Monte Carlo Steakhouse – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Monte Carlo Steakhouse and Package Liquor Store

The Monte Carlo Steakhouse and Package Liquor Store

“Last night I broke the seal on a Jim Beam decanter
That looks like Elvis.”
~George Jones

Having spent much of his career in an inebriated state, Country music icon George Jones actually lived the life experiences that inspired much of his music.  After one of his four divorces, Jones sat alone in a rather empty home, his ex-wife having absconded with almost everything–furniture, china, glassware and more.  Among the few items left behind were a small table, a Jim Beam whiskey decanter bearing the likeness of Elvis Presley, and a Fred Flintstone jar of jelly beans.  After dumping the jelly beans, the “Possum” used the jar as a glass into which he poured the entire contents of the Jim Beam decanter.  The imaginary conversations he had with Elvis and Fred Flintstone during his impaired state were the inspiration for the song “The King is Gone.” 

Only among avid collectors will you generally find Jim Beam decanters sporting the likeness of The King.  The Duke City’s most prolific collectors of vintage adult beverage decanters, bottles and signage is the Monte Carlo Steak House on Route 66.  Kitschy mirrors emblazoned with the logos of beer distributors, anthropomorphic alcohol decanters, faux wood walls, garish neon signs, Velvet Elvis and stereotypical “leatherette” booths may have been born in another era, but they never go out of fashion because the Monte Carlo is one of the most comfortable and welcoming restaurants in the city. To those in the know, it’s also one of Albuquerque’s very best steak houses.

Taking you back 40 years–the interior of the Monte Carlo Steakhouse

“Those in the know” now include a nation-wide audience who watched the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives episode entitled “Where the Locals Go” in which “local hot spots” got the inimitable Guy Fieri treatment.  Contrary to the episode’s title, not all locals go to the Monte Carlo–or at least they didn’t until after the show’s premier.  In fact, many people even within the confines of the Duke City had never heard of the Monte Carlo until the Food Network introduced it to them.  It truly was one of Albuquerque’s best kept secrets.  As Fieri did, you can enter the steak house through a bustling package liquor store (which doubles as a veritable museum for even more collectibles).  You can also enter directly through an entrance on the restaurant’s west side.  One of the first things you’ll notice is a full-service bar which probably can’t concoct the libation of your choice, but can dispense long-neck Budweiser, Schlitz and Pabst like there’s no tomorrow.  The volume is turned way down on the restaurant’s televisions, but then you probably couldn’t hear them amidst the din of an eclectic crowd.

One of my propeller-headed, Jedi-worshiping, 40-something Luke Skywalker wannabe colleagues uttered “come out of the light and into the darkness, Luke” when he stepped into the Monte Carlo Steakhouse from a bright, sunlit Duke City afternoon. It takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust to the dimly lit beef and beer palace by the Rio Grande–and when they do adjust, you’ll wonder if you stepped out of a portal into the 1960s.  The Monte Carlo Steakhouse is an anachronism, a bona fide throwback to a bygone era–and indeed, the restaurant has been in business since 1970.

Greek Olives and Feta Cheese

There are no distinctions between the lunch and the dinner menu and even though the menu stipulates that baked potatoes and rice pilaf are available only after 5PM, you can generally have either with your lunch. Lunch specials are available Monday through Friday while a prime rib–regarded by many as among the city’s very best–is the evening special Thursday and Friday.  Aside from the aforementioned baked potato (perfectly done) or rice pilaf, each dinner also includes one slice of Texas toast.

The parking lot is generally crowded with mechanical conveyances of every type, size and description and waiting lists tend to be long, especially on weekends.  Despite nearly overflow crowds, the wait staff is among the most accommodating and friendly in the city.  Many regulars opt for the bounteous Greek appetizer plate in lieu of the standard fried appetizers (zucchini, onion rings, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese sticks) and are rewarded with a platter of salami strips, Greek olives, Pepperoncini, tomatoes and one solitary dolma (stuffed grape leaf) all drizzled with Kalamata olive oil.  Sadly, this otherwise outstanding precursor does not include pita bread.

Salad

Steak dinners are accompanied by your choice of soup or a fresh dinner salad (perfunctory iceberg lettuce only, not the fancy designer lettuces upscale steak houses proffer) made with shredded red cabbage, tomato, carrot slivers and your choice of dressing.  For a full Greek experience, a good bet is the zesty Greek dressing which is liberally sprinkled with bits of fetid Feta cheese.  Among the restaurant’s most popular soups is the creamy green chile chicken soup, a swimming pool-sized bowl of soul-warming soup served hot.  Thickened heavily (probably with corn starch), it is replete with chicken pieces.  The green chile lacks piquancy but has a nice flavor.  Soup and salad not withstanding, this is a meat and potatoes establishment in the anachronistic traditions of the 70s.  Observing the offerings–burgers, steaks, ribs and even a cheesesteak, Fieri noted “you don’t come to this joint for a tomato and avocado on whole wheat.

The menu defines the degree of doneness for each charbroiled steak–from the “cold center” of a rare steak to the “cooked throughout” description of a well done steak–and includes a disclaimer that the restaurant is not responsible or meat ordered well done. The chef is truly master of his broiler domain, typically achieving the exacting specifications requested by discerning diners who would think nothing of sending back a steak not prepared the way they asked for it.

A lovely slab of beef and French fries

We can’t imagine ever sending the steak back.  The bone-in 20-ounce Porterhouse steak is charbroiled to perfection with just enough marbling for flavor.  Unless otherwise requested, each steak is prepared with Seasonall, an all-purpose seasoning (no MSG) used liberally.  An excellent alternative is asking for salt, pepper and garlic on each side of your steak. While on the grill, the chef will also brush on some melted butter.

One of the things that makes a Monte Carlo steak stand out is the fact that the restaurant still cuts its own steaks fresh daily, a practice begun by founder Michael Katsaros when the restaurant launched nearly thirty years ago.  The Katsaros family still runs the restaurant.  After his first bite of a ribeye, Guy Fieri’s uttered then reiterated the statement “that’s just great.”  You’re probably thinking “he’s the host of the show and is supposed to be enthusiastic about the restaurants featured,” but his sentiment pretty much echoes that of most people who discover the Monte Carlo Steak House.

Louie's Special, maybe the best steak sandwich in town.

Fieri also pointed out that “it ain’t just killer steaks that get hand-cut here.”  The souvlaki, “made with mama’s classic Greek recipe with a family twist” is made from pork tenderloin cut at the restaurant.  Each souvlaki portion is 12 to 14 ounces of some of the most tender and delicious, albeit non-traditional, skewered meat you’ll ever have.  The souvlaki is allowed to age for five to six days in a marinade of lemon juice, white wine, salt, pepper, garlic salt, oregano and vinegar before it hits the grill.  After it’s done on the grill, it’s brushed on with a mix of olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper and lemon juice.  Watching this inspired creation, Fieri exclaimed “I hear the national anthem of flavor town going off right about now.”  In between utterances of “wow” and “this is monster flavor, he called the flavor “so deep and so rich” and after a few forkfuls, he proclaimed “I’m moving in.”

3 November 2016: The charbroiled green chile cheeseburger is a role-model for how this most sacrosanct among New Mexico’s many sandwiches should be prepared. There are too many green chile cheeseburgers in which green chile barely registers on the Scoville scale with about as much piquancy as a bell pepper.  This green chile bites back with a pleasant piquancy heat lovers will respect.  What really sets this cheeseburger apart, however, is the freshness and moistness of the beef patty which is essentially ground steak, a thick third-pound of beef prepared to your exacting specifications. Wholly unlike the desiccated Frisbees served at some burger establishments, these meaty orbs are oh so wonderfully juicy–even if ordered at medium.  Monte Carlo’s green chile cheeseburger was selected for inclusion on both the 2009 and 2011 editions of the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.  It’s one of the favorite green chile cheeseburgers of Cheryl Jamison, the scintillating four-time James Beard Award-winning author and architect of the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger initiative.  Mine, too.

