Fiesta Flavors – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Mixed fruit cups, buttered corn nibblet cups, fruity refreshing beverages and frozen fresh fruit treats are the centerpieces of several quickly growing niche chains, one of which launched an Albuquerque shop in the spring of 2004. That niche includes both diet and health conscious treat seekers as well as the growing Hispanic market, making the Duke City a natural choice for Fiesta Flavors.

Niche or not, the intriguing menu has something for everyone. The fruit cups, whether mixed or as a single fruit offering, are served with your choice of three toppings: a sweet and creamy blend of sweetened and flavored sour cream, a low-fat and sugar free yogurt and best of all, the Fiesta chili blend of salt, lime and chili. As served on the bananas con crema, the homemade sweet cream enlivens the fruit and leaves you craving more.

The star of the show, however, are the corn cups which feature hot buttered corn cut from the cob then mixed with the Fiesta chili blend, cheese and sour cream. There’s no picking at your teeth after a bowl of this masterpiece. Fruity freezes made with your two choices of fruit blended with your fresh juice choice are the perfect cure for a balmy summer day. They are both refreshing and delicious.

As for noshes, your choices aren’t quite as exotic or interesting. I made the mistake of ordering a hot dog with cheese which included that gloppy cheese normally reserved for bad nachos. That hot dog perpetuated all the worse hot dog stereotypes and jokes. An order of taquitos was somewhat better, especially since the accompanying guacamole was wonderfully piquant.

Fiesta Flavors’ South Valley location is somewhat off the beaten path and may deter some prospective diners.

Fiesta Flavors
1511B Goff, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico

LATEST VISIT: 30 June 2004
BEST BET: Fruit Cups, Corn Cups, Fruit Freezes

Kimchy Cabana – Niles, Illinois

To the unenculturated, the pungent emanations of Korean kimchy (pickled and fermented cabbage) are malodorous and offensive to the olfactory senses. To the Korean people, however, kimchy is so much more than a national dish; it’s a family treasure handed down from one generation to another over the millenniums. The influx of Korean war brides following the Korean War and beyond has meant the gradual introduction into the American mainstream of kimchy and other Korean culinary arts.

Having experienced Korean cuisine from coast to coast, it has always impressed me to find Korean food remarkably consistent–usually at least good and often excellent. Kimchy Cabana certainly ranks with the best I’ve had yet. Our inaugural dining experience was made even better because we shared our meal with two of Niles’ finest law enforcement officials, my brother-in-law Chuck and his commander, true gentlemen for whom the badge truly represents integrity and dedication to the public.

Our meal started with the traditional Korean family meal offering of small dishes featuring spicy and pickled vegetables. Most Korean restaurants alternate these vegetables on a daily basis but always include kimchy which is typically the eye-watering star of the show. Every vegetable tantalized our taste buds with taste sensations which ran the gamut from piquant to sweet. Another perfect prelude to our meal was a kimchy pancake appetizer which is certainly among the very best of its kind I’ve ever had.

Incomparable Korean barbecue was featured fare as we enjoyed all we could eat of beef and pork bulgogi–broiled, thin-sliced tender beef and pork marinated in a barbecue sauce which creates a harmonious melding of sweet, savory and spicy tastes. The pork was slightly more spicy and therefore more to my liking. Our bulgogi was prepared at our table on a sizzling cast-oven plate and had no discernable fatty or sinewy pieces.

During our second visit, we also had chicken bulgogi which just didn’t meet the high standards of its pork and beef counterparts, but would otherwise still be considered very good.

Kimchy Cabana
9020 Greenwood
Niles, IL

LATEST VISIT: 18 June 2004
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Bulgogi, Pork Bulgogi, Kimchi Pancake

Bobby Q’s – Arlington Heights, Illinois (CLOSED)

I first read about Bobby Q’s on Chowhound’s Chicago board in November, 2003. A newcomer to the Chicago area barbecue scene launched in July, 2003, it was immediately embraced by barbecue aficionados who tend to dismiss most interlopers as pretenders and frauds. Within months, the restaurant named for the owners’ toddler’s pronunciation of “barbecue” was earning accolades and honors in a specialized area which tends to be cynical and unwelcoming.

The house sauces, a spicy Cajun sauce and a sweet Texas sauce have both been accorded with national recognition–20th best barbecue sauce in the entire country and a third place honor for the Cajun sauce in Kansas City’s American Royal competition. In 2004, AOL’s City Guide Chicago made Bobby Q’s their pick for barbecue in the Windy City.

Even before you enter Bobby Q’s, you’re greeted in the parking lot by the wafting, seductive and smoky aroma of meats smoked slowly over hickory (cherry for poultry). Those aromas beckon with the alluring charm of a beautiful siren. Answer the aromatic siren’s call and you’re treated to some of the best barbecue in the Chicago area.

The baby back ribs aren’t of the “falling off the bone” genre (in fact, they may lean toward being slightly tough), but they’re substantial and the sauce is oh so good. Even better is the Memphis style pulled pork sandwich which is smoked for up to 19 hours and slathered in that delicious sauce. Tennessee transplants wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

A smoked meat appetizer featuring “sliders” of brisket, pulled pork and slow-smoked turkey breast is a meal sized introduction to three different meats, all of which are main event caliber on their own. Bobby Q’s sides are also worthy of adulation. The corn on the cob is sweet and juicy and only my brother-in-law Chuck makes better pork and beans.

The one item on the menu we had to send back was a bowl of chili which wasn’t even in the same class as the chili served at Wendy’s. In fact, we considered it inedible and marveled when our waitress told us what a huge hit the chili has been. It goes to show, there just isn’t good chili in Illinois.

The pilgrim-like migrations of barbecue worshippers from the city of big shoulders to the northwest suburb of Arlington Heights can certainly be attributed to Bobby Q’s, an outstanding entrant into a talented yet crowded epicurean arena.

Bobby Q’s
1279 North Rand Road
Arlington Heights, Illinois

LATEST VISIT: 17 June 2004
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Memphis Style Pulled Pork Sandwich, Corn on the Cob, Bobby Q Pork and Beans

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