Gil's Thrilling (And Filling) Blog

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Dining New Mexico

The A&W Burger Family in Lemitar, New Mexico

The A&W Burger Family in Lemitar, New Mexico

For nearly a quarter century, the most popular section in New Mexico Magazine (the nation’s oldest state magazine, by the way) has been a humorous column entitled “One of Our Fifty is Missing.”  The column features anecdotes submitted by readers worldwide recounting their experiences with fellow American citizens and ill-informed bureaucrats who don’t realize that New Mexico is part of the United States.

Some travelers from other states actually believe they’re leaving their nation’s borders when they cross into New Mexico.  Others think they need a passport to visit (not that they’d visit considering they’re wary of drinking our water.)  Merchants and banks throughout America have been known to reject as “foreign credit cards” American Express and Visa cards issued by New Mexico banking institutions.

The realization that it’s New Mexico, U.S.A. isn’t lost solely on ordinary citizens and bureaucrats.  Even modern pop culture has gotten into the act.

During one episode of The Simpsons, the iconic Homer Simpson didn’t know New Mexico existed until looking at a Krusty Burger map and exclaiming with surprise “Hey, there’s a New Mexico.”  Homer’s despotic boss, the Yale educated Mr. Burns wasn’t much better: “Whoa! Whoa! Slow down there mistro.  There’s a New Mexico?”

The green chile cheeseburger at the Bobcat Bite is perhaps the very best in New Mexico.

The green chile cheeseburger at the Bobcat Bite is perhaps the very best in New Mexico.

Not only is there a New Mexico, it’s being increasingly “discovered” by thousands of viewers who tune in to various shows on the Food Network.  Hardly a week goes by without one of the network’s gastronomic glitterati visiting the Land of Enchantment and salivating effusively at some culinary creation or another.

It’s not only the Food Network which has uncovered New Mexico’s gustatory gems.  It’s the Wall Street Journal, GQ magazine, Gourmet magazine and dozens of other traditional media publications.  Online, New Mexico’s cuisine is frequently feted on the popular Roadfood Web site as well as on salon.com, epicurious.com and a wealth of other Web sites.

New Mexico’s cuisine has also achieved the pinnacle of achievement in the culinary world, garnering numerous awards from the prestigious James Beard Foundation.  In recent years, the “Oscars of food” have been awarded to chefs, restaurants and cookbooks all from New Mexico.

Not every mention of New Mexico’s cuisine is “peppered” with references to chile, the capsaicin blessed staple of New Mexico home and restaurant fare.

It may surprise you to learn that an Italian restaurant (Trattoria Nostrani) in Santa Fe was lauded by Gourmet magazine as one of the 50 best restaurants in America or that the Food Network and epicurious.com selected as the best burger in the entire fruited plain, a burger crafted in a humble New Mexico café (Bobcat Bite) with seating for only 26.

The Bobcat Bite's hamburger steak with green chile.

The Bobcat Bite's hamburger steak with green chile.

Several other New Mexico restaurants have earned prestigious national accolades.  A surprising number of them are nondescript mom and pop diners with little to offer in terms of ambience but which serve outstanding food (most of it not sophisticated enough to be called cuisine).

Understandably many of New Mexico’s best restaurants are concentrated in its most populous cities, but to limit your culinary exploration to those cities is to miss out on some of the very best restaurants anywhere—many just off the “well eaten path.”

Stay on the teeming tourist traversed areas, and you won’t discover that some of the state’s best New Mexican (El Bruno) food can be found in Cuba (New Mexico)  or that its best Cuban food (Tocororo Cafe) might just be found in Madrid (also in New Mexico).  You’ll miss out on conceivably New Mexico’s best Cajun food (Callie’s), which is served from a dilapidated mobile kitchen that looks like a rejected hippie bus (or a rusty roach coach on steroids).

Within miles of one of the ten natural wonders of the world you’ll find what is arguably the state’s best barbecue and (gasp) until just a few years ago it was served at a Carlsbad Dairy Queen by an owner who took the term “independently owned” to heart.  Even though it’s on a tourist trodden path, neither the Food Network nor the guidebooks have found this one.

New Mexicans like me are a discerning and demanding lot when it comes to our disposable income and one of our favorite ways to spend our hard-earned money is by dining out.

The fictional Maggie's from the movie Wild Hogs

The fictional Maggie's from the movie Wild Hogs filmed in Madrid, New Mexico

In fiscal 2003, New Mexicans spent $1.6 billion in eating and dining establishments.  Considering the state’s median household income is just over $30,000 a year, the Land of Enchantment’s restaurants—and not just those anointed “best of” by the culinary cognoscenti—have got to be pretty good to inspire such enthusiastic patronage.

