About This Blog

Sugar Nymph's Bistro in Penasco (Photo Courtey of Deanna Nichols)

Famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti once said, “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

Hola! I’m Gil Garduño.  Welcome to Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog.  I chose the site vanity “nmgastronome” because it truly reflects my passion for the cuisine of the Land of Enchantment–and hopefully describes the level to which my palate has evolved after having visited and evaluated more than 1,000 restaurants in the past ten years or so.

Gastronome A connoisseur of good food; someone with a refined palate; a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink); an epicure.

In this blog’s nomenclature, there is hopefully an implicit reflection of the continuous improvement of this Web site.  In the past ten years, this site has evolved from a rudimentary HTML version of an Excel table to a site in which you could find detailed, one-page reviews of many of your favorite restaurants in New Mexico.  This blog is the latest in the evolution of Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Site.

Mary & Tito's guacamole and rice filled burrito served Christmas style.

Mary & Tito’s guacamole and rice filled burrito served Christmas style.

When we moved back to New Mexico on May 15, 1995, our first priority wasn’t where to live, but where to eat.  Having been away for the better part of 18 years, there were so many old favorites with which to reacquaint ourselves and so many exciting new prospects we just had to try.  By year’s end, we had visited 75 different restaurants.

As a chronic “compiler of lists” (a consequence of being meticulously organized) I began using an Excel spreadsheet to track the various restaurants we visited.   That rudimentary spreadsheet included short “Zagat style” comments intended to serve as mnemonics that triggered what we liked or didn’t like about a particular restaurant.  Sometimes those comments were so cryptic that they meant something only to me (pretty much as intended).

In 1995, the internet was in its relative infancy, but I applied my then rudimentary HTML skills to create a Web site in which to enter my musings.  Though the format lent itself to tracking restaurant visits much better than a spreadsheet ever could, it somehow didn’t dawn on me that my reviews would be available to anyone savvy enough to use a search engine.  It didn’t take long before Gil’s Thrilling Web site was “discovered.”

I was privileged enough to have been mentioned on Roadfood.coma few years ago.  Here’s what Michael and Jane Stern of Gourmet magazine and roadfood.comhad to say about this Web site: We came across a delightful website called Gil’s Thrilling Web Site, written and maintained by Gil Garduño. It’s mostly about good Roadfood-type eating, especially in Albuquerque, and it is a joy to browse. We recommend a visit!

I’ve been mentioned on Chowhound more times than I can count and in the past two years (2007-2008), I’ve also spent some time on the phone with Food Network researchers, advocating for New Mexico’s culinary scene.

While recognition from respected local and national publications seems to give my site a modicum of validation, the biggest kick I get is in getting e-mail from adventurous diners who visit my site.  I hear most often from newcomers to the Land of Enchantment who have used my reviews to discover New Mexico’s restaurants, but appreciate e-mail just as much from lifelong New Mexico residents who recommend restaurants I may not even have heard about.

So, what qualifies me to review and write about restaurants?  I have no “professional training” that qualifies me to discern the subtle nuances inherent in various foods, nor am I by trade or practice, a professional chef.  I’m merely a gastronome, someone who loves and appreciates good food…and dining at nearly 1000 different restaurants since 1995 should give a modicum of credence to my opinion–but no more credence than YOU have.

Unlike the pretentious pundits who wax poetic about the latest epicurean trends in the culinary world (those who would, for example, describe a meal at McDonald’s as a “gustatory repast in the ubiquitous Scottish restaurant emblazoned with saffron ellipses”), I’m not particularly impressed by nouveau cuisine, the very pronunciation of which reeks condescension. I’m an ordinary guy who likes to eat good food at reasonable prices and expects to be treated relatively well while doing so.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Unlike some food critics (pictured), I don’t blindly acquiesce to the latest trend, turn a deaf ear to recommendations from people who don’t tread the well beaten path, and I don’t hold back in criticizing–if warranted–the “anointed” restaurants frequented by the nouveau riche.

I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled extensively and availed myself of the opportunity to partake of the finest local cuisine available in such hotbeds of culinary presentation as San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas (yes, Sin City where all the celebrity chefs go).

