Alibi V.24 No.39 • Sept 24-30, 2015 

Restaurant Review

Beast Mode

Lobo Beast 101

Mac and cheese
Mac and cheese
Once a Lobo, always a Lobo, right? As a UNM dropout, I hope that still holds true for me. I remember my short-lived college years, bouncing from class to class, dozing off during lectures and eating bad food on the cheap. Then I dropped out, started writing and now I get to eat fantastic food and brag about it in the Alibi. Stay in school, kids!

Lobo Beast 101 took me right back to those university days, only with much better eats. Dining at this high-end sports bar is a far cry from my college days spent pinching pennies for value menu fast food and cups of ramen. The food selection tries to balance a range of upscale dishes—lobster makes an appearance more than once—while keeping a typical student’s budget in mind. The space, formerly a hairdressing academy, is large and inviting to both big groups and individuals. Even with brewery operations in the back, there’s still room for a pool table, patio, bar seating and, per their name, 101 beer taps.

Damn it if those chips weren’t impossibly thin, perfectly crisp coins of deep-fried tasty. And I don’t even care that the cheese curds were replaced with shredded jack and cheddar or that a fried egg was thrown on top so long as the Chimayo gravy gets ladled on nice and heavy.

A quick word about those beer taps. 101 is a big and specific number. I imagine it’s no easy task to keep that many beers ready to pour. During my visits, there were always at least one or two brews I wanted to try that were unavailable. Be ready with second and third choices when you order. One of those choices should be the coconut porter, a slightly sweet brew that manages to be refreshing, a word I don’t often use to describe dark beers. For a light option, the pepper saison proved a good pairing with pretty much everything on the menu. The beer is brewed with coarse ground black pepper producing a subtle spice in the final product. There are currently eight house-crafted brews with plans for more in the future. The other taps feature beer from all over the states, but notably none from any other New Mexico breweries.

Since pints are only $3.50 each, there’s no reason not to order some chicken chicharrones ($6.10) or organic popcorn ($4) for munching. Sure, popcorn might be an unconventional choice at a restaurant, but with enticing flavor options like sriracha lime and bacon, it’s worth trying. The basil Parmesan popcorn was a surprise hit at our table. I only wish the portion of chicharrones was as generous as the popcorn. The small plates are nice when you’re looking for a little food to go with your beer rather than the other way around.

For a heartier option and good value, consider the beast chips poutine ($6.20). Before I rave about this dish, let’s make one thing clear. Poutine, that most Canadian of dishes, has three ingredients: fries, cheese curds and gravy. I’m all for culinary changeups but I was not happy to see Beast’s poutine made with potato chips in lieu of fries. That being said, damn it if those chips weren’t impossibly thin, perfectly crisp coins of deep-fried tasty. And I don’t even care that the cheese curds were replaced with shredded jack and cheddar or that a fried egg was thrown on top so long as the Chimayo gravy gets ladled on nice and heavy. That glorious red chile gravy put the dish over the top with a silky richness that didn’t rely on heat so much as the chile pepper’s deep smoky flavor. The best compliment came from one of my dining partners when she said, “I can imagine my mom stirring a pot of this on her kitchen stove.” Praise for red chile doesn’t get much higher than that.

Also praiseworthy is the royal mac and cheese. The giant Parmesan crisp jutting out from the bowl of elbow macaroni elevates the presentation while the smoked Gouda pumps up the flavor. The grilled vegetable option ($9) offers layers of deep flavor with mellow tones of roasted garlic and a touch of sweetness from caramelized onions. Posh proteins like sherry lobster, crab, porchetta or braised duck are available for no more than a few dollars extra. Any of them put the boxed mac and cheese I chowed on in college to shame.

Not everything was a hit. The olive tapenade on our bruschetta ($4) was simply too salty and the soft pretzels ($6) were too small a portion to be satisfying.

A couple of the large plates really hit the spot. The mojito fried pork shoulder ($11.10) pleased my palate with a crisp crust and juicy interior. Like many of the other plates, it comes served with a portion of beast chips littered with bits of kale, broccoli and cauliflower all fried to a crisp so as to cancel out any health benefits. Beet chips and fried lemon slices were also a nice addition.

Jordan Holcomb
Chef Jordan Holcomb
Lobster comes back for a starring role in hoagie form where its natural sweetness is embraced in two preparations. One hoagie is slathered with a roasted garlic aioli, which, along with Parmesan cheese, created a wonderfully creamy home for the bits of sherry lobster. Another uses cotija cheese and cilantro sour cream to support the subdued warmth imparted by green chile sautéed with the lobster. Both were gone in two bites each. A third would have been nice. Instead, a cup of creamy lobster bisque and more beast chip medley adorned the plate. At $13, it’s the single priciest item on the menu but not bad when you consider you’re getting lobster. They’re really working to strike that price point balance for the Lobos and neighboring CNM Suncats.

Speaking of price point, the two-dollar desserts are worth throwing in at the end of every meal. I suggest the bourbon pecan or peach streusel.

“Eat free or cheap” is the college kid motto. Lobo Beast 101 isn’t free and I won’t pretend it’s as cheap as a fast food value menu, but if you have some dignity and 20 bucks, you can eat and drink well without straying far from campus.

Lobo Beast 101

2122 Central SE
247-2116
lobobeast101.com
Hours: 4pm to 11pm every day
Vibe: Student-friendly upscale sports bar

The Alibi recommends: Beast chips poutine, royal mac and cheese, coconut porter