Chicago Beef – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Ask any Chicago transplant in Albuquerque or anywhere else to list the five things they miss most about the Windy City and it’s a good bet the list will include Italian beef sandwiches, a staple in Chicago. Citizens of the Toddlin’ Town are almost as passionate about this sloppy sandwich as they are Da Bears. Chicagoans grow up worshipping at high counters on which they prop their elbows as they consume Italian beef sandwiches–sometimes because the restaurant has no tables,…

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…

The Falls – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

New Mexico has been gilded with incomparable scenic beauty and an abundance of sunshine. Cerulean skies graduate in depth of color the higher above the horizon your eyes climb, interrupted only by velvety smooth red-rock outcrops and snow-capped mountains. Fiery sunsets and brilliant sunrises give the illusion that God just threw a bucket of paint into the sky while processions of wispy cloud formations provide the promise of much needed rain as they sweep past the parched escarpment. A vibrant…

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…

Marco Pollo Charbroiled Chicken – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

While eating a store-bought rotisserie chicken is somewhat more appealing than than consuming the very last one of Quickie Mart’s perpetually rotating, alutaceous (seared to a leathery sheen under a heat lamp inferno) hot dogs, the prospect of a desiccated rotisserie chicken carcass for dinner is hardly tempting. Experience has taught us that while slightly less leathery, restaurant rotisserie chicken would be a challenge for the most advanced desalination technologies. That’s what we expected during our inaugural visit to Marco…

Ambrozia – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

theophany: an encounter with a visible manifestation of a deity. Greek mythology chronicles the adventures of the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus whose primary sustenance was ambrosia, a magical repast which bestowed immortality upon those who consumed it, including humans. The word ambrosia literally means “sweet smelling or delicious,” an appropriate description of the wonderful meals proffered at Ambrozia, an Old Town fine-dining establishment launched in 2003. While dining at Ambrozia probably won’t confer immortality, diners might feel they’ve…

Graze – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

When uncredentialed food critics (like me) sing the praises of a restaurant, their fulsome rants might not garner much notice, but when professional chefs and critics are unabashedly effusive about that same restaurant, you’d be well advised to listen. Graze, launched in December, 2002 by chef luminary Jennifer James, has had all the cognoscenti waxing poetic. La Cocinita magazine’s best chef award winner for 2002, James has been all but beatified, so prolific is her reputation. Renown for melding seemingly…

Hong Thai – Rio Rancho, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Cloistered in the tiny, nondescript Lujan Plaza shopping center and away from the maddening traffic cavalcade that has become Rio Rancho Boulevard, Hong Thai operated for nearly a year (since April, 2005) before we knew it existed (our first visit was in March, 2006). We thought the shopping center’s southwest corner was still occupied by a mediocre Chinese restaurant. Boy, were we ever in for a treat. Hong Thai is superior in every way to its predecessor whose claim to…

Starky’s – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Sometimes a new restaurant makes such a tremendous first impression that you’re torn between wanting to shout from the rooftops about your new find and wanting to keep your new find to yourself so that the new gem remains your carefully guarded little secret. Wanting to ensure the restaurant has a prosperous future, you’ll naturally take the former course and tell all your friends and neighbors about your newfound treasure–all the while keeping your fingers crossed that the incursion of…

Eurasia Bistro & Sushi Bar – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

In an ideal world, the culinary connotation of the term “Eurasia” would be a fusion of the distinct cuisines of both continents available all under one roof under which culinary adventurers would be like Venetian explorer Marco Polo tasting all the Silk Road has to offer. We should have realized that while the continents of Europe and Asia may be connected as a land mass (certainly not geopolitically), an Albuquerque restaurant featuring the cuisine of both continents is still far…

Cafe O – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Within a few weeks after its launch in late 2003, it seems all the restaurant critics for Albuquerque’s periodicals had waxed poetically effusive about Cafe O, a novel counter eatery whose menu purports to offer a “taste of the world.” Considering those food critics are all women, I pictured genteel dainty sized portions of water cress embellished finger foods and flavored teas served on real china. Although tea was an integral part of the menu, it certainly wasn’t served on…

Señor Lucky’s – Santa Fe, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Senor Lucky’s closed in February 2006. A thriving gambling hall, bordello and saloon once occupied the space in which Señor Lucky’s is now situated. It was operated by 19th-century matriarch, Gertrudes Barcelo (better known as Doña Tules) who entertained guests with dances, drink and cards, amassing a fortune as one of Santa Fe’s most infamous and enterprising citizens. Historians believe she collaborated with the U.S. Army, loaning money to its officers money so they could pay the American soldiers occupying…

The Blue Dragon – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

In truth, the Blue Dragon is a coffee house in the style of New Orleans or San Francisco more so than it is a Cajun restaurant, but since it serves better Cajun food than anyone else in Albuquerque, Cajun is as good a category as any in which to place it. This Dragon serves up the best muffalatta in town, by far–just the right amount of Italian olive salad on four slices of bread (two slices if you wimp out…

Asia Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Proprietor Nan Nguyen and his wife launched Asia Restaurant in April, 2002 and have experienced steady, if not spectacular customer traffic.  Repeat business from faithful patrons in a small, intimate setting with only 12 tables give the Nguyens the opportunity to get to know their clients. Although both from a small village in South Vietnam, Nan worked for years in a Chinese restaurant, hence a menu offering both Vietnamese and Chinese food.  Our inaugural visit was shortly after the restaurant’s…

Conrad’s – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

There was a time when the name “Hilton” didn’t conjure up images of a ditzy blonde airhead whose celebrity is based largely on promiscuity. Well, maybe not. More than 50 years ago, another ditzy blonde, Zsa Zsa Gabor honeymooned at La Posada in Albuquerque with her then husband Conrad Hilton, a New Mexico native and founder of the historic downtown hotel in which Conrad’s is housed. Since the hotel’s launch in 1939, the guest registry at La Posada de Albuquerque…