About This Blog

Sugar Nymph's Bistro in Penasco (Photo Courtey of Deanna Nichols)


Famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti once said, “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

Hola! I’m Gil Garduño. Welcome to Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog. I chose the site vanity “nmgastronome” because it truly reflects my passion for the cuisine of the Land of Enchantment–and hopefully describes the level to which my palate has evolved after having visited and evaluated more than 1,000 restaurants in the past ten years or so.

Gastronome A connoisseur of good food; someone with a refined palate; a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink); an epicure.

In this blog’s nomenclature, there is hopefully an implicit reflection of the continuous improvement of this Web site. In the past ten years, this site has evolved from a rudimentary HTML version of an Excel table to a site in which you could find detailed, one-page reviews of many of your favorite restaurants in New Mexico. This blog is the latest in the evolution of Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Site.

Mary & Tito's guacamole and rice filled burrito served Christmas style.
Mary & Tito’s guacamole and rice filled burrito served Christmas style.

When we moved back to New Mexico on May 15, 1995, our first priority wasn’t where to live, but where to eat. Having been away for the better part of 18 years, there were so many old favorites with which to reacquaint ourselves and so many exciting new prospects we just had to try. By year’s end, we had visited 75 different restaurants.

As a chronic “compiler of lists” (a consequence of being meticulously organized) I began using an Excel spreadsheet to track the various restaurants we visited. That rudimentary spreadsheet included short “Zagat style” comments intended to serve as mnemonics that triggered what we liked or didn’t like about a particular restaurant. Sometimes those comments were so cryptic that they meant something only to me (pretty much as intended).

In 1995, the internet was in its relative infancy, but I applied my then rudimentary HTML skills to create a Web site in which to enter my musings. Though the format lent itself to tracking restaurant visits much better than a spreadsheet ever could, it somehow didn’t dawn on me that my reviews would be available to anyone savvy enough to use a search engine. It didn’t take long before Gil’s Thrilling Web site was “discovered.”

I was privileged enough to have been mentioned on Roadfood.coma few years ago. Here’s what Michael and Jane Stern of Gourmet magazine and roadfood.com had to say about this Web site: We came across a delightful website called Gil’s Thrilling Web Site, written and maintained by Gil Garduño. It’s mostly about good Roadfood-type eating, especially in Albuquerque, and it is a joy to browse. We recommend a visit!

I’ve been mentioned on Chowhound more times than I can count and in the past two years (2007-2008), I’ve also spent some time on the phone with Food Network researchers, advocating for New Mexico’s culinary scene.

While recognition from respected local and national publications seems to give my site a modicum of validation, the biggest kick I get is in getting e-mail from adventurous diners who visit my site. I hear most often from newcomers to the Land of Enchantment who have used my reviews to discover New Mexico’s restaurants, but appreciate e-mail just as much from lifelong New Mexico residents who recommend restaurants I may not even have heard about.

So, what qualifies me to review and write about restaurants? I have no “professional training” that qualifies me to discern the subtle nuances inherent in various foods, nor am I by trade or practice, a professional chef. I’m merely a gastronome, someone who loves and appreciates good food…and dining at nearly 1000 different restaurants since 1995 should give a modicum of credence to my opinion–but no more credence than YOU have.

Unlike the pretentious pundits who wax poetic about the latest epicurean trends in the culinary world (those who would, for example, describe a meal at McDonald’s as a “gustatory repast in the ubiquitous Scottish restaurant emblazoned with saffron ellipses”), I’m not particularly impressed by nouveau cuisine, the very pronunciation of which reeks condescension. I’m an ordinary guy who likes to eat good food at reasonable prices and expects to be treated relatively well while doing so.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Unlike some food critics (pictured), I don’t blindly acquiesce to the latest trend, turn a deaf ear to recommendations from people who don’t tread the well beaten path, and I don’t hold back in criticizing–if warranted–the “anointed” restaurants frequented by the nouveau riche.

I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled extensively and availed myself of the opportunity to partake of the finest local cuisine available in such hotbeds of culinary presentation as San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas (yes, Sin City where all the celebrity chefs go).

Please review my rating system which explains how I arrive at my ratings. It’s not exactly scientific and I don’t take into account anyone else’s opinion of the restaurants in which we dine, not even the opinion of my faithful dining companion and wife Kim whose palate has matured tremendously over the years. Your opinions may certainly differ as there are no rights and wrongs in my ratings, just opinions–mine.

This Web site lists only restaurants I’ve visited this century (since January 1st, 2000). I have deleted the short synopses of restaurants (such as the dreadful Chinese buffet restaurants in Albuquerque) I have no intention of ever visiting again. I also eliminated most reviews on corporate chain restaurants, partially in the spirit of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

As much as possible, my reviews will begin to incorporate images of the restaurants we visit. Mastering HTML has been easier for me than remembering to remove my camera’s lens cover before I shoot a picture. Fortunately, much better photographers than I have shared some of their wonderful images. The photo of the Sugar Nymphs Bistro in Peñasco, for example, is courtesy of the brilliant Deanna Nichols

