El Agave – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

“Why, this here sauce is made in New York City!” “New York City? Git a rope!” No matter how broad-minded we may perceive ourselves to be, most of us are burdened by covert biases and prejudices that reveal themselves at inopportune times. One of mine was divulged during my inaugural visit to El Agave Mexican Restaurant in Rio Rancho. After being greeted warmly by effusive hostess Lilly Venegas (who could not possibly have been nicer), I began my usual “twenty…

Taqueria El Paisa – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“The immediacy of a taco, handed to you hot from grill and comal, can’t be equaled. You can stand there and eat yourself silly with one taco after another, each made fresh for you and consumed within seconds. A great taco rocks with distinct tastes that roll on and on, like a little party on your tongue, with layers of flavor and textures: juicy, delicious fillings, perfectly seasoned; the taste of the soft corn tortilla; a morsel of salty cheese…

Mariscos Mazatlan – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

A rotund, ripening, red tomato is featured prominently on license plates issued in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. This is indicative of the state’s prominence in growing the “love apples” from which its rich salsas are made. In 2013, Sinaloa exported nearly one-billion tons of vegetables–primarily tomatoes–across the fruited plain, netting (mostly industrial) farmers nearly one-billion dollars. More than half the tomatoes consumed across the United States during the winter season are, in fact, grown in Sinaloa. While Sinaloan tomatoes…

El Zarandeado – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.” – Bubba from Forrest Gump Benjamin Bufford “Bubba” Blue may have thought he knew all there was to…

Mariscos La Playa – Albuquerque, New Mexico

There’s deliciousness and there’s delicious irony on the menu at Mariscos La Playa. The deliciousness is more readily apparent. It’s part and parcel of virtually every item on the menu. You have to understand a little Spanish to grasp the delicious irony which is outwardly manifested in the form of a soup called “Caldo Vuelve a la Vida,” literally ” Come-back-to-life-soup.” The soup is a metaphor for the restaurant itself, the irony being that the restaurant itself has come back…

Viva Mexico – Albuquerque, New Mexico

All too often faulty premises are based on a lack of information or experience. Take for example, British author Simon Majumdar, a recurring judge on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America who once declared “given how abysmal Mexican food is in London, I always thought that it was a cuisine made up of remains from the back of the fridge.” It wasn’t until Majumdar experienced tacos de tripa at a restaurant in Guadalajara, Mexico that he achieved an epiphany and…

Sharky’s Fish and Shrimp – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Never mind your tired, your poor or even your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Carlos Zazveta, the effusive proprietor of Sharky’s Fish & Seafood told us to bring our dogs, our cows and our goats next time we visit. That was after we explained we didn’t bring our children because they’re of the four-legged variety that barks. He was just kidding, of course. Carlos does that a lot. When he espied me taking pictures of the Sharky’s complex, he…

El Norteño – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

No Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque has a pedigree that approaches that of El Norteño, a venerable elder statesperson in the Duke City’s burgeoning and constantly evolving Mexican restaurant scene. El Norteño has been pleasing local diners for more than a quarter of a century as evinced by its perennial selection as the city’s “Best Mexican” restaurant. Respondents to the Alibi’s annual “best of” poll accorded El Norteño that coveted accolade against increasingly more formidable competition every year for seven consecutive…

Lindo Mexico Grill & Seafood – Albuquerque, New Mexico

In the entire world, there may not be a national anthem that inspires as much heart-felt pride as the Mexican ballad Mexico Lindo Y Querido. It is a hauntingly stirring proclamation of the balladeer’s profound love for his native land–a love so intense that even his guitar awakens in the morning inspired to sing with alacrity about that land he loves. The song speaks to the country’s volcanoes, prairies and flowers serving as talismans for the love of his loves,…

Tacos Mex Y Mariscos – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The taco landscape across the Duke City may well be a tale of two tacos. At one extreme we have Zacatecas Tacos & Tequila, the upscale, gourmet taco eatery situated in fashionable Nob Hill. In February, 2013, Zacatecas Tacos was named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation‘s “best new restaurant” in America honor. Zacatecas Tacos represents the “self-actualization” of tacos…tacos which are all they can be…tacos which have been elevated to the nth degree of creativity and deliciousness…tacos at…

La Sirenita – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

My good friend and frequent dining companion Bill Resnik is one of the most altruistic and selfless people I have the privilege of knowing. Every year he grows out his naturally white beard so he can portray Santa Claus at hospitals and nursing homes throughout the metropolitan area. Because he stands 6’5″ most of his friends look like elves standing next to him and there’s probably not a chimney he can slide down, but when he dons his padded red…

El Sarape – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Before the advent of political correctness, the unchecked use of controversial stereotypes was rampant throughout America.  Starting in the 1930s, for example,  ethnic caricatures in the guise of tchotchkes (salt shakers, cookie jars, plant pots and the like) could be seen in households throughout the fruited plain. Neon-spangled roadside five-and-tens  dotting the motorways and byways were primary culprits in the sale of kitschy, tacky knickknacks propagating such stereotypes as mammies, cigar-store Indians and the Mexican peasant taking a siesta while…

Mariscos Altamar – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Forget what you thought you knew about Mexican food!” That should be a cardinal rule for unacculturated diners when traveling to Mexico–or visiting Mariscos Altamar–for the first time. Many of the dishes some Americans commonly believe typify Mexican cooking are either not Mexican at all (chimichangas and fajitas, for example), or are prepared using inauthentic techniques and ingredients (such as “nachos” crafted from melted Velveeta heaped over a dish of corn chips, a recipe I’ve actually seen on a cookbook…

Bandido Hideout – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Lucha libre, a Spanish phrase loosely translated into English as “free-style fighting,” is not just a genre of professional wrestling, it is the poor man’s theater in Mexico.  For a mere pittance, the common man can treat his entire family to an incredible world in which classic battles of good versus evil are waged by stalwart heroes (los technicos) and compelling villains (los rudos). Throngs of frenetic fans suspend their disbelief as muscular luchadores perform spectacular high-flying moves and execute…

Mariscos La Playa – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

While New Mexico has always had restaurants featuring the cuisine of the country of Mexitli of Tenochtitlan (Mexico), the distinction between Mexican and New Mexican cuisine has always been somewhat obfuscated.  There are a number of reasons for this. For as long as I remember, restaurants which serve cuisine we now recognize as uniquely New Mexican (characterized among other things by the use of piquant red and green chiles instead of jalapeno) have billed themselves as Mexican restaurants.  The term “New Mexican food,” is, in fact,…