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The Range – Bernalillo, New Mexico

My friend Karen Baehr and the Range

My friend Karen Baehr stands next to the range at The Range

The phoenix of ancient Egyptian mythology was a sacred firebird of beautiful red and gold plumage said to live for centuries. At the end of its life, the phoenix built itself a nest of cinnamon twigs which it then ignited. Both the phoenix and the nest burned fiercely and were reduced to ashes from which a new phoenix arose.  Similarly, the Range Cafe in Bernalillo was claimed by a fiery conflagration only to rise up from the ashes to exceed its former glory to become one of the most popular restaurants in New Mexico.

Like the phoenix, the Range is a rare breed–one of the few locally owned and operated (non-chain) restaurants which at any given time (make that, almost all the time) has diners lining up for a seat. That may be because the Range offers the “familiar” in serving comfort foods and local favorites and serves them in the profuse portion sizes American diners love.

Creative art abounds at the Range Cafe

The original Range debuted in September, 1992 in Bernalillo’s main street, Camino Del Pueblo. The restaurant was an instant success, quickly becoming more than a local favorite.  Not quite three years later (on May 30, 1995), the Range went up in smoke–a huge conflagration consumed the entire restaurant. The community let it be known that they wanted their favorite restaurant rebuilt and held fund-raising events to help with the process.

Two months after the fire, the Range was back in business, albeit in a temporary location directly across the street from the church, thereby making it unlawful to obtain a beer and wine license. In April, 1996, the Range negotiated to rent a circa 1905 property which once served as the warehouse of the Bernalillo Mercantile. By December of that year, the Range officially re-opened at its present address, 925 Camino del Pueblo in the heart of downtown Bernalillo. Like the majestic phoenix, the Range rose from the ashes and has been going strong ever since.

Stuffed Range Toast

Stuffed Range Toast

The Range shares building space with Rose’s Pottery House owned by life-long Bernalillo resident Antoinette Silva. Part museum, part art gallery, it features contemporary and ancient Pueblo pottery and art. It’s a must stop before or after dining at the Range.  During its nearly 80 year history, the building, now covering a full city block, served as a general store, movie theater, auto repair shop and permanent home to one of the finest collections of Native American and Hispanic art in New Mexico.

After obtaining a liquor license, the Range opened the Lizard Rodeo Lounge, a welcoming, non-smoking gathering place for locals and visitors alike. The Lounge includes a full-service bar and offers a full service-menu as well as live, free entertainment featuring local New Mexico bands.  Every Thursday is open mike night for all aspiring stars.

A "short" stack

A “short” stack

A contemporary Southwestern artsy ambiance enhances your entire dining experience. Everywhere you turn, there’s something to catch your eye. Even the chairs and tables are functional art. While the milieu may seemingly scream “contemporary western,” ergo “home on the range,” the restaurant is actually named for the other kind of range–the one on which you prepare food. Several old stoves as well as stove art festoon the restaurant. Art and ambiance not withstanding, it’s the wonderful food that’s the big attraction. Not only are the portions profuse and most menu items familiar, they are generally delicious and reasonably priced. 

The Range is the brainchild of restaurant impresario Matt DiGregory whose other popular restaurant ventures in the Duke City area include the Standard Diner and now defunct and much missed Gregorio’s Italian Kitchen.  The entrepreneurial restaurateur is a visionary innovator whose restaurant concepts defy local stereotypes.  His idea to combine fine cooking (such as applying French culinary techniques to the preparation of meatloaf) with comfort food was years before its time.

A trio of salsa, con queso and guacamole with blue corn tortilla chips

The Range trio of guacamole, salsa and con queso with blue corn chips

Breakfast

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the Range’s eye-opening, belly-busing breakfasts are a good way to start off the day, but if you’re inclined to get sleepy after a big meal, you might want to split breakfast with someone you love. That’s because the Range’s portions are humongous.  The most popular entree on the voluminous Range menu, by the way, is the huevos rancheros.  It’s possible the Range sells more huevos rancheros than any other restaurant in New Mexico.  Diners come from miles around to partake of these award-winning treasures.

The gargantuan breakfast burrito includes three large eggs scrambled with either ham, sausage or grilled veggies, wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with white cheddar and your choice of red or green chile. It is accompanied by Range fries and pinto beans. Both the red and the green chile at the Range can be about as piquant  (or as mild) as you’d get at some New Mexican restaurant, depending on the season and batch. It may open your eyes in the morning.

