K&I Diner – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The famous K&I Diner, Serving Albuquerque Since 1960

In 1960, Albuquerque’s population reached 201,189, more than doubling the city’s tally from the 1950 census. The start of a new decade began an era of expansion, a construction boom in which the burgeoning city began experiencing unprecedented growth. A proliferation of shopping centers was built to serve new neighborhoods.  Albuquerque was not yet overrun by horrendous, copycat chain restaurants; family owned and operated mom-and-pop dining establishments–like the K&I Diner–were (and still are) your best bet for a great meal.

1960 (March 2nd to be exact) was also the year in which Irene Warner opened Grandma’s K&I Diner (named for her daughter Kay Hess and herself) in the heart of Albuquerque’s industrial district in the far South Valley. She ran the eatery with her family for 39 years until her death at age 82 in 1999.  The matronly Irene was a fixture at her restaurant, a kind and gentle woman who made everyone welcome at her restaurant home. With a pronounced Southern drawl, she and her family kept things lively, often addressing their faithful patrons by “honey” or “sugar.”

The ghostly image in the background isn't Travis, the mysterious customer for whom the K&I Diner's most famous entree is named. It's Bill Resnik, the artist who painted this masterpiece displayed in the front dining room of the K&I.

The ghostly image in the background isn’t Travis, the mysterious customer for whom the K&I Diner’s most famous entree is named. It’s Bill Resnik, the artist who painted this masterpiece displayed in the front dining room of the K&I.

The restaurant has undergone several ownership changes since Grandma Warner passed away, but other than  some polish and veneer, pretty much left everything the same. For that Albuquerque diners are grateful.  The decor features antique brickerbrack donated by customers. Old stoves, a Pepsi dispenser (from back when a bottle of cold Pepsi cost ten cents), tube-operated radios and more eye-catching antiques will keep your interest while some placards may surprise you at how ribald humor was fifty or sixty years ago. One placard reads “big busted women float better.”

Ask anyone who’s been in Albuquerque for a few years and they can all recount their favorite memories of dining at the K&I. Most of them probably involve the “Travis,” a bean and seasoned beef burrito topped with cheese and chile then piled high with French fries. It’s an unlikely combination, but also a uniquely New Mexican one. The Travis is available in five sizes, the descriptions below of which are taken from the menu:

This behemoth is a quarter Travis.

This behemoth is a quarter Travis.

    • Travis on A Silver Platter – You’d better bring lots of friends to attempt this. Of course, if you can eat it by yourself in an hour or less and we mean ALL of it, it’s free.  It weighs over eight pounds and has been surmounted by only two people in the 40 years plus that it’s been available.
    • Full TravisEven the biggest of appetites would have a hard time finishing this one.
    • Half TravisIt can be done, but you’d better be happy.
    • Quarter TravisThis is the most popular size (pictured above), but some still need a to-go box.
    • Wimp TravisFor those who just don’t feel up to the challenge.

The Travis on a Silver Platter is a full six pounds and the platter on which it is served is big enough for the Thanksgiving turkey. A Wimp Travis is big enough for most people, but most men will order at least a quarter Travis or they risk being drummed out of the XY chromosome club.  As it approaches your table, your first inclination will be to wonder where the burrito is.  The mountain of fries covers every other component on the dish.  Like a treasure-hunter, you’ll have to get through several layers of fries before you get to the burrito.  The fries are excellent.

A half Travis

When he traveled to Albuquerque for a taping of the Travel Channel’s Man vs Food Nation (which aired for the first time on June 22nd, 2011) a stop at Grandma Warner’s K&I Diner was a must for host Adam Richman.  No longer an active competitor in man’s quest to eat ridiculous amounts of food, Richman recruited three Albuquerque residents–all named Travis–to test their gurgitator’s mettle against the Travis on a Silver Platter:  three flour tortillas, beef and beans, sausage-infused red chile and shredded Cheddar.  Once folded over, the burrito is covered over with green chile, cheese and a lettuce-tomato garnish  topped with a mountain of French fries.  Richman called the challenge an “indomitable feat of manhood,” and “maybe the hardest challenge we’ve ever shown.”

