Alibi V.14 No.40 • Oct 6-12, 2005 ››
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.
Rudy's Country Store and Barbecue
We'd venture to say that there isn't a sprouts-loving vegetarian on God's green earth who doesn't secretly quiver with erotic longing whenever a sweet whiff of meat cooking on the grill curls up into their Puritanical nostrils. Succumb to the urge! The lure of grilling flesh is something no one can resist. According to our voters, the best place in town to get your meat fix is Rudy's Country Store and Barbecue, which now has a location on the Westside, too. Mr. Powdrell's Barbecue House, which also has two locations, comes in a close second this year. Third place goes to Quarters BBQ, which benefits from a fine liquor store in an adjacent building.
It's the sizzle of red meat you're after, eh? Got a big, fat, juicy hankerin' for a pure auburn stream of Bessie rolling down your chin? Maybe a few dollops of mayo (or mustard, if that's your pleasure) and a healthy slathering of ketchup? Stick some fries in there, make a meal out of it. Stuff yourself silly. That's a burger you're eating! Use both your hands—screw the napkin, that's what shirts are for. If you're looking to fill that oh-so-special place in your stomach, Burque-burger lovers say Blake's is the place to be. Fuddruckers made second, with the Owl Café and Bob's Burgers coming in at a tight third and fourth. Eat meat, be merry.
Best Veggie Burger
Flying Star Café
Our veggie burger has a first name, it's T-E-M-P-E-H, our veggie burger has a second name, it's Y-U-M-M-Y. ... Flying Star is once again on the top bunk at food camp because they bathe their meatless mouthfuls with two kinds of onions and just a pinch of love. Second prize in the sack race of beeflessness is Fuddruckers, with the curry-scented patties of Pearl's Dive coming in at third. Chef Du Jour and Kelly's BYOB each won an Honorable Scout Badge for critter-free cuisine.
Being a kid is a special time. You get told by grownups that the white cows give white milk, the red cows give strawberry milk and the brown cows give chocolate milk. Some of us believed this well into our twenties, and may have even taken a swing at the jackhole that tried to say it wasn't so. We'll show them. Have a milkshake at our voters' numero uno pick, 66 Diner, and for dessert have another one at the first-runner up, Route 66 Malt Shop. Suck down another one tomorrow at pick number three, the Owl Café, and remember, it's your repressed childhood and you can moo if you want to.
Best Frito Pie
Creating a good Frito pie isn't exactly rocket science. Creating a great Frito pie, on the other hand, is a feat best left to the masters. By most accounts, the folks over at Bob's Burgers know how to get the elements just right, transforming the ordinary into extra-freakin'-out-of-this world. Second place went to the Route 66 Malt Shop, where big chunks of browned beef, pink pintos and roarin' hot red chile are king of the hop. Third went to the messy pies of the Dog House Drive In. Other votes went for "my mom's," the University Hospital cafeteria and the truly extraordinary roadside food at Jemez Pueblo. One hoser voted for Taco Bell. Don't make us hurt you.
Salad isn't just for wussies any more! For proof, check out the selection at Dion's, this year's champ. They make a particularly excellent Greek salad, and their bottled ranch has the awesome power to con even the most veggie-phobic child into eating a bowl full of greens. Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza also knows how to go several steps beyond the iceberg-diced-tomato-goopy-dressing model of salad construction. This year, third place was a tie between Flying Star and Scarpas, which managed to actually combine a chicken Caesar salad with pizza, and when we say combine, we mean they literally incorporate the salad into the pizza. Sheer genius!
Best Chips and Salsa
Sadie's Dining Room
No surprises here. But what may surprise you non-natives out there is how verrrry seriously the natives feel about their chips and salsa. Sadie's is the current heavyweight champion, coming in first place, followed by close contender Los Cuates. Third prize in this fight goes to Garduño's, but don't be fooled—it's the fans that are far more dangerous outside the ring than the contestants inside. It's probably still okay to eat your Tostitos and Pace Picante behind closed doors, but mention your dirty habit to anyone on the street and you may get your ass whupped on like a SpongeBob piñata.
Best Huevos Rancheros
In our book, you judge a New Mexican restaurant by the quality of their huevos. No hassle, no dilly-dallying; this is business. Do they use black or refried? Home fries or hash browns? And what's better: red or green? If the huevos pass muster, you'll likely return. If the huevos are good, you may become a regular. If the huevos are knock-your-socks-off-I-think-I'm-going-to-melt fantastic, you may need a friend with a pair of pliers to wrestle you away. Bring a pair of needle-nose when you head out to Garcia's, because, according to Alibi readers, they're the best. Also proceed with caution to the Range and, of course, the Frontier.
