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The Stumbling Steer – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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The Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub

There are ranchers throughout New Mexico who might not think there’s anything even mildly amusing about a brewery and gastropub called The Stumbling Steer.  These robust ranchers would likely equate the term Stumbling Steer to the clumsy gait exhibited by their precious livestock after they consume locoweed, a poisonous plant found in every one of the Land of Enchantment’s 33 counties.  Ultimately leading to paralysis and death if not controlled, locoweed accounts for millions of dollars in livestock loss each year.

The name Stumbling Steer obviously has nothing to do with the bane of ranchers throughout New Mexico.  According to the gastropub’s Web site, the name has everything to do with a commitment to a farm and table approach.  All the spent grains used to craft the brewery’s (ostensibly delicious) beers are fed to locally grown cattle which purportedly gain fat…or flavor.  Those selfsame cattle provide the beef which graces a very imaginative menu. It’s a menu which changes with the seasons, keeping things fresh and fun.

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The sprawling interior of the Stumbling Steer

The Stumbling Steer is no ordinary brew pub.  It’s a gastropub, a British term for a public house (pub) which specializes in high-end, high-quality food. The term gastropub, a portmanteau of pub and gastronomy, is intended to define food which is a step above the more basic “pub grub,” but in actuality, it can be several degrees of magnitude better. Gastropubs not only emphasize the quality of food served, they provide a relaxed milieu in which patrons can obtain cuisine (as opposed to grub) comparable to what they might receive at the very best restaurants–and ostensibly, at reasonable prices. The menu, of course, has to complement an assortment of wines and beers, the latter being a staple of pub life in England. 

The Stumbling Steer opened its doors for both lunch and dinner in February, 2014, occupying a rambling edifice which housed The Quarters since 1994.  There are few, if any, vestiges of The Quarters in sight.  Thematically, The Stumbling Steer is a mishmash of western ranch meets neo-modern. Just above the entrance to the yawning complex is an elevated water tank emblazoned with the gastropub’s moniker. A sprawling covered patio increases the restaurant’s 270-seat capacity. The interior is cavernous, segmented into a bar area and a dining area although you can eat at both. It’s a brightly lit space. Seating is just beyond personal space proximity and is more functional than it is comfortable.  The ambiance is festive (or you can translate that to “noisy” if you’d like) and fun.

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Ale French Onion Soup

The Stumbling Steer is the brainchild of a quintumvirate of friends who understand and appreciate good food (gastronomes) and good craft beers (cerevisaphiles).  One of the five partners is Chef Thanawat Bates who’s got major chef creds, having guided culinary teams at several four- and five-star and five-diamond resorts in highly competitive culinary markets.  As a partner at The Stumbling Steer, Chef T. has the opportunity to stamp his imprint on the Duke City’s burgeoning gastropub scene.  He’s a stickler for “made from scratch” cooking.  Everything from jams and sauces to croutons and butters are made on the premises. 

The Stumbling Steer’s menu exemplifies what gastropubs are all about, offering some of the bar and pub foods with which diners are familiar, but up-scaling them with gourmet qualities and inventive touches.  Why, for example, offer the ubiquitous starter of French fries when you can let diners enjoy Southwestern Poutine (French fries, cheese curd, green chile, gravy and jalapeño)?   Why visit another pub which might serve a standard lettuce, pickle and tomato burger when you can get The Stumbling Steer Burger (half-pound of Angus beef, pastrami, mushrooms, onions, Gruyere cheese, house sauce on a Challah bun)?  Half of the fun of the dining adventure is trying something you may not have had before–something creative and different.

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Crispy Brussels sprouts

What could be more different–and more audacious–than Brussels sprouts?  Named America’s “most hated vegetable” in a 2008 survey conducted by Heinz, Brussels sprouts are almost universally reviled.  Many diners hate them without ever having tried them (probably because they heard someone else express their disdain for this villainous vegetable).  Andy Griffiths even wrote an anti-tribute to Brussels sprouts.  Entitled “Just Disgusting!,” its lyrics posit: “Who wouldn’t hate them? They’re green.  They’re slimy.  They’re moldy.  They’re horrible.  They’re putrid.  They’re foul.  Apart from that, I love them.”

At The Stumbling Steer, the Crispy Brussels Sprouts appetizer is so good, even the most fussbudget will enjoy them.  If you’re of the mind that these Brussels Sprouts are palatable solely because their flavor is masked, you would be wrong.  Texturally, they’re crispy with slightly darkened, but not burnt edges.  That in itself is an improvement, but they’re taken to a new level with the addition of a cilantro-tamarind sauce paired with garlic, peanuts and shaved almonds.  The sauce is enlivened with a pleasant piquancy that pairs well with the tanginess of the tamarind and the freshness of the cilantro.

