Freight House Kitchen & Tap – Bernalillo, New Mexico

Many of us look at an unused and timeworn historical building and a wave of nostalgia sweeps over us as we imagine what life was like when that building teemed with activity. Some see such a building as a pig in need of lipstick, nothing a coat of paint and a few nails can’t fix up. Others see that same edifice as having served its purpose, a structure which should be razed to make room for a modern complex. Still…

The Range – Bernalillo, New Mexico

The phoenix of ancient Egyptian mythology was a sacred firebird of beautiful red and gold plumage said to live for centuries. At the end of its life, the phoenix built itself a nest of cinnamon twigs which it then ignited. Both the phoenix and the nest burned fiercely and were reduced to ashes from which a new phoenix arose. Similarly, the Range Cafe in Bernalillo was claimed by a fiery conflagration only to rise up from the ashes to exceed…

Casa Diaz – Bernalillo, New Mexico

The siren song of a small town living has always appealed to Irma Rodriguez who just can’t see herself in the big city. Having grown up in Gallup, New Mexico, she appreciates the sense of community–the extended family feeling of really getting to know her neighbors. It’s an attitude she imparts to guests at Casa Diaz Mexican and American Grill, the Bernalillo restaurant she and husband Jesus launched in August, 2016. For her, the term “locally owned and operated” is…

Antojitos Lupe – Bernalillo, New Mexico

Gustavo Arellano, the brilliant and hilarious author of Ask a Mexican, a widely syndicated newspaper column published mostly in weekly alternative papers, has become one of my go-to sources of entertainment and information, particularly regarding our common and beloved Spanish lexicon. His inimitable wit and perspective is amusing and enlightening. Take for example his translation of the word “antojitos.” in an article published in his parent newspaper, the Orange County Weekly, Arellano observes that “the Spanish menu entry antojitos translates…

Back-Sass BBQ – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Every few years, the eyes of the world fixate on a tiny chimney perched on the roof of the Sistine Chapel as millions await the telltale plumes of white smoke which signify that a new pope has been elected. Since November, 2012, savvy Duke City area barbecue aficionados have been following plumes of smoke emanating from a mobile eighteen-foot grilling machine, a sign that great barbecue is imminent. Fittingly “Follow the Smoke” is the motto of the Back-Sass BBQ team…

Kaktus Brewing Company – Bernalillo & Albuquerque, New Mexico

Most of us have known a wine snob or two. You know the type. They refer to themselves as oenophiles, a fancy way of saying “connoisseur or lover of wines.” They believe themselves to possess refined palates and won’t drink a wine that isn’t as cultured as they are. Even then, they first have to check the color and opacity of the wine. Then they twirl their glass for ten minutes or so before sticking their nose into the glass…

Abuelita’s New Mexican Kitchen – Bernalillo, New Mexico

Abuelita–perhaps no word in the vernacular of Spanish Northern New Mexico evokes such veneration, reverence and, for those of us who have lost these heaven-sent treasures, a melancholy ache not even time can erase. The abuelita is the family matriarch, the heart of the extended family and the sagacious matron to whom you go for counsel, consolation and cooking. For generations, New Mexico’s abuelitas have been nurturing their families with the simple foods passed down by their own abuelitas. Before…

Ancient Spirits Bar & Grille – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

“Ancient spirits dwell in New Mexico, since before the existence of humanity.” – The Husband: A Novel by Dean Koontz FROM THE ANCIENT SPIRITS BLOG ON JULY 17:  Due to unforeseen circumstances Ancient Spirits Bar and Grille has had to close its doors. We have lost one of our owner/investors and are searching for someone to take his place. We are hoping that this is only a temporary setback and that we will be able to open back up very…

The Chill Zone Frozen Yogurt – Bernalillo, New Mexico

Returning to the United States in 1985 after my first year in England, there were two things that surprised me.  The first was the difficulty of getting used to driving on the “Yank” side of the road again.  Driving on the “wrong” side had required a high state of alertness and conscious thought until it had become a habit.  Expecting to transition easily upon my return to the fruited plain, my concentration waned until I found myself driving toward several…

La Casita Cafe – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Is there still a place in the American restaurant scene for hometown mom and pop institutions? According to the Nation’s Restaurant News, a respected trade magazine, almost fifty percent of the 100 largest chains saw flat or declining growth rates in sales in 2006.  Those rates are largely attributed to the sheer volume of restaurant concepts (chains) cluttering the landscape. I like to think that another reason for the decline of the ubiquitous chains that blight American streets is the…

Coronado Grill – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

In 1540 while searching for the fabled seven Cities of Gold, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado camped with his soldiers near the ancient Pueblo of Kuaua on the western banks of the Rio Grande where the city of Bernalillo exists today. Coronado never did locate the mythical Cities, finding instead a thriving agricultural village inhabited since 1300. Only the partially reconstructed ruins of Kuaua (a Tiwa word for “evergreen”) remain today, but the “City of Coronado” still celebrates the Spanish explorer…

La Bamba Grill – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

In its April, 2009 edition Saveur magazine feted “12 restaurants that matter,” profiling a dozen restaurants that “represent the best of dining in America today.”  Although that title may at first browse sound a bit condescending, the premise of the article was that restaurants are special places.  “Everybody has to eat, but going out to eat is a choice.” Americans certainly exercise that freedom of choice with their wallets and purses.  According to the National Restaurant Association, forty-five percent of…

Charlie’s Burgers & Mexican Food – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Ashley’s Convenience Store on the ill-fated corner of Camino del Pueblo and Avenida Bernalillo achieved the type of notoriety which will be forever associated with a tragedy visited all too often upon New Mexico’s streets.  In November, 2006, a driver already inebriated during a U.S. Airways flight, purchased alcohol at the convenience store before resuming his journey home and causing a tragic head-on collision that killed five members of a Las Vegas, New Mexico family. The state of New Mexico banned the airline…

Rice ‘N Roll – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

The 1970s have been characterized by writer Tom Wolfe as the “Me Decade” and derided by cynics as the “Disco Era.” It was an era of contrasts: the national crisis of confidence described by President Jimmy Carter as a “malaise” and the ubiquitous yellow smiley face; the melodic, velvety stylings of the Carpenters and the edgy, funky beat of disco; an explosion of copycat fast food chain restaurants and the introduction of innovative fusion cuisine in many contemporary restaurants. Fusion…

Pueblito Mexicano – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Even onto the 21st century the distinction between Mexican and New Mexican cuisine has been somewhat obfuscated. Restaurants which serve cuisine we recognize as uniquely New Mexican (characterized among other things by the use of piquant red and green chiles instead of jalapeno) bill themselves as Mexican restaurants. The situation is exacerbated by ancianos (New Mexico’s elderly population), many of whom refer to their cuisine as “Mexican.” While many New Mexican restaurants errantly bill themselves as Mexican, neither their menus…