Las Ristras Restaurant – Corrales, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Las Ristras Restaurant: Comedor de Corrales

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 symbol of hospitality. It’s as much a symbol of hospitality as the pineapple is in Hawaii and the fleur de lis is in Louisiana. Moreover, the ristra has come to represent the state of New Mexico, maybe not quite as much as the Zia sun, but to a large extent. Now, if you want your texts to reflect New Mexico hospitality, download an app called “New Mexico Emojis” for your iPhone or iPad. Among the emojis you can add to your texts is one depicting a bright red ristra.

Chips and Salsa

In Spanish, “ristra” actually means string. “Chile ristra” then translates into “a string of chiles.” While the chile ristra has utilitarian roots (chiles being strung together by their stems and hung on walls to dry in the sun), it’s possible decorative ristras fashioned from ceramic, fabric, plastic, and plaster mold are almost as common as actual chile ristras. Traditionalists appreciate the decorative qualities of the chile ristra, but ultimately will use them as they’ve been used for generations–for cooking and eating.

Because of the esteem with which the chile ristra is held throughout New Mexico, the expectations for a restaurant calling itself Las Ristras are high. That name brings with it the promise of hospitality and good food showcasing chile. Las Ristras opened its doors in August, 2015 at the site which scant weeks earlier was home to The Spot. The restaurant was the brainchild of Corrales resident Ginger Hunter, a fourth generation Corralenia who in 2015 was awarded a Civic Recognition Award in recognition of “acts of compassion and kindness.” Doesn’t that just bode of hospitality?

Baked Queso Fresco Topped with Chorizo

At its onset, the featured fare at Las Ristras was New Mexican cuisine—most of the “usual suspects” with a few creative touches added for good measure. Las Ristras made an impact on my friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate who gave it the “McGoldrick stamp of approval: “What I like about Las Ristras is that it is not a clone of the many dozens of cookie-cutter NM restaurants. The food is homemade and I feel like I’m eating (and conversing) in Ginger’s kitchen. This is simple food lovingly prepared.” Alas, not everyone shared the same opinion with Yelp and Zomato critics casting dissenting opinions.

By year’s end, ownership of Las Ristras had transitioned to Chef Jude Sanchez, a Corrales native (and Cibola graduate) who had returned home after cutting a wide swath across some of the best kitchens in Chicago and New York (including one which earned a Michelin star). Sadly, Jude passed away on 5 March 2018. We had the great pleasure of having spent just a little time with him, but came away very impressed with his effusive outlook and high aspirations for Las Ristras. To that end, he’s expanded the restaurant’s menu from mostly New Mexican fare to one now showcasing chophouse favorites the likes of which he enjoyed during his time in Chicago. Because Jude’s story is so interesting and inspiring, it’s retold at the tail end of this review.

Dinner Salad

You’ll certainly appreciate the multifarious menu, a surprisingly ambitious bill of fare that is actually several menus in one. There’s the Steak House Menu which is subtitled “Chef Inspired Dishes.” This is where carnivores of all persuasions will gravitate. Then there’s the New Mexican Favorites page which lives up to its name. The third menu, called “From the Grill” includes such inviting offerings as green chile meatloaf, fajitas and the Corrales Tortilla Burger. A breakfast menu includes both New Mexican and American wake-you-up items. Drive past Las Ristras and invariably you’ll see a slate board inviting you to try the latest du jour offering.

4 November 2017: Five appetizers and three “in the bowl” starters (posole, green chile stew and chile with beans) may not seem like many, but you’ll be hard-pressed to make a decision as to which to order. Luckily while you’re perusing the menus, a bowl of fresh salsa and chips is ferried over to your table. It may inspire you (as it did us) to order a Mexican inspired starter–the baked queso fresco topped with chorizo. Described as “a fresh slice of queso fresco baked and topped with sauteed chorizo served with chimi chips,” it’s presented beautifully. More importantly it’s flavored beautifully. The chorizo has a pleasant piquancy that permeates the entire dish with the queso fresco slice serving as a nice foil, maybe even palate-cleanser. Since my Kim found the chorizo a bit too piquant for her Chicago palate, it was only fair that I let her have both slices of the melted queso. We suspect that what the menu described as “chimi chips” may have been the three sopes-like fried dough circles on which everything else is piled. In any case, it was the canvas on which a masterpiece was created.

