Gil's Thrilling (And Filling) Blog

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Gil’s Rating System

Ming Dynasty, my highest rated Chinese restaurant in New Mexico.

Ming Dynasty, one of Albuquerque's very best Asian restaurants

In rating restaurants, I use a 1-30 rating system similar to the Zagat Southwest Restaurant Survey, however, unlike Zagat, I don’t survey anyone.  Although I once rated each restaurant for the quality of food (taste and portion), atmosphere, and service, my primary consideration has always been whether or not the meal or aperitif pleases my pedantic palette. Therefore, I no longer rate a restaurant’s atmosphere or service, although they will be mentioned where warranted.

In all fairness, I won’t rate the quality of a restaurant’s food until I’ve dined there at least two times (except for far-away restaurants which are more difficult to visit frequently) although you can probably tell from my comments what rating would have been accorded.

You will also note a tremendous number of restaurants categorized as “Closed”, many having stopped serving their patrons because they couldn’t survive the onslaught of corporate chains and the competition from casinos.  Many new restaurants open with great fanfare only to be consumed by competition–about 80% of restaurants headed by people with little experience in the industry will fail within the first three years.  In Albuquerque, that percentage may be even higher.  Those restaurants which do survive, however, warrant your patronage if not loyalty.

My rail against corporate restaurants and their copycat food could occupy an entire Web site, but insofar as 21st century dining in America is concerned, I might be in the minority.  To me, diners flocking to new franchised restaurants bring to mind a certain piper’s followers–or at least the behavior painted in the clever limerick below:

An epicure dining at Cree
Found a rather large mouse in his stew.
Said the waiter, “Don’t shout,
Or wave it about,
Or the rest will be wanting one too
.”

It’s not even as though American diners are held captive by the exclusivity of corporate restaurants.  In many cases, far superior mom and pop restaurants exist, albeit usually without the loud ambiance,almost inordinate variety, huge portions and low prices provided by well bankrolled franchises. It’s no wonder nearly so many new restaurants close.

Throughout this blog, I postulate with some degree of cynicism that many Albuquerque diners are sheep-like in their docile loyalty to corporate chains, but the truth is they’re more akin to Pavlov’s dogs.  Madison Avenue jingles and commercials make them salivate at the thought of the latest offering from Olive Garden and that ilk.  The thought of trying something new, different and non-chain doesn’t cross their minds and if it did, the heretical concept would be quickly dismissed with apologies to their favorite chain.  Their loss!

Adventurous chowhounds daring enough to deviate (gasp) from the well-beaten path to the nearest chain frequently discover real gems–those remarkable family-owned restaurants whose arsenal in the competition for hungry diners consists of reasonable portions of great meals at reasonable prices.  For these mom and pop restaurants, word of mouth is crucial to survival and through this bully pulpit, I’ll do my best to extol the great value and virtue of supporting local restaurants.

I should also mention that one of the core values espoused by my place of business is “risk-taking”, a value I practice in ordering meals as well as in performing my job.  Generally ordering the most adventurous sounding entries offered, a world of epicurean delights has been opened to me.  It baffles me that otherwise intelligent co-workers won’t try anything more adventurous than meat and potatoes and company outings tend to be held at such establishments as Chili’s and Applebee’s.

Before traveling I scour the internet for information on the “best of” restaurants at my destination.  There are two particularly good frames of reference I use–Chowhound.comin which savvy diners who have blazed the trails in pursuit of gustatory treasures post their findings for us all to benefit from; and Roadfood.com, the wonderful Web site of Michael and Jane Stern, America’s foremost experts on dining as an American cultural event.

I find it tragically funny that in such “sophisticated” cities as Phoenix and Las Vegas, diners select Olive Garden as the best Italian restaurant (what’s next, Denny’s for having the best American cuisine?).  Sometimes I question the opinions of restaurant critics (and their supposedly more didactic palates), but I’d rather put my money on them than on the trough-diving mentality of some American diners.

Here’s my 1-30 scale:

26-30: A rare jewel; an outstanding dining experience; more than food–it’s edible art; among the best in the country.

20-25: Very Good to Excellent; always high quality; you can’t go wrong; a difficult rating to achieve.

15-19: Good to Very Good; where most restaurants land.

10-14: Good to Fair; fortunately not too many restaurants in Albuquerque land in this rating space

1-9: Place skull and crossbones image on the door and have the food hauled away to the WIP (Waste Isolation Project Plant) site.

