El Charlatan – Socorro, Texas

Everyone should have a friend like Steve Coleman, the erudite owner of Steve’s Food Page. Not only is he a great guy and a lot of fun to spend time with, he’s a superb host and tour guide.  During a two-day sojourn to “El Chuco,” Steve not only showed us the sights, he gave me a much-needed lesson about history New Mexico and Texas share.  He explained that during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, members of the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico were displaced to El Paso along with Oñate and the Spaniards.  Today, descendants of those Native Americans reside in a Native American Pueblo in the Ysleta section of El Paso just about three miles from El Charlatan, our…

ELEMI – El Paso, Texas

My friend Steve Coleman, owner of the well-written and impeccably researched Steve’s Food Blog has become quite a culinary anthropologist.  Not only does he provide his readers with comprehensive reviews of restaurants throughout the fruited plain, he explores the genesis of the foods he writes about.  One of his passions is to define what constitutes El Paso style Mexican cuisine–its provenance and the cultural role that cuisine has played over the generations.  As he’s discovered, El Paso style Mexican style is still evolving and redefining itself.  Some of that has occurred organically as other cultures have influenced dynamic changes.  Evolution has also been forged by the rediscovery of ancient ingredients and cooking techniques, some of which may once have been…

Delvin’s Restaurant & Catering – Amarillo, Texas

Throughout its storied history, Amarillo’s culinary reputation has been based primarily on one kind of food: beef.  That’s no surprise considering Amarillo-area ranches produce thirty-percent of the nation’s beef and ninety-percent of the beef in Texas.  So when the city on the High Plains is described as a “cow town,” it’s not solely because of the odoriferous emanations from thousands of cattle in the feed yards along I-40.  While researching restaurants to explore during our extended weekend stay in Amarillo, it quickly became apparent that while beef may still be king, cows alone no longer define Amarillo menus.     Among the surprises that emerged from my research is the sheer number of Cajun and Soul food restaurants in the Amarillo…

It’s A Punjabi Affair – Amarillo, Texas

During our last full year at Intel, my friend Bill Resnik and I had the distinct honor and privilege of working on a project with a team from Microsoft comprised mostly of information technology professionals with roots in the exotic subcontinent of India.  We had expected impeccable technical expertise, but their dedication and focus was far beyond what any of us would have anticipated.  As an example, Kannan, a technical solutions analyst once took a well-deserved vacation in Hawaii and still called in to daily project meetings.  Tropical birds sang in the background as Kannan provided his updates while lounging on the lanai. Never one to miss out on an opportunity, Bill downloaded an application for his iPhone which played…

The Big Texan Steak Ranch – Amarillo, Texas

If you’ve ever wondered about the meaning of the line “I’ll be lookin’ for eight when they pull that gate” in George Strait’s classic hit Amarillo By Morning, here’s a theory you probably haven’t heard.  The country crooner was actually looking for eight brawny guys to help him finish the 72-ounce steak at Amarillo’s The Big Texan Steak Ranch.  Seriously it might just take a few of your most hungry friends to tackle that behemoth slab of beef–four and a half pounds of well-marbled meat with a deep, rich flavor and mahogany color. Since its launch in 1960, The Big Texan has thrown down the gauntlet to all comers with Texas-sized appetites: finish the 72-ounce Steak Dinner Challenge–shrimp cocktail, baked…

The Golden Light Cafe & Cantina – Amarillo, Texas

Published in 1938, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath is widely regarded as one of the greatest American novels ever written. Replete with timeless themes of struggle, destitution, injustice, and the pursuit of a delusive “Promised Land,” the novel centers around the trevails of the Joad family.  Along with thousands of other tenant farmers from Oklahoma who lost their livelihood and property because of the Dust Bowl, the Joads travel the relatively nascent Route 66 toward California and the pursuit of a piece of land to call their own. Every night on their journey, the Joads and their fellow migrants witnessed man’s inclinations toward desperation, violence, and murderous anger as well as generousity and respect.   We couldn’t help but think about…

GUS’S WORLD-FAMOUS FRIED CHICKEN – Austin, Texas

When I told my friend Carlos my Kim and I would be enjoying Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken during our trip to Austin, he quipped “when did Los Pollos Hermanos open a restaurant in Texas?”.  Wrong Gus.  Obviously Carlos was joking about Gus Fring, the stoic Argentinian entrepreneur on the Albuquerque-based Breaking Bad television series.  Gus Fring, as you might recall, used his fried chicken franchise Los Pollos Hermanos as a front for methamphetamine distribution throughout the American Southwest.  The Colonel may have had eleven herbs and spices, but Gus had blue-hued crystal meth. The Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken of which I spoke is a burgeoning franchise which got its start in Memphis, Tennessee.  While Nashville’s incendiary, cayenne-heavy, finger-dying…

Via 313 – Austin, Texas

It’s oft been said that among males (we’re such children), insults are a form of intimacy.  Perhaps because of societal expectations, many men aren’t comfortable expressing affection toward other males in physically demonstrative ways (even in the Age of Oprah).  In his book A Slap in the Face: Why Insults Hurt – and Why They Shouldn’t, philosophy professor William Irvine contends “the closer the friend, the more teasing there is.”  If the sheer volume of insults is equal to how highly we esteem other men, Jim, my former boss at Intel was esteemed highly indeed. Because Jim was a pretty good guy (and because he was the boss), it was hard (and maybe career-limiting) to attack him on a personal level. …

Black’s Barbecue – Lockhart, Texas

Yabba-dabba-doo!  After finishing another day of toiling at the quarry, Fred Flintsone rushes home to pick up his modern stone-age family for a drive-in movie, an exclusive one-night only viewing of The Monster.  Courtesy of Fred’s two feet, the family then proceeds to Bronto Burgers & Ribs Drive-In for an order of ribs.  Somehow a slim waitress manages to heft the behemoth ribs over to Fred’s car, but when she deposits them onto the carhop window service tray, the vehicle and all its occupants tip over.  Until our visit to Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, Texas, we believed ribs that big were to be found solely in animated television cartoons. Now we know better! If the mention of Lockhart, Texas triggered…

Gourdough’s Public House – Austin, Texas

Donuts could have gone their entire existences fat, dumb and happy with a following–mostly cops, adult men my age (39) and households with annual incomes of less than $10,000–who expected nothing more out of them than we were already getting.  Essentially just fried or fruit-filled delivery mechanisms for quadruple our recommended daily allowance of calories, sugar and guilt, donuts have always been predictable, unchanging…reliably there for us.  Our expectations for these sweet, ring-shaped fried cakes weren’t exactly very high.  Then something changed.  Donuts became “gourmet,” experiencing a much-needed make-over.   In recent years, several foods have experienced a similar artisinal reinvention, metamorphosing from tasty enough moths into glorious, flavor-packed butterflies.  A more demanding public–especially those of us who self-gloss as foodies…

Lucy’s Fried Chicken – Austin, Texas

“I‘m only eating the skins, so the chicken’s up for grabs.” ~Joey Tribbiani Several of my earliest memories of growing up in agrarian Peñasco, New Mexico involve chickens.  Some of those memories–such as getting viciously pecked by my Grandma Piedad’s cantankerous old rooster–were rather painful.  Other memories, however, were of mischievous fun my brothers and I had with our friends Estevan and Gabriel Lopez.  Once, for example, we emptied the contents of an entire can of beer onto the corn and grain mixture fed to the chickens.  It was hilarious fun watching drunken chickens stumble about and especially seeing the old rooster become overly amorous with the young chicks but not being able to do anything about it because he…