Given an hour to consume the entire platter’s worth of food, the three Travises (a student at UNM, a meteorologist for a local television station and a professional bull rider) were unable to surmount the challenge despite the urging of the crowd (which included UNM cheerleaders and Lobo Louie) and Richman’s encouragement.

Bert’s Mess

My own personal memories of the K&I Diner also involve the Travis. While stationed at Kirtland in the early 1980s, we used to take the dreaded Inspector General (IG) staff to the K&I and challenge them to finish a full Travis. Our hopes were that the IG staffers would get so full that drowsiness would set in after lunch and they wouldn’t be quite as nit-picky in their assessments. This usually worked with new staffers, but veteran IG members ultimately figured out our ploy. Still, they all enjoyed the K&I Diner as much as we did and made it a regular stop during their inspection tours of Kirtland.

Today, Air Force personnel (and no doubt, the infamous IG) still frequent the K&I Diner which despite four separate dining areas is usually packed for both breakfast and lunch. Newcomers with the gumption to try still think they have the mettle to consume an entire Travis, but invariably fail miserably (coincidentally miserable is the gastronomic state of anyone who succeeds).

The Leo

Elise Hunnicutt, a Del Norte High graduate now residing in deepest, darkest Westchester, New York shares one of her favorite K&I and Travis memories from the winter of 1982.  “The K&I was a favorite lunchtime stop for me when I worked for the Pepsi bottler in Albuquerque. I took two co-workers there one chilly day and instructed them on the fine points of ordering the Travis special. At the time, you didn’t use the word “Travis” when ordering, instead just proclaiming “Quarter” or “Half!” Your waitress would then call out the orders to the guys doing the cooking behind the counter. On this particular trip, I ordered my usual quarter. The first of my colleagues, obviously not embracing my guidance, slammed his fist on the table and demanded a Half. My other companion had no interest in the Travis and asked instead for a cheeseburger. Our waitress turned quickly toward the kitchen and said, “Quarter and a Half! And would someone please go down to Blake’s and get this idiot a cheeseburger?”

My friend Bill Resnik recalls the time he goaded a “Travis virgin” into ordering a full Travis. The behemoth platter arrived minutes later with a Dum Dum sucker on top. The acid tongue (but with a heart of gold) waitress presented it with “here you go, sucker!” Another time he asked the waitress how the meatloaf was that particular day.  The waitress’s retort, “I wouldn’t have it if I were you.  Grandma made it.”  Grandma was notorious for putting any leftover she could find into the lasagna–including lime jello.  After about three visits, the wait staff got to know you and treated you like a sibling.

Chicken Fried Steak, Two Eggs and Hashed Browns

The days of verbal jousting with the waitresses are long past and some of the restaurant’s personality left with Irene’s family and staff, but the K&I is and always will be, a memorable restaurant. Several local restaurants (Hurricane’s and Twisters come to mind) have attempted to duplicate the Travis and while some claim the pretenders are just as good, K&I veterans will vehemently defend the Travis as an incomparable original. In 1980, the Travis was trademarked, but that hasn’t stopped the pretenders.

According to local legend, the Travis was born when a frequent visitor (in true Western fashion, embellishments say it was a mysterious stranger) to the K&I asked for a burrito with everything on it but the kitchen sink. That’s what he got! The K&I Diner serves more than the Travis. Breakfast and lunch portions can best be described as “heaping” with daily specials available every day of the week. Over the years, the diner has added several other unique entrees in which piles of French fries are the topper, but none have approached the legendary status of the Travis. 

Chiles Rellenos with Fries

2 March 2011: “Bert’s Mess” is a pile of hot, crisp French fries topped with chunks of ham, bacon and sausage  (the triumvirate of porcine perfection) then smothered with red or green chile and topped with two eggs, any style.  The chile, as chile is oft to do, varies in piquancy almost from day-to-day.  There are days in which the chile has the bite of a bell pepper.  Fortunately each table has several heat-generating condiments such as Cholula Hot Sauce and Tabasco Sauce.  Even if you consider it sacrilege to desecrate New Mexico green or red chile by adulterating it with other hot sauces, both Cholula and Tabasco go very well with the fries.  Forget the ketchup.