Green Chile Cheeseburger, one of the very best in New Mexico

Another “not to miss” entree is the Greek style chicken. The loquacious Fieri admitted to “not having talked much or taken a breath” while sampling this perfectly prepared poultry which he described as “killer,” one of the adjectives he uses effusively when he really likes something. He also noted that “it’s about as basic as you can make it” and “as tender and juicy as you can get it.” The key is getting it. If you haven’t visited the Monte Carlo Steakhouse, it’s worth the drive from anywhere in the Duke City area just for this chicken.

3 November 2016:  If you have to work overtime to make up for an extended lunch hour to drive across town for a lunch special, it’s worth it, especially if the lunch special is the hamburger steak with grilled onions.  My friend and frequent dining companion Bill Resnik describes it as “75-percent as good as its counterpart at San Antonio’s fabled Owl Cafe.”  Bill, who matriculated at New Mexico Tech loves the Owl’s hamburger steak almost as much as he loves his car.  To compare the Monte Carlo’s rendition is a high compliment indeed.   Bruce “Sr Plata” Silver had his hamburger steak smothered in grilled onions and roasted green chile, two components which made his lunch even more memorable though the incendiary green chile did have him reaching for coffee more often than usual.

Hamburger steak and Onion Rings

The spaghetti’s golf ball sized meatballs have a little flavor “je ne sais quoi” that most diners try to figure out. The secret is a bit of Greek mint which just seems to invigorate the meatballs with flavor. Fieri called it a “money meatball.”

The meats are so well flavored, the service so accommodating and the ambiance so 60s, you’ll wonder why anyone would visit an inferior chain restaurant for a lesser steak or spend nearly $100 for a steak dinner at one of those hoidy toidy, fancy schmanzy restaurants.  Fieri called the Monte Carlo “just an average off-the-hook steakhouse with homemade Greek.”  Everyone else calls it special.

Monte Carlo Steak House
3916 Central, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 831-2444
LATEST VISIT: 3 November 2016
# OF VISITS: 6
RATING: 22
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Greek salad; Greek Appetizer Plate; Porterhouse Steak; Green Chile Cheeseburger; Hamburger Steak

Monte Carlo Steak House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ruth’s Cris House in Albuquerque’s Uptown Area

During a recent Friends of Gil (FOG) outing, a newcomer asked how my Kim and I can afford to eat out as often as we do (about three times  week on average).  The practice of “dating your mate” is something we began half a lifetime ago when we were stationed in Mississippi and my Air Force salary was, to put it conservatively, considerably less than one-thousand dollars for every year of my life.  Despite the fact that I’d been handpicked for the only job of its kind in my career field, a position with significant responsibilities usually accorded to someone of higher grade and experience–not to mention the possibility of war and deployment every service member faces–by most standards we would probably be considered at the bottom rung of the middle-class.

Our date nights could hardly be considered extravagant or high-end. Fortunately the Gulf Coast had a multitude of reasonably priced restaurants serving high quality seafood, Southern cuisine and barbecue. During our frequent visits to New Orleans, we favored“second tier” (in reputation and price, but certainly not in quality) Cajun and Creole restaurants because we couldn’t afford the anointed restaurants that had made the Crescent City a world-renowned dining destination. For our tenth anniversary I was determined to do something special for my bride. It literally took months of scraping and going without, but eventually I managed to save enough of my weekly allowance to take her to dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Mobile, Alabama.

First Floor Bar and Seating

Even back then–long before the advent of social media and a connected world–Ruth’s Chris was regarded as the place to go for special occasions, albeit one that cost a king’s ransom. Mobile was actually one of the first cities across the fruited plain to boast of a Ruth’s Chris franchise and it was less than an hour from our Ocean Springs home. Praying ninety-five dollars (adjusted for inflation, that’s about two-hundred dollars in 2016 dollars) would be enough, I asked my Kim to don her finery and ferried her to the most posh dining establishment we’d visited during our years together. Ruth’s Chris was everything we had hoped it would be.  The ambience—from subdued lighting to spacing and music—was one of comfort and intimacy, but it was the sizzling prime beef which took the spotlight and we were a rapt audience.

Fast forward twenty-some years to my most recent “Jack Benny” birthday. After years of chiding her for taking me to such paragons of mediocrity as Subway and Olive Garden for my birthday, my Kim decided to surprise me with our first return visit to a Ruth’s Chris restaurant in more than two decades. She wouldn’t have been able to do so even a month earlier because Ruth’s Chris didn’t grace the mean streets of Albuquerque until about a week before our visit. For some reason, the extravagant eatery didn’t deign to launch in America’s 32nd most populous incorporated city until 2016—more than twenty years after setting up shop in Mobile, the country’s 123rd most populated city. Even if that speaks to the widely-held perception that Albuquerque is a cow town, shouldn’t a cow town (especially a cow town) boast of arguably the most popular high-end steak house in America?

Bread

Fittingly Ruth Chris landed in the Uptown district, increasingly the city’s center of commerce. More specifically, it’s located in the Park Square shopping center in a three-story space previously occupied by Robert R. Bailey Clothiers. Few, if any, vestiges of the natty haberdashery remain. Nor are there any de rigueur abobe-hued touches or tributes to the Southwestern architectural design style that defines Albuquerque. Instead, Albuquerque’s Ruth’s Chris would fit in at every other city in which the 150-strong chain plies its craft.  A large mural in the downstairs bar area depicts Tucumcari’s legendary Blue Swallow Motel, a Route 66 landmark, but there isn’t much else that bespeaks of the restaurant being in the Land of Enchantment.

Step into the restaurant and you’ll find yourself in the lap of opulence. A comfortable waiting area beckons, but waiting is wholly unnecessary if you’ve got reservations. Your hostess will escort you to your table which is bedecked in white tablecloth with place settings and glassware for your party. The lower level doubles as a capacious bar and dining room, but for more quiet and intimate dining, you’ll want to dine at mezzanine level which you can reach via a few winding stairs or you can take an elevator. A large circular skylight with dozens of dangling lights ensures the mezzanine is flooded with natural light and artificial light as needed.

House Salad with Blue Cheese

Even among the masses who’ve frequented Ruth’s Chris over its forty-plus year existence, the genesis of the name “Ruth’s Chris” isn’t widely known. Contrary to a widely-held notion, the steak house isn’t named for someone named “Ruth Chris.” More than forty years ago, “Ruth Fertel, a divorced mother of two, mortgaged her home for $22,000 to buy a small 60-seat restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana named Chris Steak House. Shortly thereafter, a fire forced her to change the original location and she renamed the restaurant, “Ruth’s Chris Steak House.” Her restaurant has since featured custom-aged USDA prime (only two-percent of all beef earn this distinction) beef broiled to your exacting specifications in 1800-degree heat and served on a 500-degree plate still sizzling when it arrives at your table.

Despite the name on the marquee, Ruth’s Chris is about much more than USDA Prime beef. In addition to steaks and chops, the menu offers surprising variety, including seafood and specialties (chicken, fish or vegetarian fare). Appetizers and sides are internationally inspired, not only prepared to order, but guaranteed to complement any entrée. There are eleven starters on the menu, including a veal osso buco ravioli dish. The ala carte menu also includes numerous side dishes as well as soups and salads with soups and dressings all being made in-house. Bargain hunters will appreciate seasonal three-course meal offerings at prices substantially lower than some of the pricey steak entrees.