The Range’s version of green chile chicken stew

Even larger than the breakfast burrito, if that’s possible, is a breakfast entree called the “Range Roundup” in which a homemade biscuit is topped with crumbled, crisp bacon and sausage, two eggs fixed your way smothered in chile and white cheddar cheese with Range fries and pinto beans.  This entree should come standard with an angioplasty.

2 May 2009: For a week’s worth of calories, try the stuffed Range toast–three brick-sized slices of cinnamon raisin bread with a rich egg batter, grilled and stuffed with strawberries and bananas then topped with homemade apple/peach butter, whipped cream and maple syrup. These are among the most decadent French toast in New Mexico and should be shared.

Shrimp Scampi Quesadilla

Shrimp Scampi Quesadilla

2 May 2009: Should you opt instead for pancakes “Short stack” is a misnomer for the two large pancakes (the size of manhole covers) that leave very little of your plate uncovered. These syrupy orbs, like most Range portions, are big enough to share (they could feed a developing country).

Appetizers, Soups and Salads

2 April 2008: Lest I forget, one of the best ways to start a meal at the Range is with the trio of guacamole, salsa and con queso with blue corn tortilla chips. The salsa is about medium on the piquancy scale, but it is fresh, rich and delicious. The guacamole is buttery and fresh, the product of excellent ingredients. Only the con queso, which lacks creaminess, disappoints. It’s a bit on the thick side and includes no ameliorants to contrast the cheesiness.

Range Quesadilla

Range Quesadilla

28 May 2012: You can’t mention comfort foods without a prominent spot on the list for soups. The soups–especially the cream of mushroom soup and the cream of carrot soup–are among the very best you’ll find in New Mexico. These are the type of soups you love most on a cold winter day, but which are great any time of year. Thick, rich, hearty and replete with fresh ingredients, they’re an elixir for whatever (if anything) ails you. I’m not quite as fond of the Range’s green chile chicken stew, perhaps a misnomer because it’s described on the menu as a “soup that serves like a meal.”  It really is a soup as it’s not thick and creamy as most traditional green chile stews tend to be.  Within a thin soupy broth, you’ll find blue corn tortilla chips, potatoes, carrots, celery, tendrils of chicken and a barely discernible chile. 

20 November 2009: The motto of the Range Cafe is “ordinary food done extraordinarily well.” Ordinary doesn’t have to be boring or the “same old thing” everyone else serves. The Range Cafe takes some liberties with New Mexican cuisine and comfort food favorites. Take for example the shrimp scampi quesadilla, sauteed shrimp marinated in tequila, lime and garlic combined with tomatillo, pico de gallo, corn and white Cheddar cheese grilled on a flour tortilla and served with sour cream and guacamole. The shrimp is sweet and succulent, blending in extraordinarily well with the other flavor combinations. 

Green Chile Strips (breaded whole chiles served with a cool, creamy jalapeno dipping sauce), a Range Cafe appetizer favorite

4 April 2014: Vegetarians and Catholics out on a Lenten Friday aren’t left out in the cold when they crave quesadillas.  The Range Quesadilla is everything any discerning diner desires in a quesadilla save for a meaty protein.  A large, grilled flour tortilla is folded over artichoke hearts, red bell pepper, tomato, green chile and white Cheddar then served with the tasty triumvirate of salsa, guacamole and sour cream.  Even avowed carnivores will enjoy this terrific tortilla treat, but if they must have a protein, it’s also available with chicken.

28 May 2012: Another appetizer catering to New Mexican tastes is a plate of green chile strips, breaded whole chiles served with a cool, creamy jalapeño dipping sauce.  Served four to an order, each of the green chile strips is at least six inches of piquancy and deliciousness.  Unlike some chile rellenos, the batter is thin, light and doesn’t fall off the chiles.  The jalapeño dipping sauce is cool heat, a perfect accompaniment for chilephiles who know the only way to improve on a heat-generating food is with even more heat. 

Asian Salad

Asian Salad

4 April 2014: The Range menu features ten salads ranging from the familiar and traditional (taco salad, Caesar and wedge) to the innovative (Grilled Salmon Berry and Quinoa).  The Asian Salad–fresh spinach and mixed greens with cabbage, carrots, jicama, cucumber, snow peas, sliced almonds and frizzled onions tossed in sesame ginger dressing–probably falls in the latter category.  It’s an exceptional salad highlighted by freshness and diversity of ingredients.  Alas, those ingredients have a similar flavor profile and the salad would probably benefit from a mild cheese.