28 April 2007: The “Leo,” ostensibly named for another loyal customer is a plate piled high with French fries and topped with seasoned beef, cheese and your choice of red or green chile.  About the only thing missing from these calorie overachiever’s dream is an angioplasty.  It should come standard.  The cheese is like a molten melted blanket which covers the entirety of the other ingredients with only a few fries rearing their delicious tops.  French Canadians have their poutine; New Mexicans would rather have The Leo.  Fries and cheese can’t be bested.

Seven year old Stevie Sunday attempts to put a dent on a K&I pancake

12 February 2016: Being a Catholic eating at K&I Diner on a Lenten Friday means having to abstain from partaking of meat.  Few things in life are as torturous as watching your dining companion indulge on a Half Travis (which is replete with delicious seasoned beef) when you can’t have one.  Sure the K&I Diner has plenty of entrees sans carne, but when you’ve got your heart set on a Travis, nothing else will do.  Not even the K&I’s chile rellenos, two housemade chile rellenos smothered with your choice of red or green chile and served with beans and fries with a tortilla on the side.  Admittedly, my longing for a Travis would have been minimized had the green chile been at least a little piquant, but it was so wimpy I had to add several shakes of Tabasco sauce to wake them up.  Note to self: don’t visit the K&I during Lent.

2 March 2011: The K&I Diner’s chicken fried steak breakfast is one of the best of its kind found this side of Texas.  The chicken fried steak is at least half an inch thick, not some thinly-pounded, boot leather-tough slab as you’re apt to find in other Albuquerque eateries.  It’s covered in a peppered white gravy and is served with two eggs, a pile of hashed browns and sourdough bread toast on the side.  It’s a prodigious breakfast not for the faint of heart.  The chicken fried steak cuts easily, a very good sign and it’s not breaded so thickly that you have to send out a search party to find the actual beef.  Best of all, it’s very good.

For more than 55 years, the K&I Diner’s formula of atmosphere, quick and friendly service and hearty portions has proven successful. It has stood the test of time and is an American classic in the finest sense.

K&I Diner
2500 Broadway, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 243-1881
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 12 February 2016
# OF VISITS: 11
RATING: 18
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Travis, The Leo, Bert’s Mess, Pancakes, Chicken Fried Steak, Chiles Rellenos

K & I Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rustic On The Green – Albuquerque, New Mexico

First Came Rustic: A Divine Food Truck

Pop culture’s most famous exemplar of teenage angst may have been Napoleon Dynamite, a socially awkward daydreamer constantly tormented by bullies. Napoleon frequently lamented his ineptitude: “I don’t even have any good skills. You know, like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” Napoleon’s best friend Pedro, on the other hand, possessed skills Napoleon coveted: “Well, you have a sweet ride. And you’re really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you’re the only guy at school who has a mustache.”

In a previous review I bemoaned my lack of skills in the manly art of grilling (though not nearly as much as my dear Kim bemoaned my having ruined thousands of dollars of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables). Despite voracious absorption of the collected works of Bill and Cheryl Jamison, America’s foremost grilling and smoking gurus, my grilling skills are probably not even at the equivalent of Napoleon’s nunchuck skills. It got so bad, my saintly Kim confiscated my treasured “kiss the chef” apron (which admittedly I set afire numerous times).

Then Came Rustic on The Green

Unlike Napoleon who doggedly persisted in his indefatigable efforts to develop skills, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that you either have them or you don’t…and if you have skills, you can ply them virtually anywhere. How else can you explain all the virtuosos and prodigies who coax sheer, unbridled deliciousness in the motorized conveyances we not long ago chided as “roach coaches?” The food truck revolution has unleashed upon the fruited plain, a phalanx of peerless purveyors of the gourmet arts. These folks have mad skills.

Rather than envy them, it’s been my multi-year obsession to explore strange new dining opportunities, to seek out new eateries in all forms, to boldly dine where I haven’t dined before. Food trucks are indeed the final…or at least, the next frontier. Several of them undertake a weekly voyage to Talin, the largest international grocer in the Land of Enchantment. There they congregate in pods, converging in the sprawling parking lot every Wednesday at around high noon. Diners seem preternaturally drawn (in a sort of pied piper fashion) to Rustic: A Divine Food Truck. That is until December, 2015, when Rustic metamorphosed from the Alibi’s 2015 “Best of Burque” award-winning best food truck to a “steel and mortar” restaurant now dishing up its burgers at the Green Jeans Farmery.