Sizzling Blue Crab Cakes

Much as we had remembered during our inaugural visit decades ago, personal and attentive service was a hallmark of our dining experience at Ruth’s Chris. Quickly noting our genial server sported a tie emblazoned with the Air Force logo, we struck up a conversation and discovered that Kenneth is, like me, an Air Force retiree. He’s also originally from New Orleans where we’d spent so much time during our eight years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Kenneth proceeded to guide us through the ordering process, sagely recommending dishes he thought we might enjoy based on preferences we expressed. Throughout our two-hour visit, the tandem service ensured our beverages and bread were faithfully replenished without us having to ask.

As we contemplated the menu, a small loaf of bread with whipped butter was brought to our table. A hard crust belied the soft, pillowy bread inside. The soft butter spread easily onto the steaming bread, a simple pleasure that seems somehow lost on fine-dining restaurants that insist on serving warm bread with cold butter. Good as the “staff of life” is with just some simple butter, it’s a bread whose purpose in life, other than granting pleasure, may well be for sopping up sauces and dressings. You’ll certainly want some of this inspired bread on your table to dredge up any of the steak house’s amazing blue cheese dressing (because licking your plate at a fine dining restaurant isn’t cultured.)

Loaded Baked Potato

The blue cheese is absolutely amazing, replete with sizeable chunks of picturesque blue veining and an earthy sharpness that characterizes fine blue cheese. It’s the highlight of an excellent steak house salad (fresh Iceberg, baby Arugula and baby lettuces tossed with grape tomatoes, garlic croutons and red onions). Don’t be shy about requesting a ramekin or three extra servings of the blue cheese because you’ll want some on every bite of the fresh, crisp greens, not to mention on the warm bread. Grape tomatoes are another highlight. Despite their diminutive size, they have a meaty texture with a thick skin and just enough sweetness and acidity for balance. The garlic croutons, red onions and blue cheese dressing will wreck your breath in the most delightfully delicious manner.

There are eleven starters on the Ruth’s Chris appetizer menu with ten of them featuring seafood. The only landlubber’s choice is the veal osso buco ravioli. A chilled seafood tower that includes Maine lobster, king crab legs and knuckles, colossal lump crab meat and jumbo cocktail shrimp sounds more like an entrée than an appetizer. We opted for sizzling blue crab cakes (two jumbo lump crab cakes served with sizzling lemon butter). Deposited on a sizzling pool of butter and surrounded by finely chopped red and green peppers, three generous, hand-formed lumps of crab meat looked good enough to eat…and they were. Alas, the lemon butter and peppers probably took away a bit too much of the crab’s natural sweet and briny flavors, but at least there was none of the “fishiness” you sometimes find in seafood served at landlocked locations.

Bone-In Filet

A baked potato (one-pound potato fully loaded “with all of your favorite fixings”) is but one of several inviting items on the thirteen-item signature side dishes menu. Frankly we haven’t had a truly excellent baked potato, especially one of such behemoth proportions, since the Great American Steakhouse closed in 2008. At Ruth’s Chris, “fully loaded” means chives, bacon bits, sour cream, melted cheese and butter, all of which are piled on where the potato is sliced open. Though the potato is baked well, not every forkful includes some of the fixings. On those forkfuls lacking fixings, we found the baked potato just a bit on the dry side (not an uncommon event considering the Duke City’s altitude).

Preliminaries out of the way, we were ready for the main event, ever curious to see if Ruth’s Chris steaks were as good as we remembered them to be so many years ago. From the Porterhouse for two, a whopping 40-ounces of prime beef, to the petite filet at four-ounces, there’s a cut for every appetite though price points can be a bit traumatizing. Eschewing the heftier cuts, I opted for the bone-in filet, a 16-ounce cut with a blend of marbling and mellowness near the bone. A perfectly pulchritudinous sear on the outside belies the medium rare degree of doneness on the inside (as per my exacting specifications). As advertised, the steak was still sizzling angrily on the 500-degree plate. Perhaps because of the plate’s heat retention properties, red steak juices didn’t drip off the steak onto the plate. By no means was this a desiccated slab of steak. It was one of the most delicious filets we’ve had in years.

12-Ounce Ribeye

My Kim ordered a Ribeye, described on the menu as a 16-ounce cut of USDA prime beef that’s well marbled and deliciously juicy. After struggling to cut the steak, she asked me when sinewy and tough became synonymous with well marbled. Sure enough, the Ribeye was far more chewy than we’d expected, too much of a challenge to enjoy. We sent the steak back and ordered another filet in its place. Staff and management apologized profusely and more than “made it right” with our second filet of the evening.

American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was once quoted as saying “take care of your memories, for you cannot relive them.” While that may be true, our return visit to Ruth’s Chris did rekindle memories of when we couldn’t afford such a meal and made us appreciate that we can now splurge every now and then. Ruth’s Chris is the perfect memory-making, occasional splurge restaurant.

Ruth’s Cris Steak House
6640 Indian School, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 884-3350
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 30 May 2016
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$$$$
BEST BET: Bone-in Filet, Baked Potato, Bread, Sizzling Blue Crab Cakes, House Salad with Blue Cheese

Ruth's Chris Steak House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Western View Diner & Steakhouse – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Neon Spangled Route 66 Sign

Since the 1930s, neon signage has been a prominent and vital part of Route 66 as it meanders through Albuquerque. From the foothills of the Sandias in the east to the parched desert expanse of the west, Route 66 is festooned with vibrant neon signage that cuts a luminous swath through the city. The nocturnal spectacle of glowing neon might be the siren’s call that has drawn generations of “cruisers” to Central Avenue.

One of Albuquerque’s most prominent neon spangled signs celebrates Route 66 as it spans across all four lanes of Central Avenue near its intersection with Coors Boulevard Southwest.  Literally at the shadow of that span is the Western View Diner & Steakhouse which has been pleasing weary travelers and hungry locals since 1941 thanks to generous portions of reasonably priced and delicious comfort food with a homemade taste that comes from years of plying its culinary craft.

The Western View Steak House and Coffee Shop

To say the Western View Diner & Steakhouse was at Albuquerque’s western fringes back when it launched seven decades ago is an understatement.  Aside from sagebrush and vast expanses of horizon, there wasn’t much in the city this far west.  The Western View is one of the very few surviving restaurants which predate the tremendous expansion that has seen the city’s population skyrocket from just over 36,000 in 1941 to over half a million in 2010.

Because of its longevity, this venerable Albuquerque institution was, in 2010, named to the New Mexico Tourism Department’s “Culinary Treasures Trail,” an initiative which honors those rare and precious family-owned-and-operated gems operating continuously since at least December 31st, 1969.  As with all the restaurants on the list, the Western View Diner & Steakhouse is an independent mom-and-pop restaurant which has stood the test of time to become beloved institutions in its neighborhoods and beyond.

The Western View Dining Room

The menu primarily features American standards with New Mexican and Greek entrees thrown in for good measure. The diner has been owned by three successive Greek proprietors, the most recent being Stavros Anagnostakos.  Like many august diners, the Western Diner’s character is in its austerity, its staff and its clientele. One wall features vintage black and white photographs of the stars of yesteryear. Frequent diners prefer to sit at a stool along the counter. That gives them the best vantage point for the dessert tray and better access to the chatty and accommodating wait staff.

Yes, this venerable restaurant has character to spare despite lacking the over-the-top flamboyance of the anointed local favorites and cookie-cutter chains. It’s informal and inexpensive, unpretentious and welcoming…a genuine anachronism. It’s no wonder its parking lots are always full. Look around the dining room. What you’ll see is generations of families, many of whom grew up visiting the restaurant. This is a neighborhood institution which has been doing the right things right for its faithful patrons.

Biscuits with Butter and Jam

The Western View Diner serves breakfast all day long. There’s something almost musical in the clanking of spoons as they stir coffee at all hours of the day. There may also be nothing more arousing (to both genders, but particularly men) at 3PM than the sizzle of crisp bacon on the frying pan and its accompanying aromas as they waft throughout the dining room. That’s what we experienced during our inaugural mid-afternoon visit when at least half the dining patrons were partaking of breakfast.

