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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. 

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
LATEST VISIT: 14 March 2015
1st VISIT: 1 March 2015
# OF VISITS: 2
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

Kasey's 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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