Entrees

The aforementioned meatloaf, christened Tom’s meatloaf in honor of Range co-founder Tom Fenton, is a comfort food standard served with garlic mashed potatoes and a delicious mushroom gravy. The meatloaf is a substantial brick-sized slab of moist deliciousness. Like most Range entrees, it’s served almost out-of-the-stove hot. The mashed potatoes are made with real potatoes, not the powdery stuff and surprise, surprise…you can actually taste the garlic.

Mac and cheese with a unique Range twist, green chile

Mac and cheese with a unique Range twist, green chile

Another comfort food specialty, the chicken fried steak (a fresh beef cube steak breaded and smothered with cream gravy) is as good as you’ll find anywhere in the Land of Enchantment’s Rio Grande valley. Even Texans (for whom chicken fried steak is a religion) enjoy the Range’s Texas-sized version which even has the size (everything’s bigger in Texas) they appreciate. This chicken fried steak is tender enough to be cut with a fork.

20 November 2009: Recognizing that mac and cheese are everyone’s favorite, the Range makes theirs with a special New Mexico unique twist–green chile. The macaroni is rigatoni, the size of a culvert. The cheese is creamy and delicious with a prominent white Cheddar flavor though it’s entirely possible more than one cheese is used. The entire bowl–and it’s the size of a hub cap–is covered with ground parmesan. The green chile is a bit mild on the piquancy scale, but it’s a delicious chile that complements the mac and cheese very well.

Trout

The Range Trout

Although comfort foods hold a prominent place on the menu, my favorite entree (when on the menu) is the Thai shrimp noodles with semi spicy peanut sauce and julienne vegetables. It’s an entree as good as you’ll find at some Thai restaurants and like many Thai entrees, has a flavor profile that includes a nice balance of sweet, savory and piquant flavors.

The Range burger starts with an eight-ounce fresh ground chuck patty flame grilled to order.  It’s topped with shaved ham, green chile strips and melted white cheddar cheese on a fresh, homemade bun.  It is one of six inventive burgers on the menu, the most unique being a Relleno Burger topped with a blue corn chile relleno and green chile sauce.  Obviously these are not boring burgers. The ground chuck patty is what all burgers in the area should aspire to be.

The Rio Grande Gorge: 8-ounce ground chuck beef patty served open face on a tortilla, topped with red or green chile sauce, Cheddar, grilled onions, black beans, Range fries with queso

An eight-ounce ground chuck patty is also a key component of the Rio Grande Gorge in which the patty is served open face on a tortilla, topped with red or green chile sauce, Cheddar, grilled onions, black beans and Range fries with queso. It sounds great–and for the most part it is, save for the queso which tops the Range fries which is of Velveeta quality.

2 April 2008: Dinner specials are generally so good you’ll wish they were on the standard menu. One example is the Range’s trout which is topped with capers, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes in a light white wine sauce. The trout is flaky and grilled to perfection. The natural brininess melds perfectly with the tanginess of the ingredients topping the trout. A lime and cilantro infused Basmati rice makes for excellent accompaniment to this dish.

The dessert case is an edible work of art.  You'll want to lick the glass.

The dessert case is an edible work of art. You’ll want to lick the glass.

Desserts

Desserts, are so good, they’re almost indecent!  The Range bakes only with real butter, fresh cream, real vanilla, fresh fruits and fine chocolates. Anything can be made a la mode for a pittance.  The Range’s dessert case is one of Bernalillo’s most popular attractions, one that should be displayed on tourist guide books.  Not only is each dessert esthetically pleasing (drool eliciting), they’re all delicious.

The roadhouse chocolate cake is among the most moist cakes you’ll find anywhere while the “Life by Chocolate” cake defines the word decadent. Featuring milk chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, Belgian white chocolate and raspberry mousse layered together and glazed with a rich ganache, this is the type of dessert your dentist warned you about as a child and your dietician cautions against today.

Key Lime Pie at the Range

20 November 2009:  If you’re served green key lime pie, there’s a good bet either food coloring was added or the pie mix came out of a box.  In the Florida keys, no restaurant can expect to stay in business for long if it serves green key lime pie.  Key lime pies should always be pale yellow, usually a good indication that actual key lime juice is used.  The Range’s key lime pie is very reminiscent of those we enjoyed so much when traveling through Florida where the key lime pie has been designated by the state legislature as “the official pie of the state of Florida.”  The Range’s version has a tart, but not lip-pursing, flavor.  It’s also very aromatic, another sign of authenticity.