410 Comments on “About This Blog”

  1. OMG…If I may, I sincerely apologize for having created a hubbub recently by ‘going precipitously offline’ and leaving the impression some of Y’all may have razzed me too hard about paying for some Yum Yums. (Whoa, I know the feeling per (or ‘by’) waking up in the middle of the night and having regrets I may have spoken irreverently, e.g. here, Letter-to-the-Ed, Congresspeople, Exs, etc.) Alas, I’ve never felt anyone herein has dissed me (albeit they may have had reason to….LOL) Simply put, I had a brain-freeze and (blush) couldn’t come up with a wise-acre/half butted response and thought I’d take JUST a day or two ‘off’ to thaw my brain by working on a New Year’s resolution to complete scads of email drafts to a bunch of people, orgs., etc. I.e. I tend to use reading/writing to Gil’s Blog as a pleasant diversion to procrastinate cleaning house, doing income taxes, flossing, yada yada. In addition things came up to volunteer a few extra days; glitches with new computer arose (e.g. anyone find Chrome works better than IE?), and nowadays my brain goes more easily off on a tangent, e.g. when I went to feed the sparrows the first AM, I found the patio needed sweeping, wherein I found a coupon for cents off dry cleaning, wherby while I drove to the cleaners to drop off my jeans (i.e. they don’t fade so quick!) was tempted into the golf course to putter around, yada yada. Thank goodness, while I’ve dreamed of it, I didn’t run into La Gloria or Suzie Q in the clubhouse and elsewise be led pleasantly astray!!!!

    Most Importantly as I tuned back in here and tried to catch up on Comments, let me say I am most embarrassingly humbled by several expressions of concern at my passing! While I often blabber on and on in making a Comment, I am sincerely ‘lost for words’ now….I am most appreciative. Indeed, my enjoyment of what Gil has to spew is reading Y’all’s Comments as well and if I had a Wish for the New Year, it would be that more Folks would share as well. As Gil has said, his visit is but a ‘snapshot’ of a moment in time. I take that to imply (and stand to be corrected) he’s inviting us to share, + or -, an experience/a “nuance” missed? (I recently asked the National Weather Service why humidity is not part of the Wind Chill Effect. They said they explored that with 12…TWELVE…people and found it made no difference and thus have made it….it has become…the Gold Standard without defining who this sample is composed of, what difference of humidity was used in conjuntion with wind speed, yada yada yada in compliance with the so called Scientific Method!!!! If anyone has lived e.g. “back East” before here, I’ll bet pesos to tortillas Y’all will say there is something amiss scientifically. I.e here at 30 degrees at 15% humidity and a breeze of 15 MPH in winter, is gloriously better than just 50% humidity elsewhere at 0% wind speed. But I digress!

    Lest an interest in a Gathering (SOs especially welcomed IMHO) remains and while I’d really like Folks to sample a FLCCD at the Dog House some time, its seating/size might be awkward to gather in, especially at lunch/dinner times and then there are tourists always stopping in per Breaking Bad. Sadly, Cosmo’s ‘living room’ would have been nice. I’m open to most places*…Nicky V’s, Chile Rio, Blade’s, M’Tucci Kitch, Luna Mansion, Capo’s/Joe’ Pasta, Scalo’s where I’d even be willing to give samples from half of my Filetto!!!, Chez Bob’s, El Primo Patios in warmer weather of Casa de Benavidez or even (hold on to your sombreros!) El Pinto’s per (because of) their exclusive Red Chile Ribs, or *wherever they don’t serve samichez exclusively that ya can’t get your mouth around…kidding…to simply name a few. Unfortunately, here at The Home and knowing that some of Y’all are itching to, we don’t have the accomodations for Y’all to show off via (or ‘by’) having a Pot Luck! Oh Oh…just so we don’t go down that road again, any Lady’s ‘Acqua con il limone’ or ‘Agua con limón’ will be on me!!!!

    Regrets I can’t join some of you this Saturday at the Souper Bowl. To those who may be attending for the first time: if you are like me and can’t eat more than half a glazed Krispy Kreme per being overly sweet, consider taking something like a tupperware container for the most glorious dessert portion of the event! Othewise, I believe Y’all will have a Fantabulous time saying Salud/Slainte/Na Zdrowie/Skol etc. while lifting a cuplet of YumYum soup! Looking forward to hearing personal Kudos!!!

  2. Please can’t we all jus get along? I’m feeling a lots of tormentia right now. I like cuminos to and beer and wine, so that should be enough. What happend to Bob, my favorite comentor.

  3. Some days it’s so hard to have fun. My Mother always told us to never discuss politics or religion in public (except when she was on a rant). Obviously she should have added food to the list.

  4. Gloria, food is supposed to be a pleasure and fun and a good time. You mistake good natured ribbing as mean spirited.
    Sorry to see you leave, but a bit tired of the way you approach the joys of food and dining out.
    Be disappointed in me, not Gil. Did you notice the gentle and humorous way he approached my poor attempt at duplicating Bob’s unique style of posting, telling him that no one can do his style justice as shown by my lame attempt? I found the remark very funny and apropos of Gil’s ability to be gentle with his criticism.
    I’m surprised by Bob’s thin skinned approach to what everyone else but you and he knew was gentle chiding.
    I used to look forward to his comments even if I didn’t know who his audience was. It made me laugh and ponder and hope for more.
    And I like cumin but live with a woman who can’t stand it, it’s no reason for a divorce.
    One thing I do find objectionable in your goodbye post. Bob didn’t write for the masses but instead tried to be a verbal green beret, and to me his unique approach to comments often led me to ask him,”Did you like the restaurant or not” .
    After all, that’s the point isn’t it.
    Hopefully Bob will return and defend himself without the help of his crony. Do you see the irony of your comment about Gil and those who defend him?

