Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits

Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits

Shortly after Louisiana and Mississippi were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, one of the local television stations in South Louisiana actually aired an interview with a woman from New Orleans. The interviewer was a woman from a Boston affiliate, so she asked the interviewee how such total and complete devastation of the churches in the area had affected their lives.  The woman replied,” I don’t know about all those other people but we get our chicken from Popeye’s.” The look on the interviewer’s face was priceless.  That anecdote rings with truism

Contrary to the images the name might conjure, Popeye’s is not a nautical themed restaurant which serves spinach.  That might be why the restaurant’s full appellation is “Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits.”  In reality, Popeye’s is named for the irascible character Popeye Doyle from the movie “The French Connection.”   It is the brainchild of restaurant impresario Al Copeland who founded the New Orleans style poultry palace in 1972 after a failed venture featuring mild, Southern-fried chicken.

New Orleans style chicken is imbued with the exciting, spicy flavor about which Cajuns are passionate.  In our eight years of living in Mississippi, we rarely dined at Popeye’s, preferring local alternatives with even more incendiary cayenne pepper producing heat.  Considering no one loves the heat of piquant foods like New Mexicans, you would think Popeye’s would be embraced yet the 1990s saw Albuquerque’s Popeye’s restaurants succumb to closure.

Fried chicken, biscuit and fried catfish

Fried chicken, biscuit and fried catfish

November 12, 2005 saw the launch of the first of twelve planned Popeye’s restaurants in the Duke City.  If the opening day pageant of vehicles (including ours) snaking around the building at a crawl for up to two hour waits portends future success, Popeye’s is here to stay–for good this time.

At first glance Popeye’s fried chicken resembles the fried chicken you can find at any grocery store. Its crispy coating is akin to the Colonel’s extra crispy offering.  That crispy exterior belies the juiciness within.  Popeye’s fried chicken is moist, tender and infused with cayenne, that spicy seasoning Cajun Americans have come to love although some fire eating New Mexicans might wonder what the hullabaloo is all about because the chicken is fairly tame compared to the incendiary foods on which they were weaned.

Biscuits, which share prominence on the restaurant’s marquee, are buttery with a light golden hue.  Unlike the biscuits proffered by Popeye’s competitors, they don’t crumble on your hands.  Sides include “Cajun” battered fries, “Cajun” rice, mashed potatoes and “Cajun” gravy as well as red beans and rice, another Louisiana favorite.

Fried chicken, dirty rice and coleslaw

Fried chicken, dirty rice and coleslaw

The “Cajun” rice, known as “dirty rice” in the deep South is a blend of meats, shallots and seasonings.  Popeye’s version is among the worse we’ve had, a pitiful pretender that any self-respecting Cajun would toss out.

Popeye’s coleslaw tastes surprisingly like the Colonel’s with a similar surfeit of cloying salad cream.

Our former home state of Mississippi seemingly competed with New Mexico for last place in every ignominious list compiled, but one category in which it leads the nation is in production of pond-raised catfish.  We learned during our eight years in the Deep South what great catfish tastes like and it certainly isn’t what Popeye’s puts on the plate.  The Popeye’s version is desiccated and somewhat flavorless in comparison to what we became accustomed to.

A dessert offering called “Mississippi Mud” might be appropriately named because that’s where it belongs–on the bottom of the murky river for which it is named.  We enjoyed Mississippi Mud throughout the South and will argue that Popeye’s version is a misnomer.

The chicken is the reason most poultry patrons visit Popeye’s and why they return in droves.

Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits
10074 Coors, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM
792-3350

LATEST VISIT: 30 April 2007
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 18
COST: $
BEST BET: Spicy Fried Chicken

Señor Murphy Candymaker – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Senor Murphy

Senor Murphy Candymaker just south of the Santa Fe Plaza

In the Land of Enchantment, piñon is as valuable as gold if not more, particularly in recent years when drought conditions have ravaged acres of piñon forests.  Piñon trees produce good harvests every seven years or so with the best bounties being found at elevations between six and eight thousand feet.  The roasted flavor of good piñon is intense–sweet with a subtle hint of pine that will transport your mind and taste buds to New Mexico’s pine forests.

While nature has increased the scarcity of these nuggets, fortunately they are still plentiful at Señor Murphy’s.  For more than 30 years Señor Murphy has been hand-making some of the most seductively sweet confections in the country and shipping them all over the world from its Santa Fe base of operations.