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Monte Cristo Porchetta

French restaurants throughout the Duke City don’t have exclusivity when it comes to preparing delicious French Onion Soup.  In fact, The Stumbling Steer’s version is competitive with the best offered in town, but it’s not your standard everyday French Onion Soup.  It’s not even French.  It’s Welsh Cheddar Rarebit, slightly modified from the traditional Welsh method by ladling a thick Cheddar sauce over crouton, then briefly toasting the two together so that the cheese sauce turns thick and bubbling.  My pet peeve with most French onion soup is the lack of “beefiness” in the broth.  That’s not the case with this soup which melds so many wonderful flavors together.  Not only is it delicious, it’s warming and comforting.

Adventurous diners might eschew burgers for something just a little bit different–perhaps something you’ve had before, but prepared in a uniquely creative manner.  One option is the Monte Cristo Porchetta, a sumptuous sandwich stuffed with slow-roasted pork, Fontina, Gruyere and a fried egg on top served with a ramekin of an Ancho chili-wild berry sauce.  The sandwich needs absolutely no amelioration, but that sauce gives the otherwise boring French fries some personality.  The porchetta (pork) is nicely roasted with a crispy skin and is seasoned with aromatic spices and herbs which imbue it with addictive properties.  Our only complaint about this sandwich is that it didn’t have enough pork (a roast would have been good).

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B2LT

Another sandwich showcasing the sumptuous qualities of pork is the B2LT, not your mother’s bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.  Bacon, one of nature’s perfect foods, isn’t even a component of this sandwich…or at least the bacon you might be thinking of.  Instead, a quarter-inch thick braised and seared pork belly is used.  That’s like bacon all grown up.  It’s thick and smoky with fatty and crispy elements playing two-part harmony on your taste buds.  The tomato and lettuce are served on the side so you don’t have to discard them and risk getting mayo on your hands.  The canvas for this sandwich is soft and pillowy Ciabatta bread.  Persnickety eaters might consider the pork belly a little too fatty, but if you’re a purist, this sandwich is for you.

Kricket, a faithful reader of Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog (and one who should comment more often) may be The Stumbling Steer’s biggest fan.  Her enthusiasm for the gastropub prompted our inaugural visit:  “Gil, I beg of you, review The Stumbling Steer. I keep saying I will try different appetizers, but those fried pork bites are like bits of pork belly *butter* and I can’t avoid ordering them. This place has my undying loyalty (and if they delivered, my arteries would last about a week).”  The fried pork bites are available as an appetizer only for dinner.  The dinner menu includes some of the popular lunch items while adding enticing entrees, some of which you won’t find anywhere else in the Duke City.  A dinner visit is in the offing.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding

During our three years in England, we often enjoyed sticky toffee pudding, a lush muffin-like mound of bread pudding topped with a rich caramel toffee.  It’s a high-calorie indulgence rich in flavor and deliciousness.  The Stumbling Steer’s version takes a couple of liberties from the English version.  These liberties–a sea salt toffee and vanilla ice cream–work very well.  The sea salt toffee, in particular, lends just a modicum of savoriness to what would otherwise be a too sweet, too rich dessert.  One of the most common mistakes made with bread puddings is the absence of savoriness to offset the cloying nature of the dessert.  The toffee is served in a small pitcher and can be dispensed onto the bread pudding in quantities you control.

The king of rock and roll loved a particular sandwich crafted from peanut butter and mashed bananas so much that he consumed some twelve to fifteen of them in one sitting.  Today, there are many variations of the “Elvis,” including one at the Stumbling Steer that might have adult pelvises gyrating and children pinging off the walls.  The main ingredient in the Steer’s Elvis Fudge Brownie is decadence.  Other ingredients in this interpretation of the Elvis are banana ice cream, bacon caramel, peanut brittle and chocolate sauce.  You probably gained three pounds just reading those ingredients.  It’s a very sweet, very rich and probably not something you can (or should) consume in one sitting.  The peanut brittle lends a nice savory offset to the cloying dominance.

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Elvis Fudge Brownie

The Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub has the potential and chef creds to excite Duke City diners for a long time.

The Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub
3700 Ellison Road, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 792-7805
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 1 March 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Monte Cristo Porchetta, B2LT, Ale French Onion Soup, Crispy Brussels sprouts, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Elvis Fudge Brownie

Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub on Urbanspoon

  • Jim Millington says:

    I have to do it. I have tried several “Gastropubs” over the past few years and only found three that I thought deserved the name, The Hopping Pig in San Diego, Euclid Hall in Denver and Pubbelly in Miami Beach. This description makes it sound as if it has the potential to be a fourth. Besides, I love Brussels sprouts when I cook them or the Child Bride cooks them my way. Those at Pubbelly are also great.