5 December 2010: Although the diner is renown for its fluffy, house-made biscuits and gravy, an excellent alternative are the pancakes. A short stack means two fluffy orbs that nearly cover the entire plate. A dollop or two of creamy butter, a ladle of syrup and you’re in carbohydrate heaven. It’s been our experience that long-established diners serve the very best pancakes and the Western Diner is no exception. The Western View is also quite accomplished at American breakfast standards. Regardless of what you order–breakfast or lunch–a biscuit or ten is a must.  These biscuits have a rare “biscuit integrity” in that they don’t crumble and fall apart when you attempt to slather on some butter and jam.  Moreover, they’re very tasty and are excellent for sopping up gravy.

New York steak with mashed potatoes and gravy.

New York steak with mashed potatoes and gravy.

17 June 2007: One of the entrees for which this restaurant is known is steak (hence the “Steak House” on the marquee). For just about a dollar an ounce, you can treat yourself to a fresh-cut New York steak that’s heavy on flavor and surprisingly light on the gristle and fat you might expect for an inexpensive cut of beef. Grilled to your exacting specifications (we like salt, pepper and garlic on both sides), it’s a carnivore’s dream. The New York cut is much better than we’ve had at many an Albuquerque steak restaurant, especially at the price.

17 June 2007: The steak is served with your choice of potato–baked potato after 5 PM, mashed potatoes and French fries before then. The mashed potatoes are among the best we’ve had in this city–far better than the de rigeur garlic mashed potatoes served seemingly everywhere. These are real potatoes with a buttery creaminess that reminds us of home. A thick piece of buttered Texas toast fills what little room is left on the plate. It, too, is so much better (and bigger) than Texas toast we’ve had elsewhere.

Chicken Fried Steak

3 April 2016: My friend Bruce “Sr. Plata” would like the next New Mexico Tourism Department’s culinary initiative to be a “New Mexico Chicken Fried Steak Trail” patterned after its Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.  Though chicken fried steak is more the domain of Texas than it is of New Mexico, there are several potential chicken fried steaks in the Land of Enchantment that could grace such a Trail.  One would be the chicken fried steak at the Western View.  It’s a thin, pounded, lightly breaded steak covered with a rich, creamy gravy served with two eggs and home fries.  The gravy is ladled on rather generously which is a good thing if you love gravy…and this is a gravy you’ll probably love.  If not, refer back to my suggestion that you order one (or ten) biscuits.

3 April 2016: For my Kim, the quintessential breakfast to remind her of home in Chicago is a breakfast of pork chops. At the “Hog Butcher for the World” (a nickname for Chicago), you’re likely to get inch-thick pork chops even early in the morning. In Albuquerque, an order of two pork chops stacked atop one another wouldn’t equal an inch.  Though thin and about the diameter of a hamburger patty, the Western View’s pork chops are seasoned nicely (salt, pepper, garlic) and grilled well.  They’re served with two eggs and home fries.

Pork Chops and Eggs for Breakfast

17 June 2007: The Western Diner’s comfort food ensemble will warm the cockles of your heart as it sates your appetite. For those of my generation, it will bring back memories of home-cooked meals in which steamy plates of meatloaf, mashed potatoes ladled with brown gravy and corn were a Sunday tradition. The meatloaf, by the way, is in the best traditions of American diners–moist and served thick. Cut into it and steam wafts upward, an indication this dish is served hot, the way it should be. The gravy is thick with flecks of ground pepper swimming in the murky liquid. 

Western View’s diner has a rather extensive, multi-page menu that showcases New Mexican favorites–everything from tacos and burritos to combination plates brimming with food.  The combination plates are served with a fiery salsa that goes well on everything.  Alas, the chile is adulterated with cumin so we never order the restaurant’s New Mexican food.  Because seating is in fairly close proximity, we have noticed that diners who do order chile-laden items seem satisfied with their meals.

An old-fashioned chocolate milkshake with whipped cream

5 December 2010: Another old-fashioned standard reminiscent of bygone days in which malt shops were the hang-out of teenagers are milk shakes.  These are served in old-fogyish hard plastic glasses, the type of which probably predate most of you reading this review.  Made with real ice cream, the milk shakes are served thick and cold, easier to drink up with a spoon than with a straw.  They’re also served with a thick dollop of real whipped cream topped with a single cherry, another time-honored tradition.

5 December 2010: Of course, nothing goes better with shakes than the marriage made in malt shop heaven, a vintage cheeseburger and a mound of French fries. The deluxe burger is an ten-ounce beefy behemoth grilled to about medium well, topped with a single slice of American cheese and served on toasted buns. On the side are a plastic cup of green chile, a single tomato, four dill pickles, a slice of raw onion and shredded lettuce. This is an excellent burger, as good or better than several on the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail despite being as simple as a burger can be.

An old-fashioned cheeseburger with French fries

Order a burger and you might not be asked to what degree of doneness you’d like for it to be prepared, but the results are flavorful nonetheless.  The beef patty has a nice grilled flavor reminiscent of a burger prepared outdoors.  The neon green chile has a piquant bite that complements the other fresh ingredients.  Alas, the sesame seed buns have a hard time holding in all the ingredients.  The French fries are nothing special, pretty much boilerplate.

17 June 2007: For dessert, an absolute must-have is the chocolate cake. A thick slab is easily big enough for two and is as delicious as any chocolate cake you’ve ever had anywhere. The frosting is thick yet not at all cloying as are the frosting in those hideous store-bought Plaster of Paris designer cakes. It’s diet devastating delicious. Other dessert options include baklava and several fresh house-made pies.  3 April 2016:  Among the luscious cakes masterfully created by the pastry chef is a lemon cake topped with lemon “salt.”  It’s rich, creamy and absolutely delicious with just enough lemony flavor to tickle your tongue.

Lemon Cake

There’s a reason the Western diner has survived more than sixty years. It leaves enticement to its food and not its facade. That’s the way it should be!

Western View Diner & Steakhouse
6411 Central, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 836-2200
Facebook Page

LATEST VISIT: 03 April 2016
# OF VISITS: 6
RATING: 18
COST: $$
BEST BET: New York Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Texas Toast, Pancakes, Meatloaf, Guacamole, Deluxe Burger, Chocolate Milk Shake, Chicken Fried Steak, Lemon Cake, Pork Chops

Western View Diner & Steak House on Urbanspoon

Kasey’s Restaurant & Pub – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Kasey’s on Washington, south of Central

Thematically, it’s usually pretty easy to tell what some restaurants have to offer. Seafood restaurants, for example, tend to have nautical-themed “tells” such as fish nets, buoys and oars designed to evoke the salty, briny look and feel of the sea. The “template” for barbecue restaurants seems to include red and white checkered cloth tablecloths adorning oak tables, cute ceramic pig figurines on the counters and country music blaring from a tinny stereo. Irish pubs typically are accentuated with dark woods and perhaps more importantly, Guinness draft imported directly from Dublin where it is brewed.

By design and deliberation, the overarching concept of theme restaurants touches the architecture, decor, music, menu and the overall “feel” of the place. Unfortunately, in far too many cases the food appears to be a secondary consideration, taking a backseat to the faux and fantasy of all-encompassing theme. Much like an amusement park, the theme often brings in customers based solely on their expectations for an implied experiential premise (we’re so easily entertained).

The main dining room at Kasey’s

On Washington, about half a mile south of Central, stands a curiously out-of-place edifice that can only be described as barn-like. (albeit sans weather vane). There is no exterior signage that tells you what this “barn” actually houses though its pristine exterior certainly seems to indicate it’s probably not an abode for Albuquerque’s most pampered bovines. Even when you find out this barn is home to Kasey’s Restaurant & Pub, you’re still at a loss as to the type of food offered. Is it grub or is it cuisine? Is it barbecue or is it steak?