The sweet smell of success begins with quality New Mexico ingredients such as red and green chiles as well as piñon nuts and is punctuated by the creativity and devotion of true master candy makers.  One of the largest candy manufacturers in New Mexico, Señor Murphy produces more than 70 tons of unique gourmet candies in over 100 varieties each year.

Señor Murphy’s piñon rolls and piñon toffee are absolutely divine with taste contrasts that complement one another perfectly.  Caramales, one of the store’s most popular selling items feature vanilla fudge dipped in caramel and rolled in piñon nuts then wrapped in corn husks to resemble New Mexico tamales, are a Christmas gift favorite.

Pinon Rolls

Pinon Rolls, New Mexico gold

In 2004, Señor Murphy launched a store in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill district but moved to the Uptown area within a year.  Several of our visits have been to that destination although I will continue to update visits on this page rather than re-create an Albuquerque listing.

Señor Murphy Candymaker
1904 Chamisa Street
Santa Fe, NM
1-877-988-4311

LATEST VISIT: 29 April 2007
# OF VISITS: 7
RATING: 18
COST: $$
BEST BET: Piñon Rolls, Piñon Toffee, Pecan Turtles

Consetta’s Green Restaurant – Jemez Springs, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Consetta's, the Green Restaurant

Consetta's, the Green Restaurant

In 1995 Jemez Springs was selected by the National Civic League as the “All America City” in recognition of its citizens’ collective grass-roots efforts to improve their quality of life. Nowhere is that more evident than at the aptly named Consetta’s Green Restaurant on scenic Route 4 which is traversed annually by more than two million visitors.

Consetta’s desire is to provide fine dining at reasonable prices. It is committed to decreasing man’s footprint on the Earth by serving as an avenue for ideas which exemplify how to be better stewards of the Earth’s resources. To that end, the sprawling compound on which Consetta’s sits hosts organic gardens in which are grown to the extent possible, the restaurant’s vegetables, herbs and salad ingredients.

Solar ovens, a solar hot water heater and other sustainable projects allow the compound to utilize as much renewable energy as possible. Only all natural, range-free chicken and sustainable seafood (seafood products that are prudently managed to provide greater supply and price stability while staving off depletion) are served.

The sign says it all...

The sign says it all...

At 6300 feet above sea level, Consetta’s is located in the picturesque Jemez River Canyon and is backdropped by majestic red mesas resultant from ancient lava flows more than a million years ago. From the restaurant’s outdoor deck, your immediate view is of green gardens nurtured by rainwater captured in a large cistern.

Beyond the gardens is a thirty-foot diameter Yurt (a circular tent of felt or skins on a collapsible framework). In the distance, the view is of stratified cliffs which display many layers of weathered sediment, alluvial and rock formations in craggy, multi-hued splendor.

Just as Jemez Springs is a geological wonder, Consetta’s is a culinary wonder, serving traditional Italian fare, pizza, sustainable seafood, organic vegetables, vegan, fresh baked bread, cold beer and local wines. The menu (which is printed on 100% tree-free paper) offers many sumptuous options while a slate board tempts you with daily specials.

For those who wish to enjoy their repast under the cottonwoods by the sometimes rushing, sometimes meandering Jemez River, specially prepared picnic baskets are available. Consetta’s is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday.

Shortly after you place your order, a small loaf of homemade bread is brought to your table along with virgin olive oil and cracked pepper. The bread is unsalted but has a nice texture and is served warm. It’s a good precursor to a memorable meal.

Spinach with warm bacon drssing and much more...

Spinach with warm bacon drssing and much more...

A popular appetizer consists of tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil served with olive oil and Balsamic reduction. Similar to the bread, this appetizer is unsalted, not that salt is necessary because each ingredient is fresh and delicious.

Eschewing the Italian offerings, an excellent entree when on the seasonal menu is the blackened tilapia with fried polenta and a spring salad drizzled with a garlic citrus aioli. Tilapia, a sweet-tasting lean fish with a white flesh, is believed to be the fish Jesus fed to the multitudes at the Sermon on the Mount.

Consetta’s preparation appears to be divinely inspired with contrasting tastes competing for the rapt attention of my taste buds. The blackening isn’t quite as incendiary as you might find on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, allowing for the tilapia’s subtle brininess to shine. It is one of the best fish dishes we’ve had in New Mexico.

