Readers' Choice Restaurant Poll
Did someone order an extra side of sass?
By Laura Marrich, Steven Robert Allen, Christie Chisholm, Jennifer Wohletz, Simon McCormack and Jessica Cassyle Carr
Welcome to the 2005 Readers' Choice Restaurant Poll! We look forward to this issue every year because it combines two subjects that are very dear to our hearts: food and local businesses. This time around, we've completely revamped the poll to reflect the changing tastes and growing appetites of our beloved Duke City. We've trimmed away some of the staler categories (Best Juice Bar) and fattened it up with more of you favorite foods (Best Enchiladas, Best Use of Chocolate). And because we know you love getting the inside industry scoop, there's even a Chef's Day Off section. Let it be a window into the minds, hearts and stomachs of your favorite local celebrity chefs.
The beauty of the RCRP is twofold: Reward the best local restaurants with recognition, and provide our readers with an invaluable guide to the best food our city has to offer. Now all you've got to do is keep eating and voting. We think it's a great system. Bon appetit!
Best Ethnic Restaurants
When it comes to ethnic eateries, it's all Greek to you, Albuquerque. The Duke City has a fine and flourishing selection of Grecian goodies, and respondents chimed in on everything from casual diners to fancier digs. Nonetheless, it was Olympia Café that thundered as loudly as Zeus himself, thanks to affordable and filling daily specials, buttery pita bread and Olympic-sized wands of gyro meat. No doubt the serene island scene at Mykonos helped them to nab second place, while Yanni's Mediterranean Bar & Grill puts the "Opa!" back in, uh, "open for lunch and dinner."
Best Other Stuff
Best New Restaurant
We're lucky here in Albuquerque. We have more restaurants per capita than heavy hitters like New York City, and new ones seem to keep popping up every week. Our readers loved lots of new restaurants but they gave the most votes to the carry-out-and-delivery-only pizza masters at Da Vinci's Gourmet Pizza. Our readers also went crazy over Nob Hill's swank new sushi joint Crazy Fish Restaurant, which got second. The meat-lover's paradise over at the Gruet Steak House garnered third.
A pile of steaming-hot cakes, fresh out of the pan, slathered in maple syrup with a dab of butter floating in the center of it all like the unblinking eye of God himself—could there possibly be a more beautiful way to start your morning? We don't think so. And, of course, you can sink your teeth into the winners at Frontier earlier than those at most other restaurants, because everyone's favorite big yellow barn is open around the clock. With three locations scattered throughout the area, it's easy to get your pancake fix at the Range Café and Bakery, too, which is a good thing, since they came in second place. Third went to another University area favorite, the packed and popular Mannie's Family Restaurant.
Chef's Day Off
Bob Peterson, Executive Chef, Seasons of Albuquerque
My house; seriously, I put yogurt in them to leaven instead of buttermilk. They're tender, fluffy and tangy and they always come with real Vermont maple syrup, not the imitation stuff.
Two different kinds of burgers here: For well-done it's got to be Blake's. For medium-rare style, Seasons. It's the wood grill that raises the bar.
Best Huevos Rancheros
I've only had a couple, but when the red chile is good, Perea's on Central is where I take family from out of town. It's mandatory every time they visit.
Gordon Schutte, Chef/Owner, Vivace
Best Greek Restaurant
Hands-down, it's Mykonos in Mountain Run [Shopping Center]. Their food is truly authentic and the atmosphere is just as good. It feels like the island after which it is named, serene and peaceful.
Best American Restaurant
No question that Jennifer James' Graze wins this poll. She is one of the most creative chefs I know and takes great pain to see that her guests always have a high culinary experience at her restaurant.
Best Romantic Dinner Spot
Ambrozia wins this election. Chef Sam has done a great job of combining culinary adventure with a subtle ambiance that appeals to Carol and me when we have a night off. The space is cozy and quiet and allows for easy conversation and the privacy we seek.
Heath VanRiper, Executive Chef, Prairie Star
Best Chili has to go to Vic's Daily Café. There is nothing better than well-seasoned chili, and Vic has the winning combination of those seasonings.
Best Sunday Brunch
Ambrozia has the best Sunday brunch. The amount of creativity they put into their brunch is above and beyond all others.
Jennifer James, Chef/Owner, Graze
Best Frito Pie
I like to drive to the Eastside and hit the Burger Boy—preferably after a long hike, but it's always nice to get out of town, and that's a nice "quickie."
I like to go to Loyola's for a great diner experience; it's close enough to walk to and the light fixtures and the pobrasito burrito make it worthwhile.
Larry Ashby, Chef, Christy Mae's
Uptown Sports Bar—Great bread from Swiss Alps Bakery.
Route 66 Diner.
Best Chips and Salsa
Juan's Broken Taco on Menaul.
Best Breakfast Burrito
Dos Hermanos. Take your pick.
Best Dinner Burrito
Pat Keene, Chef/Owner, Artichoke Café
When we're in the mood for barbecue, I usually stop at Rudy's on Carlisle and pick up their baby back ribs and lean brisket. They're delicious. I serve them for dinner at home with my own macaroni and cheese or beans and a salad. Sometimes I pick up macaroni salad, coleslaw or potato salad at the Whole Foods takeout counter to go with the barbecue. They make their takeout food from all fresh ingredients and it's expertly done, so there's no guilt in serving it to your family!
For breakfast, I love to go to Frontier. I love their huevos rancheros, fresh tortillas and red chile. I also pick up their carne adovada to go and make burritos for dinner with it. Their fresh orange juice is also the best. I won't go to breakfast anywhere that doesn't serve fresh orange juice.
Rob Wells, Executive Chef, Scalo
I haven't been there in a long time, but the best quiet little spot for a romantic dinner in Albuquerque, in my mind, would be Le Crepe Michel in Old Town. You feel like you're in a different world sitting on the patio.
Best Bar Food
A friend and I stopped at Gulp on a whim, and had a couple (too many) drinks and ate a really great trout gratin, and a couple of buffalo brats on Rainbo buns that were awesome.
Tony Nethery, Chef/Partner, Relish Cheese Market & Sandwich Shop
Best Home Cookin'
To be honest, I prefer to stay at home and cook (breakfast, lunch and dinner). It's my way of researching and developing and also making sure the family eats well.
My favorite is Robb's Ribbs. Good clean food, friendly atmosphere, good wine and beer ... Rob has an amazing smoker and kitchen facility; everyone should eat there.
Best Dessert and Best Use of Chocolate
These have to go to Ted Niceley (currently at Zinc). I've worked with Ted for a few years now and plan to work more with him in the future—he is a good friend and an outstanding pastry chef. He is creative, thoughtful and studies; keeps up with the times. I really enjoy Ted's ideas.
Wayne Leach, Executive Chef, Le Café Miche
Best Huevos Rancheros
Perea's. They kind of have the "build your own" philosophy. Your choice of corn or flour, hash browns or beans, red or green. Just the best in town and faster than McDonalds!
Giovanni's. Good, basic, East Coast-style pizza. Fold a slice in half and see what I'm talking about.
Orchid Thai. Each dish is made with the freshest ingredients—perfect curries and the best green papaya salad in town (maybe the only green papaya salad in town).
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