The Rustic Menu

Now located on the community-oriented commercial plaza constructed entirely with repurposed shipping containers as modular, architectural building blocks, “Rustic: A Divine Food Truck” is now “Rustic On the Green.” The transformation means a larger space–albeit still under 500-square-feet–in which to prepare and serve burgers you’ll love. Rustic On The Green bears more than a passing resemblance to gymnasium concession stand. After placing your order at a counter, you’ll saunter over to your choice of several indoor and outdoor seating areas, none attached to a restaurant (although some seating areas are on the roof of the restaurants they serve). Your burger will be delivered in a few minutes.

1 April 2015: Perhaps it’s divine intervention or (more likely) the enticing aromas emanating from Rustic’s mobile kitchen, but I found myself queuing up with the teeming masses yearning to be fed.  You might think it wouldn’t take much deliberation or time to choose from among only four burgers on the current menu.  You’d be wrong.  Each of the four burgers is constructed from freshly ground chuck, local Fano brioche buns and a creative array of ingredients which ostensibly go very well together.  Burgers are always made to order. The alluring aromas come standard.

The Sacred, Rustic’s version of the green chile cheeseburger

Curse my advancing geriatric progression as I forgot which burger Thomas Molitor, a very discerning diner and good friend of this blog, recommended (it was the Divine Intervention: bleu cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary Balsamic reduction, Romaine lettuce and tomato).  Oh well, that just means I’ll have a Divine Intervention next time.  The Sacred (Wagner Farm’s green chile, American cheese, Romaine lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard), Rustic’s version of a green chile cheeseburger is hardly a consolation prize.  It’s a beefy behemoth with a lot of flavor.  Even though the beef patty is thick and nicely seasoned, it doesn’t obfuscate the piquancy and roasted goodness of the green chile. The Fano brioch bun is hard-pressed to hold in all the moistness without falling apart on your hands. The interplay between the sweet-tangy rosemary Balsamic reduction and the smoky, fiery chile is a mouth-pleasing experience you’ll want to repeat.

11 February 2016: As enjoyable as partaking of food truck fare can be, not every one of Albuquerque’s 310 days of sunshine per year are ideal for ordering and eating outdoors. That makes the experience at the Green Jeans Farmery much better. Indoor seating means you won’t be buffeted around by spring winds, or worse, have dust (a poor condiment) blow onto your burger. Burger deities intended for the Divine Intervention to be enjoyed in optimal conditions so that your focus can solely be on the harmonious mélange of ingredients that make this an award-winning burger. While the combination of bleu cheese and caramelized onions has been done ad-infinitum, Rustic’s Balsamic reduction converts the flavor profile of the caramelized onions from sweet to tangy-sweet, a nuance that works very well. The bleu cheese is sharp and pungent enough to wreck your breath for a while, but offending someone is a risk burgerphiles will take. The Divine Intervention is indeed divinely inspired.

The Divine Intervention (doesn’t apply to really bad photo) with French Fries

Whether mobile or stationary, the talented crew at Rustic On The Green prepares some of the very best burgers in the city. For a pittance more you can enjoy them with sweet potato fries or regular French fries, all of which you can wash down with Mexican Coke or bottled water.

Rustic On The Green
3600 Cutler Avenue, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 944-5849
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 11 April 2016
1st VISIT: 1 April 2015
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 19
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET:The Sacred, French Fries, The Divine Intervention

Placitas Cafe – Placitas, New Mexico

PlacitasCafe01

The Placitas Cafe in beautiful downtown Placitas, New Mexico

While it does have a nice ring to it, “beautiful downtown Placitas” probably won’t catch on the way “beautiful downtown Burbank” did when the catch phrase (and quite often, punch-line) was made famous first on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In then on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Located just a few miles northeast of Hollywood, beautiful downtown Burbank is 34-blocks of retail, office, residential and entertainment destinations that include more than 200 shops and 90 restaurants.

Beautiful downtown Placitas, on the other hand, is pretty much limited to the Homestead Village shopping center which is surrounded on all sides by capacious open space in a charming village back-dropped by the reddish Sandias.  Instead of the high-density urban sprawl of Burbank, beautiful downtown Placitas is graced by panoramic views of hills dotted with dessert flora, weather-worn mesas and verdured mountains.