Half Rack Green Chile Rubbed Ribs

4 November 2017: Ever since a rib was taken from Adam’s body and fashioned into the first woman, both men and women (exempting vegetarians and vegans, of course) have craved ribs. Whether spare ribs, baby backs, rib tips or St. Louis cut ribs, they’re beloved by many, but don’t always offer many surprises. Chef Sanchez’s half rack of green chile rubbed ribs (fire-roasted baby back ribs with a Corrales green chile rub and sweet jalapeño sauce) surprised us. Most surprising is just how balanced and complementary the Corrales green chile and jalapeño sauce were. If you ever thought “never the twain shall meet,” you’ll be won over by just how much flavor can be extricated from that combination. The ribs themselves aren’t quite fall-off-the-bone tender, but then the best ribs aren’t. They have a little bit of give, indicative that they’re not overdone as those fall-off-the-bone ribs tend to be. These are competition worthy ribs which would fare well at Rio Rancho’s Pork & Brew.

4 November 2017: For my Chicago born-and-bred Kim, meat and potatoes have been a lifelong dietary staple, so you just have to know that she spent most of her time perusing the Steak House Menu. Not that she got very far even on that page. Mostly she contemplated at length the very first item on the menu, a beefy behemoth called “The Bad Boy.” Picture a sixteen to eighteen ounce bone-in ribeye, it’s described on the men as the “James Dean of the menu,” “so good, it’s bad.” That’s bad in a good way. At medium rare, this beauteous slab of beef has picturesque grill marks that preface flowing juices and a rich, beefy flavor with nice marbling throughout and after all, fat is where a lot of the distinctive flavor of beef comes from. In some places, ribeye is sold as “beauty steak.” The two-inch-thick Bad Boy certainly fits the bill. Steak House menu items are served with a terrific dinner salad drizzled with a creamy avocado ranch dressing. You also have your choice of sides: smoked Gouda green chile potatoes, pancetta vegetables or cilantro lime rice. Go for the former.

The “Bad Boy”

20 May 2018: During our first visit to Las Ristras two months after Chef Sanchez’s untimely passing, we expected a pall of gloom. Instead, our server related that the staff celebrates his life. His recipes are still prepared and his customer orientation values are still practiced. There’s no better way to honor a very well respected and liked chef who left us too soon. Service was terrific with our Dude being the talk of the restaurant. Several servers came out to the patio to meet our debonair dachshund. Our beverages were quick to be replenished and we were well accommodated with a couple substitutions (Gouda green chile potatoes instead of garlic mashed potatoes, fruit instead of papas). His staff would have made Chef Sanchez proud.

On a leisurely Sunday, we decided to enjoy our appetizer—emanating from the “From The Garden” section of the menu—before ordering our entrees. It’s not very often we enjoy an appetizer so much it changes our thinking about what entrees to have. La Ristra’s fajita salad did precisely that. Described on the menu as “all the great taste of traditional fajitas in a new, fresh, crisp way,” this salad is constructed with bell peppers, onions, cheese, sour cream, corn tortilla strips and your choice of beef or chicken all topped with house avocado ranch dressing. The only thing missing is flour tortillas. My Kim loved this salad so much, she ordered…(wait for it)…fajitas as her entrée.

Fajita Salad

20 May 2018: The fajitas, available with your choice of beef, chicken or shrimp are much more conventional though presented with less flair than at some New Mexican restaurants. That is, they didn’t arrive at our table on a sizzling hot iron skillet with aromatic steam trailing behind. Otherwise, every expected element is there. The marinated grilled beef is more tender than most skirt steak and who can complain about that. A tangle of sweet, caramelized onions and a finely chopped pico de gallo along with the requisite cheese and sour cream were all in good proportion to the beef. The flour tortillas were thick orbs of pinto pony charred deliciousness. We filled them to capacity as we enjoyed every bite of Kim’s fajitas.

20 May 2018: Wild game–elk, quail, wild boar and Chilean trout –is featured on the Chef’s Seasonal menu for Spring, 2018. Tempting as these are, the ten-ounce, bone-in chile-honey glazed pork ribeye beckoned loudest. When the menu describes its pork ribeye as “bone-in” it just might be two bones as was the case with the one delivered to our table. Prepared with nary a hint of pink, the pork ribeye is porcine perfection. The chile-honey glaze has the sweetness of honey with the piquancy of chile in balanced proportion to each other. The ribeye is tender and absolutely delicious. Instead of the “sauteed seasonal vegetables” being code for the seemingly de rigueur vegetable medley of peas and carrots, the accompanying vegetables were sauteed onions, asparagus and mushrooms. Now these are vegetables I can eat all the time.


