Nay-sayers, those nattering nabobs of negativism, have always had it in for hot dogs. First they plied us with horror stories and urban myths about what hot dogs are made of. Essentially, they decried, hot dogs are made of everything from pigs snouts and chicken feet to snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails. Then they ratcheted up our shock and awe by telling us how hot dogs are loaded with artery-clogging, cancer-causing saturated fats, not to mention those nasty nitrates and nefarious nitrites. They’ve even disparaged hot dogs as processed pink slime in a bun.
Despite all the brouhaha and rigmarole, hot dogs continue to thrive across the fruited plain as aficionados of the tantalizing tubular treats snub their noses at those who would abolish an American institution. What’s next—motherhood, apple pie, the Dallas Cowboys? Recent statistics reveal that the U.S. population consumes 20 billion hot dogs per year. That’s some 70 hot dogs per person per year (or about as many as Joey Chestnut ate in one sitting during Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest). In 2012, CNN compiled a list of America’s top fifty foods and the hot dog ranked fourth. That’s a lot of love for a beloved American icon some would deprive us of.
Unlike the humble hot dog which has been disparaged and bad-mouthed to no end, ice cream has been practically beatified. It is both loved and revered, a symbol of all that is good, wholesome and pure. Research findings from Cornell University revealed that both men and women consider ice cream one of their three favorite comfort foods (not that men will admit to it). CNN confirms this: “Think of any modern romantic comedy to come out of Hollywood; what do citizens of the United States reach for when their boyfriend leaves them for their therapist? A gun? A simple solution? Try a tub of ice cream.”
In the entirety of mankind’s history, there is only one ice cream that’s beyond contempt, a turn-off even to the most ardent aficionados. For some inexplicable reason, an ice cream brand in India bears the stern, mustachioed countenance and name of the Führer of Germany. Sure, branding an ice cream Adolf Hitler is an exercise in the freedom of speech, but moreover, it’s a demonstration of extremely poor taste and insensitivity (and I need a shower just for mentioning it here).
Somehow nature decreed that ice cream and hot dogs become inextricably associated with one another, a sort of “saint and sinner” pairing of foods that just seem to go so well together. That’s especially true in sweltering spring and summer days when the outdoors beckon. Fortunately New Mexico averages nearly 400 days of sunshine a year so ice cream and hot dogs are a good idea any time of the year and in any season. The preternaturally delicious pairing of this dynamic duo wasn’t lost on Abrahan Montaño, an entrepreneur who in March, 2015 launched the Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World in Rio Rancho.
Though he may be a first-time restaurant owner, Abrahan is passionate about ice cream, blending unique ingredients into rich, creamy ice cream flavors you don’t often see. The paleterias (Mexican Popsicle and ice cream shops) he frequented during his youth were one of the inspirations for his restaurant. The other inspiration was his grandfather Fred Reade, a familiar name in the restaurant community. Reade owned and operated Antonio’s Mexican Restaurant on Fourth Street for more than two decades before closing shop in 1996. Reade has become a fixture at the ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World.
Although not on the menu, a visit to this Southern Boulevard gem is guaranteed fun as might be expected from a shop offering ice cream and hot dogs. One corner of the shop is dedicated to kids and includes a number of toys which might make the geriatrically advanced among us wish we were kids, too. The menu also bespeaks of fun. A number of aguas frescas are at the ready to quench your thirst while Italian ice and fresh fruit paletas (Popsicles) will quell the heat. Ice cream flavors include two sure-to-become New Mexican favorites: red chile-chocolate and green chile pistachio.
Nathan’s hot dogs are featured fare and you’ll find all your favorite toppings, too, but if you really want to live a little, try “Grama Faviola’s Fabulous Homemade Jalapeno Mustard.” It’s got almost as much personality as Grama Faviola herself. Faviola and her brother Eddie are friends of the owners and serve as the shop’s unofficial ambassadors. Much as we love them, we can’t live on hot dogs alone. Fortunately the shop also offers tamales and Frito pies as well as corn-on-the-cob or in a cup.
The tamales are made for the shop in Santa Fe. Even when not blanketed by chile, they pack a pleasant piquancy and are packed with shredded, tender tendrils of pork marinated in a very flavorful chile. These are the type of tamales you would want two (or six) per serving. The Frito pie is also quite good, a mound of Fritos corn chips topped with ground beef, red chile, lettuce, onions, and onions. The vegetables offer a cool contrast to the hot chile and ground beef. The chile won’t water your eyes with heat, but it’ll make you happy.
Among the specialty hot dogs are one you couldn’t find in Albuquerque five years ago. The Sonoran Hot Dog has made its way into New Mexico and it’s been embraced by the masses. The Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World offers an interesting and delicious version: a thick Nathan’s hot dog, meat candy (er…bacon), chopped tomatoes and an incendiary jalapeño mayo you can respect. Had this hot dog been served in the traditional Sonoran bolillo style Mexican bread (resembling) a hot dog bun that hasn’t been completely split length-wise), it would have been even better.
Our verdict on the red chile chocolate ice cream–if you’re not revving up your engine to head to Rio Rancho for a scoop or two, you probably didn’t read this far. Surprisingly, this may be the most piquant dish we enjoyed during our visit. The combination of chile and chocolate has been wowing diners since before Montezuma’s reign. This one will definitely wow you. So will the regular (if such a pedestrian word is appropriate) chocolate ice cream. Then there’s the pumpkin ice cream, a true taste of autumn that’s wonderful all year long.
The Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World pairs two of America’s very favorite foods in a fun, friendly shop that promises to be a haven for the hungry and solace for all who need soothing comfort.
Ice Cream Palace and Hot Dog World
2003 Southern Blvd., Suite 118
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 3 October 2015
# OF VISITS: 1
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Sonoran Hot Dog, Tamale, Nathan’s Hot Dog, Red Chile Chocolate Ice Cream, Frito Pie