone

The Sun Mountain grinder is constructed of turkey, ham, green chile, provolone, Cheddar, tomato, onion and garlic mayo on a hoagie roll.  It is served warm so that the melted cheese covers all the other ingredients.  Fortunately, the cheeses ameliorate, not cover-up the other ingredients.  This is an excellent sandwich, as filling as a Turtle Mountain pizza and as good as any sandwich you’ll find in the City of Vision.  The green chile and garlic mayo combination is especially flavorful.  There is a lot going on in this sandwich as in a lot of ingredients, a lot of flavor and a lot of sandwich!

The menu has several tempting burgers.  For a wonderful breath-wrecking and absolutely delicious burger, you can’t beat the El Rito.  This beauteous, bountiful burger is engorged with crisp bacon, fetid feta cheese and that rich, creamy guacamole the Turtle Mountain does so well.  It takes two hands to hold his burger and five or six napkins to wipe off your mouth; that’s how juicy this carnivore’s dream is.

Fish and chips

Fish and chips

Macaroni and cheese is yet another entree the Turtle Mountain does surprisingly well–so well that you’ll often see children eschewing pizza to partake of their favorite cheesy treat.  This is an adult mac and cheese made with a blend of five cheeses, the most prevalent being Cheddar.  It’s not an especially creamy mac and cheese, but that also means it’s not as oleaginous as some macaroni and cheese tends to be. 

The fish and chips at the Fat Squirrel Pub & Grill may be the very best in the area (just ask Bob of the Village People, the most prolific commentator on this blog).  Its sibling restaurant, the Turtle Mountain, is a chip off the old block.  Three golden-hued, flaky Alaskan cod planks are dipped in the house beer batter then deep-fried and served with house-made malt vinegar and tartar sauce.  The batter is light and crisp, the flesh firm to the fork and the chips soft, but not flaccid.

Ruidoso Ribs

15 April 2018:

It’s rare that anyone has much room left for dessert, but if you do, the Turtle Mountain menu includes several popular choices, the local favorite of which is probably the Carrizozo Apple Calzone (caramelized apple calzone fried golden then topped with sugar, cinnamon and caramel sauce with vanilla ice cream). Another cloying option is the Roundtop Reese’s Cookie (freshly baked oversized cookie with Reese’s Pieces topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce). If you weren’t stuffed before having dessert, you certainly will be when you’re done with the sweetness.

Large peanut butter cookie with Reese’s Pieces topped with Vanilla Ice Cream

Luke’s Root Beer Web page indicated the Turtle Mountain’s root beer is one kids would love (translation: it’s pretty sweet) and rated it 15th among 71 root beer brewed throughout America.  Well, this overgrown kid certainly did love that root beer–it washed down some excellent food.  Alas, both that wonderful root beer and the Turtle Mountain’s heady cream soda (which had a sarsaparilla goodness rare in soda) are no longer offered, the consequence of doing business with Coke.

Turtle Mountain Brewing
3755 Southern Blvd.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 994-9497
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 15 April 2018
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Adam Bomb Pizza, The Chimayo Pizza, Root Beer, Calzone, The Ojo Caliente, Thai Peanut Soup, Cream Soda, The Sun Mountain Grinder, Smokehouse BBQ Pizza, Fish and Chips

Turtle Mountain Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Groundstone – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Groundstone on San Mateo

Kids say the darnedest things. That was the premise of popular radio and television shows hosted by Art Linkletter from the mid 1940s through 1969. Linkletter would engage children (usually aged three to eight) in casual conversation. Humor–often laced with double entendre–would often ensue out of the children’s naive and silly responses. Once, for example, he asked a little girl to spell Art, his name. She proceeded to spell the host’s name R-A-T. Most parents can relate to the unpredictable nature of what their children say. More often than not, it resonates with child-like innocence, but every once in a while an utterly unintentional and unfiltered zinger sneaks out that will make parents want to slink away and hide.

When her son Caleb was four years old, Kimber Scott, an Albuquerque resident and one of my very favorite people, discovered that he was curious about everything his world had to offer. He was fascinated by all the letters, numbers and colors that whizzed by him. Now nine, he’s always asked a lot of questions and has never shied away from expressing himself. Sometimes he speaks with the insightful precociousness of an older child and sometimes with the naivete of innocence, but more often than not, the streams of consciousness that come out of his mouth warrant being shared. Thankfully Kimber chronicled Caleb’s words of warmth, wit and wisdom in a recently published must-read book she named Caleb-isms: The Things My Kid Says. It’s a wonderful insight into the world of a child you can’t help but love.