4 NOVEMBER 2017: OUR VISIT WITH CHEF JUDE SANCHEZ: To say Chef Sanchez came a long way is an understatement. Unlike many chef luminaries who aspire from a very young age to pursue the culinary arts, he had no such designs. Fate—and a famous New Mexico chef—intervened. After committing a teenage indiscretion, Chef Sanchez found himself in front of a judge about to impose a sentence of community service. Chef Jim White, then at the helm of Corrales institution La Casa Vieja, convinced the judge to let the young rapscallion perform his community service at his restaurant. The rest, as the proverbial “they,” say is history.

Initially, Chef Sanchez was assigned to what the military terms as “kitchen police,” or “KP,” a punishment calling for washing and drying mountains of soiled dishes. When the repentant teen proved himself adept at following instructions and performing quality work, Chef White taught him how to cut and peel vegetables, the next tasking to which he was assigned. Laboring in the fast-paced kitchen environment went from judicially imposed community service to a career path Chef Sanchez wanted very much to pursue. After his stint at La Casa Vieja, he made it his life’s quest to learn as much as he could about the vast diversity of culinary arenas, hence his sojourn to Chicago and New York.

Chile-Honey Glazed Pork Ribeye

The domain of some chefs is solely the kitchen where they toil in relative anonymity and rarely mingle with the dining public. Other chefs glad-hand diners and let others actually prepare meals for their guests. Not so with Chef Sanchez who not only made it a point to check up on his guests, he prepared meals. When we met him, he was toting heavy boxes of locally grown produce for use at Las Ristras, but the prospect of spending time with our debonair dachshund Dude lured him toward our table under a porch at the back of the restaurant. Chef Sanchez was an outgoing gentleman with an easy smile and ebullient passion for his restaurant. He loved his pit bull terrier like many of us love our children. How can you not appreciate a chef like that? Godspeed Jude!

Ristras is part New Mexican, part steak house and a one-hundred percent destination restaurant.

Los Ristras Restaurant
4940 Corrales Road, N.E., Suite 400
Corrales, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 20 May 2018
1st VISIT: 4 November 2017
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chips and Salsa, The Bad Boy, Green Chile Rubbed Ribs, Fajita Salad, Fajitas, Baked Queso Fresco, Dinner Salad, Chips and Salsa

20 thoughts on “Las Ristras Restaurant – Corrales, New Mexico (CLOSED)

  1. It’s C3 Bistro (Corrales, Cajun and Creole. For those who like Gator, they have Gator 3 Ways. Not chewy at all. I believe they open Tuesday. They will have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Excellent Food!

  2. Bruce, I don’t know if you’ve seen the sad announcement that Las Ristras in Corrales has closed. Here’s an excerpt from the restaurant’s website:

    To our dear beloved community… It is with sad and heavy hearts that we must announce the closing of Las Ristras. It has been our labor of love and such a beautiful opportunity to be able to connect and serve our community. It was our full intention to come back and be up and running. We were able to do that quite successfully for the past few weeks because of all of your support and the few loyal and hard working staff. Unfortunately the covid-19 situation has created a void in the labor force preventing small businesses from getting back on their feet. It is always been one of our core values to provide our guest the best in service and food, making them feel like family. Unfortunately without adequate labor to do that we would be failing all of you and unjustly asking far too much of the handful of employees who have stayed with us. We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to those staff who saw it through to the end and helped us never give up on Jude’s dream. Thank you to all of you who made Las Ristras what it is…. A place where everyone was always welcomed, loved and accepted. Jude always saw his food as a way of bringing people together and that’s exactly what this place has been for all of us and we will miss you dearly.

  3. Gil, I don’t really think this is an appropriate post for publication in this forum but I thought I’d pass this news on to you.

    We became aware of this on Wednesday.

    The current (March 10th) edition of the Corrales Comment reports that Las Ristras owner/chef Jude Sanchez passed away on March 5th.

    The restaurant was closed for a couple of days opening again yesterday.