Before you check out my restaurant reviews, 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.

Bobcat Bite photos courtesy of my friend and colleague Andrea Lin.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    As some think of beer as food or at least a necessary enhancer to gustation, and as we are experiencing a burgeoning of breweries that I’m guessing will soon implode as a survival of the fittest (with pun intended re beer bellies) event, and as many breweries are offering dining as an enhancer of their brews, I pass this, which I just happened upon by accident, onto those who fancy themselves as connoisseurs lest they be embarrassed by being unfamiliar with the term given it has not been noted herein when bashing that fine brew, PBR! It is ‘zythology’! “The study of beer and beer-making, including the role particular ingredients play in the brewing process. A zythologist is a student and connoisseur of beer who possess knowledge of ingredients, pouring techniques and beer pairings. [From Greek zythos (beer) and logos (study)” LOL

    August 20, 2014 at 9:20 AM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      A zythologist approaches beer from a very scientific perspective–the study and practice of yeast fermentation in brewing–while a cerevisaphile approaches beer from the standpoint of pure enjoyment. A cerevisaphile’s expertise is in flavor discernment and appreciation. Cerevisaphiles like and appreciate well-brewed beers, ergo craft beers (PBR need not apply).

      So, a connoisseur of wine is called an oenophile. A connoisseur of beer is called an cerevisaphile.

      This sesquipedalian bibliophile wants to know what a connoisseur of coffee is called. Please don’t suggest “coffee aficionado” or “coffeephile.” That’s too cheap and easy.

      August 20, 2014 at 12:08 PM
  • FGFABQ says:

    A zythologist, or beer expert, is like being a toobologist, an expert in hot dogs.
    It’s on a par with a belchologist. Or a runologist who has one sentence with approximately 100 words.
    It’s beer, not fine art, it’s based on a liquid that includes PBR and Schlitz, and Bud.
    It’s the poor relative of 3 Buck Chuck. It’s cheaper than pot and produces a buzz AND a hangover.
    Are you looking for validation of your preferences, humble as they may be? Or is this an attempt to connect with the young folks who haven’t established their “cool” and are happy paying only a buck for that cool.
    Like a bad rash covering your torso PBR should be kept as your secret, pouring it slowly into Anchor Steam bottles to fend off comments like mine and others, protecting your hipness. LOL, albeit a flaw in your personality.

    August 20, 2014 at 11:54 AM
  • FGFABQ says:

    I have made up a few words for a coffee connoisseur:
    Caffinologist.
    Joe-oligist.
    Mudophile?
    Starbuckaroo?

    August 20, 2014 at 12:51 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Alas, I forgot the Feedback label wherein El Brute, most appreciatively, advised me of the article in his NY Times about NM Chile being featured. Belatedly, Thank You… this is obviously delayed, but it was due to my submitting (who’d’ve guessed) a Comment to the article which just now has been “approved”….Please go here: http://tinyurl.com/om7t6qo. Alas, hopefully El Brute will overlook several links within, which were included given the stereotype that NYorkers have busier lives than we do in NM and perhaps they might be a bit geocentric (like many of us get) and thus not use their own savvy to look up important things and thus miss bringing their tourist dollars here!!! LOL

    ~ Cleaning up further: 2 places I’ve solicited about what ya call a coffee expert have not responded. While there is no law they must, why list a Contact Us link?

    ~ Per the opening line of my Comment to the NY Times:
    Yo True-Grit Foodies herein:
    Lest you’ve never peeled/skinned roasted green chile as a New Mexican tradition or you’ve become lax and have just bought it in a frozen, plastic tub the past several years, Y’all are Welcome to come-on-&-peel at my Daughter/Son-in-Law’s on Saturday, Sept. 13th, late afternoon. Just bring your own good humor along with your 35-40 lb. sack (or just a roasted bushel basket or two, lest you would like to be tutored in the skills of “peeling” to consider creating your yearlong “stash”) that’s been roasted and stewing since late morning (that’s important), along with some quart-size, zip-lock baggies. Please let me know by Sun. the 7th so I can buy a few extra PBRs to put on ice! If interested, e10chilinm@gmail.com (spelling’s an inside joke), I’ll get in touch with directions/exact time.

