Pizzeria Bianco – Phoenix, Arizona

To celebrate the 100 year anniversary of pizza in America, aficionado Ed Levine ate nothing but pizza for an entire twelve month period, taking a representative pulse of the best from among thousands of pizza purveyors. His terrific tome, Pizza A Slice of Heaven, provides a definitive guide to a much-loved product that in its elemental form is simplicity itself–bread, cheese and whatever toppings a pizzaioli artisan might care to add. To the surprise of many, Levine declared the best pizza in America (and the world, for that matter) to be made in the unlikely town of Phoenix, Arizona where the intensely brilliant Chris Bianco plies his trade as no other.

Before a business trip to Phoenix in 2002, I learned that a writer for Travel & Leisure magazine definitively proclaimed Pizzeria Bianco as “the best place in America for pizza.” I also read that in its 1998 edition, Zagat’s respondents rated Pizzeria Bianco the top restaurant in Phoenix with a lofty rating of 29. Despite these proclamations, I couldn’t accept that a pizza could possibly be that good. The impunity of all these blasphemers to place on the loftiest pedestal, a pizza crafted in the culinary wasteland of Phoenix, Arizona of all places!

As if validating a Pygmalian effect (a self-fulfilling prophecy that essentially says you get what you expect), I wasn’t as enamored during my inaugural visit to Pizzeria Bianco as its legion of fans–fans I thought to be deluded (here I was, Bob Newhart in a world of Daryls and Larrys). Not only did the spangled restaurant fail to live up to its billing, it wasn’t, in my estimation, even as good as some local wood-oven pizzerias.

My disappointment started with an appetizer called speidini in which skewers of Prosciutto de Parma are wrapped around Italian Fontina (a straw-colored Italian cheese with a soft flesh and a mild, delicate flavor) and served warm. It was much too salty for my taste, a consequence of very strong (and very authentic) Prosciutto. This antecedent to my pizza was accompanied by a wonderful crusty bread served with extra virgin olive oil.

The pizza which introduced me to the magic of Chris Bianco was the “Wise Guy,” a twelve-inch, thin-crusted, white (no tomato sauce) pizza with pecan wood roasted onion, house-smoked mozzarella and fennel sausage. Only the mozzarella made an impression thanks to its creaminess and pliable texture. Perhaps an unconscious desire not to succumb to mass hysteria would still not let me accept that perhaps, I was truly tasting greatness–yet, inexplicably this pizza left an indelible impression on my mind and I knew a return visit was inevitable.

Three years elapsed before my second visit, but rather than approach it with an admittedly preset opinion, I was determined that tabula rasa (a blank slate), not a desire to prove everyone else wrong, would dictate my ultimate impression. Count me among the believers! My second meal was an epiphany–a revelation that Pizzeria Bianco just might be the best pizza restaurant in the world. For my penance, I should say 5,000 “Hail Chris Biancos” as I sorrowfully rue the wasted opportunities for multiple visits.

My turnaround started with a salad of homemade mozzarella, local tomato and basil with extra virgin olive oil. The mozzarella was smoked to absolute perfection with a taste that left me wondering if I had just experienced the best mozzarella in my 47 years of fromage fanaticism. The flavor combination of fresh basil, garden fresh tomatoes and that trademark virgin olive oil made for a tremendous antecedent to what I hoped would be a better pizza than I first experienced in 2002.

Rather than risk another Wise Guy, I opted for the Rosa, another white pizza–a gem made with red onion, Parmigiano Reggiano, Rosemary and Arizona pistachios. Let me say unequivocally that it was one of the two or three best pizzas I’ve ever had–at least the equal of some the very best pizzas of my youth in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. The crust, although thin, is substantial enough to support the high-quality ingredients with which Bianco tops his creations. It is crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside–a masterful canvas for a masterpiece by a true maestro.

During both my visits, I arrived within seconds after the restaurant opened and within minutes, the small red-brick structure (built in 1929) had people waiting to come in. Situated in the historic Heritage and Science square, Pizzeria Bianco is not only loved by the masses, but by this once skeptical “doubting Thomas” who has seen the light of a wood-burning oven which crafts the best pizza in America, perhaps the world.

