Nuts and Bolts
An eye for detail transforms a simple eatery into a welcoming respite from the outside world. It's the little things that keep us coming back to our favorites.
By Laura Marrich and Steven Robert Allen, Christie Chisholm, Amy Dalness, Marisa Demarco, Hillari Straba, Jennifer Wohletz
Best Restaurant Design
Flying Star is a Burque fave, no doubt about it, but when it comes to design the owners have spared no expense, and it shows. Cool chrome teamed up with retro space-age décor and eclectic colors make these eateries not only unique but now award-winning.
1. Flying Star Café
2. The Standard Diner
3. Tie: El Pinto, Slate Street Café
Restaurant with the Best Art on the Wall
You can dine on the finest food in the world, but if you're doing it in a dumpy environment your food will taste like it came straight from a monkey's butt. Frontier's food tastes light years better than anything that's ever come from a monkey's butt. Partly, this is because the University area staple serves some of the best diner grub in the city. Partly, it's because while you're chowing down you can gawk at a truly impressive array of Western art. John Wayne's portrait in nails? Come on, that would make a shoe taste like filet mignon.
2. Tie: Saggio’s, Java Joe’s
3. Spinn’s Burgers and Beer
Best Table Setting
Much like fine art (see above), a picturesque table setting can make a meal go down smooth. The Ranchers Club is quite possibly the swankiest restaurant in Albuquerque, so it makes sense that these folks would know how to do a table setting up right. Just remember: Work from the outside in so as not to embarrass yourself in front of your date.
1. Ranchers Club of New Mexico
2. Artichoke Café
3. Yanni’s Mediterranean Grill
Bright, flashy bulbs or plain and appealing—the sign out front is the first indicator of a joint's personality. The top spot in this category is a three-way tie between O'Niell's Pub and its inviting new lit-up arrow number, the Flying Star Café with its logo in motion and Graze with its funky but simple lettering. Who says you can't judge books by their covers? Sometimes, first impressions are pretty accurate assessments of what's inside.
1. Tie: O’Niell’s Pub, Flying Star Café, Graze
2. Tie: Il Vicino, Saggio’s, Satellite Coffee
3. Tie: 66 Diner, Bandido Hideout, Dog House Drive In, Relish Sandwich Shop
Best Dining Room Din
The winner in this category is a tie between Scalo Northern Italian Grill and Yanni’s Mediterranean Grill, and as far as customer banter goes, these spots will give you just enough noise to cower behind during a breakup, or just enough quiet to read a Harlequin romance novel without being too conspicuous.
1. Tie: Scalo Northern Italian Grill, Yanni’s Mediterranean Grill
2. Tie: Artichoke Café, Flying Star Café
3. Tie: Great American Land and Cattle Co., Orchid Thai Cuisine
The iconic Frank Sinatra, smoking a cigar and sipping a martini, would be at home at the Martini Grille . Casually leaning on the bar, Sinatra would pick up a matchbook—the best in the city according to our voters—strike a match and puff gently on his Cuban. He'd turn to the lady on his right, offer her a light and say, “The big lesson in life, baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything.” That's why he's Swoonatra.
1. Martini Grille
2. Tie: 66 Diner, Chama River Brewing Company
3. Tie: 7-Eleven, Ranchers Club of New Mexico
Some wise soul once told us that you can always judge a restaurant by the quality of its bathrooms. Instead of visiting the john at the tail end of the dining experience, this sage of the lavatory inspected it upfront to check for cleanliness, creativity and good lighting. If a restaurant pays good attention to its washrooms, so the theory goes, then it's likely to be at least as considerate in the kitchen. Albuquerqueans apparently agree, and voted O’Niell’s Pub's bathrooms the best in the city. Meeting all the above criteria to a flawless tee, it's hard to find a restroom more inviting or comforting. Enjoy.
1. O’Niell’s Pub
2. Buca di Beppo
3. Flying Star Café
4. Tie: Garduño's, Martini Grille, Slate Street Café
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