    March 8, 2014 at 1:01 PM
    • MaryAnn Schaefer says:

      Jim Millington, I think you’ll add a 4th to your list.

      Hubby and I went about 2 weeks ago and it was wonderful. The Brussels Sprouts were incredible and I’m not the big fan of sprouts that my husband is.

      I had the grilled cheese which comes with a bacon jam and a tomato jam. *sigh* I have been wanting another ever since. Hubby had the chicken sandwich, can’t remember the name, but he thought it was great.

      Unlike Gil, we didn’t save room for dessert although we had planned to. Next time!

      March 8, 2014 at 1:25 PM
  • Bruce says:

    I’ve been twice in one week – They are off to a good start.

    March 8, 2014 at 2:53 PM
  • Franziska says:

    After reading this I am simultaneously excited and worried. We live in Los Ranchos and are always excited when there is hope for a new culinary gem in the area. (Pho Hoa is a regular for us- in dangerous proximity to our abode.) The impetus of the excitement is obvious- the description of the food. The worry, as I read this my internal dialogue was as follows: “We should try this tomorrow- wait, we have the Merry Edwards wine dinner tomorrow night at JJ 101…. I need to go running…..how far should I run….god I love go eat, and cook, why did I go to law school?……”. Thankfully one of the kiddos interrupted the existential exploration! Back to real life, I am going to this place this week. I will run further in an effort to convince my arteries that they are in fact valued! Now off to make Kefta and yogurt Flatbread.
    As for your website, let me say with the frequency I visit, if the content were of a different nature I would be on FBI watch lists!

    March 9, 2014 at 9:53 AM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Franzi, you’re not only the most beauteous barrister in the Duke City, you are the most eloquent. You could probably even make legalese sound interesting.

      If you’re up for a challenge–and after seeing you dine on the tail to snout parts of a pig–there’s a restaurant in Santa Fe which serves chapulines (grasshoppers). Care to try them sometime? The restaurant also serves great Oaxacan moles and other more conventional entrees.

      March 10, 2014 at 12:59 PM
      • Franziska says:

        Gil,
        You have not only piqued my interest but Nikko’s as well. I believe a pilgrimage is in order. You let us know a good time for you. Am I correct that we are heading to Epazote?

        March 13, 2014 at 7:59 AM
      • Gil Garduno says:

        Hi Franzi

        It would be my honor to introduce you and Nikko to Epazote. Alas, Epazote is currently open only for lunch from 11AM to 2:30PM. I’m pretty much open any day next week save for Friday and Epazote is closed on Wednesdays. Please let me know when you can make it.

        Gil

        March 13, 2014 at 8:58 AM
  • Jim Millington says:

    We did stop in last night and I was impressed on many levels.
    I was stunned by the shear size of the restaurant. Albuquerque is fairly famous for this as the local Red Lobster (not at all comparable to the Stumbling Steer in quality) is supposedly the largest in the world but the Stumbling Steer dwarfs it. We were told the wait would be about an hour but were actually seated in less than 5-minutes.
    Now to the food. We of course ordered the Brussels sprouts-excellent-almost as good as mine. The Child Bride was puzzled by seeing Korean BBQ Ribs on the menu with a side of Korean Potato salad. Her first question was “What the hell is Korean Potato Salad? In all my years in Korea I never heard of such a thing.” The waitress could not answer the question so we naturally ordered it.
    We both agreed that there was nothing Korean about the salad and little Korean about the BBQ sauce on the ribs but both were absolutely wonderful.
    We split the order and had enough leftovers for a fairly substantial breakfast this am. I suspect that we are going to return many times. It made number four on my list and amazingly none of the four bear any resemblance to each other as it should be. A true Gastropub must be truly original.

    March 9, 2014 at 11:50 AM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    Crisp fried sprouts, garlic, peanuts, tamarind, and bird peppers (the chef, Chef T, is Vietnamese). Wimps can opt out of the incendiary peppers, but I think this would be a serious mistake. The blend of all the elements masks the searing heat (50,000 – 100,000 Scovill units).

    If I told you Brussels Sprouts haters out there that this is a fantastic appetizer, you might think me daft, and you would be wrong. Chef T will change that for you.

    The beers are very good — I am fond of the red ale. Nice finish. They are temporarily being brewed at another site in Moriarty, but the attached brewery (where the Quarters alcohol store was) should be ready soon.

    The Brussels Sprouts dish has already earned a place on my conveyed Best Dishes of 2014 List (http://www.abqtopten.com/blog/best-dishes-2014/). And SSGB is an early leader for my Best Newcomer of 2014 List. Stay tuned.