The Dude Flirts With Many Women, But Groundstone’s Hostess Extraordinaire Dawn Is His Special Lady.

Because Kimber and her charismatic husband “Break the Chain” maven Ryan are passionate gastronomes and always a pleasure to break bread with, it’s only natural that the book be laced with Caleb’s observations about food. Here’s one of my favorites: Every day after school, Caleb usually asks if I will take him to get a cheeseburger. Cheeseburgers are his all-time favorite food. He has affectionately called them hambahgahs for as long as he could talk. I tried to explain that i was not going to buy him a hamburger every day. I went on to say that if I did, I would spend a lot of money every month just on after-school hamburgers and I was not willing to spend that much money. As well as that it is not not the best after-school snack, mainly because it fills him up too much and he will not eat his dinner. I guess I blabbed too much going on and on about why I was not going to get him one. He was silent. I looked in the rear-view mirror and asked, “Well?” He sulked, then quoted a line from his favorite Pigeon book by Mo Willems. “You don’t want me to be happy, do you?”

To good old Charlie Brown, happiness is a warm blanket. To Caleb and many of the rest of us, happiness in a warm cheeseburger, preferably one with green chile. My friend Ryan and I have shared many a cheeseburger, but I’ve yet to have the pleasure of Caleb’s company at a purveyor of bounteous burgers. One of these days, perhaps I’ll ask Caleb to write a guest review. With his astute mind, there’s no telling what he’ll come up with though it’s bound to be better and more percipient and mirthful than anything I can come up with. In writing this review, I tried to channel my own inner Caleb, but just don’t have his flair for words. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy this missive as much as we enjoyed our meals at Groundstone.

Spinach, Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

Parents of both two-legged and four-legged children will appreciate Groundstone’s family friendliness. On both our visits, our sylphlike hostess Dawn fawned over our debonair dachshund Dude as did our smiling server Shannon. They’re demonstrative dog lovers, not the pretentious type who only touch dogs with their fingertips. During lull periods they returned to give the Dude more love. We watched them impart the same kindness to children and elderly guests. How can you not love a restaurant in which the term “dog-friendly” is a way of service, not just some patio in which dogs are sequestered away from everyone else? Groundstone actually has two patios–one on the restaurant’s east side where the winter sun will keep you warm and one on the west side where the shade will shield you from summer’s rays.

Veteran restaurant impresario Russ Zeigler is the brainchild behind Groundstone. He’s been creating restaurant concepts for four decades. It’s pretty obvious one of the lessons he’s learned in that time is to hire good people who are earnest and caring in their approach to customer service. That’s one of the things that sets apart restaurants such as Groundstone and Joe’s Pasta House. Russ launched his first restaurant in 1977 and has since then owned or co-owned such stalwarts as Liquid Assets, High Finance, Options, Assets and Sandiago’s.

Green Chile Strips with Avocado Ranch Dressing

Groundstone is located in the 6,700 square-foot edifice which previously housed The Library and before that Johnny Carino’s, a short-lived Italian chain. If you’re wondering, the genesis of the name “Groundstone” comes from the restaurant’s make-over. During the renovation, an undesirable flooring had to be ground down to stone and concrete, leaving the floor with an organic look. The cynosure of the capacious restaurant is an attractive bar back-dropped by distressed red bricks. Several flat screen televisions are strategically placed throughout the dining room and bar, most tuned to NFL games during our visits. Several of the staff are diehard Philadelphia Eagles fans, but they still treated this Cowboys loyalist very well.

Groundstone’s promise to its guests is “local, fresh, fun.” The concept combines “the best of the burger, pizza, and craft beer scene, and rounded off with incredible gourmet salads meant to re-invent the dining experience.” Russ calls the triumvirate of pizza, burgers and beer “the classics,” and indeed, there are few eateries across the Duke City in which this troika can be found under the same roof. A commitment to serving mostly local ingredients will endear local diners who appreciate such high-quality local products as Fano bread and Bueno chile. When local ingredients aren’t possible, the restaurant’s commitment to freshness and quality is not compromised.

