There are just some restaurants at which the stereotypical Ralph Cramden hungry man shouldn’t dine. Hannah & Nate’s is one of them. It’s not that the food isn’t good. That’s certainly not the case. It’s just that it’s part of the troglodytic nature of men to whine and complain when we have to wait more than two minutes for our meals and we become doubly obnoxious when the portions aren’t large enough to feed a small bull elephant. Thankfully, my Kim has been a great civilizing influence on me and I’m able to enjoy restaurants such as Hannah & Nate’s as much as she does.
Hannah & Nate’s is a home decor and market cafe ideally suited for gentrified ladies with a lot of leisure time on their hands. It’s not a restaurant at which a boorish lout will sit patiently then be satisfied with what he would consider “finger foods.” Take for example the “beef & bleu” sandwich featuring sliced roast beef, caramelized onion and sautéed mushrooms topped with bleu cheese on grilled sourdough. It’s not four inches thick the way such men would want it and the bleu cheese isn’t powerful enough to give them the belch inducing halitosis powerful enough to clear a room.
Launched in 2002, Hannah & Nate’s is ensconced within the Riverside Plaza, a mixed-use development with convenient access from both Montano and Coors. The plaza’s charming campus-like environment seems tailor-made for the home decor and market cafe which is named for the children of Beth and Phil Salazar. Phil manages the food operations side of the business while Beth manages the decor operations. The cafe is open from 8AM to 2PM while the home decor operation remains open until 5:30.
The ambitious full-service breakfast menu belies the relatively small (call it comfy cozy) dining room which tends to get quite busy. Many eyes are drawn immediately to the menu section entitled “Local Flavor” for Hannah & Nate’s take on New Mexican breakfast favorites such as huevos rancheros, breakfast enchiladas, breakfast quesadillas and the intriguing Eggs Benedict de Nuevo Mexico (two poached eggs served on top of an English muffin smothered with homemade carne adovada and melted Cheddar cheese. This is the favorite breakfast entree of my learned friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate.
More traditional eggs Benedict dishes are also available on the “Traditional Favorites” section of the menu where you’ll also find quiche and sourdough French toast. A number of breakfast burritos and omelets are also available for the most important meal of the day. The lunch menu is apportioned into several sections: Appetizers, Sandwich Board, Garden Fresh Salads, New Mexican Food Favorites, “Hot” From the Grill and The “Lite” Side (a half-sandwich with your choice of potato salad, fresh fruit, side salad or cup of green chile stew).
Lunch enjoyment might start with the carne adovada crisp, a quesadilla in which crisp flour tortillas envelope lean pork marinated in red chile and melted cheese. Why more quesadillas don’t feature carne adovada is beyond me, but even if they did, it’s doubtful they can duplicate this artfully crafted appetizer. Although the red chile isn’t especially hot, it’s very flavorful with a garlicky taste which complements the rich red chile.
Among the many hot-off-the-grill sandwiches we’ve enjoyed from the sandwich board are:
- Nate’s Melt (sliced beef roast, green chile, red peppers, caramelized onions, avocado and cheddar on grilled sourdough bread) in which the green chile has that pronounced roasted green chile aroma and taste New Mexicans love as much as life itself. This is an outstanding sandwich!
- Tuscan Meatloaf Sandwich (rustic Tuscan meatloaf topped with caramelized onion, roasted red peppers and Jack cheese served on a grilled baguette). This is meatloaf at its comfort food best, the type your mother made for you as a child. The meatloaf isn’t overly thick which means you’ll actually taste the other ingredients, a harmonious mix of complementary toppings.
- New Mexico BLT (crispy bacon, fresh tomato, roasted green chile and lettuce on grilled sourdough bread). This isn’t the boring BLT you make at home. The bacon has a smoky taste; the sourdough bread a buttery, grilled texture; and neither the L or the T dominate as they’re apt to do.
All sandwiches and grilled items are served with your choice of homemade potato salad (a boring celery and dill pickle based potato salad that is the only thing we haven’t liked at Hannah & Nate’s), fresh fruit or ridged potato chips. Invariably, the fresh fruit seems to be in season no matter the time of year. We’ve had watermelon in November and it had a fresh flavor. The chips are always crisp and fresh and thankfully not the “bottom of the bag” bits some restaurants serve. Eschew these sides altogether and ask for a cup of green chile stew. It’s served warm and has a nice piquant bite of green chile complemented with just enough Mexican oregano.
