The Skillet – Las Vegas, New Mexico

A man comes home after a long day.  His wife then hits him in the back of the head with a frying pan.  He clutches his head in pain asking her, “Honey why? Why did you do that?” She answers, “When I was doing your laundry I found a receipt in your pocket with a woman’s name on it.” He responds, “That’s why you hit me? Honey, Mary-Ann is a horse I bet on.  That’s the receipt for my bet.” She accepts that and apologizes and they make up.  Next week the same thing happens. He comes home and is struck in the back of his head with a frying pan. The husband asks, “AGAIN? You hit me in the…

Foodtopia – Albuquerque, New Mexico

When a restaurant with the curious name “Foodtopia” surfaced in 2022, long-suffering readers of Gil’s Thrilling… probably realized an etymology lesson would soon be in order.   If the suffix “topia” intrigued you as much as it did your grandiloquent blogger, hang on.  First, a review of what we all know.  Utopia is “a seemingly perfect society, one without flaws, where everyone is content and conflict and strife are unknown.”  One example of a Utopian society is the movie Zootopia in which animals live in harmony and lions sing kumbaya with antelope.  More common than movies about Utopian societies are movies and literature about dystopia, “societies that are either extremely chaotic or extremely authoritative, a hellish place where most people…

Rex’s Hamburgers – Albuquerque, New Mexico

From 1988 through 2005, Rex’s Hamburgers stood practically alone in offering Duke City consumers an alternative to the homogeneous gobble-and-go offerings of deep-pocketed fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. Rex’s earned and retained the hearts of Albuquerque diners for nearly 20 years. During its halcyon days, it garnered the long defunct’s Abq magazine’s “Best of Albuquerque” honors for several consecutive years. The reason Duke City patrons were so loyal to Rex’s was because Rex’s was at the diametric extreme opposite of the chain restaurants. Whether ensconced in a strip mall or housed in a single tenant edifice, Rex’s offered real sit-down service at a relaxed and reasonable pace. Moreover, it served hamburgers the way they are intended to…

El Chile Toreado – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Until 2008, the notion of gourmet culinary offerings being proffered by a mobile conveyance was unheard of.  Prior to then, food trucks were (often rightfully so) known as “roach coaches or even worse “barf buggies.”  Roach coaches were an eyesore, a medium of last resort usually parked at construction sites, manufacturing plants, public parks or basic military training bases where captive trainees had no alternative.  Roach coaches were a pure convenience with no pretense to gourmet (or even good) cuisine.  Most of them hawked simple fare such as hot dogs and tacos as well as potato chips, cigarettes, candy and chewing gum.  During the era of “convenience stores on wheels,” food trucks weren’t worried about building a brand.  Nor were…

Tortilla Kitchen – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

A sure sign Spring has arrived In rural New Mexico is the annual ritual of cleaning the acequias, the community operated ditches used to irrigate fields, gardens and lawns. Early in the morning, property owners or their designated paid representatives would convene at appointed spots to begin the effort. Work crews typically consisted of grizzled veterans, most of whom acted as “mayordomos” (bosses) and young bucks like me with strong backs. Not surprisingly, distribution of work was…shall we say, quite inequitable. The old-timers would order us around, shouting out instructions like elderly drill sergeants. Most of us youngsters didn’t mind. During frequent breaks we got to hear some of the most ribald and raunchy stories from highly respected elders. One…

Cocina Madrigal – Phoenix, Arizona

Number one in the entire country.  Highest rated from about 90-million restaurant reviews. Topping Yelp’s 9th annual list of the top 100 restaurants in the United States for 2022 is “Cocina Madrigal, a “father-and-son-owned eatery serving Oaxaca fundido and beef birria enchiladas to lucky residents of Phoenix, Arizona (who’ve responded with more 5-star reviews than we can count).”  Cocina Madrigal wasn’t on the list of restaurants we planned on visit during our annual visit to the Valley of the Sun, but how often is the opportunity presented to dine at THE top restaurant in the entire country.  Besides, the menu promised Hatch green chile on several entrees and appetizers. Yelp noted “Attracting a diverse crowd to downtown Phoenix, Chef Leo Madrigal’s restaurant…

La Santisima – Phoenix, Arizona

Gustavo Arellano, the brilliant writer behind the Ask A Mexican column (and even better book by that title) was remarkably quick with a disarming retort that diffused controversy with humor.  One example is when a reader–perhaps hoping to ingratiate himself to Arellano–wrote Ask A Mexican: “I don’t go to many Mexican restaurants—not because of the stereotypes but because the food is usually watered down to fit the taste buds of gabachos. In a future column, Arellano provided a response appropriate to the point.”Your sad story is one experienced by many Mexicans who travel through the parts of this country that wabs have just begun to colonize, but it’s not unique to us: New Yorkers always bemoan the quality of bagels…

Taos Diner – Taos, New Mexico (CLOSED)

FX on Hulu’s comedy-drama television series The Bear chronicles the adventures and misadventures of Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a James Beard Award-winning-chef who returns home to Chicago to run his family’s Italian beef sandwich shop after his older brother’s suicide. Unbeknown to the Chef, his brother left behind mountainous debts, a dilapidated kitchen, and an undisciplined staff.  The highly entertaining series has fueled a spike in the sales of Italian beef sandwiches (piles of thin-shaved roast beef slid au jus into a French roll and topped with giardiniera)–not only at Chicago-specialty restaurants across the fruited plain, but in restaurants (such as Albuquerque’s High Point Grill) inspired to try their hand at Chicago’s sacrosanct sandwich.  Sales of the classic Chicago sandwich are…

Taqueria Los Amigos – Albuquerque, New Mexico

“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air” ~Hotel California, The Eagles in 1977, when the Eagles’ immortal rock anthem Hotel California was released as a single, most radio hits clocked in at about three minutes.  Three minutes is just about as long as Hotel California’s hauntingly compelling intro and the legendary guitar-duet-slash-duel-slash-musical-conversation between Don Felder’s double-necked Gibson EDS-1275 and Joe Walsh’s Fender Telecaster. The high voltage, era-defining song with its intensely intricate instrumental work, soaring harmonies and enthralling lyrics make Hotel California an iconic indictment of the dark underbelly of the American dream and its excesses.   Hotel California’s allegorical, introspective lyrics alone make it one of the most…

ABQ Burrito – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Perhaps the only good thing that came from the Cabrona Virus was that many of us get to work from home.  Otherwise, the cost of commuting to work in this “build back better” economy would probably approach our meager wages.  Though not commuting to work spares us from cashing in our 4.1Ks in order to purchase fuel for our gas guzzlers, there are still times when we have to drive somewhere.  Like when we have to visit Albertson’s or Smith’s to scour the half-empty shelves for luxury items such as baby formula.   With “Putin’s inflation” making gas virtually unaffordable, budget-conscious consumers are desperate for alternatives to the land yachts we drive.  We’re walking to the mailbox instead of backing…

Burger Bro’s – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Such advanced human traits as complex symbolic expression, art as an aesthetic visual form and elaborate cultural diversity emerged mainly during the past 100,000 years or so.  That’s more than four-million years after humans gained the ability to walk on two legs. By comparison, the ubiquitous All-American burger has evolved in the blink of time.  Most culinary historians believe the burger as we know it today was invented somewhere between 1885 and 1904. Even most of us who have lived three or more decades have seen significant changes in the burger.  Many of those changes have occurred during the 21st century–the last twenty years or so. Think about it.  For the most part, the predominant burger many “seasoned” eaters across the fruited plain…