“Low and slow.” That’s not usually a term ascribed to the picturesque village of Corrales, New Mexico. Well, at least not the “Low” part of the term. “Slow,” however, is a way of life in Corrales. Drive through the village at virtually any time of day or night and you can expect to go five, ten and even fifteen miles below the posted speed limit. Driving through his hometown is the bane of my friend Sr. Plata’s existence. He assures me the citizenry aren’t cowed by the police; they drive slow to take in all the sights. Okay, that’s understandable, but not when Abq Grill n Que posts on its Facebook page that turkey legs are just about all sold out.
So eager were we to dig into turkey legs we’ve heard described as “dinosaur legs” that we thought for sure our drive along Corrales Road would take longer than the low-and-slow process it took to prepare those legs. Predictably, we were stuck behind a torpid truck for the duration of our journey along the meandering road to the Ex Novo Brewing Company. That’s where Abq Grill ‘n ‘Que was parked on the breezy Sunday morning of our inaugural visit. Being stuck behind a moony motorist felt as if a jaunt to Santa Fe would be quicker.
Let me dispense with the preliminaries. We made it to Ex Novo before the turkey legs ran out without exceeding the speed limit…not that it would have been possible to do so. As reputed, the turkey legs looked as if they came from a pterodactyl, the carnivorous winged reptile of the Jurassic period. One would have tipped over Fred Flintstones’s car. One is easily a meal, a thousand calorie indulgence that might just have your arteries waving the white flag in surrender. Your favorite Thanksgiving feast never tasted so good. It’s a smoky, meaty, juicy and so good only the carcass will be left when you’re done. The glistening skin has a slight crunch that gives way easily to the tender, unctuous deliciousness of the turkey which was brined to keep it moist and flavorful.
Abq Grill ‘n ‘Que first hit the mean streets of Albuquerque in March, 2017, making it a relative newcomer to the food truck (Bob and Becky finally beat me down) scene. That doesn’t mean owners David and Mona Varela are novices. David has been perfecting the honorable art of manipulating woods and smoke to create delicious foods for more than two decades. Mona is a self-taught cook with a deft touch in tweaking recipes and imparting generous quantities of her favorite ingredient, love. True to its name, Abq Grill ‘n ‘Que isn’t solely about barbecue. At any given time, its menu may be replete with fresh vegetable dishes sourced from local growers.
Abq Grill ‘n ‘Que’s website boasts (and rightfully so) of using “fresh and local ingredients to bring out the best flavors possible,” of not “cutting corners because we value the quality of our products and we value your experience with us.” All rubs, sauces, and bread and butter pickles are scratch-made, incorporating New Mexico grown chile. ‘Que isn’t drowned in sauce so that “the flavor of the meat should sauce and the sauce should be a compliment.” If this sounds like the type of barbecue you would enjoy, you can empathize with our temporary lack of patience with slow drivers.
The full menu was available during our inaugural visit. That means armadillo eggs (yes, armadillo eggs), buffalo wings, brisket, pulled pork, chicken and vegan “pulled pork.” The grill was also fired up, making available such summer (or anytime) favorites as grass-fed burgers and drunken brats. Also available were pork belly burnt ends (sorry Tom, no rib tips) and “notchyo” (nacho) fries. It’s an inviting menu sure to sate carnivorous appetites. A number of tempting sides are also available to complete your dining experience.
In 1972, author Calvin Trillin wrote a love letter to his hometown Kansas City’s barbecue. In that article for Playboy Magazine, he both introduced and popularized a scrap of meat he described as the “burned edges of the brisket.” Until Trillin’s affectionate anecdote, burned edges were given away for free. Thereafter, they’ve been sold as “burnt ends. Serious Eats posits that “burnt ends can capture just as much melted-down fat as smoky, crunchy bark, producing an all-around incredible bite in the process.” That was pretty much our experience with Abq Grill ‘n ‘Que’s version. There’s something deliciously harmonious about that combination of fatty meets crunchy bark. The Kansas City style barbecue sauce doesn’t hide the smoke which permeates each bite.
Unlike the proverbial chicken which is so proficient at crossing the road that an entire genre of jokes honors that accomplishment, the poor, hapless armadillo just can’t seem to make it all the way across. Most armadillo sightings it seems are of the squat, armored mammal on the side of the road upside down and dead. Drive across Texas and you’ll see dozens of them. What we’ve never see in Texas or anywhere else are armadillo eggs. Being a mammal, of course, means armadillos don’t lay eggs. So just what is this phenomena and why is it offered on a barbecue food truck?
Armadillo eggs are jalapeño poppers all grown up. The menu describes them thusly: “We take jalapeño poppers to another level. Our jalapeños are stuffed with a blend of cream cheese, sharp Cheddar, red chile powder and crumbled bacon then we encase them in sausage and smoke them for two hours. We make a limited amount daily so get them before they’re gone.” Jalapeño peppers never tasted this good. They’ve got plenty of heat, plenty of smoke and plenty of flavor in combinations that work so well together. The smoked sausage casing and crumbled bacon, in particular, are a porcine coupling you can’t beat.
For history savvy New Mexicans, the term “Fat Boy” has always been inextricably tied to a certain atomic bomb. That may not be the case for much longer. Abq Grill ‘n ‘Que has a sandwich called the Fat Boy which might just supplant the bomb of the same name. This Fat Boy showcases brisket on top of broccoli slaw, housemade KC BBQ sauce, green onion and green chile wrapped in a tortilla. The combination of ingredients and flavors is superb, but it’s the tortilla as a canvas that makes it work. Never mind tortilla wraps. This is a true sandwich, a very good one.
Driving slow through Corrales for some low and slow is a good exercise in patience, but the rewards are worth it. For excellent barbecue, Abq Grill ‘n ‘Que is worth the drive from anywhere in the metropolitan area.
Abq Grill ‘n ‘Que
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Website | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 7 June 2020
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Armadillo Eggs, Burnt Ends, The “Fat Boy,” Turkey Leg