    September 3, 2014 at 3:02 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Lest the world of The Chain be no more…wouldn’t the world of employment be better off? Might some ‘humble’ families become more emboldened to partake/enjoy a more nutritious outing when seeking a change of pace in their humdrum routine given that all “men” are created equal? Are these…http://tinyurl.com/mz99484 as well as http://tinyurl.com/l7xjpw2 reflecting a chink in hardened steel links in The Chain?
    El Diablo

    September 8, 2014 at 4:32 PM
  • FGFABQ says:

    Humble families with humdrum routines???
    What are you saying?
    Humble families would be able to open restaurants if chains go out of business?
    What are you saying, and in humble English so the aforementioned humble families living humdrum lives can grasp what you’re saying.
    Should they convert their garages into public dining spots?
    Of course I refuse to check out your links but maybe you can explain what you’re saying.

    September 9, 2014 at 7:42 AM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    FGFABQ El Brute asks: “What are you saying?”
    Glad you asked!
    Alas, I’m not sure! Maybe I’m wondering what belies the disdain/anathema for Chains (again, see the links. BTW, I’m nominating you to the American Psychological Association as being recognized as the first phobic suffering from Clikonalinkophobia!) Do not the Chains provide a pool for employment? Would too many garage eateries suffer the decimation of limited nesteggs of Humble Folk who sunk theirs into retrofitting garages, if so many unemployed chain workers tried to do it? Do all those chain workers have the wherewithall to do it? (I say “No” as I believe we are not all created equal!) Didn’t every or most Chains, start out as a Local, Mom & Pop venture? http://tinyurl.com/nz458pn How many off shoots make something a Chain? I can’t imagine everyone herein has never shopped at Sears, Penny’s, Victoria Secrets, seen a movie at a Regal theater, been to Presbyterian, gone to church at St. X’s or the Temple Albert or the United Episcopal/Presbyterian Church, driven a Ford/Chevy (let alone a VW/Honda/BMW/Audi/Prius),flown TWA or Southwest, bought a scoop of chocolate at Baskin-Robbins, a doughnut at Krispy Kreme, or has always taken their crap to a “transfer” station instead of putting it out by the curb for the chain of Waste Management to pick it up?!!?

    On a lark the other day, I, with a coupon of course, dropped into Furr’s Cafeteria. It was kind of a bit of nostalgia as well, as it was a Fav of my in-laws to “be able to” treat “us all” once in awhile instead of at the relatively tiny house in Five Points. I’d say they were of the Humble Family variety…e.g. my F-i-L made his way in the world with 7 kids by, at various times, saving to buy a truck in order to make a bid to load/haul US mail in the wee hours of the morning between ABQ/Belen, running a cesspool cleaning service, working in The Railyards, hauling dirt out of the Sandias so a cavernous repository could hold nuclear warheads in storage, weeding a jardin or feeding chickens at dusk in the back yard or having a mantaza once or twice a year to share some meats for our own freezers, etc. While Furr’s didn’t offer Filet Mignon con Bernaise, I think it had the advantage of a wide variety of offerings where everyone could find something to their liking (whether nutritious or not, LOL)…it was being able to have a gathering that mattered without going into credit card debt. As an added fun thing, I later chided my daughter lest she had not exposed my G-kids to a “joy” of her own youth, as an alternative something or other, wherein several families seemed to be doing and delighting in same today…while tended to by several employees.
    Sorry, I, of all people, can’t really get across the point/sentiment of all that. LMAO

    September 9, 2014 at 2:19 PM
  • BOTVLR says:

    Given, IMHO, we must be the Green Chile CheeseBurger capital of the world, I think it is incumbent upon us all to know…be taught if necessary… how to eat one, i.e. so as we don’t embarrass ourselves, let alone The Land of Enchantment, when we have out-of-state visitors, and especially if we ascribe to the adage “You’re never too old to learn!” Blush, I therefore confess: Du…Uh: http://tinyurl.com/nhp4vpt (PS: when BBQing for Guests in your backyard, it goes without saying, you toast/grill buns for added strength!)

    October 6, 2014 at 1:49 PM
  • FGFABQ says:

    Bobo, you take the joy out of eating a GCCB. Part of the deal is the drippy moisture of the bread, the need for 4, 5, or 6 napkins. When did you become a debutante? It’s like needing your Sloppy Joes in a bowl so you don’t get it on your ironed jeans. Toasting the buns for added strength is silly and as necessary as adding chips to peanut butter and jelly on matzoh.