Set foot in the premises and you’ll find yourself in a swanky milieu with white linen tablecloths and folded napkins on every table. You can also opt to sit at the generously appointed bar which features, get this, wine from the tap, Albuquerque’s largest selection. If you’re thinking wine from the tap is just a step up from Wal-Mart wine-in-a-box, co-owner Gary Lange will assure you it’s good stuff that’s already won over some of the Duke City’s (my words, not his) wine snobs.

Pumpkin Waffles and Fried Chicken

It’s not until you peruse the menu that you begin to discern what Gary and his lovely better half Casey Armstrong-Lange have in mind for the restaurant they launched in December, 2014. And, it’s not until you discuss it with them that you recognize the passion they share. Even then, it may not be until you see a server pass by you with a tray of skyscraper-tall burgers that you truly appreciate that passion. It’s a passion for the community they love and the food they lovingly prepare and serve Duke City diners. They procure beef from Deming and hand-cut every steak. They also grind their own hamburger. The quality shows.

Gary and Casey were destined to own and operate their own restaurant. Before they were married, Casey actually worked for Gary as a chef for the Norwegian Cruise Lines where they rarely had time to luxuriate in the Hawaiian waters where they were ported. The couple later worked together at a resort in the Denali National Park in Alaska and in Oklahoma before launching their restaurant venture, their first as owners. A culinary arts graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, Casey helms the kitchen while the peripatetic Gary runs the front of the house.

Stardust

The barn? Well, they sort of lucked into that. The building is actually owned by Casey’s father and uncle. Over the years, the edifice has served as an aquarium store, a bridge club and even a chicken restaurant (now, that makes sense). It took more than four-months to renovate the building into the spic-and-span state in which it stands today. At first browse of the pristine interior, you may even forget about the farm animal jokes with which you were going to regale the wait staff.

The lunch menu offers a nice variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups and even a couple of steaks. The aforementioned burgers are artwork on a plate and they’re pre-announced courtesy of an aroma that may leave you drooling. The sandwich menu includes such rareties as a chicken banh mi and pork belly tacos. Lest I forget, the appetizer menu includes red chile pulled pork egg rolls which are one of the restaurant’s early run-away hits. The restaurant menu dresses-up a bit for dinner with an appetite-whetting selection of steaks prepared in your choice of butter. Dinner entrees also include braised short ribs and much more.

Pate Maison: Chicken Pate, Cornichons, Caramelized Onions, Baguette

1 March 2015:  Our inaugural visit to Kasey’s was on a Sunday in which brunch was the featured fare.  The brunch menu is somewhat limited and doesn’t include appetizers. Limited, however, doesn’t mean you won’t find something you’ll enjoy. For some, it will be the fried chicken and waffles, a seemingly de rigueur brunch standard. My Kim orders this combination virtually every time she sees it on a brunch menu, but rarely is she pleased. Kasey’s rendition is the best she’s had. The pumpkin waffles are extraordinary light and absolutely sumptuous.  They’re slathered with a tangy strawberry butter that tempers the sweetness of the syrup and melds well with the waffles.  The fried chicken is three triangular shaped chicken breasts.  It’s a very moist and very tasty chicken despite a rather thick coating. 

1 March 2015: Stardust is believed in some cultures to have mystical and magical qualities.  We wondered if those qualities extended to a breakfast sandwich named Stardust (English muffin, mushrooms, filet medallion, over easy egg, Bernaise) with a side of breakfast potatoes. It’s a very good sandwich though because of the runniness of the egg, you’ll eat it with a knife and fork and not like a sandwich. The filet medallion is especially good though somewhat on the thin side. The breakfast potatoes are little cubes of nicely fried potatoes.

New York Strip and Steak Fries

14 March 2015: Eschewing the tempting red chile pulled pork egg rolls takes a lot of willpower, but in a fit of madness we did just that, opting instead for Pate Maison (chicken pate, cornichons, caramelized onions, baguettes). The pate is smooth and deeply flavorful. It spreads lusciously on the lightly toasted baguettes (a welcome change from too many overly toasted, dry baguettes which tend to overwhelm the flavor of pate). The caramelized onions are served cold and are probably better as a side than served atop the pate. Seriously, you don’t want anything coming between you and that pate, except maybe that lightly toasted baguette. Cornichons, as always, are a terrific foil.

14 March 2015: The lunch portion-sized New York strip is a slab of beautifully glistening beef prepared to your exacting specifications. Order a steak at medium and that’s what you’ll get at Kasey’s. At nine-ounces, the New York strip may not be the beefy behemoth carnivores crave, but for sheer deliciousness, it doesn’t take a backseat to its thicker brethren. It’s served with a side of steak fries which do a great job absorbing malt vinegar (no ketchup for us).

Coffee-Rubbed Flank Steak, Grilled & Balsamic Reduction, Crispy Onions, Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Spinach

14 March 2015: My last experience with a coffee-rubbed steak was at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, Nevada. It left a rather indelible impression on me so when we espied it on the menu at Kasey’s, it was a foregone conclusion we would have to order it.   The flank steak is grilled and sliced into small strips similar to roast beef.  It’s an even better steak than the New York strip.  We suggested to Gary that he find a way to bottle the coffee rub and serve it as a sauce even though a more prominent flavor is a Balsamic reduction drizzled on the steak.  The steak is moist, tender and delicious.  The accompanying mashed potatoes are, well, they’re mashed potatoes.  Much better, if fortune smiles on you, is spinach sauteed in butter and garlic. It’s good enough to convert even avowed carnivores. 

22 February 2016: According to the National Turkey Federation, in 2013, more than 240.0 million turkeys were raised, of which more than 200 million were consumed in the United States. Three holidays account for nearly half the turkeys enjoyed across the fruited plain: 46 million were eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter. Despite a very active lobby, the turkey has not made significant inroads as “the other white meat.” Perhaps that would change if more Americans were introduced to the turkey burger at Kasey’s. Though it is not “ground in-house from New Mexico grass-fed turkeys,” my server assured me the turkey was procured locally. Ground and shaped into a round patty, the turkey is terrific, a good half-inch thick and covering the bottom bun. Only three ingredients come standard on this burger: fig mustard, pickled onions and brie. To add anything else would be to desecrate a bastion of deliciousness. The fig mustard packs a pop reminiscent of Dijonnaise.  It pairs well with the sweetness of the figs and the tanginess of the pickled onions while the brie is a nice counterbalance with its savory richness.

Turkey Burger with Green Chile Onion Rings

22 February 2016: Burgers and sandwiches are served with your choice of sides: French fries, house-made chips, green chile onion rings, house salad or fruit. You know you’re from New Mexico when you read no further than “green chile onion rings.” My server told me it’s one of Kasey’s most popular sides. Though you’ll probably be offered ketchup with these pearlescent orbs, you’ll want them naked—sans ketchup, mustard or any other saucy ameliorant. These onion rings are most definitely not the “out-of-a-bag” variety virtually every burger joint in town serves. The onions are of varying size and thickness with an uneven texture that bespeaks of being battered right before frying. Bite into them and the addictive flavor of roasted green chile makes love to your taste buds.

14 March 2015: Desserts are no afterthought at Kasey’s.  In fact, you’ll be thinking about the whiskey caramel bread pudding long after your meal.  What most nay-sayers don’t like about bread budding is it can be more than a bit cloying, maybe even tooth-decayingly sweet.  Kasey’s tempers their bread pudding with a Jack Daniels whiskey and caramel sauce and a single scoop of vanilla ice cream.  The combination is a winner.

