2G’s Bistro – Albuquerque, New Mexico

2G’s Bistro on Central Avenue in the EDO Neighborhood

In May, 2018,  Yelp published its listing of the 50 best restaurants in Albuquerque.  Only three of them came from the not-yet-done-revitalizing East Downtown (EDo) district.  The two that won’t surprise anyone are The Grove Cafe & Market at number eight and Standard Diner at number forty-seven. Sandwiched between them is a relative newcomer named 2G’s Bistro which ranked twenty-first.  Geographically, 2G’s Bistro is also sandwiched somewhere between The Grove and the Standard Diner on Central Avenue.  My very preliminary assessment (one visit) is that it may be better than its EDo neighbors on Yelp’s list (gasp, the sacrilege).  Even though  2G’s only has 43 Yelp reviews (as of this writing), they average five stars.  That’s as perfect as Bo Derek, circa 1979.

If you haven’t heard of 2G’s, you’re probably not alone.  It’s only been around since mid-2017 which makes its exalted ranking doubly impressive.  Not surprisingly, two other couples dining on the Lilliputian bistro’s charming dog-friendly patio were visiting because of 2G’s lofty ranking on Yelp’s list, once again demonstrating the power of crowd-sourced reviews.  Both couples raved about their inaugural experience, enthusiastically concurring that they’d return soon.   Our own visit was prompted by the lovely Vanessa, a faithful reader of Gil’s Thrilling…who called 2G’s Reuben “the best in town” (more on that later).

Pulled Pork Street Tacos

Chances are very high that during your visit, you’ll interact directly with the characters for whom 2G’s Bistro is named.  When we asked about the name 2G’s, one jokingly said it stood for two guys drinking beer.  Actually, he elaborated, the two G’s represent the last names–Gonzales (John) and Garragan (Casey) of the two very hands-on business partners who run the restaurant.  Both are peripatetic presences at one of the most charming little restaurants we’ve discovered in 2018.  John inherited the entire (circa 1900) complex of which 2G’s is a part.  That complex includes a maze of connected structures: private residences, offices and a small studio.  The dog-friendly patio sits at the back of the restaurant, perhaps thirty feet away from the cacophony of bustle and noise that is Central Avenue.  Beneath the canopy of leafy trees and shade-giving umbrellas, you might feel as if you’re not even in the Duke City.  Who needs Calgon?

A very ambitious menu belies the diminutive diner.  Though we usually order two appetizers to acquaint ourselves with a restaurant’s style, seeing humongous portions being delivered to neighboring tables dissuaded us though each of the five appetizers were certainly appealing.  So were the salads, soups and salad-soup combos, numbering eight in all (little did we know when perusing the menu that the “side” salad was as large as a side of beef).  Five house specialties, three of them sandwiches follow suit on the menu, but there’s also a sandwich menu with nine more options.  Since you can never have enough choices, the menu also lists four entrees and a bevy of bountiful breakfast items.  For those of us who need caffeine in the morning, the featured coffee is New Mexico Piñon Coffee, increasingly one of my favorite “best parts of waking up” coffees.

Green Chile Meatball Sub

Among the appetizers are two taco plates–the blackened fish street tacos and the pulled pork street tacos (four fresh corn tortillas topped with slow-roasted pork infused with habanero BBQ sauce, in-house pickled jalapeños and onions finished with fresh feta cheese).  It’s been our recent experience that when a menu boasts of a habanero sauce, the preeminent notes are sweet (which habanero peppers do have) with very little of the incendiary heat for which habaneros are appreciated by volcano-eaters like me.  At 2G’s, the habanero BBQ sauce bites back–enough to gain my respect and my earn my Kim’s instantly ruddy complexion.  With or without the sauce, these tacos are outstanding.  Credit much of that to the slow-roasted, tender as my heart tendrils of porcine perfection.  Moist and absolutely delicious, it’s a pork worthy of adulation.

Habitues of Gil’s Thrilling are undoubtedly familiar with (and probably tired of) my ad-nauseam whining about meatball subs. The genesis of my whining stems from two years of enjoying the best meatball grinders (what subs are called in Massachusetts) on the East Coast. Regardless of my pride in (almost) all things New Mexico, our meatball subs don’t have much of the enchantment.  Still, your humble blogger persists.  Wondering if perhaps a meatball sub pervaded with green chile might do the trick, I hesitantly ordered 2G’s Green Chile Meatball Sub (Grandmother’s recipe with a New Mexico twist, homemade meatballs infused with green chile cooked in a scratch marinara topped with melted provolone and basil on a fresh baguette).  There won’t be any hesitation the next time.  Grandmother (John’s) certainly knew what she was doing.  The meatballs are about the size of a golf ball with a nice ratio of meat to binder.  The chile imparts a roasted piquancy that marries oh so well with the marinara.  My search for a transformative meatball sub in New Mexico is over.