    October 6, 2014 at 11:56 PM
  • BOTVLR says:

    Alas El Brute, despite your protestations against utilizing my courteous links-of-convenience, you apparently took a gander at the How to Eat a Burger Vid! Bravo!
    ~Re: “…the joy (of)…drippy moisture…” What a perplexity you propose by then noting needing 4,5,or 6 napkins! It sounds as tho you are vainly in the throes of getting out of the most primal of Freud’s stages of development which is evidenced by apparently struggling to overcome a propensity for an opportunity of fetish-like ‘smearing’. Personally, and perhaps displaying a tinge of being a Control Freak (which I vociferously deny), I prefer the more sophisticated sublimation of indulging in a French Dip sandwich!!!
    Ooo Ooo…Obviously, your suggestion for dining on a Sloppy Joe might hit the spot, but as a “Deb”, I’ve always eaten mine with a knife and fork!
    Beyond all that and back to your fetish: While I stand to be corrected by others for the Best experience of ‘dripping moisture’, I’d recommend you immediately dispatch yourself to one of Bob’s Burgers locations http://tinyurl.com/nqcjrrk (note the urbanspoon/yelp ratings or check Gil’s assessment http://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=221 ), i.e. a long time Local. Once there, order his menu item #1 The Ranchero Supreme (Large) and sit in the parking lot while eating it. Within two bites you’ll be in pig’s heaven (no oddity reference intended) enjoying all the drippy moisture you could ever imagine!
    ~ Lastly, “…chips to peanut butter and jelly on matzoh*.” Aha! that indeed appears to present a cost, I mean time effective strategy when eating PB&J&MF (I’ll leave the matzoh to Y’all as I cannot afford that which I’m sure…oy vey!… you’d refer us to: http://tinyurl.com/nonoe59 . But before that, lets look at the “silliness’ of toasting as reflects your covert aggressive tendencies. While you might indulge in tearing/ripping fresh slices of Wundah Bread apart, ‘toasting’ serves as a proactive prophylactic against that when spreading on PB (plain or nutty) and Marshmallow Fluff! (Yes, the Welsh’s Grape Jelly goes easily on other.)
    As always,
    “Chow!”

    October 7, 2014 at 11:51 AM
  • FGFABQ says:

    Bobo,
    Yes I did go to your inane website and once again came away shaking my head at the childish portrayal of eating a hamburger.
    What’s next, a pictorial of eating a foot long using the Bobo method of gripping the dog and rotating it 31.42 degrees counter clockwise while placing one’s hand on the end closest to the horizon?
    And after re, re, re-reading you comment I have a one word reply, “huh”?
    By the way I just returned from a two week eating extravaganza in Italy which took us from Rome, throughout Tuscany including Cinque Terre, back to Rome. Those folks sure know how to do Italian food!

    October 8, 2014 at 8:46 PM
  • FGFABQ says:

    Still shaking my head after finishing Alibi’s Best of Burque Restaurants.
    Scalo will be the Best Italian when Torinos closes and pigs fly. And for Torinos to NOT be among the top 3 is criminal.
    Still shaking my head with Blake’s as the best GCCB. Try on at 12:15 PM and tell me it’s cooked to perfection.
    The French Riviera Bakery kills and didn’t make the list.
    Tuscano’s for Best Downtown Restaurant? Really?
    I don’t know if there is ballot stuffing going on or more locals have to get out more, or wharever but I’m losing faith in these reader based polls and the editorial staff polls liker the ABQ the Mag poll which seems to be tilted toward those restaurants who advertise in the publication.

    October 11, 2014 at 12:06 PM
    • Jim Millington says:

      El Brute, I am convinced that Alibi’s restaurant rating has very few votes. Note that over the years there are many ties which simply wouldn’t happen with extensive voting divided among many restaurants that most of the voters have never been to. I can picture a tie for “best” with 3-votes each. Also the winner pattern suggests that most of the votes are UNM students. In my student days whoever supplied the most stuff resembling food at the lowest price (obviously this description does not apply to Scalo) was best. I even have two more that I rate above Scalo but not everybody would agree.

      October 12, 2014 at 2:24 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Yo…indeed your tax dollars might be well spent and at work directing Locals and Tourists to many great places/businesses in NM via the NM Dept. of Tourism http://www.newmexico.org/. As an offshoot therein lest ya missed it, perhaps Y’all might want to apprise the Dept. of Tourism of your opinion http://nmtourism.org/contact-2/ of its listing of, possibly implied iconic, Breakfast Burritos noted on this page
    http://www.newmexico.org/trails/breakfast-burrito-byway/

    October 29, 2014 at 6:57 PM

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