View of the Sandias from the parking lot

View of the Sandias from the parking lot

The term “beautiful downtown Placitas” isn’t some sort of ironic inside joke among the village’s 3,000-plus citizens.  Nor will you find the term splayed on Placitas real estate brochures or touristy village literature.  Where you’ll most often read this term of endearment is on the Placitas Cafe’s blog.  The Placitas Cafe is one of two restaurant anchor tenants within the Homestead Village, the other being Blades’ Bistro.

While Blades Bistro has established a reputation as one of the very best restaurants in New Mexico, the Placitas Cafe hasn’t been as widely touted.  Could it be Placitas residents want it that way?  Might the fact that the Cafe’s exterior signage reads simply “Cafe” be indicative of the desire among locals to keep it a secret…to keep it to themselves?  It sure seemed that way during my inaugural visit for a late lunch when the restaurant was sardine-packed with locals.  With all the Placitas residents who read this blog, it sure made me wonder why they hadn’t been clamoring for me to visit.  Hmmm, Bruce, Dave, Joe?

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Triple Berry Scone

Upon entering, it became immediately apparent that the Placitas Cafe is a beloved local treasure, a “Cheers” type of establishment in which “everyone (or at least the wait staff) knows your name.”  During my inaugural visit, the front of the house was in the capable and ambassadorial hands of Mike Franklin, brother of the Cafe’s owner and chef John.  As gregarious and extroverted as they come, Mike does indeed seem to know everyone–and if he doesn’t, he will by meal’s end.  Mike flits from table-to-table, engaging in witty repartee with guests while taking care of their orders with a deft touch.  In a subsequent visit over lunch, we discovered that brother John is equally engaging, bringing mirth and laughter to every table.  John told us family reunions are a laugh-fest.

The one thought that never crossed my mind as to why my Placitas readers hadn’t raved to me about the Placitas Cafe is because maybe it wasn’t very good.  Considering the near overflow crowds, that notion just didn’t make any sense.  If the Cafe hadn’t been good, it would truly have been tragic because the menu is more than a cut above what you find in most cafes.  Some items, in fact, are heretofore unavailable elsewhere in the Land of Enchantment.  Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (8AM to 9PM every day but Monday. Saturday and Sunday, 8AM to 2PM), the Placitas Cafe offers American and New Mexican breakfast standards, organic spring mix salads, vegetarian dishes, New Mexican offerings, burgers, sandwiches and so much more.

Huevos Espiñaca Creama

Huevos Espiñaca Creama

When busy, you might be asked to seat yourself, the first invitation to make yourself at home.  Few things in life make me feel more welcome than helping myself to coffee–as much and as often as I want (for a non-morning person, there’s nothing as unnerving as an empty cup).  A self-serve coffee bar offers three coffee blends, including the eponymous Placitas Cafe blend tinged with New Mexican piñon.  As you luxuriate in your cup, you’ll want to take in the comfy, cozy ambiance.  Walls are adorned with a mishmash of cutesy, folksy wall hangings and landscape photographs showcasing the Land of Enchantment’s scenic vistas.

Breakfast is served from 8am-1:59pm with a menu including a Hawaiian favorite not often found in New Mexico cafes (ironic considering how popular it is in New Mexican homes).  That would be a plate called “Spam, Eggs, Bacon and Spam,” (BOTVOLR, this one’s for you) described on the menu as “a couple of Spam steaks, cooked to your preference, two eggs any style, bacon, sauteed potatoes and English muffin.”  How many of us even knew Spam could be cooked in different ways?  

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Special Green Beans with Ranch Dressing

8 February 2014: Less artery clogging dishes are available to start off your day.  Among them are made-from-scratch scones which are light yet dense, crumbly yet soft and absolutely delicious.  The triple berry scone (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) is terrific, the tanginess of berries punctuating each bite.  As with all good scones, these aren’t overly sweet.  They also pair wonderfully with the coffee, especially the aforementioned Placitas Cafe piñon blend.