Pizza with artichoke hearts, green chile, sausage, onions.

Pizza with artichoke hearts, green chile, sausage, onions.

Another excellent option is pizza which is prepared to your exacting specifications. Although the sausage and mozzarella are purchased from the vendor, Consetta’s chefs prepare the pizza sauce and dough from scratch. The dough is antithetical to what you’ll find in New England in that there’s nary a speck of black.

It’s not underdone, however. A bit thicker than thin crust, the dough is a wonderful canvas for unfailingly fresh ingredients. The green chile has a “just off the comal” freshness and aroma. The artichoke hearts are tender and fleshy. The sausage is flecked with delicious red pepper and fennel. The tomato sauce is rich and spicy. We have been thoroughly pleased with our pie.

The lunch menu is relatively sparse in comparison to the dinner menu, but while the number of selections may be few, they are delicious. Always available is the pizza which after two visits we consider to be among the very best in northern New Mexico.

Chicken Florentine Panini

Chicken Florentine Panini

The lunch menu includes a scintillating spinach salad constructed with baby spinach grown on the premises, sweet pears, walnuts, tomatoes and blue cheese crumbles tossed in a warm bacon dressing. It is a fabulous salad!

The lunch menu also includes to focaccia sandwiches including a chicken Florentine panini, a four-ounce free-range chicken breast with spinach and provolone served with black rum baked beans (as good as any baked beans), a pickle and a mixed green salad. The salad comes with your choice of house made salad dressings: blue cheese, Balsamic vinaigrette (vegan) and Caesar. Blue cheese is my choice though the other options are nearly as good.

The restaurant’s must-have dessert has a Mafioso ring to it, but the “Fixer” is incorruptible. It’s a decadent caramel chocolate brownie a la mode and it derives even more richness from whipped cream and chocolate ganache.

Two other wonderful dessert options are the restaurant’s signature apple raisin cobbler a la mode. Tangy apples, sweet raisins and cold ice cream are sure to please the most discerning of sweet teeth. The hot fudge sundae is made with dripping dark chocolate for a wonderful contrast to the sweet vanilla ice cream.

You’ll be thoroughly pleased with a meal at Consetta’s Green Restaurant, a true corporate citizen for a better world.

Consetta’s Green Restaurant
1351 Highway 4
Jemez Springs, NM
829-4455

LATEST VISIT: 22 April 2007
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 21
COST: $$
BEST BET: Blackened Tilapia, Pizza, The Fixer, Spinach With Warm Bacon Dressing, Chicken Florentine Sandwich

Sushi Gen – Albuquerque, New Mexico

All You Can Eat Sushi at Sushi Gen.

All You Can Eat Sushi at Sushi Gen.

Years ago I co-managed a project with a diminutive Vietnamese lady who later left the company and moved to San Diego.  What she looked forward to most about moving was not proximity to her family, but the availability of all-you-can-eat (AYCE) sushi bars in Southern California.

“How good can AYCE sushi be?” I opined.  We found out during a 2001 visit to Makino in Las Vegas, Nevada that AYCE sushi can be pretty good indeed, especially if your quest is for gigantic portions of inexpensive sushi.

It wasn’t until late 2004 that the first AYCE sushi restaurant was launched in Albuquerque and as it turns out, it’s almost on par with Makino, a pretty highly regarded Sin City sushi parlor.

Sushi Gen, may in fact, be equal to or better than several of the much more expensive sushi restaurants in the Duke City.  That may be more a testament to the quality of sushi at Sushi Gen than an indictment of the state of sushi in Albuquerque.  To be honest, you can find better sushi in Albuquerque, but you’ll pay a premium for it.

Four different maki rolls are represented here.

Four different maki rolls are represented here.

Sushi Gen is small enough to be intimate, big enough to be comfortable.  There’s nothing remarkable about the decor, but the service is generally polite and attentive while the made to order sushi is much more than passable.

In comparing the AYCE menu to Sushi Gen’s standard menu, you’ll find–with the exception of several specialty rolls–many of the same maki (roll) style and nigiri (a piece of fish on a bed of rice) style sushi offerings.

A single, alternating specialty roll is offered with the AYCE option.  If Buddha is smiling on you, it’ll be the dragon roll, a visually appealing, avocado colored masterpiece featuring crabmeat.  More than likely, however, it will be the multi-hued, multi-seafood rainbow roll (pictured below left).