Tie: Garcia's Kitchen, Sadie's Dining Room
We would like to first thank all of you smart-assed little sailor-brains out there that voted for TD's in this category. I think you've all forgotten that this is a family publication, and we here at the Alibi simply will not tolerate smut. Now then, we have a tie for first place between Garcia's and Sadie's, with second place going to Taqueria Mexico and third prize another tie between El Taco Tote and Juan's Broken Taco. With all of the entries received for this category, there were some important questions that needed to be asked. Whose taco is biggest? Does size really matter? Whose meat is thickest? Whose taco is stuffed the most? Does the juice dribble down the sides? Can we lick our fingers after we are done eating the taco?
Best Chile Relleno
There's plenty of competition in this category, and certainly voting was all over the map, with votes cast for every Mexican and New Mexican restaurant from Phoenix to Lubbock. In the end, however, Los Cuates took home the prize this year, and anyone who's ever experienced their rellenos deliciosos knows they deserve it. Second place went to the magic papas-relleno combination at Sadie's. A rare three-way tie for third went to the deep-fried chiles at El Patio, Garcia's and Garduño's.
Best Green Chile
The chile season will soon be over. Sadly, the scent of green chile roasting in cylindrical grills will be gone. But take heart—countless restaurants around town allow you to live the chile lifestyle all year round, which is a good thing because roasted green chile isn't just a food. It's pretty much a way of life, a spiritual path if you will. Our devoted readers chose Frontier's green chile as the most awe-inspiring. You also think neighboring El Patio has some heavenly green, while Los Cuates and Sadie's tied for third place in first-rate chile.
Best Red Chile
Tie: Duran's Central Pharmacy, Padilla's, Sadie's Dining Room
In the ongoing cosmic war between green and red chile—a conflict that's endured almost as long as the Rio Grande itself—it's impossible to tell who will ultimately prove victorious. Of course, smaller battles exist entirely within each chile camp. If this year's results are any indication, the fracturing and infighting within the red chile camp could prove its downfall. On the other hand, the spirit of competition might ultimately give red chile the tenacity to vanquish its ancient foe. Astonishingly, the results indicate a tie for the gold, silver and bronze. Beyond the three-way first place tie, Garcia's and Los Cuates tied for second while Little Anita's and the Barelas Coffee House tied for third. May the fittest survive to lead this chile contingent to victory.
Best Breakfast Burrito
Golden Pride BBQ Chicken & Ribs
Yeah, sure, they're called breakfast burritos, but who are we kidding? We eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks in between and 2 a.m. post-boozing hangover preventatives. Leading the pack this year is Golden Pride with their delectable burritos that come with a variety of customized ingredients. Close second is sister restaurant Frontier, the typical victor in this category. A two-way tie for third goes to Dos Hermanos and Twisters. One vote went to "the roach coach that drives down." Can someone please explain what that means?
Best Dinner Burrito
Sadie's Dining Room
Beef or bean, red or green, served with rice, or fries are nice. The tortilla's hot, the lettuce is not, with extra cheese, or as you please. We love our burritos, ah crap, what rhymes with burrito? Never mind. First place in this poetically delicious category is bestowed upon Sadie's. A poem about Sadie's? Here goes: Sadie's we adore you, you serve burritos with chile. Whenever we eat them, we get a big willy. Second place winner is Dos Hermanos, and in the number three spot is Los Cuates. Sorry guys, some rhymes were never meant to be.
There's something hypnotic about that Rube Goldberg tortilla machine at Frontier. It's like some kind of fantastical science fiction creation that doesn't quite seem like it belongs in this world. We'd like to install one in our own kitchens. Until we get around to doing that, we'll just have to settle for lovingly watching the one at Frontier, which is like a second home to many of us anyway. The machine isn't just pretty, though. Its fluffy, steaming-hot products have been an Albuquerque favorite for years, and this year is no different. Albuquerque Tortilla Company has the flour-shortening-water-salt equation down so well they had the cajones to come up with a low carb version. Third place was a tie between the unleavened bread discs at Garcia's and Frontier-owned Golden Pride.
Ooey, gooey, melty, sticky honey never met a better match. The fluffier, the bigger, the better. And the beauty of sopaipillas is that you can really do just about anything with them. Stuff them with meat, ice cream or chile and reach a sense of comfort like never before. Dip them in beans or cascade them with—you knew this was coming—honey, or let them flake onto your tongue à la carte. You just can't go wrong. For your sopa fix hit up Los Cuates, or try Garduño's or Sadies, who tied for second, or El Pinto or Garcia's, who tied for third.