    1. Thank you, Bruce. For the past four days, my review of Las Ristras has received a large number of visitors–several months after my review. Wondering why so many visits, I looked up Jude’s Facebook page and found out he had passed away. Jude had an amazing number of very close friends who are in shock at his passing. Their tributes are very heart-warming. Jude was a very optimistic and positive guy who will be greatly missed.

      1. Thank you for the good reading. Las Ristras does have a very good little history and story that I will always hold very dear.

      2. As we know, 2018 has been a incredibly hard year for the folks at Las Ristras.
        According to todays Corrales Comment, their landlord has made things even tougher.
        Per the article, they were told that because they cannot not go forward with Judes’ plans to expand their space into an adjacent unit (adding bakery and coffee sales plus expanding the kitchen) that they would not extend their lease and that they would have to vacate at the end of this month.
        It seems that this is due to the landlord finding a replacement tenant who wants to occupy both spaces.
        The article further states that Las Ristras wants to remain in Corrales and will have to look for a new space.
        Fortunately it looks like they will be staying put through the end of the year (a temporary reprieve from the landlord?) which gives them a bit more time to find a new location.
        Unfortunately, changing locations may mean that they may not be able to move their liquor license.
        The restaurant business is challenging enough without having to take a hit from your landlord.

  4. Alas, flattering Red/Black motif. Can’t remember the name of one of the previous restaurateurs, but liked the way they had set up some “enclosures”, i.e. a screening from the front door might be nice. Was headed for the “green” ribs to compare to El P’s Red, but succumbed to the idea of it being Prime Rib night. Yo and BTW, it is soup, entree (with choice of size), and dessert. Soup’s Ok with several chunks of beef. My 8oz was generous and cooked nicely as lite medium with option offered to ‘darken’ it. Creamy au gratinish potatoes are great. The nice sized and presented offering of a lemony thingy, was a good, palate cleansing finish. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the live, melodic guitarist who I couldn’t quite see who might have been Ivan Rane from Joe’s Pasta…LOL.
    WaitStaff is hospitable and attentive and overall, one senses a pride of ownership.
    Separate from the above and kinda offtrack:
    Sacre Bleu! OMD! (Oh Mon Dieu! ici) If someone has been here would you please advise if seating towels are supplied or is it BYOT?
    Again, unless you are into home cooking and into video gaming, check out the animation of this “game”

    1. A nude restaurant in Paris? In other cities, Nyotaimori (the Japanese practice of serving sashimi or sushi from the naked body of a woman) is quite the fad.

      Might there be a future BOTVOLR poll about dining au naturel?

  5. I loved Las Ristras Restaurant in Corrales. I took a business client for lunch. I walked in and felt like Norm in Cheers. My client was impressed. Will do again.

  6. Have to agree with Schuyler and FGFABQ, Gil’s lack of harsh words are what drew me to his blog. It’s easy to say that the red chile has too much cumin and as such tastes like your licking someone’s underarm, and it’s another to say the red chile has cumin and you don’t really like the taste of cumin…both convey that the red chile is not that good. The internet is replete with morons who use the anonymous nature of the internet as an excuse to be mean spirited, why add to it in another blog? I applaud Gil’s “say something nice approach”. Rather than say the food sucked, you can say that the best part of the restaurant is that is was clean and had nice paintings on the walls…

    As far as the history/trivia/anectodes go, I enjoy most of them, but some tend to be uninteresting to me. I just skip those and go straight to the review. FYI, if 90% of the review is a history lesson or some other story…news flash, the food wasn’t that good…

    And as far as Gil providing a disservice to his reader’s pocketbooks, whose to say you won’t like something Gil didn’t, or that you’ll like something he did. While he and I agree about 95% of the time, there are times when I disagree with a rating, or a recommended dish. I believe Gil even has a caveat emptor statement on his site somewhere. If you read his blog long enough, you’ll get a feeling for when you personnally should follow his advice and when you should order something else, or avoid a restaurant all together.

    Just my $0.02.


  7. Bruce, you took the words right out of my mouth.

    There’s a time and place for muck and mire…and it isn’t Gil’s site. The blogosphere has become a fetid, mean-spirited swamp where it’s not enough to disagree with someone, you’ve got to attack them personally (sounds like modern-day politics).