For an additional two bits, make sure you ask for one of the five (chipotle, cucumber dill, cranberry, herb, olive) specialty mayonnaise offered. Even though the sandwiches don’t need any additional accoutrement whatsoever, the mayonnaise can be used as a dip for your chips. The chipotle mayo and the cucumber dill (similar to the Greek tzadziki sauce but maybe even better) are our early favorites.
Corrales Addition: In the spring of 2006, Hannah & Nate’s Market Shop launched a second Albuquerque area restaurant, this one in the former site of the very popular Calico Cafe which burnt down in 2004. If anything, the Corrales version of Hannah & Nate’s is even better than the Riverside Plaza restaurant.
For one thing, the Corrales restaurant has a full breakfast menu–three pages of traditional and New Mexican favorites. My early favorite would have to be the steak and egg burrito served Christmas style (red and green chile). This burrito is engorged with three eggs, sautéed onions, roasted red peppers, cubed potatoes and steak–not a cheap cut of meat either, but grilled top sirloin. This is an excellent breakfast burrito made with high-quality ingredients and served hot. Both the red and green chile at Hannah & Nate’s are very good with a slight nod going to the red chile which is almost burgundy in color and which possesses the rare earthiness I love in red chile.
For my Kim, carne adovada is the standard-bearer against which she measures just how good a New Mexican restaurant is. To her consternation, some restaurants which don’t use cumin on anything else (for some inexplicable reason) add it to carne adovada, bringing about the ruination of a delicate dish which requires no amelioration. Hannah & Nate’s carne adovada is among her very favorites, especially when served on the carne adovada breakfast enchiladas plate: three stacked enchiladas stuffed with carne adovada and topped with red or green chile, Cheddar cheese and two eggs any style served with a side of hash browns and a tortilla. If a breakfast dish can foretell a good day, this one will do it. The carne is porcine perfection as tender as a mother’s love, marinated in chile that doesn’t shy away from its heat.
There are a couple of perspectives about huevos rancheros. The “glass is half empty” perspective is that huevos ranchers are a rather uncomplicated dish constructed from a limited number of ingredients. Glass half full folks rave that having few ingredients allows those ingredients to shine. At its essence, huevos rancheros are little more than eggs, corn tortillas, Cheddar cheese and your choice of red or green chile. Both the red and green chile at Hannah & Nate’s are top tier, some of the best in the metropolitan area. The corn tortillas have a pronounced corn taste, are relatively grease-free and are fried perfectly. The eggs are prepared to your exacting specifications and have a farm-fresh flavor. Count me among the glass half full folks. Count the huevos rancheros at Hannah & Nate’s among the very best in the area.
Hannah & Nate’s also features a daily special and if the market smoked porchetta is any indication, the specials are indeed special. Porchetta generally refers to a boneless, rolled roast of pork studded with garlic and herbs. Hannah & Nate’s takes the pork and stuffs it into a baguette then tops it with a roasted garlic aioli, green onion marmalade, sage and tomato. The flavor combinations are sensational!
Hannah & Nate’s doesn’t have a long line-up of desserts (muffins, chocolate brownies), but who needs more options when you’ve got cranberry bread pudding. It’s not on Larry McGoldrick’s Bread Pudding Hall of Fame, but it could be the professor with the perspicacious palate hasn’t tried this bread pudding. Quite simply, it borders on spectacular, providing a balance of flavors most bread pudding can’t approach. The tangy cranberries and savory almond shavings temper the sweetness of the sweet sauce surrounding the soft, spongy bread.
Another plus in favor of the Corrales restaurant is its patio which allows you to watch expensive cars drive by while you dine under a sun-lit sky. During the winter months, sitting indoors and enjoying the fireplace is nearly as nice.
Hannah & Nate’s
6251 Riverside Plaza, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 26 April 2014
# OF VISITS: 9
BEST BET: Carne Adovada Crisp, Nate’s Melt, Market Smoked Porchetta, New Mexico BLT, Tuscan Meatloaf Sandwich, Steak & Egg Burrito, Cranberry Bread Pudding, Huevos Rancheros