623 East Adams Street
Phoenix, AZ
(602) 258-8300

LATEST VISIT: 27 October 2005
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Rosa; Mozzarella Salad

Cornish Pasty Company – Tempe, Arizona

There’s a European joke that uses stereotypes to deride British cooking, the most maligned cuisine in the world culinary stage. As the joke goes, in the European conception of heaven, the French are the chefs, the British are the police, the Germans are the engineers, and so forth, while in the European conception of Hell, the Germans are the police, the French are the engineers and the British are the chefs. Rodney Dangerfield got more respect than British cuisine.

While fish and chips are probably what most Americans would answer if asked what constitutes traditional British food, the truth is British food is as diverse as its many regions. During the three plus years we lived in England, we made the most of our opportunities to explore the mystical land of mystery and lore and experienced not only much of its renown pub grub, but classic high-end cuisine that is as good as any in America. At the pubs, we consumed many a ploughman’s lunch (consisting of crusty bread, various pickles, a wedge or two of local cheese and sometimes salad) and ate steak and kidney pudding (with a suet crust) like locally indigenous personnel (a MASH term that has remained on my lexicon).

During many a weekend sojourn to the appropriately sobriqueted “Land’s End” at the extreme southwestern tip of the British mainland, we dined on Cornish pasties (pronounced pass-tee), a type of pie originating in Cornwall in the 1200s. Baked by wives and mothers of tin miners when tin mining was prosperous, pasties were formed into a semicircular shape with a crimped edge along one side so the miners could hold onto them while eating. One end of the Pasty would usually contain a sweet filling which the wives would mark or initial so the miner wouldn’t eat his dessert first, while the other end would contain meat and vegetables. Today, traditional Cornish Pasties are filled with steak, potatoes, onions and swede (rutabaga).

The concept of a simple miner’s pie served in cosmopolitan Phoenix, Arizona might sound antithetical, but it’s a concept that appears to be taking off well. The Cornish Pasty Company is the brainchild of Dean Thomas, a native of Gunnislake, Cornwall, in England, who came to America five years ago to seek his fortune. His restaurant is situated on University Boulevard not far from Arizona State University, an institute of higher learning in which students want their dollars to stretch far and their meal portions to sate them for a long time. At the Cornish Pasty Company, a hearty and delicious meal can be had for a meager pittance.

The restaurant’s interior, dimly lit during evening hours, is striking with a long bar in which to imbibe imported libations, tiny tables and photographs on the black (or grey) walls of miners plying their arduous trade. Loud rock music (real rock, not the cacophonous noise played on the radio today) blares from a speaker system while the intoxicating aromas of sauces and ingredients waft gently toward incoming patrons who will be challenged to select just which pasty to partake of.

Aside from the traditional pasty (steak, potato, onion and rutabaga), a lengthy listing of options is available for patrons of all persuasions–Italian, Hispanic, Indian, Cajun, Greek, vegetarian and more. Shaped somewhat like a deflated football (the American kind), one pasty will make a meal even for the most robust of eaters. Aside from salads, there are no appetizers or sides on the menu. Several non-pasty sandwiches made on homemade bread and served with chips (the American kind) are available for the meat and potatoes Joes who don’t want to venture out of their sandwich comfort zone.

If “The Porky” is any indication, the Cornish Pasty Company will be the site of many future visits. This picture-perfect pasty featured a baked bread pocket stuffed with pork, sage, onion, apple and potato served with a side of red wine gravy. In true miner tradition, the pasty is meant to be eaten with your hands much as you’d eat a sub sandwich. What makes The Porky so tasty is the pronounced taste of sage which is liberally sprinkled on the other ingredients. The uniquely aromatic and fresh seasoning melds well with the other ingredients to fashion a memorable meal.

The menu also includes two dessert options, one of which you opt for if bananas are your fruit choice of the day and the other for diners who subscribe to the “apple a day” edict. The banana is but one component that makes the Banafee Pie a tantalizing sweet-tooth option. A Graham cracker crust is topped with caramel, sliced banana and whipped cream to create a memorable finish to a remarkable dining experience. The Cornish Pasty Company is here to stay!

Cornish Pasty Company
960 West University
Tempe, AZ
(480) 894-6261

LATEST VISIT: 25 October 2005
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Porky; Banafee Pie

Lee’s Sandwiches – Chandler, Arizona

For years, the American viewing public has been subjected to the bombardment of the airwaves with the exploits of Jared. Once a corpulent fellow who weighed 425 pounds, Jared metamorphosed into a 190-pound shadow of his former self largely through a calorie reduction effort comprised principally of submarine sandwiches proffered by America’s most prolific sandwich chain. Many of us caloric overachievers regard those commercials with skepticism–not that Jared could lose so much much weight, but that any sane person could eat such a mediocre sandwich twice a day for an entire year.