  5. All, Can we please get back to the purpose of this blog is and share the restaurants and foods in NM we like and don’t like and why! I am introducing others to Gil’s blog as they have asked me cool places to go in the Land of Enchantment and this has been the place I could share with them. Regarding Gil, I personally know and respect him and do not see bullying and pain in his heart. He has shared honestly what he likes. If he doesnt like ‘cumin’ and you do, then the restaurant he commented on may be one you might try. Let’s put all in perspective and know he is doing the best he can.

    Has anyone tried any new/good places in Rio Rancho, I think it time to start a campaign to get some of the places we like to check Rio Rancho out?

  6. Please come back Bob. I would try to duplicate your style like El Bruto but I am sure that I would completely lose my train of thought before finishing the first sentence. Only you can keep it going.

  7. In a purely apologetic (blush) effort to bring back to the blogisfare the missing, albeit, fondly remembered BOTVOLR per his singular comments LOL I will be filling in as BOTVOP (blush) LOL.
    Per his frenetic,albeit,, unique stylistic rambling, I will try to embrace Linda Beaver, Bahston Lobstah roll, foot long Dog House GCC tube steaks, La Gloria (blush) attractive wait galz and PBJ samwitches (sic) LOL.
    Please Bob, don’t make me do this, it is hard work, albeit, per my rambling, LOL, a good natured attempt to lure you out of retirement.
    BOTVOP

    1. I fully hope and expect BOTVOLR to make a triumphant return in the manner of George Costanza: “It’s been a harrowing few days. After the car accident, I crawled into a ditch and managed to survive on grubs and puddle water, until a kindly old gentleman (probably Foodie Star) picked me up.”

      BOTVOLR, we miss your unique insights and perspectives. You bring a lot to this blog and as Bruce showed, talent like yours can’t be duplicated. Besides, you need to help us plan the Friends of Gil Feast.

      Gil

      1. Mr. Schor and Mr. Garduno

        You won’t be hearing from me any more. I’m tired of all the negativity and mean-spiritedness of your comments and in your blog. Now it appears you’ve hurt a dear man who did nothing but try to improve the culinary dialogue here. Bob has more class in his pinkie than…no, I don’t want to resort to insults or name calling.

        Gil, I’m most disappointed in you. Your blog has degraded into a bully pulpit for all the things you apparently hate. You insult those of us who use cumin in our food. You insult students. You insult beer and wine drinkers. You insult anyone who doesn’t spell “chili” the way you like it. Worse, when readers call you out, it’s your cronies who come to your defense. I feel sorry for you.

        Gloria

  8. Great article confirming and enhancing my opinion of Joe’s Pasta House. If I liked JPH before the article I like it even more learning about their concern with bringing the very best sourced ingredients to their restaurant.
    The entire staff, from proprietor through wait staff does indeed make you feel you’re part of the family and you are joining them for Sunday dinner, Italian gravy and all.
    Yes, I like Torino’s and M’Tucci very much, but for classic Italian comfort food JPH can’t be beat.

    1. Other folks call Gil the Stealth Food Critic. Not only because he remains anonymous to ensure hew will have an experience like anyone might have, but he is also covered in radar absorbing materials and does not emit much infrared radiation, even on full afterburner.

  9. I love your website; you should try the Kebab House for Persian food. It’s located on Lead and Cornell in the old Amerasia location…

  10. Sadly Ezra’s has closed. I heard they have a new restaurant nearby called Eli’s. Do you know where it’s located?
    Thanks

  11. Gil, LOOOVVEE your blog. When I travel up north, I use your recommendations. I did notice you don’t have any reviews from SE New Mexico. You need to come down to Roswell and check out our local hole-in-the-wall restaurant Billy Ray’s and try the Chile Relleno Stuffed Ribeye. Yes, that’s a Relleno physically stuffed in side one of the best steaks you will ever have!! Chef Todd Alexander has quite a flair for NM Style Cuisine. He also serves up a SW Beef Wellington, unlike any you have ever had. He wraps a chile and cheese topped beef medallion in side a flour tortilla and flash fries it to perfection. Billy Ray’s is also home to “Mine that Bird” Kentucky Derby winner. So on most nights, you can have an excellent meal while listening to a great story about a horse that should have never won the derby. Check out his reviews on tripadvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g47182-d415546-Reviews-Billy_Ray_s_Restaurant_Lounge-Roswell_New_Mexico.html

    1. Hi Kerry

      Thank you so much for the kind words about my blog. I’m happy you’ve found it useful during your visits up north.

      Alas, our in-state travels have been curtailed in the past few years as we’ve been caring for our precious dachshund who has had pretty serious health issues. If her health was better, I’d be on my way to Roswell right now. Bill Ray’s sounds like my kind of restaurant and any chef inventive enough to craft the dishes you describe is someone I’d like to meet. Thank you so much for a great recommendation.