4 April 2014: In New Mexico, chefs and cooks love showing off the versatility of green chile.  One of the most delicious is in apple pie, an idea which makes good sense considering chile (a member of the nightshade family) is closer related to fruits than it is to vegetables.  The Range’s green chile apple pie with piñon streusel in a flaky pie crust is among the best.  The green chile packs the type of piquant punch that titillates the back of your throat.  For the faint of heart and tongue, this pie should be served a la mode.

Green chile apple pie with piñon streusel in a flaky pie crust

Green chile apple pie a la mode

The Range expanded from its Bernalillo location by launching at two Albuquerque locations, both of which experience the same overflow crowds as the original. Rather than creating a separate entry for each, I’ll update this listing for any visit to the Range, regardless of location.

This is a restaurant about which seldom a disparaging word is heard. Like the Phoenixes rise from the ashes, it continues to ascend in the estimation of its many patrons.

The Range
264 Camino Pueblo
Bernalillo, New Mexico
(505) 867-1700
Web Site


LATEST VISIT: 4 April 2014
# OF VISITS: 24
RATING: 18
COST: $$
BEST BET: Desserts, Meatloaf, Mushroom Soup, Mac and Cheese, Shrimp Scampi Quesadilla, Range Quesadilla,

Range Café on Urbanspoon

  • Alberto says:

    The Range is THE place to stop and eat on the way from Albuquerque or vice versa. The food is hot, well prepared, served with a smile, parking is easy – either on the street or across the street in the Range parking lot. The chili rellenos are the real item and the huevos rancheros are wonderful. Be sure to order ‘Chiristmas’ as both are very tasty. Did I mention how good the margaritas are? The Range has two other locations but I haven’t been there.

    November 23, 2008 at 1:53 PM
  • Noel Paz says:

    I love the Range. I am a veggie (not vegan ) but I do feel welcome there and plenty to eat. I love their Chimichangas. Their vegetarian omelet is amazing. I do not know how they can prepare the eggs that way. Great stuff and I like how they prepare espresso.

    January 10, 2009 at 11:17 PM
  • Liz Reding says:

    The green chili chicken stew at The Range is one of the cheapest, most satisfying dishes you can get in all of Albuquerque. There’s nothing quite like whether it’s cold and icky outdoors or our usual ‘severe clear’!

    May 3, 2009 at 7:28 PM
  • Gary says:

    Ate at the Range religiously for many years but stopped. Same menu year-after-year left us wanting something different. Food was good but they need some imagination!!! I very strongly disagree with your assessment of their deserts. Dry and often stale tasting. Not sure if its the refrigerated case but there is better around town.

    May 4, 2009 at 11:54 AM
  • Robert says:

    Most everybody I talk to in the area raves about The Range. I have no idea why! The food is an unimaginative as a hotdog at the ballpark. The quality of their product and its ingredients are average. I have even had a bad dish of Taos Cow ice cream (flat tasting and full of ice crystals) Yes, the portions are large but so are their prices, especially for their New Mexican cuisine offerings. Special requests are not their forte. Try getting a potato side that has not been sitting under a heat lamp for “too long.” Can you believe that this restaurant does not offer french fries. Must be a problem in the kitchen. Yes, I still go back from time to time but only when I need a “semi quick” meal close to my home.

    May 15, 2009 at 8:01 AM
  • joe says:

    The Range is so large in popularity that sometime’s it collapses under its own gravity. The ‘night club’ (lizard lounge?) area where you sat, based on the picture of the mirror, is the best place in the restaurant because of the acoustics. Anytime, it seems during the weekend, the din of noise can be nerve wracking. I usually enjoy dinner conversation as well as the dinner.

    The shrimp quesadilla was so good that I ordered it as an entrée on a later. Unfortunately, I did this with the cerviche, and well, and ended up with an appetizer that helped me stay on my diet, but it was good.

    In my book, the Range gets an A+ for the food but a C- for the typical dining experience comfort. Sometimes, when they get really busy, culinary gaffs have occurred, such as presenting a cheese omelet without cheese and a frozen in the middle Ruben.

    My opinion is that the deserts are straight from heaven or hell, depending on your perspective – either divine or purely decadent. I think Matt et al do a great job but succumb to the effects of being too popular at times – with respect to the popularity you alluded to in Zagat’s survey.
    My favorite product of The Range has to be the Sun Ripened Tomato salad dressing. I could drink straight from the cruet.

    Gil, we appreciate your online blog of New Mexico dining experiences. Thank you.