I could understand it if Jared’s sandwich diet was comprised instead of banh mi, the unrivaled Vietnamese sandwich that surpasses any chain produced submarine sandwich in America. Banh mi are the culinary remnants of French colonialism in Vietnam, a marriage so to speak of French culinary modus operandi, Vietnamese resourcefulness and Chinese ingredients.

An outstanding banh mi sandwich combines sweet carrots; fresh cilantro; thinly sliced, cold cucumber; marinated slivers of daikon; fresh coriander and eye-watering jalapeno with such optional ingredients as sliced jicama, basil or mint leaves, onion and more. The banh mi also includes meat, but not a lot of it so as to detract from the freshness of the vegetables. The true banh mi can be served only on a slightly toasted and buttered baguettine (small baguette). While French baguettes can be used, true authenticity calls for Vietnamese baguettes in which rice flour is mixed in to create a bread with a lighter texture and crispier crust.

In the San Francisco area where I was first introduced to banh mi more than a decade ago, one of the most prolific practitioners in the fine art of crafting a great banh mi is a San Jose based chain called Lee’s Sandwiches. With a cult following that crosses cultural barriers, Lee’s launched its 25th restaurant in 2005, the first outside of California in Chandler, Arizona. The 8,000 square foot Chandler superstore is the second largest in Lee’s fleet and the first of ten Phoenix area restaurants planned.

Lee’s expansive Chandler operation bakes fresh ten-inch baguettes in-house every 30 minutes. The fragrance of baking bread as you approach the restaurant is like the siren’s call of Lorelei, the beautiful young maiden whom men could not resist. The aromatic allure is irresistible. During lunch hour, patrons queue nine or ten deep to place their orders from among the menu’s tempting listing of both Vietnamese and traditional Euro-American sandwiches, all served on ten-inch baguettes. The menu also includes homemade ice cream, Vietnamese spring rolls, pastries, croissant sandwiches and fruit smoothies.

The sandwich menu is formidable with 38 sensational sandwich selections from which to choose, none of which will put a substantial dent on your wallet. The grilled pork sandwich exemplifies all that’s great about Lee’s–the ingredients (house mayonnaise, house pickle (daikon and carrot), green chili, cilantro, onion, salt, pepper and soy sauce) bulge out of the fresh, toasty warm baguette. Ten inches of sandwich in which neither ingredients nor bread overwhelm the other make for an outstanding sandwich experience.

Lee’s spring rolls come two to an order and are six by one inches of julienned vegetables, sprigs of fresh mint and shrimp encased in thin, transparent wrappers. The spring rolls are served with a more than passable peanut sauce.

The most refreshing way to wash down a meal at Lee’s is with a smoothie, varieties of which are available for every taste preference: avocado, banana, cantaloupe, carrot, cranberry, green bean, honeydew, Jack fruit, lynchee, mango, mocha, orange banana, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, raspberry, red bean, sapodilla, strawberry, soursop, taro and even durian, the fruit virtually no person of western birth seems to like.

Lee’s Sandwiches
1901 West Warner Road
Chandler, AZ
(480) 855-1778

LATEST VISIT: 25 October 2005
COST: $$
BEST BET: Grilled Pork Banh Mi; Honey Dew Smoothie; Spring Rolls

Cafe O – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Within a few weeks after its launch in late 2003, it seems all the restaurant critics for Albuquerque’s periodicals had waxed poetically effusive about Cafe O, a novel counter eatery whose menu purports to offer a “taste of the world.” Considering those food critics are all women, I pictured genteel dainty sized portions of water cress embellished finger foods and flavored teas served on real china.

Although tea was an integral part of the menu, it certainly wasn’t served on fine china and it definitely wasn’t your standard American tea. It’s boba tea which proved to be such a huge success that the proprietors Vi Luong and his wife Hoa launched a boba tea franchise that’s setting Albuquerque on fire.

The biggest draw to Cafe O is in the promise of an exciting, fresh menu as crafted by Hoa and her sister. The first menu item catching my eye was a Saigon Sub, known in Vietnam as a Bahn Mi and in most circles, as one of the best sandwiches anywhere. Cafe O’s version was absolutely wonderful, a perfect marriage of roasted marinated pork and other ingredients on a French baguette.

