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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

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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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High Noon Restaurant & Saloon – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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The High Noon Restaurant and Saloon in Albuquerque’s Old Town

“Oh, to be torn twixt love and duty
Supposin’ I love my fair haired beauty
Look at that big hand movin’ round
Nearin’ high noon.”
~
Tex Ritter

The 1952 Academy Award winning movie High Noon follows taciturn marshal Will Kane as he single-handedly prepares to face a posse of murderers hellbent on revenge when the clock strikes twelve. Though the memorable showdown between Marshal Kane and the villainous scourges lasts only a few minutes, viewers are held spellbound by the movie’s black-and-white cinematography and hauntingly relentless soundtrack which accentuate the clock’s inexorable ticking down toward the confrontation at high noon.

The minute hand on the wooden clock facade at the foyer of the High Noon Restaurant & Saloon is on its upward trajectory, scant seconds away from high noon. Instead of tension, your mood will be one of eager anticipation to discover for yourself whether the flavors of the restaurant’s dishes are as welcoming as the aromas which greet you at the door. Since the restaurant was launched in 1974, locals and tourists alike have been beckoned by those alluring aromas to enter and dine at the popular Old Town restaurant.

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It’s high noon at the lobby

The timeworn adobe edifice which houses The High Noon Restaurant & Saloon appears contemporaneous with the wooden homes on the dusty streets of Marshal Kane’s Hadleyville in the New Mexico Territory. In actuality, the building—one of Old Town’s original structures—was constructed in 1785, making it about 100 years older than the fictional town of Hadleyville. The High Noon truly provides a glimpse back in time, having served not only as a residence, but reputedly as a gambling casino and brothel. Steeped in history and legend, the building is also said to be haunted.  

Anyone six feet or taller will have to bend down to walk through the doorway from the foyer into the cozy bar lounge known as the “Santo” room for the original nichos which have decorated the room since 1810. Within the nichos stand meticulously restored Santos from Mexico and the Philippines. This room honors New Mexico’s Spanish heritage. Further back are two esthetically diverse dining rooms, each one honoring the remaining two of New Mexico’s three dominant cultures. The walls of the “Gallery Room” (the Anglo room) are adorned with large photographs taken during the building’s renovation with participants attired in regalia from the Gay Nineties. The “Kiva Room” stands out by virtue of its thick adobe walls, high ceiling, Pueblo-style bancos with Hopi kachinas, Navajo rugs and Acoma pottery completing the Native American theme.

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One of the dining rooms at the High Noon Restaurant & Saloon

As with other restaurants clustered throughout Albuquerque’s historic Old Town, The High Noon has had to contend with the derision of nay-sayers who bucket all Old Town area restaurants into the category of “tourist traps.” While many of its guests are indeed visitors, The High Noon also has a loyal following among locals who appreciate that the restaurant’s eclectic menu includes a smattering of New Mexican entrees and some of the most highly regarded Margaritas (the saloon boasts of more than 30 tequila offerings) in town. The High Noon has been owned since its inception by the Villa family, lifelong Duke City philanthropists.

Although the menu is described as serving “new food from the old west,” at its heart and essence The High Noon is a steakhouse. Never mind that the winter 2013 menu lists only three steaks (a 16-ounce center-cut ribeye, an 8-ounce brown sugar-cured beef tenderloin and a 12-ounce New York strip Au Poivre), steak is where the restaurant carved out its reputation. The menu seems tailored mostly for the carnivorous persuasion, but it does includes something to appease even vegetarian palates.

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Kobe beef sliders: green chile, cheddar cheese, chipotle ketchup

The chile served with the “New Mexican Favorites” menu is made with cumin as is the salsa. All New Mexican favorites are served with Spanish rice and whole pinto beans. “House Specialties” include a number of diverse offerings—from rock shrimp Pappardelle (one of four Italian inspired items on the menu) to a bourbon-roasted chicken. The “From the Grill” menu offers burgers, seafood and chops (including the aforementioned steaks). Soup and salad offerings include a bowl of green chile stew and a number of salads.

The “Starters” menu lists only six items, including Kobe Beef Sliders. Compared to many sliders (can you say White Castle?) on which the beef patties are about as thick as a slice of baloney, the patties on High Noon’s sliders are on steroids. Come to think of it, the patties are thicker than patties on most standard or upscale sized burgers. The burgers are served with only two toppings—Cheddar cheese and green chile—with chipotle ketchup on the side. You won’t need anything else. The chile has just enough bite to complement the Kobe beef. On burgers Kobe (or wagyu) beef isn’t quite as marbled as on steaks, but you can still taste the buttery richness of the beef.

