Gil’s Best of the Best for 2013

Rabbit Brasolo al Barolo with Pork Belly from Torinos @ Home

The advent of 2014 is nigh. It’s with great fondness and more than a little (blush) salivation that I bid adieu to auld lang syne and the most memorable dishes of 2013. These are the dishes which are most indelibly imprinted on my memory engrams…the first dishes that come to mind when I close my eyes and reflect on the past year in eating.

  • “But this is New Mexico,” you might exclaim after you read that eight of the very best dishes I enjoyed in 2013 were seafood dishes. That’s not supposed to happen in a high desert state. Chez Bob must not have heard this is a landlocked state because the Diver Scallops with a Buerre Blanc Sauce are as good as you’ll find along the coast.
  • Chef, proprietor, barista, ambassador. That’s Michael Gonzales who’s not only unabashedly passionate about his Cafe Bella, but a civic-minded promoter of the City of Vision. His slow-roasted, locally smoked carne panini featured succulent pork, baby field greens, mozzarella and a mayo-based sauce. Each bite is an absolute joy and an adventure in deliciousness.
  • Four sandwiches made my “best of 2013” list. Tia Betty Blue’s, a rollicking, quirky and all-around fun restaurant creates the most piquant of the quadrumvirate. The New Mexico Po’ Boy (housemade carne adovada, cheese, onions, lettuce, Fritos and pickled jalapeños) is a delicious exemplar of creativity meets unconventional.
  • “More burritos than you can shake your maracas” is the motto at Papa Nachos, but burritos alone don’t a great restaurant make. Visit after 3PM and treat yourself to the Shrimp Quesadilla (a large tortilla speckled the color of a pinto pony engorged with shrimp, melted white cheese, onions and cilantro). It’s addictive.
  • If Maxime Bouneou isn’t on your short list of Albuquerque’s best chefs, it’s either because you haven’t been to Torinos @ Home or your Italian food repertoire doesn’t extend beyond Chef Boyardee. Grouper al Cartoccio (grouper filet baked in a crispy wrap with Swiss chard, mussels and clams) is several orders of magnitude better than the very best spaghetti you’ve ever had.
  • Sadly, the Rabbit Brasolo al Barolo isn’t on the everyday menu at Torinos @ Home because it’s the most memorable and delicious food any restaurant served me in 2013. The special occasion in which this ambrosial masterpiece was served was Daniela’s 42nd birthday celebration. Here’s hoping and praying it’ll be served on her 43rd birthday, too.
  • At La Cantina at Casa Sena, the wait staff will regale you with jazz and musical revues of the best of Broadway, but you’ll be tempted to sing lustily about the Aztec Dusted Salmon (pan-seared filet with spiced mocha crust and yellow mole. It’s amazing how well the assertive pairing of spiced mocha and yellow mole complement such a delicate fish.
  • The black cod with a miso glaze at Blades’ Bistro is so good, I had to return a week later to confirm what my taste buds were telling me–this is the very best seafood dish I had in 2013, maybe one of the very best ever. Frankly you can’t go wrong with anything on Chef Kevin’s menu, but this dish beckons for return visits.
  • Santa Fe without the perpetually smiling countenance of Bonnie Eckre and the cast iron grill mastery of her husband John would be just another “city same.” After a hiatus of two months, the Bobcat Bite was reborn as Santa Fe Bite. By any name, The Bite’s green chile cheeseburger is still the very best in the universe!
  • With the launch of the Down N Dirty Seafood Boil restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexicans no longer need to travel to the coast for the seafood boil experience. Scallops, potatoes and corn prepared in a magical elixir that transports you seaside are just two of the reasons. Most of your favorite seafood entrees can be found here.
  • It strikes people funny when I declare Malaysian cuisine as my very favorite of all Asian foods. Unfortunately the Duke City hasn’t had many opportunities for diners to discover Malaysian treasures for themselves. That is until Street Food Asia opened and started serving the absolutely fantastic Kuala Lumpur Street Malay Curry Laksa as well as other Malay favorites.
  • In my year-end retrospective, I likened Paco’s International Smoked Cuisine to a magnificent shooting star which faded away much too quickly but left an indelible afterglow. Among the memorable culinary treasures conceived by the brilliant Paco Aceves were the sautéed Mussels with potatoes and leeks in a smooth coconut milk and chipotle broth served with grilled bread.
  • Until Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives aired a segment showcasing Bocadillos Slow Roasted: A Sandwich Shop, few diners were aware of this diminutive eatery with huge flavors (unless they read this blog). The Duke City Ruben (sic) may be the city’s very best Ruben, one about which the effusive Fieri couldn’t say enough.
  • If you haven’t heard of or been to Elaine’s yet, it’s only a matter of time before this extraordinary fine-dining milieu becomes “the place to be” in Nob Hill. One of the reasons is Elaine’s Blue crab and cauliflower soup, quite simply one of the very best exemplars of comfort food deliciousness in the Duke City.
  • The Giovanni Special (six cheese stuffed ravioli, three meatballs, two sausages topped with homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella) isn’t on the menu at Joe’s Pasta House in Rio Rancho, but long-time visitors order it anyway and the veteran wait staff knows exactly what they’re talking about. The homemade tomato sauce is heavenly!