      Gil

  12. Gil,
    The Timbuctu Bistro seems to have disappeared from your blog. It’s not listed anywhere tho I can still pull up your review in other ways. Is this a consequnce of having to switch the company that hosts your blog?

    1. WHOOPS! My Bad!! I was looking for the Timbuctu Bistro in the Albuquerque Reataurant Index. It is listed under the New Mexico Index.

  13. Alas, if nothing else, ya can count on good old New England weather for ya, BUT it’ll be a reason to take the Child Bride back for her Duoro visit. In the meantime, Y’all can read Call the Darkness Light to whet your appetite to visit where the mills of New England took off in Lowell, MA to tour its history http://www.nps.gov/lowe/index.htm . In addition, she will find that even in this town of only 90K, the Portuguese were a distinct neighborhood along with the French-Canadians, Irish, Polacks, and Greeks http://tinyurl.com/8hxoqhp. Beyond that and to vitalize more of Baaastan check out Massachusetts: A Novel, both by obsessive-compulsive author, Nancy Zaroulis!

  14. Thank you Mr. Bob,
    I tried hard to take your advice on fried clams but landing at night and driving up to Portsmouth in the rain I was lucky to find the lane stripes and missed all the cut offs to get to Woodsmans. on the way back for a few days in Boston it was daylight but the driving rain made visibility worse so I settled for great fried clams at Brittaney’s Cafe in Lincoln and awful ones at the Fish House Grill in Bar Harbor. The rest of the time weather was fine and food especially fine though the Child Bride said (loudly and repeatedly) that she would never return to Montreal again even to eat her favorite Portuguese dishes at Douro. She later recanted and announced that she only meant after midsummer.I thought the weather and foliage were both great all through NH, ME, QC, VT and Mass except for those two unfortunate days.

  15. As Mr. Jobs would say,”Wow!” I am glad you are back. I hated sitting around trying to decide where I should practice my favorite hobby, eating. We are on our way to Boston and points north to see the leaves for the second time and the first time since 2002 so we will be consulying you reviews for the area.

  16. For my taste, the San Antonio Crane Restaurant has the best carne adovada south of Rancho de Chimayó. Located directly behind the Buckhorn, this place was formerly known as Acosta’s. Small but honest, with five tables inside and several more outside on the front porch. Tamales with the smoothest masa and plenty of meat. Standard disclaimer: I have no financial interest in this establishment, I just eat there at least once a week.

  17. I totally remember eating the huge stuffed sopaipillas at Mexican Kitchen in the 70’s and also the original Silviano’s. Thanks for the reminders. I had completely forgotten about Mexican Kitchen. There was another good one, i think it was El Encanto, on Rio Grande just north of Central, on the west side of street.

  18. Greetings Gil,
    Your blog has been our standard for several years but are having difficulty with the new format. Please consider posting a tutorial.
    Many thanks
    Greg

    1. Greetings Greg
      A Blog User’s Guide has been added to the menu on the banner (right next to the USA Restaurant Index). Please let me know if the user’s guide answers the questions you have about using the blog. Let me know also if I missed anything or if confusion still exists on one of the blog’s features or functions.

      Thank you for suggesting the user’s guide.
      Gil

    1. Hello Hope

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I look forward to reading about your adventures in Italy. You’ll be the second expatriate New Mexican in Italy I’ll be following. Jessica Lynn Torres moved to Italy a few months ago with her husband and has been having a blast: http://www.jessicalynnwrites.blogspot.com/. I envy the great adventures you’ll have.

      Best,

      Gil

  19. I’m a pretty devoted follower of your blog. My husband has just been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes which has caused some modifications to our (extensive) dining out. We are currently visiting my sister in Carmel, CA and I have been impressed by how many good restaurants here are willing to substitute for the starch in a menu item and in many cases offer to do so on the menu. Could you start asking restaurants in greater Albuquerque if they are willing to make that easy for diners?

    1. Hi Susan

      Thank you very much for the kind words about my blog. I hope to always live up to your trust.

      Albuquerque has one restaurant, Cafe Riviera on San Mateo which offers an extensive diabetes friendly menu. We have yet to visit it, but trusted sources have given it big thumbs up.

      Though they don’t expressly state it on their menus, many restaurants in the Duke City are willing to make special accommodation for diners with health concerns. One of my best friends and frequent dining companions has had Type II diabetes for years and generally asks for and receives an extra vegetable instead of a starch.

      Here’s a link to an excellent article on successful restaurant eating for Type II diabetes. Frankly, it’s got great advice for any and all diners concerned about healthful eating.

      Best of luck.

      Gil

  20. Hello Gil, Long time no speak. Still depending on your wonderful reviews to keep me satisfied. Thought you might like some firsthand info from phoenix. Since You cover some phoenix areas I found out Dick Portillo is opening 3 Portillo’s in the phoenix metro area with the first to open @ Oct. The locations are Tempe, Chandler and they want the 3rd in Surprise, Glendale area. this came from the VP who was looking and buying the properties. more when I find out.

    Walt

    1. Thanks, Chief

      That’s great news. Portillo’s hot dogs, Italian beef and chocolate cake are reasons enough to visit Phoenix even in the summer. There must be something about the Phoenix heat that draws in regional purveyors of great hot dogs. There’s a Ted’s Hot Dogs (the best hot dogs in Buffalo, New York) in Tempe.