 

* An asterisk (*) denotes my first review (not necessarily first visit) of a restaurant.  I use this symbol when reviewing Albuquerque and Albuquerque area restaurants, but will rate restaurants elsewhere even after only one visit.

$$$$: Expect to pay $75 or more for two (excluding adult beverages).

$$$: Expect to pay $50 – $75 or more for two (excluding adult beverages).

$$: Expect to pay $25 – $50 or more for two (excluding adult beverages).

$: Expect to pay under $25 for two persons.

I have yet to dine at a “perfect” 30 restaurant but would rate a dining experience at such an ideal as absolutely flawless with uncompromising standards and an obvious commitment on the restaurant’s part to providing a dining experience I would want to repeat over and over again.  Obviously the food would have to be more than good; it would have to tantalize, titillate, enrapt my taste buds with every morsel.  Every facet of the meal would have to be like a well synchronized and beautiful ballet in which each course is a prelude to the next and leaves you lusting for the next bite.  I’ve rated some restaurants in the high 20s and some of them were nearly of the “30” caliber.

If a 1-30 rating system doesn’t make sense to you, the following guide might help.  I essentially multiplied each numeric rating by 3.3 to arrive at a more traditional 100 point rating system.  Using that multiplier, a restaurant rated 30 would translate to a perfect (or as close to it as possible) 99.9 points which rounds up to 100.  I also show what a 1-10 equivalent rating would be.

30 = 99.9 (100) 10 19 = 62.7 (63) 6
29 = 95.7 (96) 18 = 69.4 (60)
28 = 92.4 (92) 9 17 = 56.1 (56)
27 = 89.1 (89) 16 = 52.8 (53) 5
26 = 85.8 (86) 15 = 49.5 (50)
25= 82.5 (83) 8 14 = 46.2 (47)
24 = 79.2 (79) 13 = 42.9 (43) 4
23 = 75.9 (76) 12 = 39.6 (40)
22 = 72.6 (73) 7 11 = 36.3 (36)
21 = 69.3 (69) 10 = 33.3 (33) 3
20 = 66.0 (66)    
  • Jon C says:

    Gill
    I note that La Choza and the Shed have different $$$ amounts
    The shed is $$ La Choza is $$$ since they are sister resturants
    I would think they would be the same. Looking
    forward to one or the other. How come no Tomasitas? Thats’ where
    I usually go.
    Best, Jon

    September 18, 2008 at 8:16 PM
  • fibergal says:

    So why did you take down your top rated list? The ‘Best of’ really helped me find some treasures I had been driving by and I wasn’t finished with it.

    December 10, 2008 at 2:31 AM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    Hey, Gil. I just reread your rating system.

    About 40-50 miles west of DC in the rolling Virginia countryside sits a place that I would consider a perfect 30 — The Inn at Little Washington. Best dining I’ve ever had anyplace in the world. I have eaten there three times and stayed there once.

    I know a lot of words. I am, however, at a loss to describe the experience of this place. Save your shekels and go there sometime.

    Larry

    September 25, 2009 at 2:26 PM
  • Pdeason says:

    We are headed to the balloon fiesta for the second time. Found your web site and and TRUSTing that you know good food. We’re planning to eat at several you have reviewed. Is there any one place that you would recommend as an absolute must to eat at in the area?

    September 29, 2009 at 7:27 AM
  • Sue Brown says:

    Hey haven’t you tried Chillz Frozen Custard yet? You’re right about people in Albuquerque never trying anything new. I’m from WI where custard stands abound. It’s fabulous! I hope you try it soon. It’s across from UNM on Central

    November 29, 2009 at 5:28 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    In writing about the high praise for Olive Garden among so many diners in large cities you asked “what’s next, Denny’s for having the best American cuisine?” It didn’t quite get down to Denny’s level but the highest rated restaurant in Los Lunas (the home of the Luna Mansion) is Village Inn according to Trip Advisor. At the time I drove through Show Low AZ in ’08 the highest rated actually was Denny’s but we went to Fiesta anyway. A little sense has intruded and Fiesta is now No. 1 and Denny’s has fallen to a lowly 6th.