Over the years Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has become a community in which readers freely share their opinions. I invite all my dear readers to share your favorites by replying to this post.

Gil’s “Best of the Best”: 2021 |  2020 | 2019 | 2018 |2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 |

19 thoughts on “Gil’s Best of the Best for 2013

  1. For what it’s worth (which ain’t much, but this and a couple bucks will get you a nice cuppa joe) I’d like to offer my favorite Albuqueque restaurant comfort foods. These are my go-to choices when I feel the need to feed both the body AND the spirit. A large part of my attraction to these restaurants is the wonderful people who own or manage them. When it comes to comfort food, great meals served by warm special folks is the key that locks it all together.
    In no particular order:
    – Mary and Tito’s Large Combination Plate – Red with the Tamale and a side of chicharones.
    – California Pastrami – The Classic Pastrami Combo “Juiced up” with a side of Onion Rings
    – Lota Burger – A double-meat Lota Burger with extra onions. I grew up eating Lota-Burgers so it will always be comfort food to me. …and there’s just something about a Lota Burger.
    – Bahn Mi Coda – the #4 Bahn Mi (Vietnamese Meatballs) with double meat and #16 Spring Rolls – Pork Sausage and Crunchy Roll and a side of Sriracha sauce to dip it all in.
    – K&I Diner – the Leo with Red Chili (sic) and chopped onions. It is essentially chili cheese fries, but classier.
    – Powdrells – Smoked Wings or Link Sandwich and a salad with their wonderful, dare I say best-in-the-city blue cheese dressing.
    – Ming Dynasty – Footballs (one of Minh’s many Dim Sum offerings) and either Shrimp Curry or Singapore Beef
    – Siam Cafe – Hot Basil Fried Rice with Chicken and Laab Gai. Add Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango and Coconut Milk (of course I share – that’s a lot of food.)
    – Mario’s Pizzaria and Ristorante – Chopped Salad with the house dressing – add finely chopped fresh garlic. Full of veggies, meat, cheese. Madone!
    – Torinos @ Home – Anything they serve – they make you feel right at home with good friends, and what is more comfortable than that? Like Edward Sung, I really enjoy the Stuffed Calamari. It is the kind of good that makes you roll your eyes and sigh. Also their Bucatini with Putanesca sauce, Agnolotti (Ravioli), and antipasto is magnificent.

    Bon Appetit and Happy New Year, y’all. And thanks, Gil for all you do.