      I’ll actually be in Phoenix next week on a business trip–always a day early and a dollar short.

      Gil

  21. Hi Gil,

    Do you know of any good Cuban restaurants in Albuquerque?

    You obviously haven’t reviewed any, but I was wondering if you might have heard some recommendations you would be willing to pass along.

    1. Hi Michael

      For some reasons Cuban and African restaurants don’t seem to last very long in the Duke City. That said, the Havana Cafe on Menaul has received high acclaim from other critics and it’s been around for about two years. I’m well overdue in visiting.

      Though not exclusively a Cuban restaurant, the Guava Tree Cafe on Yale has a wonderful menu with several traditional Cuban entrees as well as a great cafe con leche. Another outstanding fusion restaurant with some Cuban-influenced items is Pasion Latin Cuisine on Lomas.

      Your Web site and life experiences are quite impressive. I have several colleagues and friends who served in the Israeli defense forces and have the utmost respect for them.

      Gil

  22. Wow, Gil – you keep coming up w/ these incredible finds! That was absolutely stunning. And here I thought the building had become a house. Now I see that the actual location was SW corner of W. Calle Don Francisco & San Felipe Rd. The place is more north than I remembered, but I did have “the SW corner of an intersection” right.

    Molokai Girl’s camera phone shot was good. I was able to get some screen shots via Google Maps and pasted them into a little PowerPoint file for perpetuity. Seeing the old facade of Anita’s in Bernalillo really blew my hair back (what hair I have left). The food & ambiance in that little joint were crazy good, unmatched in most of today’s venues. I wish I could go back in time to that place. This was my nostalgia dose for the week. Big sigh …

  23. Ok Tommy….while I don’t remember, or wasn’t here for, Anita’s Cafe, how about across from Our Lady of Sorrows Church on 313 and a little to the North there being a former convent (at least that’s what I was told) that was, in about ’69, an “intimate”, as they say, fine dining venue http://tinyurl.com/btuhh5t .
    The last time I was in that relatively unused building was for a “Let’s back the RailRunner” scamming meeting held by NMDOT. Nevertheless, it still made my mouth water if I had the money, for such a “let’s get away for a candlelight dinner” venue given its traditional interior architecture. Sad the Milagro place and Coronado Cantina with its patio for exquisite Sandia/Valley views have faltered. For now, let’s give a Salud for Blade’s Bistro and Praire Star. Ooops, and Tamaya for those who can afford it! Say, wasn’t there a naturist camp a few miles up Camino Real as well?

  24. OK, who wants to pop over to Bernalillo for a quick trip down Memory Lane? For this one, you’ll need to go back to the 60s (when I was a kid). The place in my memory was Anita’s (or possibly “Anita’s Cafe”). My family would sometimes go there after church on Sundays. Considering the trip was all the way from the North Valley, it had to be both good and not expensive – and it was both. This super-quint little place was the quintessential Mexican Cocinita – located on the SW corner of an intersection (dirt roads back in the day). I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it was on the corner of W. Avenida Bernalillo & Calle Placitas.

    I can’t tell you details about the fare because I was too young but it was classic (I do remember delicious sopapillas) and this goes down as my earliest and fondest memory of a GREAT Mexican place. We’re talkin’ small – there might have been 6 tables in the place. Unfortunately, it’s long gone now. If I have the intersection right, there appears to be a small metal-roofed casita there now. Does anybody remember this place?

    1. Hi Tommy

      Molokai Girl’s blog includes several pictures of Anita’s Mexican Food, which I’ve passed dozens of times. Now you’ve piqued my interest. I’m determined to find an old-time Bernalillo resident who can tell us all about Anita’s.

      Bob of the Village People, there were a number of naturalist camps in the area, including one in Placitas and one in Corrales.

      Gil

  25. Gil, Thanks for posting. Like Tommy said, it brings back the memories of college days, few dollars, lots of food, decent chile and a lot of it. Even now, I would savor some of that. I understand that part of the reason it closed was due to a tragic death in the family.

  26. Excellent review, Gil – nice find. Joline’s (not Jolene) review was spot on (she nailed the stuffed sopa).

    Anyhow, this speaks to Mexican Kitchen #2 (now Garcia’s), as we’ve descried earlier in this post. The review kinda gets to one of my angles on this place which I didn’t really bring up. Back in the day (back in THAT day), some of us didn’t have a lot o’ walkin’ around $$$ and a place like MK, all the nuances in Trib’s review notwithstanding, was easy on the wallet (to say the least). That’s also what made it a great place.

  27. Great to read your comments & memories, Roland. I LOL as I read your story. Your memory resonates w/ mine on the Mexican Kitchen. Like I said: it was a friggin’ couch cushion. UNbelievable!