    April 18, 2011 at 11:21 AM
  • Elaine Markley says:

    Gil, FYI, it’s WIPP for Waste Isolation Project Plant. ;)

    January 26, 2012 at 9:44 AM
  • April says:

    I just moved to the Albuquerque area, and I am in search of the best beef fajitas. I have went to several places (Gardunos, Chile Rio, Sadies… etc), but none of them have had a flavor that just melts in your mouth. Most of the time the meat is chewy with little flavor. My absolute favorite fajitas are in Sugar Land, TX at a small restaurant called Lupitas. They have amazing beef fajitas and an awesome warm (temperature) salsa that is just delicious! Do you have any suggestions? Many times the salsa in Albuquerque is so hot that it burns the taste buds… I really appreciate and like your website. Thanks for sharing!

    July 18, 2014 at 9:40 AM
  • Jim Millington says:

    Now you realize that Gil regards Fajitas as foreign (Texas) food but origins mean nothing to me. I am not overly fond of fajitas but I did somewhat like the ones I had at Casa de Benavidez, 8032 Fourth Street, N.W., Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM. You will need to have a small army (say that of Bulgaria) to eat one order. They are very popular at Papa Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant 9800 Menaul, N.E. I have no scale on your heat tolerance as everybody gauges differently.

    July 18, 2014 at 10:44 AM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Bienvenido to ABQ, The Q, The Duke City April. A long time ago I also had went to Garduno’s, albeit it was one of the original’s on Academy, and tried their “new” fajitas. Alas, while I enjoyed ‘doing’ beef fondue* at home, I took umbrage with the fact that I had to actually make my dinner while out dining. In addition, to finding the meat ‘chewy’, I thought the tortillas were a bit thick which resulted in eating more masa than its contents! As such, I gave up on this item the past almost 40 years and will look forward to your finding a Premier Fajita around town! *Alas, maybe it was more the hyped-up rendition of Bernaise dipping sauce my late Vieja ‘invented’ using red chile, garlic whatever she used but never wrote down the recipe of *^&%$#^! (Lo, that someone might comment that “chewy” is a characteristic of good NM fajita meat as the roots are it being a throw-away cut of meat!)
    ~ Salsa’s too hot! Well now, I’m thinking most of us would say bravo to that. My first New Mexican dish was during Christmas week at La Placita in Old Town where I can remember ‘feeling’ my scalp, nape, and upper lip sweating. Over the years the ‘heat’ in most dishes around town has become a “tourist heat”, and if we find a salsa with heat, we rejoice…besides flavor, heat is what salsa is all about…like the Music/Dance, it should be hot! See here: http://tinyurl.com/oqsgt7q

    July 18, 2014 at 11:20 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    April,
    After you try to figure out Bob-A-Loo’s comment and realize that backward time travel is impossible try the fajitas at Mariscos Altamar. They are fabulous.
    Nuff said. And no time travel needed (lol).

    July 18, 2014 at 6:23 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Well, there ya have it April…go to an ‘offshore seafood’ place to try out beef fajitas! Be that as it may, we will await your chomping da beef to possibly prove El Brute correct once in a great while, and Jim isn’t directing ya wrong re Casa de B, especially if ya catch the 2nd best patio romantique around dusk-sundown per the dry forecasts the next few days, Papa Felipe’s notwithstanding!

    July 18, 2014 at 6:54 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Off shore seafood place?
    B-A-L, are you just trying to confuse newbies to ABQ with your comments or trying to help?
    Do you actually think mentioning your late Vieja (whatever that means) and their cooking prowess helps the newbie find what they are looking for? Really?
    Have you tried the fajitas at Mariscos Altimar or are you just assuming they don’t compare to those of your choosing?
    And do you look down upon the great boils at D&D Boil? Also an offshore eatery with its own live tanks for crawfish, crabs and lobstahs (lol, albeit, whoa, etc)
    April simply asked for a recommendation for steak fajitas not a comment about your personal life and history in the Duke City.
    And one more thing, Moo Shu dishes at Asian eateries are both tasty and enjoyable to make giving the diner the opportunity to create a taste their very own.
    I get the feeling that with fondue or Moo Shu dish you want to be paid for your effort in prepping.
    Perhaps a free 85 cent PBR?
    I hope you haven’t confused her back to her native Texas.
    Chow. Bro, chow.

    July 19, 2014 at 7:35 AM
  • Jim Millington says:

    Mr Brute, you just may have hit a very touchy subject with regard to “late Vieja.” Vieja is Spanish, usually meaning “old lady.” It can refer to a mother but usually is e reference to wife or girlfriend. It can also have several very uncomplimentary meanings. As with many terms its meaning is revealed by context.