Reuben

Not that long ago, an inquiry by BOTVOLR about Reuben sandwiches triggered an cavalcade of comments with respondents weighing in as to where the Duke City’s best can be found.   If the Reuben at 2G’s isn’t the best, it’s on a very short list, in rarefied air alongside the Reubens at Bocadillos and The Farmacy.  At 2G’s all meats are slow-roasted on the premises.  If the corned beef was any more tender, it would be chipped beef.  As is, the slow-roasted corned beef is sliced thin but piled high and topped with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and a house-made remoulade on marbled rye.  The remoulade is fabulous, a worthy substitute for the traditional Russian dressing.  The corned beef is the star however, delivering an Oscar-worthy performance that delighted our taste buds.

Sandwiches and house specialties come with your choice of potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw or Ms. Vickie’s chips. For a pittance, you can upgrade to the soup of the day or a side salad. If the soup we had, an indulgent French onion soup, is any indication, upgrading to the soup of the day is akin to ordering a second entree. We expected a miserly cup, not a satellite-dish-sized bowl brimming with flavor and ingredients. Think I’m exaggerating about the size of the bowl? The image below shows how easily two bread slices blanketed in molten shredded Gruyere fit into that bowl where all ingredients swim placidly in a rich beef consomme with sweet caramelized onions and sliced mushroom pieces. Prodigious though the portion size may be, it was the big flavors of complementary ingredients replete with flavor that really impressed us.

French Onion Soup

A few weeks before our visit to 2G’s, my Kim ordered a salad entree that set us back more than a ten-spot. We’ve had side salads larger than the scanty portion of wilted leaves and under-roasted beets set before us. The side salad at 2G’s is the proverbial beach bully to that salad’s 98-pound weakling. Again, pictures are worth a thousand words. As shown below, this side salad is is what George Costanza would term a “really big salad.” It’s teeming with mixed greens encircled by sliced cucumbers and topped with red peppers, red onion, sliced mushrooms and crumbled feta cheese. Make sure you enjoy your salad with 2G’s signature Cajun vinaigrette dressing made with agave nectar, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and Cajun seasonings. The sweetness of the agave tempers the fiery personalities of the other ingredients. It’s a revelatory dressing. 

The intimacy and personal space proximity of the patio meant we got to know our neighbors, all millenials (ergo, all probably smarter than me). That was demonstrated with each delivery to their tables of such New Mexican dishes as a carne burrito (described on the menu as “melt in your mouth”) and enchiladas.  John explained that though both the red and green chile have a nice bite to them, he can add to their piquancy by sauteing the chile with a few drops of capsaicin oil.  It’s a tactic employed by other restaurants which serve the incendiary chile New Mexicans love.  Alas, no one at the patio ordered the Southwest Benedict which Howie “The Duke of Duke City” KaibelYelp‘s charismatic Albuquerque Community Manager, described in his own inimitable manner as “plenty of understated flavors balanced red and green chile that wasn’t overpowering, solid in-house ham and two of the most delightfully drippy, preggo poached eggos.”  Add that to a growing list of “must try” items on my list.

Side Salad with Cajun Dressing

The EDO neighborhood should be in any conversation about the city’s best dining destinations.  2G’s, the humble Lilliputian eatery with prodigious portions of wonderful food is one of the many reasons.

2G’s Bistro
414 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 246-2040
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 19 May 2018
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Reuben, Green Chile Meatball Sub, French Onion Soup, Side Salad with Cajun Dressing, Pulled Pork Street Tacos
REVIEW #1042

2G's Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats

The sense of smell, more than any of our other senses, influences our ability to recall past events and experience. From among the five senses, fragrance is considered the most potent medium for conjuring up memories. True enough, some of the most enduring sensory memories of my years in the Boston area are reawakened thanks to the amazing aromas that greet me each time I visit Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats on San Mateo. It is with increased rarity that you find an authentic Italian deli which greets you at the door with the incomparable aroma of pastas, meatballs or sausages simmering in a perfect marriage of tomato sauce, garlic, basil and oregano.  It’s also rare to find an Italian kitchen equally practiced at preparing outstanding pasta dishes and Italian meats.

Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats is then indeed an anachronism because it does capture you before the door with wafting odoriferous emanations that bid you welcome and which have a Pavlovian effect on your taste buds.  The Camuglia family–John, Jerry and Johnny–has owned and operated this memory triggering deli since 1970, in the process creating new and wonderful memories for the legions of patrons who frequent their deli.

Tully’s “dining room”

Tully’s is ensconced in a time-worn strip mall on San Mateo, but could easily pass for an Italian deli in Soprano country, upstate New Jersey or my former home outside of Boston.  Shelves are stocked with large and small cans and jars of various Italian groceries as well as domestic and imported olive oils and specialty pastas.  Prominent on those shelves are jars of Tully’s house-made marinara sauces, source of those oh-so-enticing memory enticing aromas.

A freezer showcases some of Tully’s frozen entrees such as meatballs, chicken marsala, chicken parmesan, chicken picatta and some of the city’s very best lasagna. The freezer also displays such tantalizing treasures as veal, lamb and even rabbit. It’s hard to believe that when the Camuglias assumed ownership of Tully’s, it was solely a meat market.  In its annual food and wine issue for 2011, Albuquerque The Magazine awarded Tully’s a “Hot Plate Award” as the “Hot Take Home” deli Albuquerque can’t live without.

The Italian Sausage Sub

The Italian Sausage Sub

In the spirit and tradition of many East Coast Italian delis, Tully’s also features imported and domestic meats and cheeses, showcasing Boar’s Head brand products.  Boar’s Head prides itself in artisanal meats and cheeses produced in time-honored old-world methods.  Tully’s honors those methods by making their own hot and sweet Italian sausages, all ground from 100-percent pork enhanced with traditional spices and herbs.  Sausages range from the simple to the sublime–real gourmet sausages that will enhance any meal.

Tully’s take-out business is robust and the heart of the operation, but many savvy patrons also have a filling and delicious lunch at their favorite deli before heading home with their treasures.  At the counter, they encounter a menu which just might be the envy of every sandwich shop in town, a menu featuring an array of sensational sandwiches, some named for glitterati of Italian heritage.  Who can refuse an Al Pacino (capocollo ham, Genoa salami, provolone and Italian dressing) or a Sinatra, sure to hit the right note with imported Parma prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, lettuce and tomato on a homemade roll?

Meat Ball Subs

There are eighteen sandwiches on the menu, more than half of which are available at half-sub size.  The subs which require heating are generally not available at half-sub size.  Available toppers include sliced black olives, sliced pickles, sliced banana peppers, tapenade, guacamole and bacon.  Sandwiches are about a dollar south of ten dollars and are accompanied by a cup of potato salad or a bag of potato chips.

31 December 2008: While the cold meat sandwiches entice with a siren-like call, my Boston-based beckoning is often for sub sandwiches engorged with tomato sauce and seasoning adorned meatballs or sausage, the type of sub of which I consumed by the boatload in Boston. The Italian Sausage Sub and the Meat Ball Sub call loudest.  The Sausage Sub features homemade Italian sausage “cooked in mom’s marinara sauce with melted mozzarella on a homemade roll.”  This is a humongous sandwich, easily big enough for two to share (not that you’d want to).  It’s also a messy sandwich which will redden your fingers and drip onto your clothing if you’re not careful.  Ditto for the Meat Ball Sub, six homemade meatballs nestled in a homemade sandwich roll and slathered with marinara sauce with melted mozzarella.  The meat balls are an amalgam of beef and pork with just enough filler to bind them.  They’re seasoned with garlic and oregano in just the right amount.

The Sicilian

31 December 2008: When the menu at an Italian deli reads “sausage,” you don’t always know what to expect.  In some cases, a sausage sandwich features sliced links and in others, the sausage is ground almost like hamburger.  At Tully’s, the sausage (at least on the sub) is reminiscent of breaded chicken Parmesan.  It’s semi-flat and lightly breaded, but beneath that breading and under that marinara is a well-seasoned sausage that’s flavorful, filling and fabulous.  The potato salad is flecked with red peppers and pickles and isn’t dripping in salad cream as some potato salad seems to be.  Alas, cup-size amounts to about three or four spoons full.  You’ll want more.