Please review my rating system which explains how I arrive at my ratings.  It’s not exactly scientific and I don’t take into account anyone else’s opinion of the restaurants in which we dine, not even the opinion of my faithful dining companion and wife Kim whose palate has matured tremendously over the years.  Your opinions may certainly differ as there are no rights and wrongs in my ratings, just opinions–mine.

This Web site lists only restaurants I’ve visited this century (since January 1st, 2000).  I have deleted the short synopses of restaurants (such as the dreadful Chinese buffet restaurants in Albuquerque) I have no intention of ever visiting again.  I also eliminated most reviews on corporate chain restaurants, partially in the spirit of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

As much as possible, my reviews will begin to incorporate images of the restaurants we visit.  Mastering HTML has been easier for me than remembering to remove my camera’s lens cover before I shoot a picture.  Fortunately, much better photographers than I have shared some of their wonderful images.  The photo of the Sugar Nymphs Bistro in Peñasco, for example, is courtesy of the brilliant Deanna Nichols.

Please note that a caption will display when you run your cursor over any image.

Note: Please read “Welcome to Gil’s Thrilling Blog” for more information.

284 comments

  • BOTVOLR

    One of the things which, IMHO, draws Folks to this Blog, besides Gil not succumbing to being a shill for venues, is the down-to-earthiness of Commentors, not one of whom falls into being so labelled as herein: http://tinyurl.com/ybd34rba !!!

  • Ruben

    Well, since this blog hasn’t been updated or changed I guess it’s pretty much done. We’ll just go with the same old reviews on the same places and even check out the restaurants that don’t exist anymore for years. There’s a load of places on the list that have been gone for years! Oh, Mary and titos? Over rated….

  • Michael

    Gil, I ate at Moe’s original bar-b-cue. They’re located on Academy and Wyoming in where Tim’s Place used to be. I checked them out online and they are a chain.
    You order at the counter and they bring you food to the table. Large variety with one exception, no brisket. What? I asked and apparently its not on the menu but they do serve it occasionally. Lots of side dishes with off menu sides as well.
    I ordered a platter which comes with two sides, corn bread and a drink. I asked if the hot links were kielbasa or actual hot links and was told they were indeed hot links. They serve the meat in a small cardboard boat. For my sides I had potato salad, it was good, and a black-eyed pea salad which was really good.
    The corn bread is sheet baked, came cut about 2×5. The sauce is on the side and is vinegary. I was disappointed with the hot link was the diameter of a quarter and came cut into coins. 🙁 No Bueno! Hard to really get the full impact without being able to bite down on an actual link. I would have cut it myself and if I were to order it again I would ask for it whole. My sister ordered the pulled pork, it was good and the sauce pairs well with it. For her sides she had beans, she said they were good but not as good as mine. She mentioned the beans that the Branding Iron used to serve which had lots of meat in them. She also had a corn dish that was so so. Saw some friends and they were very happy with the ribs they had. So, will I go back? Probably because they’re a mile from the house and I’d like to try their brisket and the fish. One other thing, above the name on the menu they state: A Southern Soul Food Revival. They have fried catfish and shrimp and offer a shrimp MoeBoy sandwich. No greens or grits on the menu and I would not consider it a soul food joint. The prices are reasonable and you can get the platter or a sandwich with any of the meats. We passed on the desserts. Interested to know what you think.

    • Thank you, Michael. Great review! If ever I need a guest reviewer, you’re at the top of my list.

      It’s not entirely surprising that Alabama boys wouldn’t feature brisket on a daily basis, but considering they started their business in Colorado, you’d think they would have perfected it by now. In the west (especially Texas) brisket is king.

      One of the Moe’s founders is from Tuscaloosa, home of Dreamland Bar-B-Que, a legendary Southern barbecue establishment whose menu is rather sparse and also doesn’t include brisket. We lived in the Deep South for eight years and rarely saw brisket on any menu. Pork, however, was plentiful.

      I’ll be pining for the Branding Iron beans now…along with sauce from Robb’s Ribs.

