Gil's Thrilling (And Filling) Blog

Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico's Sesquipedalian Sybarite. 821 Restaurant Reviews, More Than 6200 Visitor Comments…And Counting!

Quizno’s – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Just as owning a BMW might diminish your appreciation of any other car you’ll ever have (unless it’s another BMW), eating sub sandwiches in New England will devalue your estimation of any sub sandwich you’ll ever have anywhere else. From Maine to Delaware, sub sandwiches in all their sobriquets (grinders, torpedoes, heroes, etc.) are so far superior to sandwiches served anywhere else in the country that you’ll invariably find yourself making unfair comparisons. Nothing else quite fills the bill.

After moving to Denver, New York native James Lambatos wanted Mile High City residents to experience an Italian sub similar to what he experienced growing up in the Big Apple. He founded Quizno’s in 1981 as an upscale version of Subway but with the intention of duplicating the New York sub sandwich experience.

At its worse, Quizno’s does provide a better product than the ubiquitous industry leader, but it still pales in comparison to the sandwiches you’ll find throughout the East Coast. Quizno’s motto is “Deliziosa e rinfrescante–delicious and refreshingly good! Quizno’s oven toasted sandwiches do taste better–a fact that wasn’t lost on franchise leader Subway who in 2005 began its own toasted sub campaign.

A burgeoning franchise, Quizno’s appeared poised to make a run at the big boys as evidenced by its marketing campaign which kicked off during 2002 Superbowl. I don’t know if they made many inroads into an already glutted sandwich market, but their commercials were certainly clever and its product definitely upscale compared to Subway.

Unlike assembly line sandwich competitors, each Quizno’s sub is made to order and each is toasted. Size doesn’t necessarily matter if the product is big on taste. Quizno’s makes big sandwiches in which the ingredients are not pre-packaged and scrimped on, but they aren’t particularly memorable, albeit better than Subway.

My early favorite is the Angus, a well seasoned roast beef sandwich with a tangy sauce. Quizno’s toasted tuna sandwich is also pretty good unless you make the mistake of taking it home and “nuking” it. Another nice sandwich, the chicken carbonara sandwich didn’t do well enough during its short run to stick to the daily menu, but there are enough good alternatives to make this one of my sub choices in the Duke City. That last statement in itself decries the woeful state of sub sandwich restaurants in the Duke City.

6421 Montgomery, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM

LATEST VISIT: 31 May 2005
BEST BET: Angus Roast Beef Sandwich; Tuna Sandwich

The Mine Shaft Tavern – Madrid, New Mexico

The Mineshaft Tavern in Madrid

The Mine Shaft Tavern is a very popular eatery and watering hole on the Turquoise Trail

“You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter, don’t you call me cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.” Those immortal lyrics, hauntingly performed by crooner Tennessee Ernie Ford describe with a poignant reality, the plight of the American miner even onto the 20th century.

By payday which came at month’s end, miners did indeed owe their souls to the company–for the company house in which they were living, for groceries to feed their families, for doctor bills and even for the tools they used to mine.

They were paid in scrip which could only be spent at the company store, leaving them no choice but to buy from the companies. Despicably, this allowed the company to gouge the miners with vastly over-inflated prices, leaving miners with families inextricably in debt to the company.

When they got paid at month’s end, any money left after settling their debts to the company was insufficient to last through the following month. This vicious cycle was perpetuated the following month when miners again had to pay the company first and were lucky to have anything left for their families.

The Mine Shaft Tavern was the last “company town” building erected in Madrid with its doors opening in 1946. Within the tavern only those familiar with the deplorable mining conditions pause to reflect on Madrid’s heart-wrenching history. The other patrons are there to have a good time thanks to tavern quality food and libations which flow freely.

The Mine Shaft Tavern is especially popular with old hippies and Harley Davidson enthusiasts whose “hogs” take up many of the parking spaces. The bikers congregate on the porch where they have an excellent vantage point from which to admire their bikes and those of their fellow easy riders. The tavern’s dimly lit interior appears relatively unchanged since the 1940s although several ceiling fans do a surprisingly good job of deflecting the smoky haze away from diners. Above the longest stand-up bar in New Mexico, a series of paintings by renown artist Ross J. Ward depicts Madrid’s tragic and colorful history.