13 October 2012: From among the cold subs listed on both the “house specialties” and “traditional favorites” sections of the menu, one of the best is The Sicilian (for all you good Sicilian Boys).  That, by the way, is a Tully’s caption.  All sandwiches have clever captions.  The Sicilian is made with mortadella (an Italian cured sausage seasoned with pepper and garlic), capacolla ham (a pork-derived cured ham), domestic prosciutto, provolone and Italian dressing on a homemade roll.  The Italian dressing is applied generously, rendering the sandwich moist on a bread roll which absorbs it well.

The “Joe DiMaggio”

23 September 2015: In Simon & Garfunkle’s 1968 number one hit Mrs Robinson, the American folk rock duo asked the puissant question “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?”  The lyrics both perplexed and bothered The Yankee Clipper until a chance meeting with Paul Simon.  Simon explained the lyrics were sincerely intended as flattery and essentially were intended to ask “where have all the heroes gone.”  A better answer to the question might be “Joe DiMaggio is alive, well and delicious at Tully’s.” 

The Joe DiMaggio is an Italian sub described by my friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate, as “the absolute best Italian Sub I have ever had.”  A spry septuagenarian with the youthful vigor of a twenty-something, Larry knows a thing or a million about subs.  So do I.  This is an outstanding mountain of a sandwich (pastrami, ham, Genoa salami, Provolone, black olives, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes and Italian dressing stacked on a whole or half sub roll).  The designer of this delicious deli sandwich deserves a raise.  It’s not enough that the Joe DiMaggio is packed with ingredients.  Those ingredients go together as well as milk and cookies or chocolate and…chocolate.

The Judge

16 May 2018: It’s been said that “if you remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there.” Even if you spent the swinging 60s in an addled state, some memories are indelible. So are some 60’s catch phrases such as “here come da judge” (especially when uttered by fellow Air Force veteran Flip Wilson). Espying the sandwich board listing “The Judge” as the special of the day certainly dredged up memories of Flip’s irreverent skit. Moreover, it inspired pangs of hunger. There can only be one verdict about this Judge—Absolutely delicious!  The evidence–hot and sweet sopressata, salami, Provolone, lettuce, tomato and Italian dressing.  I certainly plead guilty of devouring this behemoth of a sandwich (roughly the size of two burritos).   

31 December 2008: On lazy days when you don’t want to cook or perhaps when you want to spoil yourself, let pasta pamper you.  Pick up a lasagna from Tully’s freezer.  It’s layers and layers of pasta sandwiching pork and beef all slathered with marinara sauce and topped with two melted cheeses and several complementary spices.  This is lasagna the way it’s made in some Boston area restaurants, those specializing in red meat sauces.  It’s lasagna which imbues your kitchen with those memory inducing aromas you’ll treasure. 

There are few things in life more satisfying than a sandwich at Tully’s, but it’s possible to improve on your Tully’s experience by having an Italian cookies and pastries Saratori’s Di Tully, a pastry shop that will remind East Coast transplants of Italian pastry shops in New York.  If you haven’t been to Tully’s in a while, you’ll be happy to learn that you now have to enter through Saratori’s entrance to get to Tully’s.  It’s akin to previewing heaven on Earth. 

Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats
1425-A San Mateo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 255-5370
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 15 May 2018
# OF VISITS: 9
RATING: 22
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Lasagna, Sausage Sub, Potato Salad, The Sicilian, Meat Ball Sub, The Joe DiMaggio, The Judge

Tully's Italian Deli & Meats Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sophia’s Place – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Despite what the Name on the Marquee Says, This is the New Home of Sophia’s Place

Exterior signage for Dennis Apodaca’s new restaurant venture sports the name of the previous tenant, a short-lived eatery named MIXX. In a February blurb announcing Dennis’s return,  the Albuquerque Journal called his new venture “REMIXX.” A handwritten note scrawled on the front door, however, informs you that you’ve arrived at “Sophia’s – that you knew & loved on 4th St. NW.” Not taking any chances, Yelp lists entries for both “REMIXX by Sophia’s Place” and “Sophia’s.” So which is it? Ask Dennis and he’ll tell you that despite what the sign says, his restaurant is a relaunch of Sophia’s Place, the celebrated restaurant that made him one of Albuquerque’s most talked-about and respected chefs. “I’d rather spend money on serving great food than replacing a sign” he laughs.