The Cubano

26 November 2017: Appetizers (and desserts, too, for that matter) have become pretty blase as if imagination is left to wholesale distributors who supply so many restaurants. It’s rare that we find an appetizer that surprises us. Count among those rare surprises the Ahi Poke (sashimi grade seared tuna, kale, sweet chili (SIC), pickled ginger, wasabi, avocado, sesame soy glaze) at Groundstone. With a perfect sear framing the perfectly red tuna, it’s got the chops of a good sashimi. The sweet chili sauce contrasts nicely with the quick burst of heat from the American wasabi and the biting freshness of the pickled ginger, all of which provide a diversity of flavors. The buttery avocado and slightly bitter kale are good, but it’s the sashimi grade tuna which shines most.

21 February 2018: British chef Yotam Ottolenghi expressed an obvious truth: “A well-made salad must have a certain uniformity; it should make perfect sense for those ingredients to share a bowl.” It doesn’t take a genius chef to know when ingredients are working together well. Your taste buds will quickly and easily discern that harmony for you. Groundstone offers five salads, the ingredients of each read like the promise of a great salad. Our inaugural salad experience was the spinach, beet and goat cheese salad (fresh spinach, golden beets, cucumber, red onion, grape tomato, goat cheese, almonds, with pomegranate vinaigrette). Most restaurants would probably serve such an amazing assemblage of ingredients with a cloying dressing. Groundstone serves it with a pomegranate vinaigrette that’s not quite lip-pursing in its tartness, but it’s definitely not sweet. The bitter, earthy goat cheese benefits most from the symbiotic tartness of the dressing, but so do the acidic grape tomatoes.

The Groundstone Burger with Sweet Potato Fries

3 December 2017: In the past few years, restaurants across the Land of Enchantment seem to have discovered the delicious potential of green chile as an appetizer alternative (or addition) to salsa. It should come as absolutely no surprise that green chile strips have caught on. The real surprise is that it took so long. Groundstone’s version showcases Amber ale battered Bueno green chile strips served with a cooling avocado ranch dressing. The green chile is a bit on the mild side, but it has a nice roasted flavor. The avocado ranch dressing is a winner. Even better is the green chile ranch which our delightful server Shannon thought we might enjoy. The green chile ranch isn’t quite as thick as the Dion’s version, but it’s every bit as flavorful. All salad dressings are made on the premises.

3 December 2017: Several elements define the Cuban sandwich, a hearty sandwich which got its start among the working classes in Cuba. What Americans have come to know as a Cuban sandwich typically includes thin slices of marinated pork roast, thin slices of ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles. Groundstone pays tribute to the Cuban sandwich with a burger called the Cubano. The burger contains some elements of the popular Cuban sandwich, but it goes much further. Picture Akaushi beef topped with black forest ham, smoked pulled pork, provolone cheese, pickles, whole grain Dijon ale mustard, served on a Fano brioche bun. It’s a mouthful and then some. The generous portion of this burger’s three meats–rich, buttery Akaushi beef (a type of Wagyu); salty, intensely-flavored black forest ham and smoked pulled pork– will make carnivores very happy. It wouldn’t be a Cubano, however, without the pickles which provide a textural and flavor (zesty and sour) contrast.

The Brooklyn with Green Chile

26 November 2017: Sometimes a burger is constructed with too much of a good thing. That was our assessment of the eponymous Groundstone burger (grass-fed beef topped with Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, tomato, roasted garlic infused mayo, served on a Fano brioche bun). Though the sautéed mushrooms provide terrific umami (deep, dark, meaty intensity), the strong, pungent garlic mayo is the dominant flavor. That’s almost criminal considering the tender grass-fed beef; rich, sweet Gruyere and sweet caramelized onions. We scraped off some of the mayo and enjoyed it much more. Next time we’ll order this burger sans condiments.

3 December 2017: Nine pizzas grace the Groundstone menu. Available in ten- and eighteen-inch sizes, they’re not as waifishly thin as today’s fashionable pizzas nor are they thick, casserole-like slabs. If the Brooklyn (pepperoni, roasted garlic, mozzarella, fontina, garlic infused olive oil) is any indication, they’re more generously topped than the penurious pizzas on which it’s a challenge to find some of the named ingredients. That generosity applies as well to the cheese which drapes over the crust like a molten blanket. No matter which of the pizzas you order, it can be improved with green chile (which goes well with everything).