Whiskey Caramel Bread Pudding with a scoop of Ice Cream

If luck or design takes you down Washington Avenue and you espy Kasey’s, you no longer need wonder what the barn-like structure houses.  What you should wonder instead is whether you’ll be having one of those beauteous burgers, a sumptuous sandwich or a nicely-priced steak.  You’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.

Kasey’s
400 Washington, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
505.241.3801
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 22 February 2016
1st VISIT: 1 March 2015
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 21
COST: $$
BEST BET: Stardust, Fried Chicken and Pumpkin Waffles, Whiskey Caramel Bread Pudding, New York Strip Steak, Coffee-Rubbed Flank Steak, Pate Maison, Turkey Burger

Kasey's on Urbanspoon

The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse – Los Lunas, New Mexico

The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse for the best in fine dining in Los Lunas

New Mexico is truly a dichotomous land, a state in which seemingly contrasting qualities exist in symbiotic harmony with each other. While most of those contrasts exist spectacularly in nature, the Land of Enchantment’s architecture is no stranger to contradictions. One such example is the Luna Mansion, a stately manor built in the Southern Colonial architectural style, but whose basic construction material is adobe. The Luna Mansion was built in 1880 by the Santa Fe Railroad Company in exchange for right-of-way through lands owned by the Luna family. In the 1920s, the Luna-Otero family added to the grandeur of the Los Lunas showcase by building a front portico and grand solarium. White Grecian columns bid all visitors welcome.

In the 1970s, the Luna Mansion was transformed into a restaurant, perhaps rankling the ire of Josefita Otero, one of the original family members to dwell in the Mansion. Her apparition, attired in 1920s regalia, began to appear. Several other apparitions, including Cruz, a groundskeeper, are said to haunt the restaurant while others have been seen or felt on the grounds of the estate. Perhaps they continue to visit the Luna Mansion for the food.

One of the first floor dining rooms

While Auld Lang Syne faded with the dawning of 2009, the Luna Mansion was put up for sale by Earl Whittemore who had owned the property for more than three decades. It wasn’t for sale for long. Fittingly, the Mansion was purchased by Pete and Hortencia Torres, longtime owners of the Wittwer House, another historic property converted to a restaurant (the award-winning Teofilo’s Restaurante). Moreover, the Torres family has a restaurant pedigree in Valencia County that goes back more than six decades. Pete’s parents opened the eponymous Pete’s Cafe in 1948. Teofilo’s is directly across Main Street from the Luna Mansion, now a registered national historic landmark.

Under the auspices of the Torres family, the Luna Mansion remains a monument to the way good food used to be served in bygone days before America became a fast food nation, back when hearty portions of delicious cuisine could be enjoyed in a relaxing milieu. Though not by design, the restaurant brings to mind the clean, elegant Harvey House restaurants which introduced a touch of refinement and civility to an untamed frontier while serving good food at reasonable prices throughout the Old West. There’s a Harvey House a few miles south in Belen though it no longer serves food.

Sourdough bread

The Luna Mansion name is now appended by “Landmark Steakhouse,” a recognition of its historic place in the community as well as the Torres family commitment to providing a memorable fine dining experience for their patrons. As the name implies, the specialty of the house is USDA prime beef aged 21 days for flavor and tenderness and hand-carved by local butchers exclusively for the Luna Mansion. The menu also offers fresh fish, seafood and poultry. Several menu items popularized during the tenure of previous owners have been retained (including one of my favorite desserts) while New Mexican chile inspired items no longer have a place on the daily menu.

The nattily attired and attentive Luna Mansion wait staff is as energetic as any in the Duke City area, but with a small town neighborliness you don’t often find in the big city. They’ll be happy to engage you in small talk or discuss the history of the Mansion if you wish, but they’re also professional enough to leave you alone if that be your preference. Best of all, they’re always on-the-spot with hard-crusted sourdough bread and soft butter as well as ice water or your beverage of choice. The sourdough isn’t baked on the premises, but it’s served warm and is replenished faithfully.

The Maytag Wedge: Crisp iceberg lettuce layered with bleu cheese dressing, crumbled Maytag bleu cheese, chopped tomato and crisp bacon

This appetizer menu includes some traditional (some might say anachronistic) steakhouse starters such as shrimp cocktail, Oysters Rockefeller and calamari, but throws in shrimp wontons as a surprising change of pace. These wontons aren’t your typical desiccated dumplings fried to a crackling, crunchy and empty shell. These are roughly the size of a beverage coaster and stuffed with a generous bounty of cream cheese, green onion and shrimp. Best of all, they’re served with a jalapeño sweet and sour sauce that packs a punch. The calamari are small ringlets of squid goodness–not too chewy or too thickly coated. The accompanying cocktail sauce is packed with a potent horseradish.

31 May 2012: The menu also offers a Maytag Wedge constructed from crisp iceberg lettuce layered with bleu cheese dressing, crumbled Maytag bleu (sic) cheese, chopped tomato and crisp bacon. As a bleu (or blue) cheese aficionado who routinely asks servers to bring me as much bleu cheese as they can carry, it does my heart good (only figuratively) to see the generous dollops of my favorite salad dressing. Maytag blue cheese has been hand-formed and cave-aged since 1941 and is one of the most flavorful of all bleu (or blue) cheeses. The other salad components are quite good, but it’s the pungent cheese that stars here.

A 24-ounce Porterhouse steak (21 day aged beef hand-carved by local butchers exclusively for the Luna Mansion

You might not consider Los Lunas (or anywhere in landlocked New Mexico) a destination for seafood, but the Luna Mansion might just change your mind. Daily offerings include two lobster tails, tipping the scales at about a pound, at market price. There’s also a pound or pound and a half of sweet, juicy Alaskan King Crab also at market price. A long-time restaurant favorite is the Mansion Steak, a six ounce filet smothered by crab meat and Béarnaise sauce. Both the filet and the crab are good in their own right, but don’t necessarily combine all their best qualities when paired together.

31 May 2012: The purity of beefy deliciousness is best exemplified by the 24-ounce Porterhouse steak, as good a prime cut of beef as we’ve had in the Albuquerque area. It is prepared to your exacting specifications (at medium, it’s got that pinkish center that ensures juiciness and flavor) and is seasoned with exactly the right amount of sea salt, pepper and garlic. This beauteous beef has marbling for flavor, but not much of the excess fat you cut out and leave on your plate. As with other entrees, steaks are accompanied by your choice of potato (a fully loaded baked potato, French fries or whipped Yukon Gold potatoes). The baked potato is perfectly cooked all the way through and is roughly the size of a child’s football.

Lamb chops with creamed spinach in the background

31 May 2012: Another spectacular plate features four lollipop (what lamb rib chops are called when they’re “Frenched” (when the meat is cut away from the end of a rib or chop, so that part of the bone is exposed)) lamb chops served with mint sauce. Lamb chops essentially come with a built-in “handle” which makes them easy to pick up and eat (yes, even at a fine dining restaurant). Each lamb chop is pert and petite, but it’s packed with flavor and is very tender. When asked the degree of “doneness” for your chops, it’s best to leave it to the chef’s discretion. Most chefs prepare lamb chops by broiling, grilling or pan-searing them for only a few minutes on each side. At medium, the Luna Mansion lamb chops are moist and delicious.

19 July 2015: The Luna Mansion set the bar very high, hosting the inaugural brunch venture for the discerning and culinary savvy Friends of Gil (FOG).  Ten of us convened at the historical gem to enjoy a sumptuous repast that included a prime rib breakfast burrito.  Engorged with scrambled eggs and grilled prime rib topped with red chile, it’s a Cadillac of breakfast burritos in a neighborhood of Chevys.  This burrito was served with French fries, a surprising departure from the usual hash browns.

Prime Rib Burrito

The menu offers several “sides including creamed spinach, steamed asparagus, sauteed garlic spinach, whipped Yukon Gold potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, baked potato and French fries. The creamed spinach is a winner thanks to the infusion of intensely garlicky heavy cream playing off the natural acerbic qualities of the spinach. The cream is a bit on the watery side, but is good enough to sop up with the restaurant’s sourdough bread.