  28. Tommy, My memory of the Mexican Kitchen is like yours. It was in a building, small, on the East side of 4th. The first time I went there, I ordered the combo and a stuffed sopa smothered. The waitress asked me if I was sure that was what I wanted to do. I assured her that yes, I wanted to order that (because the only stuffed sopas I had ever seen were quite small). Imagine my amazement when she brought out the combo with a taco, enchilada and something else with beans and rice. Then she came back with another dinner plate covered with the largest sopa I had ever seen, covered in green chile, cheese, lettuce and tomato. I had a lot of carryout after I ate part of the very delicious sopapilla. Her regular sopapillas were wonderful with honey. I’m sorry Jim had such a bad memory. My friends and I loved that place. I do remember when they moved across the street. I also remember that everytime I saw the lady who owned and ran it, her hair was always perfectly “coiffed”. I never understood how she could be in a hot steamy kitchen all day and keep her hair in place like that. Good hairspray, I guess. She was a very nice lady and I miss her and the MK to this day.

  29. Well…Jimminee Cricket…I don’t care what the Silvano family member says! I’m stickin to my ‘membrance’s location! And what about the folderol with the safe? LOL

    As penance for the above, I offer this: Apparently this samwich recipe was made for Adam Sandler to make in the movie ‘Spanglish’ which I never saw….(for NM Newbies: Spanglish is a complicated, translation creation for stuff that did not exist when Spanish was created, e.g. karroh (caro) for car; tshehkeh for check (for younguns: a piece of paper one gives to another in lieu of cash); etc.) My question is: is there something missing re the samwich? http://tinyurl.com/6tnq4nr For me, it would be more relevant if you spread some ‘smashed’ avocado (which is in the title but absent from the recipe) on the toast and added, du-uuh, some chopped…not minced/pureed….green chile!!! Muy Sabrosa!!! Otherwise, what’s so Spanglish about it?

    PS: Did that SoundWareHouse on San Meteo become one of the first rental places for video tapes for VCRs?
    “Chow”

  30. Jim,

    I do agree that the “new” Garcia’s is on the west side of the street (just north of what was the Church of Christ – white building is still there). But my place was on the EAST side. This may be one of those deals like the old Silvano’s where my usually-good memory insisted it was on the West side of San Mateo. And sure enough …

    In this case, the building I’m remembering was on the EAST side of 4th Street – pretty much across from the present Garcia’s, as I described above. When I do Google Maps, I see the very building at 4924. It’s actually not a used car lot, but an insurance company (National Insurance Centers).

    So I searched on US Porcelain and spoke w/ a Hispanic gentleman who had that business (it’s closed now). He totally confirmed my memory: the place just to the north of him WAS the Mexican Kitchen – mainly had burritos & stuffed sopapillas (he recalled). He confirmed that there came a time when they moved directly across the street and were there a number of years before Garcia’s bought them out (or some other way took possession of the property).

    Oh, I contacted the insurance company and spoke w/ a nice woman who told me she was born in ’76 (therefore didn’t remember the Mexican Kitchen). She did, however, tell me that she’s been there 10 years and that, before the insurance company moved in, the place had been a dentist/chiropractor’s office (How’s that for a combo?).

    More than we wanted to know but there’s the history.

    Where to next?

    1. Hello Tommy

      The Mexican Kitchen was located at 4917 Fourth St. N.W. In 1997, the Albuquerque Tribune’s restaurant critic Jolene Gutierrez wrote the following review on her Chowmondo column which included a terrific description of the stuffed sopaipillas:

      Mexican Kitchen
      4917 Fourth St. N.W., 344-5315
      No alcohol. Major credit cards, checks. Smoking, non-smoking. Hours 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
      North Fourth Street has always been a road of urban-rural incongruity, a cluttered collection of feed stores and bowling alleys, neighborhood taverns, strip malls, antique dealers, and auto parts stores. The Cavalier Motel. Moses Kountry Health Food Store. Bob’s Burgers.
      And it has always been home to some of Albuquerque’s more definitive New Mexican restaurants: the first Gardunos, Casa Benavidez, the now defunct Antonio’s and the ever-expanding Sadie’s. And, since 1970, the Mexican Kitchen.
      Often people have stumbled upon this place only when the long wait at Sadie’s sent them down the road in a desperate search for salsa and chips.
      But here there are no margaritas, no turquoise-and-pink chic, no zip, no zing. It’s rough around the edges, rough when you’re not Gardunos. The amount of ambience here could be stuffed into half a chimichanga.
      But it is a place that serves up lots of food oozing in cheese and chile and baskets of crunchy, puffy sopaipillas. It is food that would make a weight-watcher cry, a paper towel greasy.
      Mexican Kitchen loyals don’t care that the dining area resembles your uncle’s den, shaded in browns and ambers and decorated with sports trophies, mirrors, hanging plants and flea market paintings, holy cards tucked into their frames.
      The menu here is fairly basic: combo platters ($7.70), burritos ($3.30-$7.60), carne adovada ($7.70). Even the Chef’s Special ($7.70) is your basic taco, cheese enchilada and chile relleno, a crusty thing with a chile as tough as leather and always, always, bounteous servings of cheese, cheese and more cheese.
      My favorite dish here is good old greasy stuffed sopaipillas ($6.60), an enormous square the size of a James Michner novel that’s filled with creamy potatoes, ground beef, slices of sweet-hot green chile and beans, and covered with more chile and a gooey glop of melted cheese. It is not a dish for the cholesterol-conscious.
      Mexican Kitchen generously serves up vast baskets of sopaipillas, but, alas, honey is served in those messy little packets.
      Breakfast is also served here, and the huevos rancheros special for $2.99 ought to keep you chugging clear through dinner.
      Service here is as eclectic as the stuff that lines the walls: Some are dedicated and energetic; some tired and simply going through the motions. Perhaps the uneven service is no surprise in a place that never quite found the same fame its restaurant counterparts down the road have. But if you’re traveling North Fourth, it’s still worth a try.

