Monte Carlo Steakhouse – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Last night I broke the seal on a Jim Beam decanter That looks like Elvis.” ~George Jones Having spent much of his career in an inebriated state, Country music icon George Jones actually lived the life experiences that inspired much of his music. After one of his four divorces, Jones sat alone in a rather empty home, his ex-wife having absconded with almost everything–furniture, china, glassware and more. Among the few items left behind were a small table, a Jim Beam whiskey decanter bearing the likeness of Elvis Presley, and a Fred Flintstone jar of jelly beans. After dumping the jelly beans, the “Possum” used the jar as a glass into which he poured the entire contents of the Jim…

The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern – Estes Park, Colorado

During my years at St. Anthony’s in Peñasco, I frequently tried the patience of the saintly nuns.   Thankfully capital punishment was not permissible or you wouldn’t be reading this.  It’s bad enough I wore out a few rulers and hopefully one elderly nun’s knuckles which often found their way to my head (that may explain a few things).  I wasn’t a malicious student, just one who didn’t always conform.  It wasn’t the age of “doing your own thing” though I certainly did my best to be an individual.  Albeit, I was an individual who didn’t do his homework or study for tests (but still managed to ace them all). My antics were never deliberately destructive.  In some ways I…

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…

Dave’s Valley Grill – Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico

Several years ago, Major Larry Abraham (God rest his soul) of the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque called me out, reminding me that such restaurants as Sadie’s of New Mexico, Casa de Benavidez and Vernon’s Speakeasy were located not in Albuquerque as credited on Gil’s Thrilling…, but in the village he capably served for four terms. He politely asked me to correct my oversight. Ever since Mayor Abraham’s gentle prodding, your humble blogger has been much more diligent about ensuring the correct location of every restaurant reviewed–especially when at issue is whether the restaurant is in Albuquerque or in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. In my defense, the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque is much like what New Mexico’s…

The Cooperage – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Reading my sisters’ Archie comic books on the sly 30 plus years ago taught me two things. First, it taught me that teenage boys shouldn’t admit to ever reading Archie much less admit to preferring the girl next door Betty over the siren Veronica. Secondly, Archie comics taught me that a “cooper” (as in Betty’s last name) is a barrel-maker. Everything a cooper produces–casks, barrels, buckets, tubs, butter churns, pipes and more–is referred to collectively as a “cooperage.” In 1976, a barrel-shaped building called the Cooperage appeared in a Lomas Boulevard area dominated by car dealerships. Armed with knowledge provided by Archie comic books, I impressed those very same friends who had teased me about reading Archie comics by explaining…

Ponderosa Family Restaurant & Grill- Tijeras, New Mexico (CLOSED)

The teeth, tail and eye of the tiger caused quite an uproar in the Sandia National Forest near Tijeras, New Mexico back in 2015 and it made the national news. A mountain biker took a blurry photo of what appeared to be a tiger and posted it online. The photo went viral, prompting Bernalillo county officials to issue a warning urging hikers to take caution and call 911 if they saw it. A subsequent investigation by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department uncovered a life-sized plastic statue of a tiger. Because of the uproar it had caused, the plastic tiger was destroyed. New Mexicans found the presence of the jungle cat in Tijeras wilderness quite ironic. There’s been a…

Cafe 6855 – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The cover page of the May 20, 2013 edition of Time Magazine depicts a twenty-something woman sprawled on the floor taking a selfie. In large type above the photo is the caption “The Me Me Me Generation” subtitled with “Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” If you believe the monolithic label “millennial” (typically assigned to a person born between 1981 and 2001) defines all young people and that popular characterizations and stereotypes about millennials are accurate, perhaps you’ll be interested in an oceanfront piece of real estate I’m selling in Arizona. If your perceptions of young people skew toward the negative, let me introduce you to Victoria and Julian Gonzales. Victoria and Julian are among…

Las Ristras Restaurant – Corrales, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Based on interviews conducted with Hollywood luminaries who’ve starred in movies or television shows shot in New Mexico, you might think our state either doesn’t have a symbol of hospitality or that symbol is something as poorly representative of the Land of Enchantment as crack (Josh Brolin), tire stores (Jonathan Banks), shirtless drivers (Seth McFarlane), Walmart (Jessica Alba) or loudness (Tommy Lee Jones). With all the tax breaks and enticements afforded film production companies, shouldn’t its most visible beneficiaries at least have something nice to say about New Mexico? While New Mexico doesn’t have an official (as in legislatively decreed) symbol of hospitality, most of us recognize a ristra hanging on a doorway as an invitation to visitors, ergo a…

Seared – Albuquerque, New Mexico

While you might not be able to judge a book by its cover, sometimes a book title will resonate deeply and you know you’re going to enjoy reading it very much. That’s especially true when a book title warmly reminds you of nostalgic memories long buried in your past. Such was the case when I espied Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner: Stories of a Seared Childhood by award-winning raconteur Regi Carpenter. That title aptly described daily life for the long suffering Peraltas, our childhood neighbors in Peñasco. Mama Peralta, one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, was such a scatterbrained cook that she used the smoke alarm as a timer. She didn’t sear meat, she cremated…

Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Albuquerque, New Mexico

During a recent Friends of Gil (FOG) outing, a newcomer asked how my Kim and I can afford to eat out as often as we do (about three times week on average). The practice of “dating your mate” is something we began half a lifetime ago when we were stationed in Mississippi and my Air Force salary was, to put it conservatively, considerably less than one-thousand dollars for every year of my life. Despite the fact that I’d been handpicked for the only job of its kind in my career field, a position with significant responsibilities usually accorded to someone of higher grade and experience–not to mention the possibility of war and deployment every service member faces–by most standards we…

Western View Diner & Steakhouse – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Since the 1930s, neon signage has been a prominent and vital part of Route 66 as it meanders through Albuquerque. From the foothills of the Sandias in the east to the parched desert expanse of the west, Route 66 is festooned with vibrant neon signage that cuts a luminous swath through the city. The nocturnal spectacle of glowing neon might be the siren’s call that has drawn generations of “cruisers” to Central Avenue. One of Albuquerque’s most prominent neon spangled signs celebrates Route 66 as it spans across all four lanes of Central Avenue near its intersection with Coors Boulevard Southwest. Literally at the shadow of that span is the Western View Diner & Steakhouse which has been pleasing weary…