The menu isn’t quite as colorful, offering fairly standard New Mexico tavern victuals. The wait staff enthusiastically promotes the burgers, especially the 5.5 ounce buffalo burger, but that enthusiasm may be misdirected based on the burger one of my dining companions had. While a one-third pound lean ground beef burger sounds appetizing, we were disappointing to find a pre-formed meat patty wholly lacking in juiciness (as if “lean” means absolutely dry).

The tortilla burger featured a one-third pound lean ground beef patty wrapped in a flour tortilla with Cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese and red or green chile. According to our waitress, the green chile was hotter than the red, a poor indictment of the green chile which had about as much heat as a bell pepper. Burgers are accompanied by your choice of homemade French fries, soup or salad. The fries are thick cut but fried all the way through and are best consumed with the tavern’s tangy barbecue sauce, some of which we had left over from an appetizer of smoked chicken wings. Although somewhat desiccated, the smoky taste made those wings better than we’ve had at Duke City wings chains.

The highlight of our meal was the desserts, one of which was homemade and two others which were store bought. The homemade tres leches cake was moist and delicious, a true confectionary stand-out. A strawberry strudel had the taste and appearance of a Sara Lee product as did a thick slab of chocolate cake. Finishing our meal, we couldn’t help but be grateful we wouldn’t owe the company store for it.

The Mine Shaft Tavern
2846 State Highway 14
Madrid, NM
(505) 473-0743
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 30 May 2005
COST: $$
BEST BET: Tres Leches Cake

Asia Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Proprietor Nan Nguyen and his wife launched Asia Restaurant in April, 2002 and have experienced steady, if not spectacular customer traffic.  Repeat business from faithful patrons in a small, intimate setting with only 12 tables give the Nguyens the opportunity to get to know their clients.

Although both from a small village in South Vietnam, Nan worked for years in a Chinese restaurant, hence a menu offering both Vietnamese and Chinese food.  Our inaugural visit was shortly after the restaurant’s grand opening and typical of Albuquerque, the restaurant was packed with curiosity seekers.

We were the only diners during our second visit and had a splendid time discussing the nuances of Vietnamese cuisine.  After learning of my affection for durian, the Nguyens concluded I must have been Vietnamese in a previous life and told me that durian rinds were placed under beds in poor households to keep roaches and bugs away.  They contend that 99.9% of Americans won’t even try durian.  So much for convincing Kim that durian is delicious once you get past its malodorous emanations.

The menu has changed considerably since our first visit.  For example, the Asian golden crispy dragon bone featuring chicken enveloped by a crispy crust and served with delicious fish sauce is no longer on the menu.  It was uniquely wonderful.

An expansive menu features pages of options including several family dinners for two or more.  The family dinner we ordered included two Asia triangle egg rolls with fish sauce, two crab Rangoon pot stickers and to steamed pork baos, all of which were quite good.  The uniquely shaped and not quite flat triangle egg rolls were surprisingly generously endowed with vegetables and shrimp.  The family dinner also included soup–wonton soup for Kim and a meatball soup for me.  Of the two, the meatball soup stood out for its savory broth laced with green onions.

Alas, our entrees were not quite as wonderful as their precedents–probably because we ordered Chinese entrees instead of Vietnamese.  The sesame chicken wasn’t nearly as cloying as served at other Albuquerque Chinese establishments (a good thing) but it didn’t have the “grab you” properties the same entree would have at the Ming Dynasty.  Similarly, the Szechwan orange beef lacked the sweetness so common with that entree at other restaurants, but was instead bequeathed with the sharper flavors of ginger and orange rind.  It was much better than the sesame chicken.

During our first visit we ordered Vietnamese entrees and will do so during future visits.  The steamed vermicelli with grilled beef and shrimp might be on our list, courtesy of some of the best grilling we’ve had in Albuquerque.  The rice noodle with grilled pork and egg rolls was also delicious.  Asia Restaurant is a very good Asian restaurant in a city blessed with outstanding Vietnamese and Thai restaurants.

Asia Restaurant
4200 Wyoming, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM
LATEST VISIT: 21 May 2005
COST: $$
BEST BET: Asian Golden Crispy Dragon Bone