      • Michael

        Gil, Thanks for the compliment, you are the best.
        The Branding Iron beans were so good.
        I told my sister that maybe they weren’t serving brisket as they didn’t want left overs, a good use of day old brisket and pulled pork is chopped barbecue. There was a place in El Paso named Smitty’s Barbecue and the chopped sandwich was left over brisket, pulled pork and smoked ham as ham was a meat choice on the menu. I’ve duplicated this chopped que and with homemade sauce it’s out standing. I tend to use burnt ends and a lot of bark from the pork butt and a twice smoked thick ham steak.
        Rob Richmond of Robb’s Ribb’s lives in Wisconsin and cooks gourmet meals to order in your home. Miss him and his sauce and the sausages which were the best in town. He gave me a smoked turkey for my birthday one year as I was born on Thanksgiving.

  • BOTVOLR

    Rosales’ Produce with their Chile from Lemitar, opened for the season just a few days ago. Haven’t had our “Peeling Fiesta on the Patio for Family/Friends” yet, so can’t comment on the Chile itself, but if the past 4-5 years is any indication….should be Delicioso! Alas, a 40# sack roasted is up a tad to $30 …see below*.

    Location: 7331 4th NW Yes, in the VOLR where we are bucolic/idyllic http://tinyurl.com/y6v3bt4r but ain’t stuffy as somehow misperceived !

    Do you peel with surgical gloves? I prefer to go bare neehkid while rinsing my fingers occasionally in vinegar…burn lasts, but only mildly and for just a couple of hours. In any event, gives me a Manly-Man feeling and helps me remember what I did earlier in the day!

    Here’s a map for easy access from either the East/West sides via Paseo http://tinyurl.com/ycoydgxd click a pic, upper left for a visual.
    Yo, it’s right next to this newly opened eatery http://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=43679#comments Elsewise, and close by, is http://www.nmgastronome.com/?s=casa+de+benavidez with their fabulous “tropical” patio, albeit closed after 3 on Sundays.

    Ya know, if ya need another reason to come all the way over here, there are several antique/vintage shoppes to bemuse you, e.g. http://www.foundon4th.com/ as well an award-winning winery with a tasting room and back serenity pond http://www.casarondena.com/ On Saturday AMs, there is a Farmer’s Market and Art/Crafts booths over by the Village Hall on Rio Grande Blvd.

    *As an aside: As you may have read, Chile roasters are starting to pop up across Gil’s “fruited plain”. While I couldn’t find some of their bigger markets in MA doing them, I found one place with 5 stores starting on the 1st of Sept. Apparently, they rent a roaster and share, e.g. one store is only roasting on the 1,2,3rd….another a weekend later. LOL In any event, an equivalent 40#s would run ya $79.60!!!
    “Chow!”

  • Stacy Terrill

    Earlier this week, had dinner at a new place on San Mateo near McLeod called Groundstone. Had an amazing salad and my husband had a delicious burger with lots of great toppings and a side of kale slaw that I absolutely loved (sneaked some from his plate)! You ought to try this place out!

    • Thank you, Stacy. We’ll visit Groundstone soon.

    • BOTVOLR

      (OMG: Anyone remember the introduction of dining style into ABQ, e.g. LA, way back when? LOL)
      7/25’s AJ: — Slick brick, hot pizza, cold beer. That’s what Groundstone has for its customers.
      The restaurant, brainchild of Albuquerque restaurateur Russ Zeigler — previous owner or co-owner of Liquid Assets, High Finance, Options, Assets and Sandiago’s — specializes in serving local beers, pizza, burgers, salad and desserts out of the 6,700-square-foot building once occupied by The Library Bar & Grill at 5001 San Mateo NE.
      Spokeswoman Maddie Correa Zeigler said she and her husband renovated the space, adding a room for private parties, a concrete floor to match the brick walls and two patio spaces.
      The restaurant opened for business on Sunday and employes roughly 60 people, she said.
      Russ Zeigler, who has been in the restaurant ownership business since 1977, said the motivation for opening was pretty simple. “I thought there was a need for what we are doing. And the leases ran (out) on my previous restaurants, and I wasn’t quite ready to sit on the couch and throw in the towel.”
      Groundstone serves craft beers from all over the country, but tries to focus on local beers. Russ said he plans to start a “beer-of-the-month” program to support local breweries.
      The ingredients for the food he serves are also mostly local. The bread is from local bread maker Fano, and the green chile is from Bueno. “We are trying to do everything to stay as local as we can,” he said. When that’s not possible, he said, the restaurant still tries to get the freshest, best ingredients.