Dennis points out that the exterior signage for Trois Mec, one of the most revered fine-dining restaurants in Los Angeles, still bears the name of its predecessor, Raffalo’s Pizza. That’s entirely by design, the point being that despite a constantly changing five-course tasting menu approaching a C-note price point, the restaurant is unpretentious, its focus being on the food not peripherals such as signage. The term “unpretentious” probably fits Dennis more than it does any other chef in Albuquerque. He’s as down-to-earth as they come, a straight-shooting guy whose passions are family, fine cigars and cooking. Despite an enviable pedigree that includes cooking side-by-side with some of the country’s best chefs at some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the fruited plain, he would rather turn out an affordable menu of New Mexico-inspired Mexican food than a more pricey menu of fine-dining entries.

Chicken Chicharrones

Ensconced on the southwest corner space on the first floor of the capacious Silver Moon Lodge apartment building along historic Route 66, Sophia’s Place reborn is the antithesis of its namesake predecessor. Where the Sophia’s on 4th Street was situated in a homey ramshackle old structure and for a time didn’t even have signage to tell you you’d arrived, the new Sophia’s has a more contemporary feel to it.   Parking at the new venue on the fringes of both downtown and Old Town is a bit tricky, but at least you’ll be parking on pavement. The parking lot at the old Sophia’s Place was prone to muddiness during inclement weather.

While Sophia’s Place would remain Dennis’s flagship restaurant, operating from 2002 through its unexpected closure in 2017, the enterprising chef would launch several other restaurant ventures over the years, all but one named for family members.  First came Ezra’s Place (2008 – 2013) which was named for his then teenage son.  Next came the magnificent, but short-lived Jo’s Place (2011 – 2012) named for his mother.   Just before the dawning of 2017, he launched Maya, a name inspired by the bright, vibrant cuisine prepared by the dynastic Mesoamerican civilization and their descendants.  He left Maya to launch the second instantiation of Sophia’s Place in March, 2017.

Salsa and Chips

Dennis’s cachet was elevated from local to nationwide when he wowed Guy Fieri, the Food Network’s spiky-coiffed host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives during a 2008 episode. He would parlay that appearance into an invitation to compete in the Food Network’s Chopped program where he displayed his chops to another nationwide audience. Exposure on the Food Network made Sophia’s Place a restaurant to which visitors pilgrimaged.  His other restaurants, all fabulous in their own right, were frequented more by Duke City devotees of dining Dennis style.  Some of us will follow him anywhere.

Count my friends Larry “the professor with the perspicacious palate” McGoldrick and Dazzling Deanell among them.  After his first visit to the original Sophia’s Place, Larry wrote “I have done some stupid things in my life, but waiting almost three years after moving to Corrales from the east coast until eating at Sophia’s Place ranks near the top. With that stupidity cured, I am now hooked.”  He wouldn’t wait three months after its launch to dine at the new Sophia’s Place.  We were greeted at the door by Dennis’s delightful mother Josie an effusive ambassador for the restaurant’s food and her son’s prodigious talents.  A spry and youthful grandmother, Josie is a perpetually smiling ray of sunshine, a terrific hostess.

Elote

The menu at Sophia’s Place isn’t a mirror image of the menu at its previous instantiation, but you will find several familiar favorites such as the duck enchiladas, shrimp tacos and a sirloin and green chile sandwich.  Sophia’s Place is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and has a dog-friendly patio.  For the time being, Sophia’s is cash only.  On select Friday evenings (call ahead), Dennis prepares a different thematic dinner.  Whether it be Italian, Thai or some other ethnic cuisine, you can bet it will be outstanding.  Dennis isn’t solely a chef who specializes in New Mexico inspired Mexican food; he can prepare anything you want and prepare it well.  That was certainly validated during our inaugural visit.

1 May 2018: You’d be surprised how challenging it is to decide what to order from a relatively small menu, moreso when you’re also contemplating the daily specials.  Josie doesn’t make it any easier because she raves about everything her son prepares.  As we perused the menu, we shared a bowl of chicken chicharrones.  They weren’t on the menu.  Dennis just thought we’d like them…though he wouldn’t commit to calling them chicken chicharrones (there’s a pattern here).  It’s a relatively simple offering of lean chicken thighs cut into thin pieces and tossed with Cotija cheese, cilantro, scallions and sea salt.   Sometimes, as in the case of this dish, simple is best.