19 July 2015: It’s not every brunch that allows guests to also select from the dinner menu.  The only concession at Luna Mansion is that baked potatoes aren’t available until after five.  If you’re having the pasta, you don’t need another carb anyway.  You might not even miss out on the Mansion’s magnificent meats.  That is if the fettuccine with a red chile cream sauce and sirloin tips is on the menu.  First, the pasta is perfectly prepared if your ideal is neither mushy nor al dente.  The red chile cream sauce is rich and delicious with just enough piquancy to be discernible, but not so much that it tastes like another New Mexican dish showcasing our enchanting chile (great as it is).  The sirloin tips are a highlight, a reminder that the Luna Mansion serves some of the very best steak in the area.

Fettuccine with Red Chile Cream Sauce and Sirloin Tips

31 May 2012: Only three desserts–the Mansion Mud Pie, classic cheesecake and housemade key lime pie–grace the menu, but savvy diners look no further than the Mansion Mud Pie, one of my favorite desserts in the area. The foundation for the pie is a thick Oreo crust which is topped with about two inches of mocha flavored ice cream, a chocolate ganache and whipped cream garnished with almond slivers. This is a pie for the ages, a pie I might haunt the Luna Mansion for someday.

The Mansion Mud Pie, a Luna Mansion specialty

The Luna Mansion has long been one of Valencia county’s culinary crown jewels, but it’s good enough to warrant mention among the most highly regarded fine dining establishments in the metropolitan Duke City area.

The Luna Mansion Landmark Steakhouse
Highway 6 & Highway 85
Los Lunas, New Mexico
505-865-7333
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 19 July 2015
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 23
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET: Mud Pie, Shrimp Wontons, The Maytag Wedge, Porterhouse, Lamb Chops

Luna Mansion on Urbanspoon

Los Arcos Steakhouse & Bar – Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Los Arcos Steakhouse and Bar

Because of the geothermal mineral springs which issue from the ground, the city of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico was originally named “Hot Springs.” Seeking to distinguish itself from other cities of the same name and to advertise its plentiful resources, city residents voted to rename the city in response to a challenge rendered by a successful 1950s NBC television show called Truth or Consequences. The rest, as they say, is history. This small resort town with an year round permanent population of just over 8,000 bustles with activity, much of it centered around nearby Elephant Butte lake.

Truth or Consequences (T or C to the locals) is a city which honors its history and is an exemplar of small town traditions and hospitality, but the incursion of Spaceport America and its offering of suborbital rocket rides may prompt the acceleration of the city’s eye to the future.  Deep-pocketed adventurers who can plunk down as much as $200,000 for a ticket will likely demand more of the hospitality industry than the relatively austere and simple amenities currently available in T or C.  It remains to be seen whether the city can and will change to meet those demands while retaining the small-town charm so many of us love.

Egg Rolls with a Sweet-Spicy Mustard

No matter how much things change in T or C, we can almost be assured of one thing: Los Arcos Steakhouse and Bar will remain unchanged.  Launched in 1970, Los Arcos remains what Los Angeles Magazine called “a 70s-style monument to surf and turf.”  The restaurant and its menu may be an anachronism, but great service and hospitality are timeless and the true secret to the longevity and success of Los Arcos.  It’s no wonder that for more than four decades, it’s earned a reputation as a favorite stop between El Paso and Albuquerque. 

Even in the 1970s, the Los Arcos menu would be unique for its variety.  You no longer have to step back in time to find such appetizers as oysters Rockefeller, shrimp cocktail, shrimp won tons and fried veggie platters.  Steaks are aged and trimmed by the staff.  Several beef combinations are available with fresh seafood: Australian lobster tails, king crab and two prawns.  Other seafood and fresh-water options include herb-crusted catfish, Indonesian shrimp and Walleye Pike deep-fried in beer batter.

Baby Back Ribs: Mesquite Smoked with Orange Pecan BBQ Sauce

28 September 2014: Not necessarily an anachronism, but still somewhat rare within appetizer menus are old-fashioned egg rolls, the type of which are standard in Chinese restaurants.  Two golden-hued egg rolls per order are accompanied by a sweet-spicy mustard with all the benefits of sweet and sour sauce with the eye-watering kick of hot mustard.  The egg rolls are engorged with vegetables as is usually the case in Chinese restaurants. 

5 March 2004: The “Los Arcos Specialties” menu is a sort of catch-all of entrees which aren’t steak or seafood.  You’ll find baby back ribs, chicken, a shrimp and chicken and a smoked pork loin.  Also available are the unique pairings of a charbroiled filet topped with green chili (SIC) and Mornay sauce as well as a filet topped with crab and Bernaise.  The smoked pork loin is a thick-cut steak about four inches around and about three inches tall.  It’s tender, tasty and served with honey mustard and applesauce. 

Mud Pie

28 September 2014: Another Los Arcos specialty are the baby back ribs which are mesquite smoked with an orange pecan barbecue sauce.  The orange-pecan sauce doesn’t have the citrus properties you might expect.  In fact, it’s rather sweet with smoky notes.  A full rack of ribs is meal enough for two.  These baby backs are at the opposite extreme of of the “fall off-the-bone” ribs which often denote being overdone.  In fact, you need a knife to separate and cut each rib and extricate the pork which isn’t as tender as we like our ribs.

28 September 2014:   The highlight of our two visits has been Los Arcos’ Mud Pie, an Oreo cookie crust topped with coffee ice cream, chocolate fudge, whipped cream and almonds.  It’s an excellent dessert, especially if you love coffee-flavored sweet treats.  The Mud Pie is a coalescence of ingredients which go very well together to create a very satisfying dessert you may not want to share. 

Los Arcos remains a timeless classic that continues to win over generations of diners with its combination of great service and solid food.  Time will tell if it becomes a favorite of Truth or Consequences space tourists.

Los Arcos Steakhouse & Bar
1400 North Date Street
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
(575) 894-6200
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 28 September 2014
1st VISIT: 5 March 2004
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 17
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Baby Back Ribs, Smoked Pork Loin, Mud Pie

Los Arcos Steak & Lobster on Urbanspoon

Rancher’s Club of New Mexico – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Ranchers Club in Albuquerque

The Ranchers Club in Albuquerque

While the Ranchers Club of New Mexico may evoke images of J. R. Ewing holding court with fellow oil barons and business magnates in Dallas, this magnificent milieu is, at its core and essence, unabashedly New Mexican in its attitude and spirit. Don’t let its ostentatious trappings–a sophisticated big city opulence meets a decidedly westernized look and feel–fool you.  Sophisticated doesn’t mean haughty and ostentatious doesn’t mean exclusive.   The Land of Mañana’s well-renowned inclusiveness means more than just the one-percenters will feel at home.  It’s been that way since the Ranchers Club opened in 1985.

More than half the dinner reservations made at the Ranchers Club are made by locals, not by tourists and visitors staying at the steak palace’s home, Albuquerque’s Crowne Plaza Hotel on the northeast corner of the Big I interchange.  Not every diner will “put on the dogs” when they visit.  In fact, blue jeans are almost as common as business casual.  The dress code calls for men to wear collared shirts and prohibits beach sandals, shorts, tee-shirts and work-out clothes.  How much more New Mexico can you get for a fine-dining, high-end restaurant?

The lounge and bar outside the restaurant

The lounge and bar outside the restaurant

Inspired by the rustic elegance of ranch house comfort, the Ranchers Club is a celebration of one of New Mexico’s oft forgotten cultural aspects, the family ranch.  The artwork, saddles, stirrups, lassoes and other western artifacts on the walls, many of them historical in nature, were, in fact,  donated by the ranching community of New Mexico.  The stirring black-and-white photographs on the walls were taken by prolific photographer Harvey Caplin.   Artwork shares wall space with taxidermy animals.  Jutting out from a spoke-shaped multi-layered chandelier in the main dining room are cow’s horns of varying sizes.