The Heisenburger

21 February 2018: Only my former history professor would believe Groundstone’s Heisenburger is named for Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist and catalyst behind the Nazi atomic bomb efforts. The rest of us know The Heisenburger, Groundstone’s version of a green chile cheeseburger, is named for the clandestine alias of Albuquerque’s favorite meth-maker Walter Hartwell “Walt” White, Sr. It’s not only “blue sky” which can manipulate the brain’s Limbic reward system. The Heisenburger (Akaushi beef topped with smoked Cheddar, Bueno green chile, applewood smoked bacon, onions, Bibb lettuce, tomato, green chile infused mayo on a Fano brioche bun) gets diners “high,” too. There are a lot of things going on in your mouth with this burger and all of them are delicious. The Bueno green chile and green chile-infused mayo aren’t especially piquant, but they go very well with all the other ingredients.

21 February 2018: There’s only one problem with Groundstone’s specialty sandwich menu.  The first time you peruse it, you’ll want to order each of the six sumptuous sandwiches.  The second time you visit, you probably will order the sandwich with which you fell in love your previous visit.  That’s become Kim’s dilemma.  After enjoying the Groundfather (Genoa salami, pepperoni, prosciutto ham, mixed greens, pesto, marinara sauce and provolone cheese served on a Fano rustic ciabatta roll), she can’t wait to have it again.  If you didn’t already know how special Fano bread is, this sandwich will quickly show you.  It’s a perfect canvas with the perfect consistency for this sandwich–crusty on the outside and tender on the inside.  The combination of pesto and marinara sauce is a pleasant surprise; they don’t always work together well.  Then, of course, there are the meats and cheeses, an array of Italian delights.

The Groundfather

21 February 2018:  In describing the importance of desserts, movie writer and creator Anne McManus, declared “It’s the finale. It’s the last impression. A bad dessert can ruin the meal.”  Don’t expect to find any bad desserts at Groundstone.  There are six decadent desserts on the menu, all tempting.  Groundstone’s Cobbler (your choice of cherry, apple, or peach, with vanilla ice cream) is work of art on a plate.  Flanking our peach cobbler are vanilla ice cream and whipped cream with chocolate and caramel drizzle.  The cobbler itself showcases a sweetened biscuit topping baked until the peaches are tender and the topping is golden.  The peaches are juicy and fresh.  It’s elevated cobbler at its finest.

Peach Cobbler

Groundstone may not be entirely groundbreaking in its concept or menu, but it’s got a great pedigree and is committed to such ideals as using locally sourced products, enthusiastic and warm service and providing a comfortable milieu in which families can enjoy themselves. With effervescent hostess Dawn and attentive servers such as Shannon at your beck-and-call, you can’t go wrong. Groundstone is terrific: For now you’ll just have to take my word for it, but someday I hope to share Caleb’s unique perspective.

5001 San Mateo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 404-8287
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 21 February 2018
1st VISIT: 26 November 2017
COST: $$
BEST BET: Ahi Poke, Groundstone Burger, Sweet Potato Fries, The Cubano, The Brooklyn, Green Chile Strips, Salad with Avocado Ranch Dressing, Green Chile Ranch Dressing, The Groundfather, The Heisenburger, Peach Cobbler; Spinach, Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

Groundstone Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

PK’s Restaurant & Bar – Albuquerque, New Mexico

PK’s Restaurant & Bar Within the Confines of the International Indoor Soccer Arena

When the Air Force notified me I was being reassigned to Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, friends who had been stationed in England warned me, “you can forget all about your favorite sports for three years. Instead of football, basketball and baseball, the only “sports” televised in England are snooker, darts and soccer.” “Snooker?,” I asked. “Isn’t that a mushy term of endearment similar to darling?” “No,” one responded, “that’s snookums. Snooker is a type of billiards game, but not nearly as exciting.” “Darts?” “Yep, there are competitive darts leagues all over England and their matches are televised.” “Well, at least soccer has been called the beautiful game, so I’ll probably become a soccer fan,” I retorted.

To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, I went to a fight and a soccer game broke out. My live introduction to the beautiful game may actually have demonstrated the fluidity and constancy of motion for which soccer is known. There probably were displays of physics-defying, ball-bending skills brilliantly executed by lithe athletes. Perhaps there were even exhibitions of raw, naked power. I missed it all. Back then, when you attended a “football” game in England, you risked life and limb. Soccer hooligans were the scourge of Europe. Frenzied, fanatical, alcohol-fueled fans chanted themselves into a lather with every ebb and flow of the game. Fights and verbal altercations broke out all around me.  My virgin ears had never heard such swearing.  It was like attending an Oakland Raiders game. By the end of the first period, I had had enough.