Vegetable Curry with Papaya Salad

1 May 2018: At first browse, our second starter seemed equally simple–a bowl of black beans with avocado slices, Cotija cheese and pork rinds.  Appearances can be deceiving.  The black beans were impregnated with a pleasantly piquant chile that elevated them significantly.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve never liked black beans that much, preferring the sacrosanct pinto, New Mexico’s official state vegetable.)  These black beans I liked…a lot!  We used the pork rinds as a scoop mechanism to extricate those black beans from the bottom of the bowl and used the avocado as a palate-cleansing, tongue cooling aide.  From a textural and flavor perspective, this dish was yet another huge success.

1 May 2018: Since discovering the transformative elotes at El Cotorro, my affections for corn-on-the-cob have been rather singularly focused.  No other elote has been able to capture my fancy…until Sophia’s Place, that is.  As with the elote at El Cotorro, this sumptuous starter begins with a flame-grilled sweet ear of corn.   It’s elevated with the infusion of a lime aioli, chile powder and Cotija cheese. While that makes for a very messy proposition, you’ll enjoy licking any delicious residue off your fingers. You’ll also need a couple napkins to wipe your mouth afterwards. All corn-on-the-cob should be this good!

Grilled Cheese with Mango and Shoestring Fries with Salad

1 May 2018: While every dish Dennis prepares is a paragon of creativity and deliciousness, perhaps the dish which best shows off his versatility is vegetable curry with papaya salad, a special of the day during our inaugural visit.  If you thought his repertoire was limited to New Mexico inspired Mexican food, this dish will convince you otherwise.  It’s curry as well-prepared as the curry at the very best Thai restaurants in Albuquerque.  Dennis has mastered the delicate balance of flavors–pungent, sweet, savory–characteristic of Thai food, not compromising the integrity of flavors to pander to American preferences for cloying Thai dishes.  The vegetables are perfectly prepared, somewhere between al dente and fork-tender.  In a masterstroke of genius, Dennis tops the vegetable curry with a tangy papaya salad, again as good as you’ll find at any Asian restaurant in town.

1 May 2018: Not that long ago, an inquiry by BOTVOLR about grilled cheese sandwiches launched an avalanche of comments with several respondents providing input as to where the Duke City’s best can be found.  Sophia’s Place provides yet another contender, a rarefied exemplar of tradition meets innovation.  Between buttery, lightly toasted bread are nestled the unlikely combination of Manchego cheese and mango slices.  Yes, mango slices.  Manchego, a cheese made with sheep’s milk has a distinct acidity and flavor profile reminiscent of a tangier Monterey Jack.  It’s a perfect complement to the sweet richness of mango.  I ordered this grilled cheese sandwich because it was “different,”  but will order it again because it’s absolutely terrific.  As with other burgers and sandwiches on the menu, it’s served with Dennis’s shoestring fries, the best in New Mexico.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

5 May 2018:  It’s often been said that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”  Perhaps a more accurate aphorism might be “you knew what you had, you just never thought you’d lose it.”  That was the case with Dennis’s magnificent lemon ricotta pancakes, the very best we’ve ever had.  Those pancakes were our favorite from the rotation of fabulous flapjacks Dennis served at the original Sophia’s Place, a luscious line-up that includes blue corn pancakes, pumpkin pancakes and mixed berry pancakes.  It’s great to see he hasn’t lost his touch.   Available in quantities of one, two or four, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t have four, especially if you’re sharing. 

One of the things that makes Dennis’s pancakes a panacea is his homemade butter, a culinary rarity that blew even Guy Fieri away. Fieri who has probably seen just about everything on his road tours seemed amazed that Dennis would go to that extent. After sampling Sophia’s homemade butter (made from separated heavy cream mixed with toasted pine nuts, dried cherries and honey), Fieri called it “outstanding.”   A generous slather of that butter tops the pancakes along with fresh blueberries and strawberries.  As expected, the pancakes are punctuated with a lemony flavor that tempers the sweetness of the syrup.  These pancakes are available only on weekends, another reason to love Saturdays and Sundays.