      The Mexican Kitchen was relatively short-lived. It opened in 1970 and lasted less than two decades.

      Gil

  31. It was on North 4th street, west side, 4924 would be the wrong side.. Actually I have been searching for it for several years as I can’t believe such a popular place would ever close. I believe, but am uncertain, that it was 4917 which is now Garcia’s Kitchen. It may even have been Garcia’s Mexican Kitchen then but everyone just called it the Mexican Kitchen. Our memories are probably the same, everything was huge, which everyone but me loves.

  32. Hmmm…

    Well, maybe I remember the food differently – that happens. The Mexican Kitchen I remember was pretty good and the main point I was trying to make was their huge stuffed sopas – almost the size of small couch pillows. No where at any other place I’ve been (including places that offered stuffed sopapillas) did I ever see that. It was phenomenal.

    I’m willing to respect your memory of a not-so-great taste/presentation. But did I get the location right?

  33. Dear Tommy,
    You have lost me. I remember the Mexican Kitchen very, very well. Back when I worked at a very famous (infamous) subsidiary of the Pubic Service Company everybody always wanted to go out for lunch at the Mexican Kitchen. On planes from Dallas I listened to people talking about how they couldn’t wait to get to Albuquerque to hit the Mexican Kitchen. I was dragged there at least once a week. God, how I hated that place! Back when I loved ALL New Mexican food (especially Silvano’s) I couldn’t believe such huge piles of crap. As much as I loath Chili’s and Applebee’s this was far worse, but there was a lot of it for cheap. So, if you gagged a little on each bite, they made up for it on volume. I may be the only person in the universe who felt this way.

  34. No, you’re getting ahead of me (smile). That was gonna be my next venture. So let’s go there. Mexican Kitchen. You have the time frame about right – early 70s. North 4th St. – I’m gonna say 4924 (just north of what now appears to be US Porcelain; east side o’ the street). Like all good Mexican joints, in time they become used car lots. In this case, it’s now a used car lot but I can’t make out the name.

    Here’s what I most remember about that place. Firstly, it was rather small, though twice the size of the original Sadies. What I most remember about is was their stuffed sopas. When you ordered one of those bad boys, it came to your table on a plate that it covered. I said “covered” – as in “from side to side”. I remember the first tine I went there w/ a buddy of mine and he recommended that plate. As I recall, options included green or red and beans & rice. He warned me I’d never finish it and man was he right. If my memory’s right, they eventually moved across the street and operated there for a few years. Eventually, they went out of business and Garcia’s moved in (where they are now). Does this seem like the right history? That’s the say I think it went. Anyone remember stuffed sopas at the old Mexican Kitchen? Starting to make me hungry just thinkin’ about it …

  35. Tommy, Was Ms. Gutierrez’ place called the Mexican Carryout Kitchen. I remember it from the 70’s in a little place like that on 4th. It later moved across the street into a larger facility. They made dinnerplate size stuffed sopapillas with lots of chili inside and smothered. It was delicious.

    I also remember an Italian place on Claremont between 2nd and 4th (I think) called the Casa Buon Apetito. All of the sauces were homemade. It was a great little Italian place, family owned and operated.

    Then I remember a place on San Pedro just north of Lomas called the Taco Sombrero. It was run by an older Hispanic couple. They made the best food and there were only about 10 tables in the place. Today I think it is a shipping store.

  36. I love this site, mainly cuz I’m a nostalgia freak. OK, who wants to continue down memory lane? To do this trip, it’ll help if – like me – you grew up in the North Valley. Go back to the 60s. See if you recall a nondescript white box-type building (about the size of a one-car garage) on the SE corner of 2nd St. & Osuna Rd. This was the Lark Bar. As a kid, I was of course too young to go to the bar. I had friends in Zia Gardens (just north of there). Growing up on Pueblo Luna Dr. (73oo N. 2nd St.), my mom used to send me down to Tower Market (NE corner, now a Circle-K) on my bike for cigs once in a while. 2 things: the cigs were only 35¢ and the clerk sold ’em to ME (a kid) w/o even batting an eye. My, how times have changed. But I digress …

    Now let’s move to, say, the late 60s/early 70s. It’s not the Lark Bar that’s so interesting but rather the little hole in the wall joint just south of it (east side of 2nd St.): the original Sadies Cocinita. This was a classic cocinita w/ one small dining room. I used to watch Sadie run that old cast iron grill now on display at its N. 4th St. location. She cranked out some awesome chili from that spot, perfected her trademark salsa, and always had amazing sopapillas. I sensed at the time that the place was way too small for its own good and that it would outgrow the venue.

    Sure enough, it eventually moved into Valley Bowl (just south of its present location on N. 4th St.), which worked out pretty well for a while. I guess the rest is (as they say) history.

    It so happens I went to school w/ Sadies’ niece & knew her nephew well. It always amazed me now well the Lebanese culture mastered NM chili – took it to an art form.