Stuffed Pizza

Years later, watching my nieces Kaleigh, Alexandra and Paige handle a soccer ball as deftly with either foot as I might with my dominant right hand, showed me that soccer is a very nuanced game requiring tremendous skill, coordination and grace. (It also taught me that soccer moms can be nearly as “passionate” as English soccer fans, but that’s a story for another time.) Watching dominant defender (Jim Millington look-alike) Omar Gonzalez prowl the pitch like a majestic eagle and turning defense into offense for the American World Cup team taught me soccer is all about the team (contrary to the me-first approach of professional basketball). Soccer, I learned at mid-life, is indeed a beautiful game!

In January, 2012, the International Indoor Soccer Arena opened its doors in a new building off the south frontage road of Paseo del Norte  between Edith and Jefferson.  The arena hosts six adult leagues, a youth league, high school league, four Lil’ Kickers seasons, as well as camps, fitness and skill programs.  A child development program for children 18 months to 9 years-old ensures the rudiments of the beautiful game are imparted to children during their formative years.  Within the confines of the arena is PK’s Restaurant & Bar which to date has no Yelp reviews despite being open since October, 2015, but is a rollicking gathering place for soccer (and pizza) aficionados.  A dog-friendly south-facing patio is available for those of us who like to dine with our four-legged fur babies.

The Hat Trick

PK’s Web site is pretty clear about the restaurant’s approach to food: “The PK’s staff worked tirelessly to provide food and drink with high quality ingredients, avoiding poisonous foods with high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, and that are genetically modified. We believe our ingredient choices lead to better tasting food and drinks.”  The menu was conceived by Gabe Nosseir and his wife Angie, a holistic and integrative dietitian.  A small breakfast menu gives way at lunch to a number of gourmet pizzas, all of which are available gluten-free and non-genetically modified organisms.  Pizzas are available in seven- and nine-inch sizes and can be enjoyed battered and baked with your choice of toppings stuffed inside and a crispy crust outside.

Our young server, an aspiring young chef told us in all sincerity that he likes PK’s pizzas more than the greasy pizzas offered by many of the local pizza purveyors.  Is there any better critic of pizza than teenagers, especially one with tremendous pride in the product?  Moreover, he would be preparing the pizzas himself so it behooved him to be honest.  He spoke so highly of the battered and baked stuffed pizzas that my Kim just had to have one.  Instead of the usual bread dough pizza crust, pita pockets form the crispy outside shell into which ingredients are stuffed.  Kim’s choices were chicken, garlic, caramelized onion and mozzarella.  Considering one of the pizza’s innards was chicken (which tends to desiccate when baked), it was a good pizza with just enough cheese and sauce.  Garlic and oregano influences were evident throughout, too.

The Keeper

My choice was a more traditional “Hat Trick,” a meat-lover’s pizza with pepperoni, sausage, ham, marinara sauce and mozzarella.  It didn’t dawn on me until later that green chile was one of the dozen veggie toppings available for a pittance each.  A true thin-crust pizza with all the characteristics of thin-crusted pies, it was crispy and stiff.  You can hold each slice from its cornicione, the Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza and the tapered edge won’t flop down.  Nor is it possible to fold a slice vertically as New Yorkers are apt to do.  If you like a classic thin-crust pie, this one will make you happy.  Toppings are generously proportioned.  It’s a good pie!

Our favorite “pie” was a dessert offering called “The Keeper,” a soccer term for the goaltender.  While the menu describes it as “pizza crust topped with agave, berries and granola,” our young chef talked us into trying an alternative he invented, a dessert pie he ensured us would remind us of apple pie.  Agave nectar is drizzled on the crust which is topped with apple slices, granola and a sprinkling of cinnamon.  A side bowl with thinly sliced apples, pineapple chunks and whipped cream accompanied The Keeper.  This is a dessert for which we’ll go out of our way to have again.  It did indeed remind us of a very good, very fresh apple pie. 

When playing the beautiful game makes you hungry, PK’s Restaurant will sate your hunger with good food prepared with high quality and family-safe ingredients.

PK’s Restaurant & Bar
1311 Cuesta Arriba Court, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 266-3653
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 17 February 2018
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Keeper, The Hat Trick, Stuffed Pizza
REVIEW #1027

PK's Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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