You might be tempted to order everything on the menu (and we almost have), but it’s advisable to pace yourself and savor the flavor surprises in every bite.  Sushi Gen has instituted a per piece “pay for any wastage” policy that includes sushi rice.

Nigiri in all its glory.

Nigiri in all its glory.

The maki style rolls, whether featuring raw or cooked fish inside, are very well crafted and are almost as esthetically appealing as they are delicious.  We can’t agree on a favorite as we’ve liked them all, but the spicy tuna may have a slight edge over the crunch roll.  Holy mackerel, Batman!  Sushi Gen even does mackerel (nigiri style) well, a rarity in the sushi world.

Even better is the grilled unagi (eel), a nigiri style sushi, which is said to have stamina-giving properties.  Containing 100 times more vitamin A than other fish, unagi is believed to heighten men’s sexual drive.  Japanese wives would prepare unagi for dinner to suggest to their husbands that they want an intimate night.  After waddling out Sushi Gen’s door, intimacy is the last thing on our minds.

Like many sushi restaurants, every meal at Sushi Gen starts with a simple salad (almost entirely lettuce).  A sweet vinegar dressing instead of the more common ginger dressing is drizzled on parsimoniously.

The colorfun Rainbow roll.

The colorfun Rainbow roll.

Also served before any sushi arrives at your table is a bowl of warm miso soup.  Very little, if any, tofu distinguishes this miso soup from what we’ve had at other restaurants.  Instead, the only prevalent ingredient seems to be wakame seaweed.

A unique restaurant specialty is an “oyster shooter,” a drink made with raw oysters, sake and seasonings.  Another version is made with sea urchin.

If you’ve ever been traumatized by how quickly ordering sushi on a piecemeal basis, Sushi Gen may be the answer for you.  It may not be the best sushi in Albuquerque, but it’s very good sushi, especially for the price.

Sushi Gen
5210 San Mateo, N.E. #8
Albuquerque, NM
830-0131

LATEST VISIT: 17 April 2007
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 18
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Crunch Roll; Spider Roll; Rainbow Roll; Shrimp Tempura Roll; Mackerel

Don Yasmany Cuban Restaurant & Bakery – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé mi vida dejé mi amor.
Cuando salí de Cuba,
dejé enterrado mi corazón.
When I left Cuba
I left my life, I left my love
When I left Cuba
I buried my heart.

Don Yasmany Cuban Restaurant & Bakery

In a powerful expression of hope, frustration, nostalgia and introspection, the song Cuando Sali De Cuba reflects the heartfelt anguish and pain felt by every Cuban I’ve ever met who left their beloved Cuban homeland to escape persecution and oppression.

It’s the spirit of Jose Marti, often referred to as the “Apostle of Cuban independence” and renown in literary circles as perhaps the greatest Hispanic poet and writer of all time. Marti posited that “Like bones to the human body, the axle to the wheel, the wing to the bird, and the air to the wing, so is liberty the essence of life.”

Mother Mary, the patron of the Cuban refugees.

National pride is alive in the heart and soul of all Cuban refugees, some of whom migrated to Albuquerque under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Catholic Charities Immigration Project. Though many Cubans have acculturated and become enterprising and productive United States citizens, the yen to someday return to a Cuba free of oppression and tyranny remains strong.

The only thing stronger is the desire for liberty. The quest for freedom is embodied by the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of Cuban refugees who brave often treacherous waters in attempts to sail to the United States on homemade vessels.

That spirit is captured vividly at Don Yasmany Cuban Restaurant and Bakery. One of the first things you can’t help but see upon entering is a poignant image of Cuban refugees treading dangerous seas under the protection of Mother Mary. It may give you pause to reflect on the tremendous price some people are willing to pay for the freedoms Americans often take for granted.

There is a lot of national pride evident in the full-service Cuban restaurant Jose Hechavarria launched in 2006. A flag depicting El Castillo del Morro with the slogan “Viva Cuba Libre” hangs on one wall while framed Cuban currency decorates another. The placemats on each table feature the inspirational prayer “Footprints in the Sandon one side with the Spanish translation “Huellas en la Arena” on the other.

Pastelitos

A small wall hanging reads “Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often,” a motto that also reflects the attitude of so many people you would think might not have that much to laugh about. There are few people who love and live life as fully as Cubans.