  • Hi Gil ,

    My name is Anuj Agarwal. I’m Founder of Feedspot.

    I would like to personally congratulate you as your Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs on the web.

    http://blog.feedspot.com/gastronomy_blogs/

    I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

    Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.

    Best,
    Anuj

  • Phil B

    Need to try: Quarter Celtic on the corner of San Mateo and Lomas. Fish and chips good! Slaw, ehh, Fries- super crispy, tarter sauce -excellent.

    Needs a review from ya!

  • Thwan

    Hi Gil.
    Hope you are doing well since we last met. In the mean time the family has visited sweet tea bakery & Budai. I enjoyed both of them. Unfortunately one dish i came for was only in Summer, and one of the pork dishes was no longer on the menu.
    My next Vietnamese restaurant is the one on San Mateo & Central.
    Keep you posted.
    Thwan.

    • Hello Thwan

      It’s so nice to hear from the best physical therapist in the universe. I appreciate all your patience and work with me.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed Sweet Tea and Budai. Did you order from Budai’s not-so-secret menu? Budai doesn’t change its menu that often, but it does frequently add new daily specials and seasonal favorites. We usually order daily specials because there’s no telling when you’ll see those again.

      When you visit Cafe Dalat, I recommend the spicy beef stew. It’s my favorite soup in the universe.

      Best,

      Gil

  • Amanda

    Gil – What a great blog! I stumbled across it today and have been neglecting other tasks I had set for myself as I became engrossed in reading your prose. I’d like to ask for your recommendations for someone who will be in ABQ for a few days only – what are the go-to places? ( I’ve already noted Mary and Tito’s as a must-dine). My husband will be in town for 4 nights and I’m researching dining options for him,

    Of course, great Mexican food is a must, but he is always on the lookout for a really good Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Every time we’ve moved over the years (which was about every two years while he was in the military) he tried to find a good cheesesteak with very limited success; oddly, he found the best cheesesteak outside of Philly in Tucson a few years ago. As we are considering retiring to Albuquerque, it would be a nice bonus.

    Keep up the great work on the blog!

    • Hi Amanda

      Thank you for the kind words about my blog.

      Your husband is in luck. Albuquerque has one of the best Philly Cheesesteaks anywhere (including Philadelphia) and it’s made with a uniquely New Mexican touch–green chile. You’ll find it at Philly’s N’ Fries on Second Street. Unfortunately, the restaurant is open only from 11AM through 4PM so the hours may not fit with your husband’s schedule.

      Mary & Tito’s is Albuquerque’s very best New Mexican restaurant with a red chile that’s absolutely magical, but it may not be exactly what you may be used to. New Mexican cuisine is somewhat different from Mexican cuisine you may have had in other parts of the country. Then again, in your military assignments, you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to all types of food.

      I’ll be happy to give you other suggestions if you let me know where your husband is staying (Albuquerque is rather spread out) and what types of foods your husband would enjoy.

      You would have loved Albuquerque this weekend. We hit 80 degrees today and 78 degrees yesterday. The winds have been relatively light for a March day.

      Best,

      Gil

  • BOTVOLR

    Caveat: A complete “aside” while being a possible addition to whatever “collection” Gil has per his “Sesquipedalian” self description:
    Mamihlapinatapai ! OMG! It is a wonderful moment or maybe two, but can be an inglorious bane when dining alone, let alone with a date/spouse! Of course, it can occur riding on a bus via ART; waiting in a checkout lane of Wallymart; while seated opposite an other waiting for an hour and a half at the New Mexico DMV to renew your Driver’s license; while seated at a dinner of never-met-before extended family members; yada yada yada. It is a word used by Folks down in Tierra del Fuego. Pardon my stereotyping, but those be the last Folks in the world who I’d imagine using such a “big” word, which is probably not even listed within the SATs!
    It is derived from the Yaghan language and listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the “most succinct word” which defines “looking at each other hoping that either will offer to say/do something which both parties desire but are unwilling to say/do.” As an example of usage: I think we’re experiencing mamihlapinatapai… let’s get naked and see!