  2. Well, it looks like Suzie Queue beat me to most of my choices (Burger King to me is what Michael Scott was to Jan on “The Office” — self-degradation is a hell of a drug), and my list will look like Hannah’s for obvious reasons, but here goes:

    (I’m cheating a little since most of my dining out was autumn 2012 through summer 2013)

    Spanish blood sausage at Cosmo Tapas (R.I.P.) — I had no idea I liked blood sausage until this
    The Pierre (Gruyere cheese, wild mushroom, demi glace) burger at B2B
    Clams in butter broth with fennel and bacon at Nob Hill Bar & Grill
    Shrimp & Grits at the Supper Truck — so much more than “shrimp & grits” would lead you to expect
    Fried fish at Nexus Brewery — beautiful cornmeal crust and perfectly prepared
    Crispy Flounder at Budai
    Grilled Salmon at M’Tucci — very rare for a restaurant to get salmon right
    Snow crab and shrimp at Down N Dirty Seafood Boil
    Stuffed Calamari at Torino’s
    The Duke City Reuben at Bocadillos — I broke a tooth eating this (not on the sandwich but on my own teeth, out of sheer delirium) but it was totally worth it

  3. I think the part of the recipe I find most interesting is the “wee spittle” to test the oil. So very rustic yet ingenious in the way it wastes nothing edible the way a tiny corner of the tortilla would sizzle indicating the proper heat.
    Heads up for la Gloria, if BOTVOLR invites you over for Huevos Los Ranchos make sure you are there for the entire cooking process, you don’t want to walk in as it’s being plated.

  4. Aaargh Geez La Brute y La Gloria!!! It’s actually all about The Packaging! And, I apologize, mine is also different as actually being a Huevo Los Ranchos!
    Regarding Forewarning: requires ability to multi-task!
    Be heating up diced…never ever pureed!!!….Green Chile from your annual stash to which is added several splashes of water or beef broth and sprinkles of ¼ – ½ in. diced, sauted beef. Shadow with some minced garlic. Nope, no cumin nor sea/kosher/flaked/table salt need be added!
    While heating refried beans… Rosarita’s will do if ya don’t do your own pintos…heat ¼+ inch oil to be hot enough when you test with wee-spittle and it dances (may use waterdrops if making for others). Using tongs, slip a corn tortilla in (careful of splashup if frozen!). Squish eyes shut X3 for a 3 count each, i.e. is approx. Practice to achieve a flexible, but not flaccid, tortilla. “Fry” two and drain on paper towel. Drain most oil to fry xtra large egg…over-medium recommended. (Note: if you have the stovetop capability and finances to splurge on oil, be frying egg while frying tortilla!)
    On a preheated plate, place one tortilla. Slather a ½ inch base of refrieds on the tortilla. Place egg atop beans. Sprinkle on 2 handfuls of hearty (i.e. not mild), grated cheddar cheese. Liberally (pardon) top with the well heated Green Chile mix. Top with a couple of handfuls each of shredded lettuce, diced onions, diced tomatoes, and the second corn tortilla. Press down gently.
    Using a steak knife, saw down through the tortilla et al. Rather than a flour tortilla on-the-side, I prefer saltines with a wee-dab of butter. Best with an icy cold cerveza. (These latter two can also help cut the heat if Y’all are serving visitors from e.g. Brooklyn!) Please note: A) it’s healthy as no external salt is needed and B) you are not sitting in front of an egg sloshing in some liquidy whatever probably best served in a bowl not a plate! Otherwise: Muy Sabrosa!

  5. Gil,
    Those look like some good places to try. But alass, not even one of my best restaraunts was on your top 10. Did you ever even try some of my reccomendations? The cooks at El Pintos really know there stuff about there ribs and I would reccommend you start ther’e. You will like the subliminable flavors of the chili with the tender rib. Trust me, I know! Even the bones are good! I can eat 7 tacos!
    An I bet you never try the rib sanwiches at Burger King becaus its a chain. How can you resist there only a buck! But you are missing out becase there only avaialble for a limited time only. I can eat 5 and it only cost me $5 bucks and I am full and happy. How can you resist that?
    Happy new years Gil and I hope you eat lots of good food in the new year of 2014.

    1. Good Morning Suzie

      You have a rather unique palate, maybe unlike that of anyone else in Albuquerque. I would love to join you for lunch–your choice of restaurant and my treat. Perhaps you could introduce me to those ribs at El Pinto. They’re a favorite of another commentator you might know, Bob of the Village People.

      I hope you have a wonderful 2014 and that you continue to share your unique insights on the Duke City dining scene.