8 February 2014: Among the heretofore “not found in New Mexico cafes” items is a unique take on Eggs Benedict.  Called Huevos Espiñaca Creama (sic), it’s a very rich dish with which to start off a morning.  This isn’t a bad thing because you’ll likely take about half of it home for breakfast the following day.  The canvas for this decadent dish is a crispy flour tortilla which is topped by two poached eggs surrounded by a creamed sauce, spinach and diced potatoes and topped with melted mozzarella and crumbly feta.  Though it should come standard with an angioplasty, it’s an excellent example of rich indulgence the type of which we should all treat ourselves on occasion.

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The Dubliner with French Fries

6 February 2014: The “snackies” portion of the menu includes a number of de rigueur appetizers such as salsa and chips, quesadilla, nachos con queso and something called “Special Green Beans,” described on the menu as “a tasty pile of organic green beans, deep sauteed and seasoned.”  The menu boasts “once you’ve tasted them, you’ll never look at a green bean the same!”  Served with Ranch dressing, these green beans are special indeed.  The  texture of these green beans is crispy, but not so much that the beans snap when you bite or cut into them.  The seasoning mix is a mix of mostly savory seasonings which lend a lot of personality to these beans.

6 February 2014: The “Burgers And….” menu lists some fourteen burgers ranging from the standard to the unconventional.  Among the latter is The Dubliner, which shares its name with the cheese featured on the burger.  The menu describes The Dubliner as “a hamburger stuck between spring mix, tomato and horseradish sauce on the lower, then topped with coleslaw and Dubliner cheese.”  As hinted at by the description, this is a moist burger, but also one redolent with deliciousness.  The nicely seasoned beef patty is hand-formed and about half an inch thick.  The horseradish has a bite, but won’t water your eyes.  If you’ve never had Dubliner cheese, you’re in for a treat.  Dubliner has a distinctive flavor, imparting a sweet, lingering aftertaste.  Its texture is firm and slightly dry.  Frankly it surprised me at how well it melts.  What didn’t surprise me is how enjoyable a burger The Dubliner is.  Would it go well with green chile?  Probably not, but no doubt someone will be willing to try.

Patty Melt

Patty Melt

8 February 2014: Surely I’m not the only person who’s ever engaged in a “patty melt: burger or sandwich” debate?  Persuasive arguments can be made for both points.  What is a patty melt anyway?  It’s grilled onions and hamburger patty served on toasted rye with melted cheese (the Placitas Cafe uses Cheddar and mozzarella).  Not all patty melts are created equally well.  Utilizing excellent ingredients is the key to a good patty melt.  You want the beef patty prepared at no more than medium for optimum juiciness.  You’ll want the  onions (red, if possible) to be floppy strands of caramelized deliciousness without being overly crunchy or flaccid.  You’ll want the cheese to be thick enough to complement, not dominate the flavor profile.  You’ll want the rye bread to be lightly toasted and soft, but still formidable enough to hold up against the moistness of all other ingredients.  The Placitas Cafe passes muster on all counts. 

American Classic

29 November 2014: Though I pride myself in being open-minded, there is one thing about which I’m unabashedly stubborn. For me, it’s not breakfast without chile. My Chicago born-and-bred Kim, however, was raised with different traditions and honors them by ordering such breakfast plates as the Placitas Cafe’s American Classic: two eggs (any style), sauteed potatoes, a choice of ham, sausage, bacon or turkey bacon and toast (white, wheat, rye, sourdough). She certifies this plate as absolutely delicious, but I can’t vouch for that because my breakfast was a New Mexican proud buffalo enchiladas plate that blows any American Classic out of the water.

Buffalo Meat Enchiladas with Red and Green Chile

29 November 2014:  When asked if the chile served at the Placitas Cafe includes cumin, John’s response was “we don’t serve tourist chile.”  That’s an understatement!  This is New Mexico chile the way it should be–even  if it is spelled tourist fashion: chili.  Both red and green chile are pleasantly piquant with a very nice roasted flavor.  It’s also served steaming hot, an endearing quality not all restaurants practice.  One of the best dishes in which that chile is showcased is the buffalo enchiladas, flat enchiladas made with lean, delicious buffalo ground beef, fresh corn tortillas and red and yellow Cheddar served with papitas and beans.  Compared to beef, buffalo has a lighter flavor, tastes slightly sweet and is deliciously tender and lean.  The papitas are cubed potato perfection with a right-sized amount of salt.  The buffalo enchiladas are also served with a single tortilla from which you can construct “New Mexican spoons” for scooping up and eating the deliciousness. 