At the Ranchers Club, diners are seated in the lap of luxury befitting the special occasion of dining in New Mexico’s most recognized steakhouse.  Each table is adorned with silver place settings, fine china, real glassware, linen tablecloths, but what makes a dining experience at the Ranchers Club special is the impeccable service.  Table service is provided by a tandem–front server, back server, assistant server–of nattily attired servers under the direction of the captain of your service team.   They will take care of all your dining needs and can certainly be trusted to provide savvy recommendations.

Bread from King Arthur

Bread from King Arthur

The Ranchers Club boasts of imported wood-fired French grills which fire up aromatic wood embers such as mesquite and hickory.  Your meal will be prepared on a gridiron, a grilling method which imparts a unique and unusual flavor to the generous portions of meat, seafood and game.  It’s a style of grilling reminiscent of the open range cooking of yesteryear.  Painstaking attention to detail is obvious in the preparation of each course.  The restaurants makes every effort to source verify all their meats, procuring only from the highest quality ranches committed to sustainability.  Many of the menu items are obtained within fifty miles of the Ranchers Club, an inspiring commitment to buying local.

Contrary to popular belief, a meal at the Ranchers Club will not break the bank though you certainly can’t call it “cheap eats” either.  There are several entrees south of the thirty dollar mark with the most expensive entree being a Wagyu domestic Kobe filet for under eighty dollars.  The Ranchers Club remains for many New Mexicans, a special occasion restaurant, a dining establishment which actually recognizes and lives up to its billing, both as a palate pleasing eatery and as a hospitality provider.  It’s no wonder the restaurant has earned the AAA Four-Diamond Award for nine years, the DiRoNA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) since 1994 and the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2001.

Our server Ernest prepares a Caesar Salad tableside

Our server Ernest prepares a Caesar Salad tableside

Not surprisingly, the Ranchers Club menu is teeming with entrees of the carnivorous persuasion, not only steaks of several cuts and sizes, but wild boar ossu buco, antelope chops, venison, Kurobuta pork and free-range chicken.   Fare from the sea is also plentiful: cold water lobster tail, Alaskan king crab legs, Atlantic sea scallops, citrus glazed salmon and a daily fresh fish selection.  There’s good variety in the appetizers menu where you’ll find green chile stew, the only item on the entire menu utilizing New Mexico’s official state vegetable.  There are four salads on the menu, the most popular being the Caesar salad prepared tableside.

Not only is there an art and a science to preparing a Caesar salad perfectly, the Ranchers Club adds flair and style, having the salad prepared by an expertly trained server who tosses a salad of Romaine lettuce and croutons and dresses it with an amalgam of raw eggs (cracked and whisked vigorously), lemon juice, fresh anchovies, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and black pepper.  It’s as good a Caesar salad as you’ll find in New Mexico, especially if you enjoy the potent triumvirate of anchovies, pepper and garlic.  The croutons are crisp, plentiful and delicious.

The Caesar Salad

The Caesar Salad

Those croutons are likely made from the restaurant’s King Arthur baked bread.  The bread, a thick slice of which is deposited on a plate, is terrific.  It’s a dense, moist bread with a crusty exterior and soft interior.  Best of all, it’s served with soft butter, a more than welcome respite from the ad infinitum parade of olive oil amalgams too many restaurants serve.  Your server will faithfully replenish the bread though any more than two slices and you risk filling up.

Among the more surprising appetizers on the menu are the spicy tempura tuna rolls, six pieces of sushi crafted from seared tuna and sheathed in a tempura batter.  If you like seared or raw tuna, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this starter though fire-eaters who enjoy incendiary sushi rolls might miss the wasabi and soy sauce mix.  We didn’t miss the sushi rice.  The spicy tempura tuna rolls are served with a salad of tatoi and mizuna greens, wasabi peas, sesame sticks and just a light drizzle of wasabi pepper sauce.

Spicy Tempura Tuna Rolls

Spicy Tempura Tuna Rolls

The entrees section of the Ranchers Club menu is segmented into “Artfully Crafted Specialties” and “Ranchers Club Classics,” the latter of which showcases the restaurant’s pride and joy.  That’s the beef-heavy array of meaty magnificence: filet mignon, Wagyu (domestic Kobe) filet, bacon-wrapped bison tenderloin, cowboy-cut bone-in rib eye, slow-roasted prime rib, prime baseball cut sirloin and a veal porterhouse chop.  If, like my Midwest born and bred Kim, you’ve got carnivorous inclinations, you’ll find a sumptuous cut of beef just right for you.

Entrees on the Ranchers Club Classics menu are served with your choice of accompaniment–artisan two cheese macaroni, potatoes au gratin, steak fries, twice-baked potato, baked Parmesan polenta, garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce.  Classic entrees are also paired with your choice of sauce: wild mushroom demi-glace, chimichurri, Bearnaise, brandy peppercorn, red chile demi-glace, Ranchers steak sauce and raspberry chipotle.  Rely on your captain to match the right sauce with the entree of your choice.

Cowboy Cut Bone-In Rib Eye (18-ounces)

Cowboy Cut Bone-In Rib Eye (18-ounces)

For my Kim, our affable captain Thomas, recommended the Cowboy Cut Bone-In Rib Eye, an eighteen-ounce slab of nicely marbled and full-flavored beef procured from a ranch in Nebraska.  Perfectly prepared at medium, the rib eye is not for those of feeble appetite.  It’s a formidable hunk of beef grilled beautifully, a moist and juicy steak which needs no amelioration. Since she asked for it, however, Thomas provided my Kim with a garlic sauce redolent with dill and lemon.  He also had the kitchen prepare a baked potato even though baked potatoes aren’t among the listed accompaniments.   Now that’s service!  The steak also came with a vegetable medley, including sweet, al dente carrots.

Not being as fond of beef as is my Kim, my choice was the Kurobuta Pork Rack which was carved tableside by the captain.  Twenty-two ounces of pulchritudinous pork was surgically sliced to right-sized portions including two bones on which you’ll gnaw with alacrity.  Most Kurobuta pork Ive had accentuates the delicate flavor of the Iowa raised pork, seasoning it lightly and pairing it with sweet flavors.  The Ranchers Club seasons Kurobuta more assertively and pairs it with a Bourbon molasses barbecue sauce which is even more aggressive.  You’ll enjoy the Kurobuta much more without the barbecue sauce, so you’ll want to ask for it on the side.

Two Bone Kurobuta Pork Rack carved tableside

Two Bone Kurobuta Pork Rack carved tableside

The dessert menu is more than interesting though we’ve never made it past the Ranchers Club nightly flambe dessert.  On two occasions, that’s meant Bananas Foster prepared tableside.  All eyes in the dining room will be trained on your table when your server pours banana liqueur into the frying pan and flames rise skyward.  Bananas Foster is a very rich, very decadent dessert which originated in New Orleans.  Having lived ninety miles from the Crescent City for eight years, we had our share of Bananas Foster in their city of origin.  The Bananas Foster at the Ranchers Club are just as good.

Bananas Foster prepared tableside

Bananas Foster prepared tableside

The Ranchers Club will probably always be a restaurant for special occasions, but it’s always fun to imagine being wealthy enough to dine there more often.

Rancher’s Club of New Mexico
1901 University, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 884-2500
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 27 September 2013
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 23
COST: $$$$
BEST BET: Bananas Foster, Porterhouse Steak, Caesar Salad, Two Bone Kurobuta Pork Rack, Cowboy Cut Bone-In Rib Eye, Spicy Tempura Tuna Rolls


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