Central Grill and Coffee House – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Life is short. Eat more pancakes and fewer rice cakes”. ~ Unknown With an almost reverential zeal they come, their cellphone cameras at the ready. The enthusiasm for their pilgrimages has brought them to this hallowed destination from every corner of the country. Some know next to nothing about the city, save for it having been the hometown of chemistry-teacher turned meth-kingpin Walter White. They don’t regard the city with the ignominy with which it’s been portrayed, but as a…

Cafe Nom Nom – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Nom nom.” It sounds innocent enough. Parents–yes, including parents of four-legged fur babies–utter it in baby talk intonations to get our children to eat something, especially when that something is “good for them” but doesn’t actually look or taste good. Nom nom was, of course, the favorite expression of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster (Hi Darren) as he ravenously devoured a plate or six of cookies, a fusillade of crumbs flying from his chewing mouth.  Grade school teachers use nom nom…

Chello Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Persian cuisine has been described as “poetry on a plate” and “a pretext to break into verse.” Persian history is replete with a large repertoire of literary quotes about food and drink. Even when the subject of a poem wasn’t about food, a poet’s appreciation for Persian cuisine often inspired the inclusion of culinary terms. Take for example fifteenth-century Persian poet Bu-Isaq of Shiraz who described his beloved as: “lithe as a fish, eyes like almonds, lips like sugar, a…

Farina Pizzeria – Albuquerque, New Mexico

On May 14, 2011, I had the great honor, pleasure and privilege of being the first guest on Break the Chain, the weekly radio show (sadly no longer on the air) dedicated to showcasing the great independent mom-and-pop restaurants in and around Albuquerque.  When the show’s charismatic host, my friend Ryan Scott asked me to name the five best pizza restaurants in the Albuquerque area, I omitted Ryan’s very favorite — and he yelled at me (good-naturedly (I think)).  I…

Milly’s Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Until rather recently, if there was a wide diversity of opinion about Albuquerque’s restaurant scene, it wasn’t widely shared. Albuquerque’s two daily periodicals, the Albuquerque Journal and the Albuquerque Tribune as well as a number of alternative publications published weekly restaurant reviews, but opinions and observations expressed therein were rather one-sided. It wasn’t until about 2008 that crowd-sourced restaurant reviews really took off in the Duke City. Published in such online mediums as TripAdvisor (founded in 2000), Yelp (launched in…

MARY & TITO’S CAFE – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Old-timers whose opinions I respect consistently rate Mary & Tito’s as Albuquerque’s best restaurant for New Mexican food, a restaurant that has been pleasing the most savvy and unindoctrinated palates alike since 1963. It takes a lot to impress some of those old-timers, none of whom see much substance in the flash and panache of the nouveau restaurants and their pristine veneer and effusive, over-the-top flamboyance. These guys and gals are impressed only by New Mexican food the way their…

Pho Linh Vietnamese Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

You always remember your first time…and if it’s good, it may set the standard by which you’ll forever measure every other time. I was a lanky lad of nineteen, away from home for the first time when “it” happened. As a precocious yet naive child growing up in bucolic Peñasco, New Mexico, I had been sheltered from the wiles and ways of the world and felt silly and embarrassed about being so inexperienced. All my new friends in Massachusetts seemed…

Little Anita’s New Mexican Food – Albuquerque, New Mexico

My friend Scott Pacheco may never forgive me for dining at Little Anita’s New Mexican Food in Old Town. Scott hates Little Anita’s, but not because of its food, ambiance or service.  He hates Little Anita’s for what he considers a traitorous act on the scale of Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot. To understand why Scott hates Little Anita’s so much, it might help if you know that there are two things in life he’s passionate about–the Denver Broncos and…

Poki Poblano Fusion Lounge – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Starting with a raucous concert in 1954, the idiom “Elvis has left the building” was uttered at the conclusion of many of Elvis Presley’s concerts to encourage rabid fans to accept that no further encores were forthcoming and that they should go home. Today, those five simple words are an oft used catchphrase and punchline used in a humorous or sarcastic vein to refer to virtually anyone who has made an exit or vacated a premises, especially in dramatic fashion.…

ABQ BBQ – Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico

“It was Kansas City but it was North Carolina I wanted; whole hog smoked low and slow over fruit woods and doused liberally with a vinegar-based sauce. It was North Carolina but it was Texas I wanted; king beef sliced into juicy brisket prepared over post oak and glistening with a sweet tomato-molasses based sauce. It was Texas but it was Memphis I wanted; unctuous pork slow smoked over hickory and served “wet” in a tomato and vinegar-based sauce. It…

The Safari Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“The wild dogs cry out in the night As they grow restless longing for some solitary company I know that I must do what’s right Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become.” ~ Africa by Toto Shrouded in mist and steeped in myth and mystery, Mount Kilimanjaro attracts visitors from all over the world. Often called “the roof of Africa,” the towering, snow-capped, conically-shaped…

Urban 360 Pizza, Grill and Tap House – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Babu: Our specials are tacos, moussaka and franks and beans. Jerry: Well, what do you recommend my good fellow? Babu:Oh, the turkey. ~”The Cafe, Seinfeld, Season 3, Episode 7 While perusing the menu at Urban 360 Pizza, Grill and Tap House, my ever-witty friend Ryan “Break the Chain” Scott commented that the menu reminded him of The Dream, the very eclectic restaurant owned and operated by Pakistan emigrant Babu Bhatt in an uproariously funny episode of Seinfeld. As Jerry Seinfeld…

Frank’s Famous Chicken & Waffles – Albuquerque, New Mexico

If one measure of success is having the wherewithal to pursue those things you love most, Frank Willis has led a very successful life. A towering skyscraper of a man, Frank has had four great loves in his life: family, basketball, music and chicken and waffles. They’ve been his passions and his raisons d’être. Maybe that’s why he’s done them all well. You might remember Frank Willis as a heavily coveted recruit who played basketball for the University of New…

Viet’s Pho – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“”Vietnam. It grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Once you love it, you love it forever.” ~ Anthony Bourdain Most of us have never been to Vietnam. It’s possible, maybe likely, that most of us will never make it to Vietnam…at least not in a corporeal state. That’s an important distinction because for years, we’ve already been visiting Vietnam. We’ve been magically transported to Vietnam every time Anthony Bourdain visited. Bourdain had the rare ability to develop intimate connections…

Pars Cuisine – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness — And Wilderness is Paradise enow.” – The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam The imagery inspired by this enduring poem–most notably “a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou“–can be read on so many levels–some literal and some allegorical. In the literal sense, these few lines may evoke images of a romantic dalliance…