    November 21, 2009 at 8:17 PM
  • larry says:

    Visit 6-13-2010

    Probably the worst $9.00 Hamburger I’ve ever had. I would expect it to more than cut from a tube! Just a terrible experience!

    June 13, 2010 at 10:01 PM
  • Sr Plata says:

    Joined a couple friends for an excellent time on a Saturday night at the Range. The Manager for the local Boot Barn played some excellent music in the bar area that nicely complemented our meal. When I can’t have pancakes for breakfast, I tend to search for the Chicken Fried Steak which I had that came with home made mashed potatoes and vegetables. I thought it was excellent chicken fried steak with a cream gravy (no pork) that was quite flavorful. The mashed potatoes were the highlight, they were the type you would have at home that includes the skin, i.e. Real mashed potatoes. I have to say that Senorena Plata thought they were the best she had in a long time. The brocolli was also very flavorful, not sure if there was some butter on them or if they were cooked in flavored oil but they were very tasty. On the whole, it was an excellent meal. I made the mistake of suggesting the Macaroni & Cheese to our friends based on the menu description, it was very runny and not appetizing and of course felt guilt for recommending it. I need to go on the Pancake and Chicken Fried Steak New Mexico trail one of these days, this definitely was good CFS…

    April 25, 2011 at 2:15 PM
  • Foodie Star says:

    Oh, my goodness! The sugar-free cheesecake at the Range is fantastic.

    As a diabetic, I have to overcome great temptation when asked if I want dessert. The worst is when they bring a seductive dessert tray around and ask me which one I would like. Just looking at a dessert tray spikes my blood sugar!

    The sugar-free cheesecake at the Albuquerque (Wyoming S. of Montgomery) location is a more than ample portion – easily enough for two to share. It has a wonderful creamy cheesecake flavor. You literally cannot tell this cheesecake (made with Splenda) from one made from sugar. It is served with a decoratively cut strawberry on top.

    To me, it is one of the best cheesecakes I have eaten – period. I will be getting this again fer sure! Diabetics (and non-diabetics alike) rejoice!

    April 2, 2012 at 10:49 AM
  • Roland says:

    The Range makes a really wonderful Chef Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette (on the side) at the Range. I have never faied to be served a very tasteful and eye-pleasing salad. It is certainly one of the best I have had. The greens have always been clean and crisp. It is also freshly prepared not pulled out of some refrigerator. Try it if you like such things.I dont think you will be disappointed.

    May 31, 2012 at 10:21 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    I have always enjoyed the Range and always take visitors from back east there for the food and the local flavor..
    I know that when all else fails I can get very good food, very good service, and a very friendly atmosphere.
    As with any other eatery, if one goes back and back and back often enough there will be rough patches.
    That said, The Range has suffered very few of those patches.
    The only menu item I have not liked was their attempt at meat balls and spaghetti. Just not my favorite version of one of my favorite meals, fave as in possible choice for Desert Island Meal.
    Consistency is what every eatery should aspire to and the Range has achieved that and maintained it.

    June 6, 2012 at 8:30 AM
  • Sr Plata says:

    Wow, last update in 2012, not good. Senorena and I were wanting something different since we stayed in Buffalo Thunder north of Santa Fe to celebrate LIFE. We took the 599 bypass so we didnt get into Santa Fe and got very hungry in Bernalillo thus we ended up at the Range. I had to have the Pancake Grande but with Blue Corn, so I had 3 very large blue corn pancakes with pinon and other assorted treats that when mixed with maple syrup was really good. I forgot who didnt like Cumin, but the Turkey Sausage well done had green chile and CUMIN and guess what, it was good. You know what would be good, a Blue Corn Crepe such as the Lingonberry Kind from You Know Where that we don’t name. Anyways, The Range had a nice homey atmosphere and with their special coffee, we just had a very good time.

    March 25, 2014 at 3:14 PM
  • Di says:

    Eh…kitschy decor, and appealing dessert case when you walk in, but I’ve never had a memorable meal there. Something is…just…lacking. Also, I agree with one of the posts above; The Range is not very accomodating to substituting sides or special requests. Last time I ate there the waitress even told me, “we get asked that all the time, but the kitchen won’t do it.” I mean, come on…if your customers are asking for specific substitutions “all the time” doesn’t that say that it’s better the other way and wouldn’t you include options? Anywho, I suppose it’s a decent dive once in awhile, but nothing special. For newbies giving this place a shot: do not be fooled that their New Mexican dishes are authentic! They are mellowed out and a little Tex-Mex.

    April 11, 2014 at 9:41 AM

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