The menu also offers several freshly prepared hand-rolled spring rolls served chilled and served three per order. These spring rolls are the antithesis of fried Chinese egg rolls which have become blasé and boring. Cafe O enlivens its spring rolls with the imaginative use of diverse and complementary ingredients all served with taste awakening sauces. Erudite eaters will opt for the “sampler roll” offering in which you choose any three spring rolls–including other rolls that cost the same as the sampler itself.

  • A popular choice is the Tsunami Roll which features grilled salmon, shrimp, lettuce and cucumbers served with an eye-watering Wasabi cream sauce. The fresh salmon and intense Wasabi sauce will form a concordant Conga line in your mouth.

  • Aficionados of seared tuna won’t be able to resist the Tuna Roll–seared tuna, lettuce and cucumbers served with the aforementioned Wasabi cream sauce. It’s similar to a maki style sushi roll but enveloped by spring roll skins.

  • For a terrific taste contrast, try the Mango Salmon Roll which includes grilled salmon and a mango/pineapple salsa served with Ginger Vinaigrette. The tangy freshness of mango and the fishy salmon taste form a marvelous marriage of dissimilar ingredients.

  • The Beef Thai Roll features beef, Thai peanut sauce, rice noodles, lettuce, cucumbers and cilantro served with O sauce, a lively Nuoc mam fish sauce that emboldens the experience. For a spicier kick, you can add Sriracha hot chili sauce to any roll.

Vietnamese cuisine enthusiasts will love Cafe O’s noodle bowls, among which the Cafe O Bowl (a meal for two) is our very favorite. Served in a ten inch square plate, the bowl is a mélange of fresh ingredients that includes rice noodles, lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, onion crisps, roasted peanuts, roasted pork, shrimp and sliced egg rolls served with O sauce. The fried egg rolls are fabulous!

Located within the confines of Noble Collectibles, you find yourself surrounded by comic books, videos, video games, trading cards and other affectations of the collector. The dining area is relatively miniscule, but you certainly can’t say that about the truly wonderful tastes experienced at Cafe O.

Cafe O
8216 Montgomery, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM
LATEST VISIT: 6 October 2005
BEST BET: Saigon Sub, The O Roll, Beef Thai Roll

Embudo Station – Embudo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Few things in life are as romantic as dining on the banks of the slowly trickling, mocha-colored Rio Grande on a crisp early autumn night with only a hint of moonlight to illuminate your partner’s visage–unless maybe it’s dining by that same river as it rages murkily, carrying off the Sangre De Cristo’s winter ablutions during its spring runoff. Located 25 miles south of Taos and 41 miles north of Santa Fe on Highway 68, the Embudo Station offers patio dining with unforgettable vistas and memorable meals.

The Embudo Station is steeped in history, having served as a narrow gauge railroad station for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (affectionately called the “Chile Line”) from the 1887 until 1941 when it was abandoned. In 1983, the Embudo Station was purchased by Preston and Sandy Cox, tax accountants who left Santa Fe’s rat race for the peaceful village life of Embudo. After spending two years renovating the rundown property, the Coxes launched a sprawling complex that includes a restaurant, brewery, smokehouse, rafting company, a smoked goods mail-order catalogue company, an arts and crafts store, and an overnight cabin.

The old station house was converted into a brewery in which more than 20 different ales are brewed (including green and red chile ales). The aromatic fragrances emanating from the smokehouse form a two-part harmony with nature’s own aromas, particularly in the early winter when fireplaces and stoves are ablaze with woods from the local forests. At the Embudo Station, the smokehouse specialties include ham, sausage and ribs, all of which are available on the menu. If you love barbecue, your best bet is the combination platter which features meaty pork ribs, spicy sausage and ham along with coleslaw and black beans. The meats retain a smoky taste despite being slathered with a tangy barbecue sauce.

The eclectic menu ranges from barbecue to steaks, grilled chicken, New Mexican entrees and several vegetarian choices. One of the house specialties is roasted rainbow trout (locally caught) roasted on a cedar plank which Preston prepared for Food Network luminary Bobby Flay. Recently (in 2005) reintroduced into the menu is the Embudo Station’s version of a green chile cheeseburger, a juicy quarter pound plus beef patty garnished with roasted green chile with a bite. It’s an excellent burger and is accompanied by sweet potato fries that might be the best of their genre in Northern New Mexico.