    Oh, back to 2nd St. Some years later, the little hole in the wall what once was Sadies’ Cocinita was rejuvenated by Elsie Gutierrez (Gutierrez’s were my neighbors down at the end of Pueblo Luna Dr.). Elsie ran the little joint for a while – don’t recall the name of it nor how long it stayed in business. What I can tell you is that – when I was a kid – I’d go to her house to play w/ one of her sons (“Danny”); she’d be making flour tortillas and offer me one. Friends, those were the real deal! Heavenly!

    Just to finish off, what’s left of the original Sadies’ appears to be the little yellow building that is NM Auto Sales (per Google Nov. 2007).

  37. I ate at the number 2 location of Silvano’s several times but never liked it nearly as much as I did the original even though the building was much nicer. My vague memory back through the mists of antiquity is that everything was heavier and drier. I really can’t be much more specific. I actually ate at Senor Froggy’s once too, I remember it as being pretty empty and specializing in Frog Legs, not the hottest and most sought after item in Albuquerque.

  38. Well, well, well …

    Gil, I don’t know you (wish I did) but you da man. So, Jim Millington was right after all. Who knew? That location just didn’t seem right – too far south. But here are now 2 data points that point to the same place. Your meeting w/ the Silvano family member is confirmatory. I’ll be damn! I really appreciate your doing this leg work – that’s really the only way to do it right. You proved my memory’s still working pretty well. I KNEW it was on the west side of San Mateo.

    Sound Warehouse I kinda remember. Froggy’s may be “Froggy’s Photos” (a prof. photography shop?). So, I guess the new question I’ll pose here:

    Who among us ever visited Silvano’s #2 on San Mateo ?

    1. Thanks, Tommy. Your memory is quite remarkable. Froggy’s was actually Senor Froggy’s. I found an excerpt (below) from an Albuquerque Journal article in October, 2000 which confirms Silvano’s was followed by Senor Froggy’s which was succeeded by Joker’s Pub. The address was 2509 San Mateo, N.E.

      It’s no joke: Joker’s Pub will be a “neighborhood-style” pub serving jumbo hamburgers, extra-large hot dogs, overstuffed sandwiches and an assortment of crunchy bar food in the former location of Senor Froggy’s and before that, Silviano’s. Senor Froggy’s on San Mateo near Interstate 25 had been closed for more than a year until Jerry Wiley, former owner and manager of Ned’s Restaurant & Bar, thought it would be an ideal location because there is little competition in the area. (Ned’s was sold last spring.)

      There’s a lot of information on Google about Joker’s Pub, but nary a photo.

  39. Eee ho laah again Roland! YES! Cocinos de Carlos sounds familiar too, but maybe later???? Hee ho…maybe it’s Los Anos or the fact that, OK…I’ll (blush) confess, I never eat on the South side of any street so I can’t recall it being there!!!! Slainte (aka Salud) per St. Paddy’s Day!

  40. BOTVOLR, Cocina de Carlos was the restaurant that prececded Los Cuates at Monroe and Lomas in the original building. Los Cuates operated in that building for several years and then added on and remodeled, I believe. Silviano’s was originally in the strip mall across the street and a little bit east toward San Mateo in a tiny little space with just a few tables. I ate at both places back in the 70’s.

  41. My gut said Silvano’s preceeded Los Cuates at the corner of Monroe and Lomas, i.e. on the North side of the street. The entrance was on the west side, i.e. off Monroe St. and not quite as “elaborate” as today. I had a friend confirm my memory as well by simply asking ‘Where was Silvano’s on Lomas?” We’re talking the ’70’s. I also recall, but not specifically nowadays…LOL… a ‘dark cloud’ came over the place….something about a safe being broken into with surprizing allegations being made.
    (Alas, maybe there was another one at another time elsewhere….LOL)

  42. Hmmm… you might be onto something, Jim. 2403 ain’t right (that would be around Cutler Ave., according to Google maps). Near Menaul is getting better – I know it was much north of Lomas. Actually, I just did a virtual cruise via Google maps and it reminded me of recent actual cruises I’ve made driving in this ABQ neighborhood trying recall where this mystery place was. From what I see (the buildings, just the feel), I came up with West side of San Mateo, one side or the other of Los Arboles Ave. This is what looks/feels right:

    Just south of Los Arboles, consider where you see Indian Teepee. It was that kind of building.

    Just north of Los Arboles, consider where you see Premier Nails & Spa/Kim Ngoc Jewelry Repair.

    Does that do anything for anybody? I’m trying to describe about where I recall the restaurant, but also the kind of quaint, 1-story building (wider north/south; shallow east to west). I don’t mean to be too anal about this. A picture would be great, but a tall order. Maybe I should give up and just leave this a a good memory …

    1. Hello Tommy

      I finally visited Silvano’s and spoke with one of the family members who own the restaurant. She confirmed that the original Silvano’s–on the south side of Lombas two blocks west of San Mate–preceded AND succeeded Los Cuates at 5016-B Lomas. She also told me that the second Silvano’s was on San Mateo north of Cutler and south of Menaul on the west side of the street. One of its neighbors to the north was a great record shop called the Sound Warehouse. As Jim Millington points out, one of the former tenants after Silvano’s vacated was indeed Froggy’s which was also short-lived.

      Gil

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