Alibi V.14 No.40 • Oct 6-12, 2005 ››
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."
Samurai Grill & Sushi Bar
Is it the food or the delicate and artsy ambiance that makes us love Japanese cuisine? Combine both and add a nice warm bottle of sake, and you get the Samurai Grill. Teppan-tastic beef and chicken, prepared at light-speed by cool chefs with even cooler hats. And the thing they do with the egg and the knife must be one of those ancient secrets passed down by generations of cool chefs with cool hats. The second-place votes rest firmly on Japanese Kitchen, whose dual sushi bar/teppan grill dining rooms give us both the cooked and the raw. Noda's Japanese Cuisine in Rio Rancho came in third this year, but can you really categorize the sheer orgasmic delight of a pickled plum roll in the afternoon?
Best Middle Eastern
If your only scope of reference is the Bush administration, you might be led to believe that Middle Eastern culture revolves exclusively around petroleum and anti-Americanism. That's unfortunate. Thankfully, Albuquerque boasts several exceptional venues for sampling the best of Middle Eastern cuisine. At the top of the list is Pars Cuisine, with it's wide range of vegetarian options, elaborate décor and frequent belly dance performances. Second in line is the charming and economical Yasmine's Café, located near the University. The Middle East Bakery nabbed third place this year, which doubles as an excellent Middle Eastern grocery store.
Best New Mexican
Sadie's Dining Room
We think we like Sadie's so much because they're kind of like the people that live here in New Mexico—lively, somewhat large and always full. If the New Mexicans who eat at second-place winners El Patio are anything like the food, well then, they are cheap and delicious. Patrons of Barelas Coffee House must be busy all the time, yet still relaxed, friendly and true to their roots.
Year after year you choose El Norteño for Best Mexican. Why should this year be any different? They're still cranking out the same fantastic, authentic Mexican fare like cantaloupe shakes and tender young cabrito. When you're too hungry to make the drive up Zuni, you pull off of Central for the awesome fish tacos at Bandido Hideout. And no matter where you are in the city, you're never far from a Garduño's when your hunger for Old Mexico strikes.
Trombino's Bistro Italiano
What is it about garlic bread, meatballs and marinara that makes our palates sing with pitch-perfect pleasure? Whether it's the aroma of simmering alfredo, the curvaceous beauty of a skillfully tossed crust or the allure of linguine drizzled in creamy pesto, we dig Italian. That must mean we dig Trombino's (formerly known as Trattoria Trombino), which snagged first place in the category this year. Scrumptious runners-up are Vivace and Scalo Northern Italian Grill.
Indian cuisine has evolved over thousands of years to become one of the world's greatest culinary delights. Albuquerque ain't Berkeley, Chicago or New York City, but we've still got a wide array of excellent Indian eateries. Chief among them is the somewhat upscale India Palace, which recently opened a Westside location. Second place went to Taj Mahal Cuisine of India this year. Third went to cozy longtime Heights favorite India Kitchen. Plenty of votes went to the fancy Bombay Grill as well.
Chow's Chinese Bistro
Normally, when we think about Chinese food our Kikkoman-trained noggins conjure up images of sticky protein chunks and desert-dry rice clinging to the sides of metal pans under a series of ultraviolet heat lamps. C'mon, we've all eaten at Ho Ho's. But Chow's has done the unthinkable: They make Chinese food classy. Using such novelties as tablecloths and real dinnerware, they make it worth your while to take a cruise up to the Northeast Heights. And nothing cleanses the palate like a dish of their green tea ice cream. Our second-place torch goes to China Star, because despite their chain-like qualities, they manage to astound time and time again with their bushel of cold peel-and-eat shrimp that's so big it needs its own buffet. AmerAsia is in third place, probably due to the steamed pork buns, the dumplings and the lady with the warp-speed dim sum cart. East Ocean takes fourth place with its focus on quality seafood.
Orchid Thai Cuisine
Thai cuisine uses a palate of tastes and textures that are so good together it's almost otherworldly. When we go Thai, we want layer upon layer of salty, sweet, spicy, savory and pungent flavors; we want fresh, perfectly prepared vegetables and we want it all to look stunning. According to our readers, Orchid Thai Cuisine does it all the best. In the Northeast Heights, Siam Café and Thai Tip are buddied up like twins in second place, while third place goes to oldie-but-goodie (and under new ownership) Bangkok Café.
American food? What is that exactly? Thanks to our history as a culinary melting pot (pun intended), it can be almost anything you want it to be. Certainly, the 66 Diner screams American in its architecture, décor, music, style and menu. The classics of '50s diner food—from malts to onion rings to burgers—are all represented in their purest, most delicious forms. It'll take you back to a time when America was really and truly America. The Range Café & Bakery also has a corner on nostalgic American cuisine, which is why it got second place this year. The beloved Owl Café, which got third, is a charming throwback where chefs know how to make a fine burger. Many votes went to more upscale New American venues like Graze by Jennifer James, the Artichoke Café and Seasons.
Le Café Miche
Now that the freedom fries fad has thankfully ended, we can give the French the culinary props they deserve. Le Café Miche's menu reads like a guide to international tongue nirvana, and they back it up with food that needs no translation. And if you haven't tried the escargot, make a point to, because although snails don't really taste like chicken, they are quite delectable. If only they would bring back the garlic and lavender soup, I'm sure that at least one food intern at the Alibi would be willing to sing the French national anthem in her underclothes. The second place spot goes to La Crepe Michel, and nestled comfortably in third is Le French Corner Bakery, home of the heavenly Napoleon—the dessert, not the short dead guy. And if you still have the urge to boycott the French, remember that they may have better wine than us and a better taste in food, but it's still okay to snub their bad techno music.
The nice thing about Vietnamese food is that no matter how much you gorge yourself, you can never feel guilty. It's too delectable, too provocative and much too healthy. If it's authentic, delicious and reasonably-priced Vietnamese food you're after, you're destined to hit up the May Café. We prophesize that Café Da Lat and Que Huong will also be destinations on your exotic appetitive journey.
Best Other Ethnic
The world is a big place, and every culture has its own culinary creations, not all of which are well enough represented here in Albuquerque to deserve their own slot on the ballot. For this reason, we have this catch-all category. Readers pointed out that Downtown's Tucano's has lovely Brazilian food. Likewise, Nob Hill's Yanni's Mediterranean Bar & Grill corners the market on Mediterranean cuisine. Hipster salon Laru Ni Hati has great Cuban food. Dagmar's Delectables has excellent German grub. And the Korean BBQ House has, yeah, scrumptious Korean as does the Northeast Heights Fu Yuang Korean & Chinese Restaurant.