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Apple & Cranberry Salad: baby greens, sliced granny smith apples, blue cheese chipotle candied pecans, balsamic vinaigrette

Simply having a garden salad on the menu as an appetizer, entrée or side just doesn’t cut it anymore. Diners want fresh ingredients, lighter dressings and an inventive assembly of ingredients on their salad plate. Most restaurants who care to provide a holistic dining experience will accommodate them. The High Noon certainly does, offering an apple and cranberry salad with baby greens (arugula, frisee, radicchio), sliced Granny Smith apples, blue cheese, chipotle candied pecans and a thick Balsamic vinaigrette. The textural and flavor variety offered in the greens alone make this a salad worth eating, but the supporting cast makes it a salad you’ll order again. There’s just something magical about apples and blue cheese that spritzes up any salad or sandwich.

When we asked our server and the server attending to adjacent tables what their favorite entrees are, they both resounded with praise for the Ancho-BBQ Short Ribs, three braised, boneless short ribs slathered with an Ancho chile and Bing Cherry barbecue sauce with hashed potatoes, haricot vert and onion strings. Reminiscent of an 80s restaurant trend, the items on the plate were stacked on top of each other. The hashed potatoes served as the foundation with the three short ribs on top then the haricot vert and serving as the proverbial topping is a mound of onion strings.

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Ancho-BBQ Short Ribs: braised, boneless short ribs, Ancho chile and Bing cherry BBQ sauce, hashed potatoes, haricot vert, BBQ-demi

Reminiscence notwithstanding, the short ribs were nearly as good as advertised—tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The Ancho chile-Bing Cherry barbecue sauce doesn’t pack much punch and is a bit on the sweet side, but there’s plenty of it for use as a “gravy” with the hashed potatoes. The haricot vert (thin French green beans) are perfectly prepared with a nice snap to them. The tangle of onion strings reminded us (in a good way) of the onion loaf served at Hackney’s in the Chicago area with a combination of oniony and sweet flavors that go very well together.

The second entrée our servers recommended most highly (and it’s not even among the most expensive entrees on the menu) was the bourbon-roasted chicken served with mashed potatoes, baby carrots and natural jus. When we lived in the Deep South, we became quite familiar with bourbon roasted meats, most of whom were slathered with a cloying Jack Daniels sauce vaguely reminiscent of whiskey maple syrup. The High Noon’s rendition isn’t cloying in the least. The natural jus is seasoned to complement the roasted chicken, not to change its flavor profile. It’s a perfectly prepared and meaty chicken served in the 80s “stacked” style.

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Bourbon roasted chicken: mashed potatoes, baby carrots, natural jus

The dessert menu is relatively small, but I stop listening when bread pudding is mentioned anyway. The High Noon’s bread pudding is made with white chocolate and cranberries topped with cajeta (goat cheese caramel). This tasty triumvirate may sound sickeningly sweet, but we were surprised at just how balanced the bread pudding is. The pastry chef obviously knows that a little salt and baking powder goes a long way in cutting the cloying qualities of desserts. One of the most surprising elements of this bread pudding is the cajeta, an addictive and luxurious topping for a bread pudding that’s hard to top. My friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate and a fellow bread pudding aficionado, would enjoy this one.

Over the years, The High Noon Restaurant has undergone a number of thematic menu changes.  Until rather recently, it was one of few restaurants in town in which wild game (including rattlesnake) could be found.  Now, if you want to see rattlesnakes, you’ve got to walk down the street to the rattlesnake museum.  As with many progressive restaurants, its menu changes periodically to maintain diner interest. 

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White Chocolate and Cranberry Bread Pudding With Cajeta Sauce

In its annual Food and Wine issue for 2013, Albuquerque The Magazine‘s staff sampled “every dish of nachos in the city” and selected High Noon’s nachos as the third best in the city.  The magazine described these nachos as “surely the kind of chips that angels eat” and having “a kick we still can’t forget.”

Our server confided that he eats at the restaurant five days a week, and while some of that may be salesmanship, he was certainly familiar with the nuances of every item we had and gracefully led us on our dining adventure.

High Noon Restaurant & Saloon
425 San Felipe Street,  N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 765-1455
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 9 March 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: *
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET: White Chocolate & Cranberry Bread Pudding, Apple & Cranberry Salad, Kobe Beef Sliders, Bourbon Roasted Chicken, Ancho-BBQ Short Ribs


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