It's always tough for us to come up with food-related categories for the Best of Burque poll. We do a Readers Choice Restaurant Poll every year, and that baby's got nearly as many blanks to fill in as this one. But we couldn't rightly say that food isn't one of the best things in Burque. What we probably could do is come up with categories better than Best Place to Eat While Surrounded by People Cooler Than You. So we've already started thinking up some new ideas for next year. How about Best Place to Get a Keg Where They Have a Pretty Reasonable Deposit. Or maybe Best New Mexican Restaurant Where They Make Their Own Tortillas Served With 100 Percent Honey. We're also doing some focus groups with this one: Best Restaurant For a Dinner That's Pretty Nice But Doesn't Cost a Zillion Bucks.
Best Restaurant in Which to Pretend You're More Important Than You Actually Are
Zinc Wine Bar
When you're young, you'd like to be a little older, wealthier, perhaps a bit better dressed, and accompanied by someone better looking than you. Basically, you'd like to be one of those people having dinner at Zinc on a Saturday night. When gray hair sprouts out of your head (and out of your nose, ears, and drawers), you wish you were one of those hot, young, single things filing down into the wine bar for cocktails and snacks. Holding court at Scalo is the next best thing, especially if you sit at one of the tables that faces the big windows by the patio. Everyone walking into the Co-op to buy fennel toothpaste and Thai crystal deodorant sticks will wonder who you are. With a healthy mix of smart locals and overdressed tourists, Seasons also makes it easy for folks to feel a little too big for their britches. We've also seen some pretty fancy lookin' patrons at Ranchers Club and Graze.
Best Place to Eat While Surrounded by People Way Cooler Than You
Zinc Wine Bar
It seems obvious that someplace where you're surrounded by people cooler than you would be a good place in which to pretend you're more important than you actually are. So it makes perfect sense that Zinc only captured the top spot here, too. Those who put Flying Star in second place and Frontier in third offered good insight, whether it's Nob Hill fashionistas sharing strawberry rhubarb pie or the influx of leather and stud-clad rockers from a Downtown show ordering Bonanza burgers. Everyone else wrote in, “Nobody's cooler than I am!”
Two people actually wrote in separate dumpster locations. How sad is that? Someone else wrote in “Put down the fork, fatties!” How mean is that? China Star beat out nearly every other Chinese buffet in town to retain first place status this year. One guy who helped put Furr's Cafeteria in second place scrawled, “So what if it's banal?” Is that what a UNM degree gets you these days? A good vocabulary and a seat at Furr's? Oh, man. Third place was a tie between Golden Corral and Sweet Tomatoes.
Hmm, are we going to have to retire Frontier from this category? We gotta make some room here for other breakfast joints. Weck's (with several locations in the city and in Rio Rancho) jumped out of honorable mention to second place this year, probably because of the giant portions, goopy gravy and scrumptious sweets.
Third place was a tie between The Range (huevos con queso!) and Flying Star (a stack of blueberry pancakes the size of a baby pool!).
Best Restaurant For a Quick Lunch
Even when the line at Frontier wraps around the ATM and past the steaming chile vats, you'll be summoned by one of those flashing green lights faster than you can calculate the cost of a Bonanza burger with a side of chicken nachos. But don't bother sitting down to wait for your food; your number will be up before you've picked a table. It's always the soups and pastries that get the most raves at Flying Star, and they're two of the things that they can give you with no wait. Getting a slice at Dion's ranked third in this year's poll. Speedy and tasty!
Best Place to Stock Up For a Picnic
Whole Foods Market
Obviously, our readers have exquisite taste. No ordinary provisions will do for our picnics; no bologna sandwiches with iceberg lettuce and Miracle Whip on Wonderbread can be found in our lunch baskets. When Alibi readers stock up, they head to Whole Foods for quince paste, Manchego cheese, rustic crackers and a bottle of Rioja. When in Nob Hill or the North Valley, readers hit up La Montañita Co-op for organic blackberries, niçoise olives, baba ganoush and sparkling lemonade. Wild Oats is next in line for carob-covered cashews, goat yogurt and Satsuma mandarins. Other favorites included Sunflower Market, the Westside's Deli Mart, cheeses and sandwiches from Relish, and fresh produce from local Growers' Markets.
Best Wine Shop
We don't really have wine shops in Albuquerque. We have liquor stores, and not many of them. Think about it, most people buy their cases of Bud at 7-Eleven or Walgreens. That makes it especially hard for local stores to compete. They must specialize. Nob Hill's Jubilation stocks a thoughtful, creative selection that's just deep enough. Owner John Zonski can make recommendations for even the most clueless customers or complicated menu plans. The low prices at Cost Plus are a plus for cost-conscious customers who don't need a huge selection or hands-on help. Quarter's several area stores came in third for bringing commitment to wine to areas of the city that need it the most.
Starbucks puts an unfathomable amount of money into research, production and marketing of their coffees. And they're popular for a reason. It may not be the most exciting coffee you've ever had, but it's never the worst. Local contenders Satellite and Flying Star came in second and third places for their locally-roasted brews. Java Joe's, the comfy and cozy Downtown coffeehouse, earned an honorable mention for its house-roasted brew.
I know a girl who's tough but sweet. She's so fine she can't be beat. She's got everything that I desire. Sets the summer sun on fire. I want candy! Yeah, you know you're singin' Bow Wow Wow every time you walk through that door on Romero Street. Not only does the Candy Lady have tons of chocolate (including erotic chocolates), but she's got a big selection of noncocoa sweets and even some sugar-free goodies. Your other favorite candy stores are Nob Hill's Señor Murphy and the two locations of Theobroma Chocolatiers (one Downtown and one waaaay up in the Heights).
Best Place to Eat to Live Music
Pearl's came from nowhere to win this year, in a category that had traditionally been dominated by the now defunct O'Niell's Pub. But Pearl's live music situation is similar to O'Niell's. They don't have music all the time, but they do always have food. And when they do have music, it's always mellow enough to enjoy without worrying your grub will get bumped out of your hand by a frantic mosher. The quiet and serene Martini Grill gets more fun when there's a band playing, but the food is still good. New votes came in this year for Gulp, the bar adjoining Graze, where voters raved about the high class bar food and even classier live performances. Other voters chimed in for the steaks and salsa at The Cooperage.
Best Brew Pub
Sitting on the patio at Kelly's, drinking a pitcher of the house brew is one of the best things about spring in the city. The Blue Corn tap room and Chama River Brewing Company took second place for the beer that's brewed at Chama River (used to be called Blue Corn) and served at both places.
Best Local Microbrew
Kelly's Oatmeal Stout
Kelly's Oatmeal Stout came out on the top of the heap this year, but the brewers over there shouldn't get too comfortable resting on their fermented laurels. Last year's winner, Assets (specifically their pumpkin ale), came in a close second. Turtle Mountain's Red Rye took third. Rio Grande Brewing Company got heaps of mentions for their brews, especially the green chile-flavored beer.
Best Place For a Wedding Reception
Albuquerque's pretty short on lush public spaces. Hell, we're short on lush private spaces. You've seen the typical outdoor wedding picture: happy couple posing with champagne flutes under lonely tree with glowing Sandias in the background. If you want better pictures, book the Botanic Gardens or the Hyatt's Tamaya resort out at Santa Ana Pueblo. For an old school feel indoors, try La Posada Downtown.