  • Philip B

    Gil I’ve been a long time reader of your blog. I almost visit anything you review that you recommend. One Vietnamese dish I’ve been in search of to replace the vermicelli noodle bowl from Kim longs. Do you have any recommendations? Places we’ve tried and decided it’s not as good. Saigon, May cafe, que houng, pho 79, da lat, viet taste, basil leaf, Saigon Far East, Vietnam 2k. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Good Morning Philip

      Thank you for being a long-time reader. I appreciate your loyalty and am delighted that you’ve visited so many of our city’s wonderful restaurants.

      Kim Long was a terrific restaurant offering a number of unique dishes not to be found anywhere else. The vermicelli bowl (especially with grilled pork and egg rolls) was one of our favorites. As is often the case with dishes we consider favorites, there’s always one restaurant head and shoulders better than the other. We’ve derived a lot of pleasure from the adventure of experiencing the nuanced differences between how dishes are interpreted by different restaurants. I don’t know if you’ll ever find a vermicelli bowl you enjoy as much as Kim Long’s, but encourage you to continue that noble pursuit. Please report back when you find one you enjoy.

      Best,

      Gil

    • Try Asian Grill on Gibson

      Philip B, try the one at Asian Grill on Gibson (right across from the Lovelace Hospital – or whatever it is now). I like their vermicelli bowl with grilled pork and eggroll. I want to say it is #B2, but can’t be 100% positive.

      If you go, I hope you enjoy!

      • Philip B

        Thanks for the recommendation. The noodles and veggies were fresh, The eggroll good. The pork was not that good and the peanut sauce was bleh. Overall not the Noodle bowl I’m looking for. But thanks anyway. I think Que Houng is probably the closest so far.

      • Bummer

        Bummer it wasn’t for you.

        I probably should’ve mentioned I add quite a bit amount of siracha and chili sauce. That probably masks any bland and bleh.

        Another suggestion – again, I add tons of heat to mine so maybe a “caveat emptor” applies…:-)…Viet Noodle on the West Side (Montano/Coors area – just up the hill a bit almost across from the Dion’s). If you try it, I hope it works for you!

  • Schuyler

    Commiserations compai. You’re destined to be the Susan Lucci (won first daytime Emmy after 19 nominations) of Duke City bloggers. I just picked up Albuquerque The Magazine’s Best of the City issue and saw that once again you’re among the best of the rest. That’s at least five times you’ve been snubbed. I’m sure I speak for your tens of readers in saying that you’re by far the best blogger I’ve ever read. Maybe you’d stand a better chance if you published more photos of Shawne and Dazzling Deanell and fewer of Sr. Pluto and Ryan Scott.

    • Thanks, Sky.

      Tens of readers? Hmm, there’s you, Sr. Plata, Ryan Scott, Jim Millington, Bruce Schor, Bob of the Village People…. That’s five.

      Jamie Lewinger (http://morethanturquoise.com) is well deserving of Best of the City honors. Dawn will appreciate her fashion sense and lifestyle columns and I’m sure you’ll like the pictures.

      It would be interesting to hear if the female demographic among my readers appreciates photos of Sr. Plata and Ryan Scott more than you and Diego do.

      Gil

  • Kris Wright

    Just tried the new Aura European Mediterranean Restaurant located at 6300 San Mateo NE, ALbuquerque, NM. In the Far North Shopping Center. So good! You should try it!

  • We are a group of foodies and started a new blog dedicated to the food and travel. Your site offered us with valuable info to work on. You have done a awesome job. I’d like if you can spare some times to check out this our blog https://www.tastecapade.com/foodblog .