Cubans also have a passion for good food. Cuban cuisinecombines elements of traditional Spanish cooking with foods indigenous to the Caribbean. It is primarily peasant food in the best and most respectful sense of the word. The aforementioned Jose Marti once wrote “We light the oven so that everyone may bake bread in it. If I survive, I will spend my life at the oven door seeing that no one is denied bread and, so as to give a lesson of charity, especially those who did not bring flour.”

Though Marti meant this as social commentary, the sentiment is reflected by the portion sizes at most Cuban restaurants. No one goes hungry at a Cuban restaurant. That holds true of Don Yasmany.

A roasted pork platter.

Cubans have indeed been baking bread for many generations. It is one of the hallmarks of their cuisine. Cuban bakeries are renown for pastelitos (little pies) which can be filled with sundry ingredients. The masa for Don Yasmany’s breads is shipped from Miami and the baking process is finished here.

The appetizer menu at Don Yasmany features several pasteles, most filled with fruits. The three pictured above are a pastel de carne (meat pie), pastel de guava (guava filled pie) and a pastel de coco (coconut filled pie). Though each pastel is slightly different, two commonalities are also evident. The first is that each pastel is baked with an almost puff-pastry flaky crust. The other is their sheen, perhaps created as a product of an egg white brushing.

Beverages include several Cuban cafes. To Cubans, a cafe is a prominent cultural and social activity and it is said that there is no such thing as unsweetened Cuban coffee.

Fried plantains and Fricase de Puerco.

If your tastes lean more toward milkshakes, the menu includes various batidos, the traditional tropical fruit milkshakes. Choices include guayaba, mango, platana and chocolate. As with the coffee, Cuban milkshakes tend to be somewhat sweeter than even their American counterparts. They also tend to be served colder and with more pronounced fruit flavor derivations.

Roasted pork is considered a Cuban specialty often served during holidays or special celebrations. Every day is special at Don Yasmany because roasted pork is available Monday through Saturday (the restaurant is closed on Sunday).The roasted pork is fork tender with a crispy skin and moist meat inside. This dish is accompanied by a small salad, black rice and black beans and tostones (fried plantains). Plantains are a staple food throughout the Caribbean and are as common in Cuban meals as potatoes are in American meals. When unripe, plantains have a neutral flavor and texture contrasted to their dessert quality sweetness when ripe. Tostones are definitely not sweet.

The Cuban Sandwich!

The fried plantains pictured above are definitely dessert quality sweet. The best fried plantains are actually fried when just overly ripe. That’s when they’re at the prime of sweetness and have addictive properties.

One Saturday special at Don Yasmany is the Fricase de Puerco (pork fricassee) which pork shanks are braised in a light and well seasoned tomato based sauce. The pork is tender and falls off the bone easily. It is also one of the best versions of this dish I’ve had.

Cuban pride is evident throughout Don Yasmany.

Nearly every sandwich restaurant throughout the fruited plain now seems to include a Cuban sandwich in its sandwich repertoire. It stands to reason that the most authentic–and best–Cuban sandwich would be made in Cuban restaurants.

This Cuban sandwich isn’t an overstuffed American imitator; in fact, it’s waifishly thin by American standards. The Cuban bread has that customary golden sheen. Two bread slices encase slices of roast pork, ham, dill pickles and melted cheese with a mayo spread. It is, as it well should be, one of the two or three best Cuban sandwiches in Albuquerque.

The menu at Don Yasmany includes daily specials arranged by day of the week with other entrees, drinks, appetizers and desserts available every day. Every day at Don Yasmany is a special day.

Don Yasmany Cuban Restaurant & Bakery
4801 Central Avenue, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM
LATEST VISIT: 14 April 2007
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: Fricase de Puerco, Roasted Pork, Cuban Sandwich, Batido Chocolate, Pastel de Guava con Queso, Pastel de Coco

Casa Chaco – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

You enter Casa Chaco through the Hilton.

You enter Casa Chaco through the commodious Hilton Hotel.

In A.D. 850, the ancient Anasazi began building the pueblos archaeologists posit were the hub of an ancient culture inhabited in its heyday by more than 5,000 people.