    March 11, 2014 at 2:49 AM
  • Jody M says:

    We have visited every week since they opened and are in the process of trying everything on the menu. I am wildly fond of the Stumbling Meatballs, Beer Can Chicken and the Ribs. The fried port bites are addicting and a must have! The innovative bar drinks are such fun and my hubby loves the beer. Thank you for opening on the west side of town!

    March 11, 2014 at 5:02 AM
  • Sr Plata says:

    I guess it’s time for me to chime in. I had lunch here before Gil did his review. I too had the intense Brussel Sprouts and was greatly how crispy and garlicky it was. It was soooo good! I had the cheese burger that came with Pastrami adding on green chile and of course fried egg over medium and wondered how I was to fit the sandwich into my mouth. The delicious bun made the entire cutting board experience amazing. The basket of fries was a good accompaniment. With the burger, I was right. Will have to come at dinner time to try the fish and chips. Much better food than Quarters to me. That breaded toffee pudding sure looked good. Please offer beef ribs! How about breakfast?? I must return.

    March 11, 2014 at 10:45 PM
  • Teresa Morrison says:

    Liked the food today only wish they had GF beer lime Redbridge – they had a gross GF beer@ $6 bottle!! Hello!!?

    Will return…

    April 20, 2014 at 8:33 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Alas, while my daughter thought her sampling of one of my Korean Ribs was pretty tasty in terms of the sauce as did I, I don’t think, in the long run, the SS will be my Go-To place for BB-Back ribs nor their accompaniments. For her own fare, she does not recommend the Waffle Chicken.
    ~ Indeed, the Crispy Brussels Sprouts are a tasty Hoot to share. I also will give a shout out to The Stumbling Scot (an adult beverage) as well as the creme brule cheesecake. Also getting an A+ was our server and his elves.
    ~ While I typically don’t do lunch, I’m thinking I could be tempted to return one of these days to see what Gil’s sense of “beefiness” was re the French Onion soup as I think I once thought someone’s was not watery as another. In addition, his pic of the Monte Cristo Prochetta has a certain come hither look to it. Otherwise, a place that will only extend you a reservation if you are a party of 10 or more, is a bit off-putting IMHO. (Geez, after rereading that, I’m thinking I should’ve had a salad for a little more roughage in my diet.)

    June 14, 2014 at 9:35 PM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    Menu has changed. No more B2LT. Chef T has left.

    Are they sliding? Pity.

    June 18, 2014 at 9:45 PM
  • Sr Plata says:

    And No More Burger Special with Turkey Pastramu, Very Sad!had Chicken and Waffle, a little waffle for $17.00. Won’t go back for a long while…

    June 19, 2014 at 12:53 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    We were there a couple of weeks ago and noticed that the menu was noticeably smaller but the waiter insisted that it was not, just rearranged. I was fairly sure this was not true but they had what we intended to order so I didn’t check it in detail. Assuming that Stumbling Steer falls off my list of great gastropubs I found a replacement last week. Unfortunately it is too far away to just pop over. But if you are driving by Colorado Springs stop at Brother Luck’s Street Eats (his real name). I had the Bacon Jam Burger and I suckered the Child Bride into ordering the Pork Belly Mac and Cheese. When she realized what pork belly was I got to eat a lot of hers. I tried to talk Mr Luck into opening a branch of this unbelievable place here but that one had only been open 5-days so he won’t.

    June 19, 2014 at 1:33 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Almost ready to lash Sr. Plata and Prof Larry with a wet noodle for their ‘afterthoughts’, lest they might have saved me from a lackluster eve and choosing instead the invite of being treated to Bistro Piattini! But, I must admit, I failed to note in my blathering that despite my concern about no rez for less than 10, the parking lot seemed a bit half full for a Saturday eve in comparison to weeks past and despite a ‘normal settling down’ after a place opens. My apologies.

    Kinda gives one the sense of Bait n Switch. Why…given the initial raves, would a chef move on or out in just a few months? Why would things slide so quickly? But then I look just up the street and see The Falls sitting there forlonly… 2-3 years now?…Geez! It opened and closed within months that I didn’t even get to go in! Are we really a Town so bent on being just Chains albeit I’m not in on the back stories….Terra gone from one of the busiest of city streets? While overlooking its strip mall “ambiance”, Chez Bob…excellent service and entrees per excellent prices…gone?!!! Kudos to those who try…more so to those who succeed in this tough gig!

    June 19, 2014 at 3:28 PM
  • trailhound says:

    This place is really nice inside but the food in expensive and not that great for what you get. Nice ambience but that could not make up for the other issues. Had a problem during our visit and everyone from the server, the bartender to the manager seemed completely clueless that they should fix it or how to fix it. This place is an improvement over the quarters but that isn’t saying much. Go somewhere else instead.

    July 2, 2014 at 8:02 AM

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