Chips and Salsa

2 January 2015:  Although no longer complimentary at most restaurants, salsa and chips remain a de rigueur standard at many restaurants in New Mexico.  If the salsa and chips are good, patrons don’t mind paying for them.  The salsa and chips at the Placitas Cafe are very good and to paraphrase John, they’re not “tourist salsa and chips.”  The salsa, a chunky blend of chopped tomatoes and jalapeños, has the type of kick New Mexicans enjoy.  Piquancy and freshness are the hallmark of this salsa which pairs very well with the thick, crisp yellow corn chips.  These formidable chips are perfect for scooping Gil-sized salsa portions.

Monkey Cakes with Turkey Bacon

2 January 2015: The curiously named “monkey cakes” incorporate a touch of New Mexico with a traditional American favorite.  Three golden pancakes studded with piñon and topped with banana slices make for a terrific breakfast (or any other time) treat.  Slather these orbs with butter and syrup for best results.  The piñon offers  that magically subtle hint of pine that will transport your heart, mind and taste buds to New Mexico’s pine forests.  It’s a perfect foil for the sweet bananas and even sweeter syrup.  The monkey cakes are served with your choice of bacon or turkey bacon, the latter of which provides a crispy, crunchy textural contrast to the monkey cakes. 

Green Chile Stew

7 February 2016: Ask anyone where you can find the most piquant chile in any of Albuquerque’s northern “suburbs” (Bernalillo, Rio Rancho and Placitas) and they”ll be hard-pressed to name even one chile with a memorable bite.  In our experience, the most piquant chile in the ‘burbs” is to be found at the Placitas Cafe.  It’s consistently several orders of magnitude more incendiary than chile at many New Mexican restaurants in the Duke City, too.  Even the green chile stew packs a punch here and this New Mexican comfort food favorite is usually smooth and mellow.  Because of its piquancy and the fact that it’s served warm, it’s the perfect winter food.  Heat aside, this is a delicious green chile stew replete with chunks of pork and a small blanket of cheese.  The menu consistently spells it as “chili,” but make no mistake–this is “chile” you can respect even if it kicks your butt.

Breakfast Burrito

7 February 2016:  The Placitas Cafe’s incendiary chile has eye-opening and mouth-watering qualities that make getting up in the morning a bit less painful.  One of the best ways to enjoy that chile is in the form of a breakfast burrito (flour tortilla stuffed with two scrambled eggs, sautéed potatoes, Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, chile and your choice of ham, sausage, bacon or turkey bacon all smothered with the restaurant’s tantalizing red or green chile.  Proteins aren’t just hinted at.  Order this behemoth with ham and you’ll find chunks of smoky ham, a lot of them, in fact.  Few breakfast burritos in the area are as jam-packed with deliciousness.

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Buttermilk Pie

6 February 2014: The Dubliner isn’t the only menu item paying tribute to the Emerald Isle.  On your first visit to the Placitas Cafe, you’ll be treated to a slice of Irish Buttermilk Pie, made from a recipe brought over from Ireland by the Franklin brothers’ grandfather.  It’s a scrumptious and rich wedge of pie imbued with more than a scintilla of Guinness (would it be Irish otherwise?).  The Franklin brothers are justifiably proud of this delicious dessert.

I don’t know whether or not to be mad at my Placitas friends for not having invited me to this village gem sooner, but suspect they’ll be mad at me if this review drives up traffic to the Placitas Cafe.  Who can blame them for wanting to keep it to themselves, but it’s too good not to share.

Placitas Cafe
221 Highway 165
Placitas, New Mexico
(505) 771-1700
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 7 February 2016
1st VISIT: 6 February 2014
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 21
COST: $$
BEST BET: Special Green Beans, The Dubliner, French Fries, Buttermilk Pie, Huevos Spiñaca Creama, Triple Berry Scones, Patty Melt, Placitas Cafe Piñon Blend Coffee, Buffalo Enchiladas, American Classic, Monkey Cakes, Chips and Salsa, Breakfast Burrito, Green Chile Stew, Chile Cheese Fries

Placitas Cafe on Urbanspoon

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