Huevos Divorciados

5 May 2018: Josie got a kick out of it when I told her, in front of my Kim, that I wanted a divorce.  Not from my bride of thirty-two years.  I wanted one of the specials of the day, the curiously named Huevos Divorciados, a term which translates to divorced eggs.  This dish is an exemplar of the official New Mexico state question: red or green.  This dish features two fried eggs atop two tostadas topped with shredded white and yellow Cheddar and black beans .  One egg is slathered with a tomatillo sauce (the green), the other with red chile.  Both are absolutely superb!  The tomatillo sauce is tart and herbaceous, the red chile piquant and rich.  Dennis knows his way around Mexican sauces as well as most of us know our names.  The tostadas are crispy around the edges and soft in the middle.  The eggs are fried to your exacting specifications.  Every divorce should be this good!

5 May 2018: Another special of the day, emphasis on the word “special,” is the roasted organic achiote chicken tostada with black beans, avocado slices and a fried egg served with a salad.  Achiote is a orange-red spice with a subtle, earthy flavor and peppery aroma, but a little goes a long way.  Dennis knows exactly how much to use and how to use it.  Thin strips of organic chicken are a perfect vehicle for the achiote.  The richness of the avocados provides a pleasant counterbalance while the fried egg lends a savory deliciousness.  A light sprinkled of Cojita cheese adds a light feta-like saltiness.  This is yet another terrific dish.

Roasted Organic Achiote Chicken Tostada

12 May 2018: Long-time Duke City diners may remember that before there was a Sophia’s Place in that dilapidated 4th Street location, there was Fajitaville and a young chef named Dennis Apodaca.  When Fajitaville closed in 2002, Dennis rented the location and named it for his daughter Sophia.  One holdover from Dennis’s days at Fajitaville are some of the best salsas in town. An order of salsa and chips rewards diners with two salsas–a smoky chipotle salsa and a pico de gallo style salsa coupled with housemade chips served warm. Neither of the salsas are especially piquant, but both are redolent with freshness and flavor.  The chipotle salsa is among the very best in New Mexico and that’s saying a lot. The chips are lightly salted and oversized for Gil-sized portions of salsa. Unfortunately you’ll run out of salsa before you run out of chips.

12 May 2018:  Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times, the only food writer ever to earn a Pulitzer Prize, once wrote “when it’s done properly, taco should be a verb.”   In Albuquerque, Dennis has made taco not only an active verb but a possessive adjective (as in my taco), an exclamation and an interjection (as in aha, great tacos).  His scallop tacos are superb, his shrimp tacos a revelation and his carnitas tacos are transformative.  In his breakfast nopales tacos, we found a new favorite.  Nopales or nopalitos are the flat paddles of prickly pear cactus (nopal).  Remove the thorns, slice them up, bottle them in brine and they’re delicious, albeit a bit on the slimy side.  Dennis pairs nopales with scrambled eggs, fresh salsa and cojita cheese then packs them tightly into two warm corn tortillas.  The tortillas can barely contain their contents.  You won’t be able to contain your smile as you enjoy them.

Nopales Breakfast Tacos

12 May 2018:  A couple of years ago, Business Insider published a feature entitled “How to make any quesadilla better.”   Obviously very few people in Albuquerque need help finding the quintessential quesadilla but if they do, all they need to do is point their GPS toward Sophia’s Place.  The carnitas quesadilla with salsa, eggs and papas is one of the best reasons to get up in the morning.  It’s several orders of magnitude better than the best Business Insider could do.  Four triangular wedges of cheesy, meaty love can only be improved with some of Sophia’s magnificent salsa. 

Sophia’s Place is located directly across Central Avenue from Robinson Park, home of the Downtown Grower’s Market.  The market operates on Saturdays from April 14th through November 3rd from 8AM to noon.  Parking is often a challenge when the market is in full swing, but it’s worth walking an extra block or six to visit one of the most dynamic and vibrant markets in the city followed or preceded by a fabulous breakfast or lunch at Sophia’s Place.

Carnitas Quesadilla

By any name, Sophia’s Place is an outstanding restaurant and platform for the culinary genius that is Dennis Apodaca.  Albuquerque is a far better place with Sophia’s Place as its culinary heart.

Sophia’s Place
918 Central, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 916-5496
LATEST VISIT: 12 May 2018
1st VISIT: 1 May 2018
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 24
COST: $$
BEST BET: Grilled Cheese with Mango, Chicken Chicharrones, Black Bean Stew, Vegetable Curry with Papaya Salad, Elote, Huevos Divorciados, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, Roasted Organic Chicken Achiote Tostada, Nopaies Tacos, Carnitas Quesadilla, Chips and Salsa
REVIEW #1040

Sophia's Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

1 2 3 368