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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Basil Leaf – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed Popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.” – Anthony Bourdain Genesis 11 recounts a time…

Rolls & Bowls – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

“The banh mi sandwich is really the only good argument for colonialism.” ~Calvin Trillin By most historical standards, the banh mi is a rather new entrant in the world culinary stage. Its evolution into the revered sandwich we know and love today began in 1859 with the French arrival in Saigon. Along with military occupation, the French brought their c’est delicieux cuisine to Southeast Asia…although to be clear, the colonial rulers never had the benevolent intent of introducing the Vietnamese…

May Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico

There are perhaps thousands of examples throughout the Duke City of immigrants whose path to the American dream involved rising above humble origins and surmounting extraordinary circumstances to achieve success. Those challenges are exacerbated by the fact that many of them arrived in America as refugees from war-torn nations with nary a modicum of English. One such example is Liem Nguyen, who along with wife Kim founded the May Cafe in 1992, a scant nine years after arriving in Albuquerque…

IKrave Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Please say it isn’t so! According to Nations Restaurant News, a highly respected trade publication “a new crop of restaurant chain entrepreneurs” believes “American diners will soon embrace the Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich as the next burrito or taco.” The notion of corporate chain megaliths setting their sights on the humble banh mi should send shudders down the spine of everyone who frequents the mom-and-pop nature of the banh mi restaurants we’ve come to know and love. Imagine a phalanx…

Huong Thao – Albuquerque, New Mexico

In the year 2000 (ancient history by restaurant standards) when the Duke City had only a handful of Vietnamese restaurants, only one was listed on Zagat Survey’s Millennium Edition of the top restaurants in the Southwest. That restaurant was Huong Thao which was widely regarded at the time as perhaps the city’s very best Vietnamese dining establishment. Zagat Survey accorded Huong Thao a rating of “24” which categorized it as “very good to excellent.” The restaurant was praised for its…

Nanami Noodle House – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

If Chinese superstitions have any credence, some of us may not be long for this world. Chinese superstitions posit that long noodles symbolize a long life. Ostensibly, if you cut your noodles, you’re cutting your life short. Instead of cutting your noodles, the Chinese advocate slurping up long noodles without breaking them. When it comes to noodles, the Chinese should know. After all, they’ve been preparing noodles longer than any culture in the world. In 2005, archaeologists uncovered a 4,000-year-old…

Lime Vietnamese Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Kevin: What am I looking at here? Donna: It’s pho. Kevin: It’s what? Donna: Pho. Kevin: Well pho looks like a clogged sink. What are those chunks floating around in there? What is that? Donna: It’s chicken. You love chicken. Kevin: Do they make this outside? What is this? <pulls up a single basil leaf> Donna: Seasoning. Just try it. Kevin: <slurps up spoonful and contemplates flavor> Donna: Is it good? Kevin: <holds up finger and slurps up another spoonful;…

SweeTea Bakery Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

In some metropolitan areas, legions of restaurant bloggers dissect and report on every facet of the area’s dining scene. These bloggers have a significant impact on the restaurant choices diners make. That fact isn’t lost on savvy restaurateurs—particularly young entrepreneurs active in social media–who solicit feedback on their restaurants from the dynamic food blogger community. Some restaurateurs who understand the power of online reviews even engage in “food blogger outreach campaigns” and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with food bloggers. Alas,…

An Hy Quan Vegetarian Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Celebrity chef and professional cynic Anthony Bourdain, one of the more vocal detractors of the vegetarian lifestyle, contends “Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.” He’s not alone in his opinion. Vegetarians are perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood group in the culinary community. Consider the stereotypes. Nay-sayers with their preconceived and oversimplified notions founded on ignorance would have you believe all…