M’TUCCI’S MARKET & PIZZERIA – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Greek mythology recounts the story of Tantalus, progeny of a divine parent (Zeus himself) and a mortal one. Uniquely favored among mortals by being invited to share the food of the gods, Tantalus abused that privilege by slaying his own son and feeding him to the gods as a test of their omniscience. The gods immediately figured out what Tantalus had done and in their rage condemned him to the deepest portion of the underworld where he would be forever…

JOE’S PASTA HOUSE – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Once a year, despite my protestations and whining, I agree to take my Kim to the Olive Garden. It’s a deal we have, albeit one that makes me feel like Faust in the Christopher Marlowe play. Faust, for the non-English majors among you was a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. In my case, the deal is a visit to Olive Garden once a year in exchange for all the…

ECLECTIC URBAN PIZZERIA AND TAP HOUSE – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Looking around our table, my friend Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott astutely pointed out the relative scarcity of pizza at our table. Considering the Eclectic Urban Pizzeria and Tap Room may have been the most eagerly awaited pizzeria to open in Albuquerque in years, you’d think a phalanx of foodies would be devouring our weight in pizza…and while three pulchritudinous pies did grace our table, so did such eclectic fare as pho, chicken wings, roasted chicken and Chimichurri skirt steak…

Eli’s Place (formerly Sophia’s Place) – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Picture yourself as a first-year marketing student assigned by your professor to perform a marketing analysis of Eli’s Place and its enigmatic chef-owner Dennis Apodaca. Essentially you’ve got to figure out the rhyme and reason behind the restaurant’s success. “Easy assignment,” you think to yourself, “Eli’s Place is successful because it serves some of the best, most delicious food in Albuquerque.” Your research quickly reveals, however, that Eli’s Place actually violates many of the time-honored, trusted and fundamental marketing tenets…

BLADES’ BISTRO – Placitas, New Mexico

“Ask three Placitans what they like best about living in Placitas and… one will say it is being so far from everything, another, being so close to everything–and both will be right.” – The Placitas Chamber of Commerce Chamber of Commerce not withstanding, the distance from Placitas to fabulous gourmet restaurants has spanned both great mileage and the healing passage of time for residents. When hungry, the mileage between Placitas and either Santa Fe or Albuquerque has seemed interminable. When…

Budai Gourmet Chinese – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“The true gourmet, like the true artist, is one of the unhappiest creatures existent. His trouble comes from so seldom finding what he constantly seeks: perfection.” –Ludwig Bemelmans By definition, gourmets are connoisseurs, taking food more seriously than most and embodying the axiom “live to eat rather than eat to live.” True gourmets, as Ludwig Bemelmans would define them, appreciate food of the highest quality, exalting only in the rarefied experiences–those which require the most discerning palates and noses to…

Jambo Cafe – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Growing up in the 60s–the dark ages before the Internet was even a glimmer in Al Gore’s eyes and google, then spelled “googol” represented an very large number (currently being approached by America’s budget deficit)–even precocious children like me derived most of our knowledge of Africa from National Geographic magazines and Tarzan movies. We thought Africa was one large monolithic country comprised solely of stark, expansive deserts or lush, mysterious jungles. Africa’s indigenous people, we believed, had to compete for…

Los Potrillos – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Faced with a situation that renders us incredulous, many of us might yammer incoherently, complain vociferously or maybe even utter colorful epithets. Such moments, it seems, are best expressed with succinct precision, a rare skill mastered by a select few wordsmiths from which eloquence flows regardless of situation–polymaths such as Anthony Bourdain, a best-selling author, world traveler, renowned chef and “poet of the common man.” Flummoxed at the discovery of a Chili’s restaurant a mere five miles from the Mexican…

Torinos @ Home – Albuquerque, New Mexico

On Monday, October 21st, 2013 in a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives episode entitled “Aces of Authenticity,” the Food Network introduced Torinos @ Home to the world. Just four years earlier–on 22 December 2009–i was one of, if not the very first critics to see greatness in what was then a tiny Italian eatery coaxing amazing flavors from its humble menu. Then ensconced in diminutive digs, it was obvious Torinos @ Home was destined for far better things. During my many…

Omira Bar & Grill – Santa Fe, New Mexico (CLOSED)

HOLLY: I can’t believe you’ve never taken anybody here before. JERRY: Well, I’m not really that much of a meat eater. HOLLY: . . . You don’t eat meat? Are you one of those. . . JERRY: Well, no, I’m not one of those. ~ Seinfeld “One of those!” Around my Chicago born and bred Kim and her family, that term fits me to a tee. As with many Midwestern families, my in-laws are rapacious carnivores. Their dining room table…

Hominy Grill – Charleston, South Carolina

In May, 2011, Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine invited some of the most prolific culinary bloggers across the country (including yours truly) to a culinary “throw-down” of sorts. We were asked to provide a fun and humorous argument as to why our particular regional cuisine reigns supreme. Why, for example, is New Mexican food better than Cajun food in the Louisiana Bayou, barbecue in Texas or Pittsburgh’s old world cuisine? We were asked to put on our best used car salesperson…

Santa Fe Bite – Santa Fe, New Mexico

“This burger is a wonder. It’s thick, it’s perfectly cooked, juicy and covered in cheese… If eating a burger is a sin, this burger is like going to Vegas with a hooker who you kill, stuff in your trunk, and push off into a canyon.” —The Amateur Gourmet Nay-sayers will tell you it shouldn’t have worked. Housed in a ramshackle building some might describe as being “in the middle of nowhere,” it defied the number one rule for restaurant success:…

Cafe Chloe – San Diego, California

From your seat on the sidewalk patio of Café Chloe, you can see Petco Park, the open-air home of the San Diego Padres. You’ll have a front row view of a veritable cavalcade of motorized and foot-powered conveyances—from swanky Maseratis to sleek inline skates. Passers-by on foot include some of the city’s most downtrodden as well as its captains of industry. As you take in your surroundings in the cozy, urban neighborhood café and wine bar in San Diego’s chic…

Phil’s BBQ Restaurant – San Diego, California

A few decades ago, the culinary cognoscenti anointed the best bastions of bodacious barbecue–Kansas City, Memphis, Texas and the Carolinas…and there was much rejoicing. Since then, it’s been widely accepted that this exclusive quadrumvirate is where the very best barbecue in America is to be found. Much of this acceptance is because the four regions have deployed their marketing machines to continue reenforcing the notion–some would say myth–that their barbecue is sacrosanct and evermore defines barbecue greatness. There were a…

El Agave Restaurante and Tequileria – San Diego, California

Tequila has long endured a legacy of scorn, derision and misinformation.  It’s  been a proving ground for manhood among frat boys downing shooters to show their mettle.  Urban myths and legends have long been believed of hallucinogenic worms at the bottom of the bottle.  Because of “ta-kill-ya” induced hangovers (usually the result of poor quality tequila), men with iron-cast constitutions have been known to swear off hard liquor.  With such a reputation, it’s no wonder tequila hasn’t been thought of as…