      1. That would be great. I had the ribs at el Pintos the other day so I could eat something besides ribs. Could we go to Applebees becaus they have this 2 for 1 special where you get to pick and apetizer and then an entre and they have this sweet pepper chicken and shrimp that Ive ben wanting to try. Maybe you pick a place and I could try it and you could write about me and how I liked it. You pick. But not pizza. or salad.

  6. La Gloria,
    I was scratching my head, not my nor Bob’s Huevos.
    I use Bob’s comments instead of Lumosity to keep my mind fertile.
    Do you know anyone who has partaken of Bob’s Huevos and can confirm his immodest claim?
    May your New Year be filled with good health and even better Huevos .
    El Brute

    Once again you have left me scratching my head.
    Considering all the other replies listed best of food I wonder why you would include tipping tips?
    And kids meals.
    And Linda Beaver in a discussion of pierogi. “I” is pronounced like the “W” in woman????????
    I wonder if you’re baiting me so I get into trouble with La Gloria?
    And how will we ever know if your Huevos are the best?
    I’m still scratching my head.

  8. My list, a bit pedestrian at times but it’s mine.
    The Papas con chorizo at the Range, with nice soft poached eggs, plus their tomato bisque. Great Black and White cookies too.
    The fried calamari at M’Tucci , as close to east coast calamari, tentacles and ring, not strips.
    A tie between the charcuterie platter at Geronimos and the antipasti platter a Torino’s. Geronimo also has a great tuna appetizer with seared tuna slices and tuna tartare.
    The steamed pork buns at Budai, have it as a starter EVERY time I dine there plus any dish Elsa recommends.
    The Chile Rellenos at Antojitos Lupe, thankfully newly reopened on 550 in Bernalillo.
    The spectacular chicharones at El Mezze in Taos.
    The black cod with miso glaze at Blades and Chef Kevin’s country style chicken livers with mashed potatoes.
    Any red sauce dish at Joe’s Pasta House, primarily the Chicken Parm and Joe’s complimentary bruschetta, I’d gladly pay for it if it wasn’t on the house.
    The smoked salmon platter with toasted bagel at La Posada in Santa Fe.
    One more item worthy of my list, at Ikezawa at 10000 Waves, the pork belly, wow! Betcha can’t eat just one (serving).

  9. Well what else is not new…ala me! (“Best of” implied)
    ~ Added another 21 feet to the 500+ of The Foot Long (NM Red) Chile Cheese Dogs of the Dog House.
    ~ Tied up things: Beef Wellington @ Blade’s & Chez Bob’s.
    ~ Things Italian:
    For traditional vitali in old world (OK ’60s…LOL) ambiance Joe’s Pasta House & Capo’s.
    Where food is only the medium (WHAT!!!??) for a more ‘raucous’ gathering in a funky downhome background, e.g., maybe Buca di Beppo for fun? Saggio’s runner up.
    For Italian in the moderne world, M’Tucci’s Kitchina, Torino’s@Home, & Nicky V’s.
    ~ On the Cheap (<10):
    Shrimp Tempura dinner, Mr. Tokyo
    Carne/Green Chimichanga ('old style' in the bar) Fiesta Lounge.
    Kid's Crab Legs (incls salad & potato!): Red Lobster
    Stuffed Sopa of Chicharrones/Beans con Red – out the back door of Casa de Benavidez @ 5!
    ~ Al Fresco:
    Fiesta Patio of El Pinto
    Beside or in Casa de Benavidez's
    ~ Rising Stars M'Tucci and Nosh
    ~ Servers: Most All!!!!
    ~ Best new 'tapa' nosh to impress your Squeeze with a ghostly view : Hotel Parq Central's rooftop cushy settees.
    ~ Best Coffee 101 class: FREE @ NM Pinon Coffee co.
    ~ New Experience: Chicharrones with GREEN Chile. Also jerky: NM Beef Jerky Co.
    ~ Biggest disappointment: Fat Squirrel's Chips for Fish & Chips; discontinuance of PBR!
    ~ Best Ethnic combo-plate yet to be found: lightly fried pierogi (e.g. cheese/potato/onion)
    with a golumpki (NB: the 'l' is pronounced
    like the "w" in "woman", e.g. Linda Beaver), along with a side of kapusta laced with slices
    of kielbasa to be splashed down with shots of icy Belvedere or Sobieski…Na Zdrowie!
    ~ Best of TTTs (Taste/Texture/Tenderness) Still Unchallenged:
    Baked-in-Red Chile Ribs plate (1/2 size for me): El Pinto.
    Filetto in cima Risotto ala Scalo's!
    ~ Best Appreciated: Hosts who participate in the Journal's PressPass Program offering
    a most generous 20% off your dining experience. No, you do not have to use it each
    time you dine and, if I may, when you consider your Gratuity, do it with the non-discounted
    charge in mind.
    ~ Best Huevos Rancheros? Unmitigatedly? Mine!

