Happy Chickenzz – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“And believe me, a good piece of chicken can make anybody believe in the existence of God.” ~Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Two things came to mind when my friend Nader and I approached Happy Chickenzz. First, I mused, “if happy cows come from California (a 2002 marketing campaign for California cheese), where do happy chickenzz come from.” My second rumination was to wonder if the ‘zz’ at the end of the word chicken is…

Plum Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“The branches of the aspen plum To and fro they sway How can I not think of her? But home is far away,” – Confucius According to Urban Farm Online, “plums were domesticated in China more than 2,000 years ago and have figured in written documents since 479 B.C. These fruits were the plums Confucius praised in his writings and the ancestors of today’s Asian plums.” In China, plums symbolize good fortune while the blossom of the plum tree is…

Cafe Nom Nom – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Nom nom.” It sounds innocent enough. Parents–yes, including parents of four-legged fur babies–utter it in baby talk intonations to get our children to eat something, especially when that something is “good for them” but doesn’t actually look or taste good. Nom nom was, of course, the favorite expression of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster (Hi Darren) as he ravenously devoured a plate or six of cookies, a fusillade of crumbs flying from his chewing mouth.  Grade school teachers use nom nom…

Pho Linh Vietnamese Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

You always remember your first time…and if it’s good, it may set the standard by which you’ll forever measure every other time. I was a lanky lad of nineteen, away from home for the first time when “it” happened. As a precocious yet naive child growing up in bucolic Peñasco, New Mexico, I had been sheltered from the wiles and ways of the world and felt silly and embarrassed about being so inexperienced. All my new friends in Massachusetts seemed…

Urban 360 Pizza, Grill and Tap House – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Babu: Our specials are tacos, moussaka and franks and beans. Jerry: Well, what do you recommend my good fellow? Babu:Oh, the turkey. ~”The Cafe, Seinfeld, Season 3, Episode 7 While perusing the menu at Urban 360 Pizza, Grill and Tap House, my ever-witty friend Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott commented that the menu reminded him of The Dream, the very eclectic restaurant owned and operated by Pakistan emigrant Babu Bhatt in an uproariously funny episode of Seinfeld. As Jerry Seinfeld…

Viet’s Pho – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“”Vietnam. It grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Once you love it, you love it forever.” ~ Anthony Bourdain Most of us have never been to Vietnam. It’s possible, maybe likely, that most of us will never make it to Vietnam…at least not in a corporeal state. That’s an important distinction because for years, we’ve already been visiting Vietnam. We’ve been magically transported to Vietnam every time Anthony Bourdain visited. Bourdain had the rare ability to develop intimate connections…

Thai Kitchen – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“There is no good meat that their stupid cooks do not spoil with the sauce they make. They mix with all their stews a certain paste made of rotten prawns…which has such a pungent smell that it nauseates anyone not accustomed to it.” No, that’s not a review published by a disgruntled diner on Zomato or Yelp. Nor is it Gil describing a chile dish to which liberal amounts of cumin were added. This scathing indictment was written in 1688…

528 Sushi & Asian Cuisine – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

“No lady likes to snuggle and dine accompanied by a porcupine.” “He lit a match to check gas tank. They call him skinless Frank.” “A man, a miss, a car, a curve. He kissed the miss and missed the curve.” “Within this vale of toil and sin, your head goes bald but not your chin.” “Henry the Eighth sure had trouble. Short-term wives, long-term stubble.” Some of the more seasoned among us might remember that one of the best ways…

Thai Boran – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Many of us with a puerile sense of humor can probably recall giggling like silly school kids the first time we visited a Thai restaurant and perused a menu. We went straight into the gutter the first time we came across such foods as phat prik and fuktong curry. Even after learning that “phat prik” is actually a stir-fried chili dish and “fuktong curry” is a pumpkin curry, the sophomoric among us couldn’t order these dishes with a straight face.…

Coda Bakery – Albuquerque, New Mexico

JP, my former boss at Intel prides himself on consistently working “half days.” If you’re thinking you’d like a job where you work only four hours a day, you’ve misinterpreted his definition of “half days.” To him, half days is a literal term meaning twelve hours a day. When most of us are done for after only nine or ten hours, he was just starting what he calls his “second shift.” Very few of us have the stamina, initiative and…

Rising Star Chinese Eatery – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Let’s get one thing straight. General Tso’s chicken is not some weird cold war Chinese one-upmanship response to Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken. In other words, China did not deliberately seek to outdo the United States by creating a chicken dish and naming it for a General, a rank superior to the rank of Colonel. Not even close! Back in the early 50s, Colonel Harlan Sanders actually did create a revolutionary way of preparing poultry (pressure fried, eleven herbs and…

Leona Banh Mi – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“I’m not allowed in the Vietnamese sandwich shop anymore. They decided to banh mi for life.” During an ice-breaker at what promised to be a stressful project planning meeting, all participants were asked to stand up and describe their favorite childhood Christmas gift. For the most part, favorite gifts conformed to gender stereotypes. Male colleagues waxed fondly about GI Joe action figures (don’t ever call them dolls), Star Wars Lego sets and their first bike. Females in our group described…

The Birds Paradise Hot Pot – Albuquerque, New Mexico

It was 2:15AM on a workday, a full four hours before my dreaded alarm clock was set to utter a tone surpassed for annoyance only by the screechy prattle on The View. Inexplicably my brain decided it was a good idea to play deejay and serenade me with Sukiyaki, the only Japanese pop song ever to top the charts across the fruited plain. Yep, my mind had been invaded by an earworm, a song that sticks with you long after…

Pho Garden – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

It should have been a point-counterpoint debate for the ages. My ideologically opposed and perpetually squabbling friends Carlos and Hien were arguing about the concept of American exceptionalism. Carlos took the Reaganesque position that America is the shining city on a hill. “Everything about America is great,” he proclaimed. “We have the highest standard of living and pretty much the best of everything.” Hien mirrored Obama’s stance that America does not have exclusivity in believing itself to be exceptional. Much…

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”…