    • Have you tried the Italian restaurant in Deming, NM called Forghedaboudit Pizza? It’s such more than just pizza. The chef and his wife use receipts from his grandmother with a new twist. Check out the website fgbpizza.com

      • Hello Kimberly

        I first heard about Forghedaboutit Pizza when the restaurant represented the Land of Enchantment at the National Buffalo Wing Festival during the Labor Day weekend in 2016. We’ve since wanted to try the red and green chile dry-rub wings. Because our senior dachshund (who’s got both diabetes and Cushing’s disease) needs a lot of care, we haven’t traveled much in the past two years, but hope to someday visit Forghedaboutit Pizza. Thanks for a great recommendation.

        Gil

  • Mary Kroner

    Help! I lost the e-mail about tomorrow evening’s FoG dinner, which my husband and i definitely want to attend. Please, can someone tell me when and where we should be? We are so looking forward to meeting y’all after learning so much from this blog.

  • FGFABQ

    Bob, yes indeed I have experimented with sous vide cooking. The premise is that you cook at the temperature you are looking to achieve and as long as you cook in the water bath the food will never go above or below the set temp.
    I have cooked a standing rib roast, a pork roast, and a whole chicken. For the sake of our sense of sight , not taste, the meat should be browned and I’ve achieved the browning by high temps (450 degrees) in the conventional oven and also by using either a good old fashioned blow torch or a creme brûlée torch. Either method is up to the task. I’ve been told that it’s possible to bake a cake sous vide or even do a sunny side up egg, although it must take some practice.
    You need what appears to be a giant immersion blender, a food saver and a pot large enough to accommodate both the bagged meat and the sous vide-er. The water is both heated to temp and swirled around the bagged meat.
    The standing rib roast took about 9 hours, the pork roast less time and the chicken the least time.
    Perhaps a green chile cheese dog ala the Dog House is on my to do list.
    I’d be happy to let you try the sous vide method if you’d like to give it a whirl. Let me know.

    • BOTVOLR

      Yo FGFABQ….great to read you are into new adventures-explorations! (Perhaps your S-i-L’s penchant for cooking enticed you.)
      Thanks for the offer to “give-it-a-whirl”, but being lazy about limiting “home-cooking” to beans/franks or stirring some packaged Bernaise sauce for a BBQed filet once in a great while or cook up a “winter” artichoke, and having a (non-crisis but) challenge just come up in the interim to yank for my attention, I’ll pass on your generous offer. If I may, perhaps you might note a line or two for other readers re outcomes/taste of sous vide.

  • BOTVOLR

    Alas, I know Gil focuses on restaurants and their food offerings, but is there is a bit of room occasionally for nuances/education being tolerated? E.g. I have a somewhat avian appetite which means I often “doggy-bag” a (pricey) ‘treat’ home, e.g. like a hearty piece of beef, from a place Gil recommended! Next day, do I just “mike-it”, which I presume would “cook it” more… even if at a de-powered setting?

    Whoa…by chance, I ran across this which includes completely cooking a steak in…WT_?…. water!?!?! aka Sous-Vide!!! Pardon lest I missed anyone noting any restaurant around here even doing that, lest you’d probably want to be able to call it in ahead of time regarding its time of preparation! As such, if there is anyone else out there not-in-the-loop as I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning it!:
    What is Sous-vide?: http://tinyurl.com/jnl8rkf
    Reheating your Doggie-Bag delight: http://tinyurl.com/gllwjox
    Cooking from scratch:http://tinyurl.com/jewkf9o
    What’s needed: e.g. http://tinyurl.com/zz8k98k
    If Y’all have been there/done that: Please describe!
    “Chow!”

    • Coincidentally our friend Bruce has been sharing with me his experiences of late with sous-vide. He’s mastering a culinary technique not often practiced around here.

      Chef Marc Quiñones of Santa Fe’s Inn and Spa at Loretto used to employ the technique when he oversaw Bien Shur‘s fine-dining operation. Chef Quiñones, by the way, will be competing this Sunday (January 16th) in an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen. Downton Abbey fans can record and watch it later.

  • Shawne

    Gil: That was it!!

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