  10. Gyros breakfast at the reborn Milton’s Cafe
    Bocadillos Reuben YES
    A clams appetizer at Nob Hill Bar & Grill
    Crispy orange peel scallops at Budai
    Any special event dinner at Torinos
    Pierre burger at B2B
    Supper Truck
    Chicharrones y refritos burrito from Pericos
    BLT on a pretzel roll at Flying Star

    Sheesh! So much good food in this town and no national chains needed!!!

  11. Suzie, you put the queue in Albuquerque. Your legions of fans look forward to your best restaurants list every year. Because you’re so open-minded, I recommend you expand your culinary boundaries in 2014 and try these dishes:

    Chocolate Milf Shack from Root 66 Malt Shop

    Kong Poo Shrimp from Boodie Goormay Chinese

    Meet Ball Sub from Saggy O’s

    Jurk Chickin from Toking Drums

    Blank & White Cockie from Knosh

    Seizer salad from Vinagret

    Oso Booko from Trombono’s Beestrow Italiano

    Crapicola, Moltadella and Sawsige Sub from Kwisnos

    Guockamoldy from Popa Machos

    Tres Leeches Cake from Zuckatexas Tacos & Tekilla

  12. Is it too late to tell you my best restaurnats for 2013?

    Here they are in my order of best that I can remember.

    1. The chinese buffet at China King on Acadamy. There sweet and sour pork is too die for. And they have globs and globs of other chinese food as well including soups, sushi, shrimp with green beans and there egg rolls are really good too. And it is all you can eat, but they dont let you take any home, eaven rolled up in a napkin in your purse. So don’t try that.

    2. Burger Kings $1.00 barbeque rib sanwich for a buck. There really good and only a buck. Just saying but it’s a chain, so Gil probably wont even try it. LOL!

    3. Limp burger. Mmmmm!

    4. Tuscanos -that place downtown that has the meat on the swords is really good if you want to eat a lot of meat and lots of it. And they have these pineapples that are grilled, but they only give you a little at a time, but it was my favorite. They also have this food bar that has lots of good food on it and they have these little chesey bread balls that go good with the meat. There garlic steak was the best, but I didnt have any of the chicken hearts. LOL! They had this salty saucage that was really good.

    5. Trombinos’ is my best Italian ever! I had there lasangia last week and it was too die for! I like where the edges got real crispy and were crunchy. I had some drinks called bulinnies (spelling?) and they were real good – they tasted like there was no alcohol in them so I wanted to drink a few, but believe me, they have alcohol. LOL! For desert, we had the chocholate brownie with the ice cream and it was real good.

    6. Viniagrete – they have this really good cheese and macaronis that has lots of cheese on it. I had the tuna salad and it was pretty good too and my date had some salad. I liked it a lot. LOL!

    7. Dions pizza has this margarita pizza that has fresh tomotos on it. It would probably go good with a margarita, but they don’t sell those, but there is something really good about that maragriat pizza. I put lots of parmesain cheese on it and it was soooooo good. LOL! My friend Dawanda had a meatball sandwich and it looked good and she said it was to but she took half of it home because it was too much. LOL!

    8. El Pintos – I had there ribs and they are too die for! there buffet is really good to and you can eat a lot and keep going back, but you need a clean plate each time. There margaritas are the best in the world. LOL! You can get lost in that place its is so big but they have good coffee too!

    Now that I am working again I can eat out more and I plan to try some new places next year in 2014.

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