The New Mexico state legislature, which is criminally indecisive on “trivial” matters such as enacting tough DUI penalties but acts quickly on more “essential” matters such as designating a state cookie (the biscochito) and official state question (red or green) has surprisingly not designated chips and salsa as the official state snack. If it did, the Embudo Station’s version might make a good poster child. Served with yellow and blue corn tortilla chips, the salsa features chunky red tomatoes decorated with cilantro.

The Embudo Station also provides more than perfunctory choices for vegetarians. Both the red and green chile are vegetarian and make their presence felt on excellent New Mexican entrees such as the wild mushroom enchiladas with asadero cheese, black beans and choice of chiles. It truly is a vegetarian delight. Salad choices include an outstanding tomato salad with house-made mozzarella cheese, greens and a tangy vinaigrette dressing.

Dessert choices include key lime pie, a tart taste treat not that common in New Mexico restaurants. A molten chocolate individual cake with whipped cream cures all for chocoholic diners.

Embudo Station
PO Box 154
Embudo, New Mexico

LATEST VISIT: 25 September 2005
COST: $$
BEST BET: Combination Barbecue Platter; Green Chile Cheeseburger; Sweet Potato Fries; Key lime pie

Gypsy 360 Cafe & Espresso Bar – Arroyo Seco, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Gypsy 360

Gypsy 360 in picturesque Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

Whether bathed by the sunshine of a dazzling daytime sun or illuminated by the shimmering glow of a starry moonlit night, the 360 degree views from the village of Arroyo Seco are enticing enough to convince any weary sojourner, wandering vagabond or peripatetic gypsy to end their nomadic ways and settle down.

Your vantage points to the immediate north and distant south include sacred snow capped Tiwa mountains reaching majestically for New Mexico’s incomparable cobalt skies. Verdant fields present a dramatic east facing panorama while prominent vast expanses of stark terrain seem to go on forever on your western perspective. It’s truly an idyllic setting for a gastronomic paradise in which creative ingredients play a mellifluous tune on your taste buds.

The menu is worldly sophistication and eclectic with several Asiatic appetizers and entrees holding court. We tried several of them and came away impressed. Thai beef lettuce wraps featuring grilled and marinated beef sautéed with red onion nested in cool lettuce leafs are garnished with cilantro and peanuts then served with a Vietnamese sweet and sour dipping sauce. They are messy but magnificent.

Nowadays it seems every restaurant serves sushi (usually of inferior quality) and Gypsy 360 is no exception, but the difference being Gypsy 360 does it very well. A spicy tuna roll masterfully crafted with fresh ahi tuna, jalapeno, pickled burdock root, scallion and secret sauce tasted as if it had been made by a trained sushi chef.

Thai green curry is burnished with rich and herbaceous coconut milk curry laden with pork, tomatoes and spinach over basmati rice. It was as fiery as any curry you’ll find at any Duke City Thai restaurant, but my preference would be for sticky white rice, not basmati.

A wonderful alternative to Pan Asian cuisine is the “Superior Burger” which truly earns its sobriquet. It is easily one of the top five or six burgers in New Mexico and a burger for which you need several napkins, so succulent is it. This carnivores’ classic is a half-pound black angus burger dressed with a thick and lightly grilled onion slice, crisp bacon and jack cheese on a grilled bun with piquant chipotle mayo. It is possible to improve on superiority by asking for green chile and substituting jack cheese with a sharp blue cheese. Your breath may reek afterwards, but your taste buds and stomach will thank you.

If you’re not in the mood for a burger, an excellent sandwich board is available. Gypsy 360’s version of the Cuban sandwich is called the Havana Hero, a sandwich for which you’d swim the Caribbean. It’s a humongous pressed French roll generously endowed with roasted pork loin, black forest ham, jack cheese, mashed black beans and avocado.

Antecedents for an outstanding meal should include salsa fresca and tostaditas. This jalapeno salsa packs a punch with fresh ingredients that include cilantro, garlic, tomatoes and lime juice. It is a premier salsa, one of the best in Northern New Mexico. Another wonderful appetizer choice is the hummus plate which includes a munificent scoop of ceci bean hummus, olives and a piquant salsa verde with warm, flat pita bread. The garlic laden hummus is more than noteworthy.

By itself, the incomparable vistas make it worth a visit to Gypsy 360. When you visit northern New Mexico on a clement spring or even early fall day, you might be surprised at how thirsty you quickly become. A perfect cure is the Gypsy 360’s lemonade, which ranks with Gabriel’s as perhaps the best in the state.