    July 19, 2014 at 10:46 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Not being bi-lingual it was a simple question of meaning, nothing more.
    When I want to be obnoxious I don’t equivocate, I go directly there.
    I know it is a Spanish word, what I didn’t know was the translation.
    Period.

    July 19, 2014 at 4:21 PM
    • Jim Millington says:

      Don’t be so touchy. I was pretty sure you didn’t know what it meant and thought it might be best to point it out before Mr Bob became too offended. Usually I am an expert in making unintended offenses.

      July 19, 2014 at 6:22 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    I don’t know how to respond to the “touchy” remark.
    If B-A-L is going to go from bizarre English that I have to read and reread and then switch to other languages to convey his disjointed opinions he makes it even harder for straight forward folks to understand what he’s trying to say.
    It seems like schtick not substance. As I’ve said several times before, “Bob, did you like the eatery or not”?
    I admit to needing a translator for most of his ramblings.
    What can be conveyed in a few words is peppered with everything from jibberish to Yiddish, “oh vey” for instance.
    An example was the commentor from Texas asking where she might find good fajitas. What followed was a 500 word personal history that was a testament to his knowledge of ancient Duke City history. I believe the nice lady left the state while bleeding from the scalp from self inflicted scratching wounds. By the way, Mariscos Altimar has the best beef fajitas I have had here or anywhere. My opinion and clearly stated.
    “Touchy”, never, confused, often. This is a food blog not a writing competition. LOL per albeit whoa, lo, etc.
    Who cares where long gone restaurants were located, even if it was 30’7″ from the NW corner of Menaul and 4th?
    It’s tough to eat at a closed restaurant that no one cares about anymore.
    And strangest of all is I like Bob in person, it’s his BOTVOLR persona that is confusing.

    July 20, 2014 at 7:55 AM
    • Jim Millington says:

      I have the same problem with Bob’s writing and I also am not bilingual. After 2-years of high school Spanish I realized that I knew approximately nothing but a few isolated and generally useless words. Years spent traveling and trying to pick up a few useful phrases have taught me that my lack of language skills apply to all languages except English. Vieja just happened to be one of the generally useless words I recognize and, confident that you did not intend to hurt, I just pointed it out.

      July 20, 2014 at 9:06 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Congrats to BOTVOLR and Bob Of The Village Of Los Ranchos who by my unofficial count has reached a combined total of 500 (FIVE HUNDRED) comments! Although many are unintelligible it still is a daunting number and In my opinion should be lumped together not under his two user names. I’m just saying…….
    Congrats Bob!

    July 22, 2014 at 7:54 AM
  • Sr Plara says:

    Might he mean Casa Vieja, an eatery once found in the heart of Corrales?? Reading the joyful exchanges between the Friends of Gil is intriguing yet I want those new readers to know that the exchanges occur because they are filled with passion and the common goal to find the best food that The Land of Enchantment has to offer knowing it’s not Chili’s or Applebee’s. Welcome April and Welcome all to your I critical guide to nourishment and to Gil!

    July 25, 2014 at 7:02 AM
  • FGFABQ says:

    Just returned from California and must highly recommend the sushi at The Izaka-ya by Katsura-ya in Manhattan Beach.
    Fresh as possible with clean distinct tastes like the sea trout, the different tunas, fabulous hand rolls, hamachi.
    I have morphed from “ugh” to “wow” when it comes to sushi and sashimi.
    I have been educated and uplifted.

    July 25, 2014 at 11:22 AM
  • Jim Millington says:

    It has now been 8-long days since we have heard from the Village person and 4-days since El Brute graced us. This is not normal and it is unwelcome.

    Bob, please drive us crazy trying to understand you. It does not bother me. If I don’t understand then I don’t understand. No deal, I will not die from it or even be offended. Your Tiny URL’s are often entertaining.

    El Brute, I don’t think you are a brute, but it is a great nickname-far better than my “Mr Porkulance, 2014.” There is even a phrase Vieja Gloria which should remind you of the last time Robert vanished.

    FOG III will not be nearly as much fun without both of you in attendance.

    July 26, 2014 at 11:27 AM
    • Jim Millington says:

      And another plus Roberto, El Norteno takes Press Passes.

      July 26, 2014 at 12:21 PM

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