By A.D. 1000, Chaco Canyon was the flourishing heart of religious and governmental life for an advanced culture that has since been assimilated by Native American pueblos dotting the Rio Grande valley. Using remote sensing technology, archaeologists discovered roads radiating from Chaco Canyon like the spokes of the wheel, connecting the canyon with almost 100 Chacoan outliers.

In modern-day Albuquerque, the rambling Hilton hotel has also become a hub of activity (more than 27,000 square feet of flexible meeting space) and like Chaco, is on the intersection of heavily traversed thoroughfares. It’s perhaps only fitting that one of its two signature restaurants is named for the “ancient ones.”

Casa Chaco is tastefully decorated with Native American art, including the full regalia of Indian women and children. On some nights, the dining experience at Casa Chaco is further enhanced by the mellifluous presence of Hector Pimental and the soothing stylings of his guitar.

Regalia of Indian women and children are framed on the restaurant's walls.

Regalia of Indian women and children is framed on the restaurant's walls.

Similar to the Rancher’s Club, its sister Hilton restaurant, Casa Chaco places you in the lap of luxury with attentive service and comfortable, stylish seating. Unlike at the Rancher’s Club, you don’t have to take out a loan in order to dine well on high-end cuisine. As far as fine-dining goes, it’s surprisingly reasonably priced, especially considering the menu’s innovation and some of the excellent food.

The green chile stew features slow-simmered pork, potatoes and vegetables with local green chile that has a pronounced “just off the comal” taste. Also prevalent in this signature New Mexican favorite are the spices Mexican oregano (distinctly different from its Italian counterpart) and cumin. In the right proportion, these spices provide an invigorating taste sensation and Casa Chaco almost gets it just right. A bit too much cumin and not enough piquant green chile render this green chile stew passable.

Green chile stew: a bit less cumin and more green chile and it would be great!

Green chile stew: a bit less cumin and more green chile and it would be great!

Lettuce wraps in a restaurant renown for its Southwestern fare makes for an intriguing appetizer. These are not your standard P.F. Chang’s lettuce wraps with their pseudo-Chinese cloyingness. These wraps scream Southwestern with a smoky, shredded pork (not unlike carne adovada) ameliorated with a mango-chipotle sauce and petite cucumber salad all to be enveloped by fresh, crisp bib lettuce.

Several steaks and chops decorate the eye-catching menu. A beef tenderloin entree features certified Angus beef grilled with a reduced blue mountain coffee and molasses demi-glace. Tender was this tenderloin, almost tender enough to be cut with fork alone. The coffee cuts the sweetness of the molasses just enough to render this carnivore’s creation ever so slightly sweet so that the beef’s natural taste stood out. A nice accompaniment to the beef tenderloin are the restaurant’s garlic sweet mashed potatoes which beautifully meld savory and sweet tastes.

A less expensive, but no less beautiful beef is the carne asada, an ancho-lime marinated tender flank steak grilled over an open flame and served with a chimichurri sauce (chimichurri is generally made of finely chopped herbs mixed with vinegar and spices). It’s reminiscent of the way in which Argentineans prepare beef.

The black and bleu burger.

The black and bleu burger.

Although several dessert items are available, the piece de resistance has got to be the Mexican chocolate flan which features a creamy, bittersweet chocolate that positively melts in your mouth. It’s as good a flan as you’ll find in a city in which outstanding flan is more common than mediocre flan.

While three dinner experiences at Casa Chaco have been satisfying, if not very good, a lunch excursion in April, 2007 with colleagues was almost nightmarish–hopefully an anomaly and not typical of the restaurant’s lunch performance. One colleague found lipstick on his water glass (he’s hoping it came from a good looking woman) while another sent back her green chile stew because the potatoes included “warts and blemishes” which should have been cut out.

My own lunch experience was also disappointing. A black and bleu burger ordered medium arrived at our table at least medium well done if not well. There was no pinkish insides to this burger and absolutely none of the juiciness that typifies a great burger prepared medium. It reminded me of the type of remains archaeologists might unearth at an ancient dig site.

It’s not uncommon–even among great restaurants–for lunch not to receive the same attention as does dinner. It’s also not uncommon for paying customers to use lunch as a “rehearsal,” a test to find out if a dinner visit is warranted. Casa Chaco should remember this.

Casa Chaco
1901 University Blvd
Albuquerque, NM
LATEST VISIT: 2 April 2007
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 17
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Green Chile Stew; Mexican Chocolate Flan; Salsa