    Gil’s reviews are an escape from craven personal attacks and general maliciousness. He’s able to convey exactly what needs to be said without resorting to insults and abuse (just try finding one single expletive on the site). You can’t be clearer than “the sizzling cast iron plate (the type often used for fajitas) which has a desiccating effect on what might otherwise have been a moist and juicy meatloaf.” What would you have him say–“the meatloaf was as dry as a bone and the cook should be shot for sending it out.”

    As for “slow writing,” one of the things that makes nmgastronome unique is his approach to a review. Before you read his impressions about a restaurant, he provides context, history, anecdotes and facts you won’t find anywhere else. He draws readers in and makes them want to read more. He also finds something positive to say about every restaurant, an empathetic approach which says alot about his character (he might even find something nice to say about you). If you prefer reviews to be formulaic and boring, there are several critics I can point you to.

  8. I don’t speak for Gil but one thing I do know is that he doesn’t rate the restaurant until he dines at least twice in the establishment.
    And if you’re looking for a Ruth Reichel acid tongued review skewering everything in a hostile manner you barking up the wrong tree.
    I’ve said it before but it bears repeating that Gil can do more with a kind word than could be done with invective. He’s a consummate gentle man and doesn’t need to stoop to levels trolled by mean spirited reviewers looking for another notch on their six shooter.
    I understand what he is conveying when he says “the red chile lacked the piquancy needed by the dish”.
    Don’t expect “the red chile sucked dead rats”. Never going to happen.

  9. I have no idea whether Gil liked this restaurant or not. The review is steeped in a writer’s oblique, call it “borrowed interest,”angle to make an analogy of New Mexican symbology work. A slow writer’s intro for sure. The menu and the photos are not inspiring, in fact, I ask, what is this restaurant’s raison d’etre? Why do they exist? Are they introducing something we have not seen on the New Mexican cuisine scene? The photos show tired potatoes next to ordinary New Mexican dishes. Does this blog never have a negative review? If so, I think it is doing a disservice to the pocket book of New Mexicans.

    1. Bruce, Sky and Noe, thank you so much for your kind words, loyalty and support.

      Thomas, it would be far easier to write scathing, negative reviews. At my last corporate gig, my friend Bill and I developed about twenty roasts in which we insulted everyone from corporate vice presidents on down to departmental admins. The key to not hurting feelings was in making fun of innocuous truths or in so brutally exaggerating personality quirks and traits that no one could possibly attribute the roast as mean-spirited and hostile, much less true. So, even when given license to insult someone, it’s just not my nature to be mean-spirited.

      Think of it this way. The independent mom-and-pop restaurateurs are our neighbors. They’ve got families to support and mouths to feed. Far be it for me to negatively impact their business with an overly critical review. I’ve never met a restaurateur who sought out to serve bad food, provide lousy service and make their guests feel unappreciated. Most of them have a passion for cooking and believe they can prepare and serve excellent meals. To Noe’s point, there isn’t a restaurant that isn’t somebody’s favorite. Though I may not like it as much, someone else may think it’s the bomb. They certainly wouldn’t appreciate reading deprecatory reviews about their favorite restaurant.

      It’s become my practice not to write anything about a dining experience in which I couldn’t easily pick out some positives. It would be so easy to blast these restaurants, but they tend to be their own worse enemies and will drive themselves out of business without my help.

      Though I may write about a restaurant after only one visit, it’s often not until my second visit that you’ll get a sense of whether or not I like it. Some restaurants blow me away from the onset while others will pique my interest and inspire a second visit shortly after my first. Sometimes, however, economic, location and conflicting factors mean months–or even years–may elapse before a second visit to a restaurant that showed great promise during my first visit. So, if YOU as a reader can’t tell whether or not I liked a restaurant, it may be because I myself won’t know until another visit transpires.

      Reading my own diatribe here has tired me. Besides Bruce, Schuyler and Noe responded with more clarity and sense than I.



  10. Gil and Larry, you both have my mouth watering to try this new Corrales restaurant out. The green chili meatloaf sounds really good. I am glad to see a New Mexican restaurant in my neck of the woods. Are Piñon Pancakes on the menu, that would be awesome…

    1. Hola Sr Plata

      Las Ristras’ menu doesn’t list breakfast options, but I understand they have a bountiful brunch buffet on Sundays.

      BTW, you and Larry need to break bread together someday soon. You might be the only person in Corrales who hasn’t met the professor with the perspicacious palate.


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