Gypsy 360 Cafe
480 State Road 150
Arroyo Seco, NM

LATEST VISIT: 5 September 2005
COST: $$
BEST BET: Superior Burger, Green Pork Curry

Señor Lucky’s – Santa Fe, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Senor Lucky’s closed in February 2006.

A thriving gambling hall, bordello and saloon once occupied the space in which Señor Lucky’s is now situated. It was operated by 19th-century matriarch, Gertrudes Barcelo (better known as Doña Tules) who entertained guests with dances, drink and cards, amassing a fortune as one of Santa Fe’s most infamous and enterprising citizens. Historians believe she collaborated with the U.S. Army, loaning money to its officers money so they could pay the American soldiers occupying Santa Fe around the time of the American takeover. Local lore also indicates she not only got paid back by the government, but also got back most of her original loan via the gambling losses of soldiers who frequented her popular establishment.

Doña Tules has long since passed away, but her establishment has continued to thrive, albeit not as a sala of questionable repute. It has served as a formal restaurant since 1961 when the Victorian stylings of The Palace began showcasing one of the city’s most leisurely and romantic ambiences, one that hearkened back to a San Francisco restaurant of 100 years ago. Replete with starched linen tablecloths, dim lighting, fresh flowers and a sophisticated menu, it was also a popular restaurant for “power” dining and was frequented by government movers and shakers.

In 2005, the venerable Palace was transformed from an elegant, upscale dining establishment into a western themed restaurant called Señor Lucky’s. Gone is the garish wallpaper of the bordello it once was and in its place are several cliché western photographic murals. A multi-colored chandelier fashioned from glassware provides an interesting eye-catcher while a spacious patio gives diners the option of imbibing fresh mountain air as they dine.

The restaurant’s management triumvirate includes chef nonpareil Eric DiStefano and Cliff Skoglund of Geronimo fame.

DiStefano has crafted an imaginative menu replete with high-end comfort food of a sophisticated southwest western bent skewed toward less affluent patrons than would frequent the stunning but expensive Geronimo.

Several starters options decorate the menu with promises of enticing tastes. The New Mexican tortilla chips with pico de gallo, Yucatan tomatillo and roasted red pepper salsas are an excellent precursor to a memorable meal. Blue corn and yellow corn tortilla chips scoop up some of the most flavorful (albeit only mildly piquant) salsas in town. With sweet, salty, piquant and noticeably fresh tastes, the chunky roasted red pepper salsa may be the standout from among three wonderful salsas. It compares favorably to the fire roasted salsa at the Coyote Cafe, a salsa I consider one of the best in the state.

Señor Lucky’s Mac and Cheese,” an adult version of the popular comfort food may be the best of its genre you’ll ever have. Kraft dinner it certainly is not! Creamy green chile cheese rigatoni noodles are adorned with grilled peppers, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and what appears to be several kinds of Cheddar cheese of varying sharpness. The blending of flavors is sensational.

You might not be quite as enamored of the grilled lime and garlic marinated flank steak basted with honey and chipotle. The prevalent taste is honey sweetness with any of the lime’s tartness or the chipotle’s heat being subjugated by an all too sweet honey taste. The steak itself was tender and grilled to perfection. It is accompanied by a sweet corn and grilled onion salad whose prevalent taste is freshness. It is absolutely delicious.

If our inaugural visit is any indication, many diners opt for a side of the rustic russet “boardwalk” fries with malt vinegar and sea salt. It’s easy to see why. Instead of the crispy, cardboard rigid fried potatoes commonly served at restaurants, these russets resembled the wonderful semi-flaccid “chips” served with fish throughout Great Britain. They were even served in a conical shaped paper wrapper. As we did during our years in England, we drenched these chips in malt vinegar and reminisced about our days in the mother country.

Not surprisingly, the dessert options are tempting enough to elicit effusive salivation. One of the more intriguing choices is Lucky’s roasted banana split with banana ice cream, tequila chocolate sauce and fresh mango, an option offering contrasting and conflicting tastes which work surprisingly well together. This was a dessert of genius inspiration, as refreshing a taste treat as you can find in Santa Fe.

Señor Lucky’s
142 West Palace
Santa Fe, NM
LATEST VISIT: 4 September 2005
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Mac and Cheese; Rustic Russet “Boardwalk” Fries

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