A Taste of Soul – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

“1 think it is important to point out that barbecued ribs, black-eyed peas, grits, and collards may, in fact, be a choice dish to many black Americans. But it also sounds pretty darn good to me, a white man. I grew up on soul food. We just called it country cooking. My grandmother cooked it. My mother cooked it. – Lewis Grizzard American writer and humorist Lewis Grizzard, a fiercely proud Southerner, delighted in assailing Yankees, liberal politics, feminists and…

Blue Cactus Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

In the early 80s I tried to impress my very traditional grandmother by taking her to a recently opened restaurant on Academy Boulevard.  What was not to like?  The restaurant shared the mellifluous name she had proudly worn for over fifty years.  It was a locally owned and operated and had earned several awards.  It boasted a multi-page menu.  Surely Garduno’s of Mexico offered something she would like. It turns out the restaurant’s name was the only thing she liked.  One nod…

Independence Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

NOTE: The Independence Grill became another casualty of the economy, shuttering its doors on Sunday, March 14th, 2010. Below this review is a photo retrospective of some of the many things which will be missed about this terrific restaurant. On January 6, 1941 as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt closed his state of the union address to Congress, he described his vision for a better way of life through what he considered the four essential human freedoms: freedom to worship, freedom…

The Black Olive Wine Bar & Grill – Rio Rancho, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Perhaps in time, the Albuquerque-Rio Rancho metropolitan statistical area will be thought of in much the same vein as America’s two most famous “twin city” metroplexes–Dallas-Fort Worth and Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Don’t be surprised if Rio Rancho winds up being the Dallas to Albuquerque’s Fort Worth, the Minneapolis to Albuquerque’s Saint Paul. People have been selling Rio Rancho short for a long time, but that’s starting to change. By 1980, the end of its first decade in existence, the fledgling city…

Duke’s Steakhouse – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

“Did you ever see the customers in health-food stores? They are pale, skinny people who look half dead. In a steak house, you see robust, ruddy people. They’re dying, of course, but they look terrific.” -Bill Cosby Bill Cosby probably didn’t have actor Robert Mitchum in mind when describing the type of people who visit steak houses. Heralded by movie critic Roger Ebert as “one of the greatest actors of all time,” the masculine Mitchum was certainly robust (evincing strength…

Lotus Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Balance. The Diné, or Navajo, of America’s Four Corners Region have a word for it: “hózhó.” The word embodies the idea of striving for balance and harmony along with beauty and order. Every aspect of Diné life–whether spiritual or secular–is connected to hózhó, maintaining balance between the individual and the universe and living in harmony with nature and the Creator. Balance. America’s favorite everyman philosopher Homer J. Simpson might define it as “a donut in each hand.” Obviously politicians discussing…

Porky’s Pride Real Pit BBQ – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

The genesis of America’s popular music–country, jazz and even rock and roll–is rooted in the soul and sounds of Mississippi Delta blues–sounds born in the disgraceful shadow of slavery and lyrics which echoed the grievous plight and painful lament of workers in plantations and fields.  It is a tribute to the resilience of a people that the music of their lament evolved over the centuries to bring succor, alacrity and pride to generations. Given poor quality meat, those plantation workers…

Mad Max’s BBQ – Rio Rancho, New Mexico (CLOSED)

NOTE:  In March, 2010, Max and Fran Montano entered into a lease to buy agreement with an enthusiastic owner who continued to use the recipes which made Mad Max’s the very best barbecue in the Albuquerque area.  By September, 2010 the restaurant was closed.  Max and Fran will continue competing in competitions throughout the region and will also cater events.  They will be missed as much for their warmth and great humor as for their outstanding barbecue. Since the discovery…

Charcoal Mediterranean Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

If comedian Jeff Foxworthy was Armenian, his repertoire of one-liners might include such gems as, “You know you’re Armenian if you have philo dough, string cheese or See’s candy in your freezer.”  Or perhaps, “You know you’re Armenian if you serve hummus and tabbouleh with your taco chips.”  Then there’s the classic, “You know you’re Armenian if you shovel food on other people’s plates when they aren’t looking.”  Who can forget the oft-told “You know you’re Armenian if you think…

Noda’s Japanese Cuisine – Rio Rancho, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Note: On December 16, 2010, Noda’s Japanese Cuisine, a Rio Rancho institution for a dozen years, closed its doors.  Owners Masayasu and Setsuko Noda have retired and will be relocating back to Japan.  It was initially announced that their son, an accomplished chef, would be looking for a new home for the restaurant many consider the very best Japanese restaurant in the state. Nearly five years later, we’re still waiting. Noda’s may very well be the very best Japanese restaurant…

The Original Realburger – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Her sunrise could bring light into a blind man. Her sunset could put tears there in his eyes. Her colors are laying there in brush strokes. Underneath those peote skies. The lay of the land stirs all of my emotions. She heals me with a laid back energy. She holds onto my broken lifeless spirit. And molds me just like pottery. And nowhere that I’ve ever been can make me feel this way. That’s why I’m going there to stay.…

Dahlia’s Central Mexican Cuisine – Rio Rancho, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Because Mexico spans several climatic zones and a diverse topography, its cuisine varies from region to region. As such, it’s grossly unfair to stereotype Mexican food. It’s true that until recent years, most of the Mexican restaurants in the Albuquerque’s area featured the cuisine of the border state of Chihuahua, Mexico, typified by menus offering refried beans, enchiladas, chiles rellenos and the like. The past decade or so, however, has seen the influx of Mexican restaurants serving mariscos, the surprisingly…

Nana’s Trattoria & Pizzeria – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

What’sa matta you, hey! Gotta no respect, whatta you think you do, Why you looka so sad? It’s-a pretty bad, it’s-a not-a nice-a place, Ah, shaddap you face! Joe Dolce will just have to forgive me for the liberties I took with the lyrics to his worldwide 1980 number one song Shaddap You Face. Slightly altered, those lyrics express my sentiments when the airwaves are polluted with saccharinely mushy, accordion accented commercials for Italian chain restaurants–commercials like the one in…

Honnell’s Late Nite Burger – Santa Fe, New Mexico (CLOSED)

“America’s celebrity psychologist” Dr. Phil McGraw posits that how you interact with your partner in the first four minutes can set the tone for the day.  Those first and most crucial 240 seconds of each and every day can, in essence, dictate your entire mood and, in the long run, either keep your relationship intact or destroy it.  I’d add that even the first four minutes of your workday can have a profound impact on the rest of your day.…

The Hamilton Chop House – Durango, Colorado (CLOSED)

The Land of Enchantment with its 121,356 square miles of deserts, mesas, rivers, mountains, forests, cities and villages is the fifth largest state in the country.  In 2007, Albuquerque’s KOAT television station began a recurring series in which the station treated its viewers to an aerial perspective of many of the communities in its viewing area.  That unique bird’s eye view perspective was captured from Sky 7, the station’s news helicopter. In 2008, the station expanded its coverage, sending news anchor and New Mexico native…