Best Bar Food
Geckos Bar & Tapas
It's a fact that after a long, hard night of shot-lifting we could all use some decent grub to put our beer-soaked brains back into focus. Geckos gets top props for rehabbing us all one appetizer at a time. Martini Grill and their feel-good waffle fries are in second, tied up with Seasons. Third on our list of buzz-killin' munchie makers is Zinc, home of the best duck eggrolls this side of the Betty Ford Clinic. Say "hi" to Liza for us.
Flying Star Café
Remember the steaming tureens of eyeball soup in the Indiana Jones movie? Sadly enough, nobody nominated it this year. But in the absence of cream of cornea, Flying Star and their little sister, Satellite Coffee, take the lead in providing our beloved Burque with their fix of creamy, brothy, meaty and veggie-licious soups. With such exotic daily offerings as chicken curry, Singapore beef and Zuni stew—a taste-tempting tomato broth loaded with corn and squash—it's no big shock that Flying Star wins the category. And the best part? They give you this crusty, chewy, yummy little roll with your soup selection. Coming in second place this year is the ever-popular chain Souper Salad, whose factory/cafeteria-style creations do occasionally resemble homemade. There is a triple-tie for third place: Café Au Lait, Savory Fare and Thai Top, but third-placers need love, too, so remember them next time you wanna get your soup on.
Great Harvest Bread Co.
Their new ad slogan should be, "Bread so good you want to lick the store window from the outside when you see it." The bread itself is fresh, soft and begging for butter. And the big pecan sweet rolls are worth crawling across town for. Flying Star comes in second this year, predictably so, because their bakery cartel is slowly squeezing the buns off their competitors. Third place is the bread basket prepared by our bourgeois buddies at the Artichoke Café. And an honorable-mention-type shout-out to the Albuquerque Petroleum Club for those crisp little bleu cheese bread sticks that go together with a cold Bloody Mary like a cop and a donut.
Flying Star Café
You're torturing us, right? Making us think of dessert. About creamy tarts, velvety custards and tantalizing (or should we say titillating?) mousses. Oh, the horror ... or the ecstasy? It's no surprise that Flying Star came in No. 1 in this category. All Burqueños know that the Star is the place to go when you've got an inkling for some rich, thick, lavish lovin'. Shower your tastebuds with éclairs, crème brulees, key lime pie and triple mousse. They deserve it. You deserve it. Calories don't exist. Just be. For other delectable options, visit Isabella's, the teeny-tiny bakery on Third Street and Tijeras, which came in second, as well as Ambrozia Café and Wine Bar and the Range Café, who tied for third.
A sad fact of life in modern America is that it seems to be getting harder and harder to get your hands on a decent pie. Tragic. Certainly, if you stoop to ordering pizza from the likes of Pizza Hut or Domino's, you probably deserve what you get. Homegrown Dion's is a notable exception in every respect, which is why they vanquished the competition this year. Another tiny chain that puts love into their product is Il Vicino, which nabbed second place. The third place slot was a tie between the new Da Vinci's Gourmet Pizza, which only does carry out and deliveries, and UNM-area mainstay Saggios.
Best Choice of Sides
Mr. Powdrell's Barbecue House
You're particular. Not necessarily as neurotic as Meg Ryan in her When Harry Met Sally days, but all the same, you know what you want and how you want it. You need options. You need sides. Sides galore. To quench your insatiable thirst for freedom, find yourself a regular seat at Mr. Powdrell's, which, according to our readers, has simply the best selection of side dishes. For the sake of variety, be sure to frequent Flying Star, Rudy's and Zio's Italian Kitchen, who all tied for second. My, oh my.
You might not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can certainly judge a New Mexican restaurant by its enchilada. On this score, venerable Los Cuates deserves its fine reputation as one of the best New Mexican restaurants in the city. University-area favorite El Patio also has a way with this favorite New Mexican comfort food. It gets second place while third goes to Garduño's.
Best Use of Chocolate
Chocolate Café & Bakery
If ambrosia ever took an earthly form, we would call it chocolate. Oh, sweet elixir of the cocoa bean, tamer of all things hormonal, lover of all lips, how we cherish you. Always in our purses or office drawers, or tucked lovingly away in the fridge; you complete us. The final flourish; the cherry on our sundae of life. We crave you. Because chocolate is obviously so important, it is also crucial that we seek out those who know how to coax it into its truest forms. Hence the title, the Chocolate Café and Bakery has a pretty good handle on the situation; as does (again) the Flying Star and, our naughty favorite, the Candy Lady.