Alibi V.15 No.41 • Oct 12-18, 2006 


On the Menu

The very best dishes call to us like a siren song. Time and time again, these are the meals we can't help but daydream about.

Best About Fulfilling Custom Orders

Sometimes, you just don't want the onions. Sometimes, that sandwich packed with wholesome goodness could do with an extra dollop of mayo. And steak must always, always be medium-well. When it comes to making sure your taste buds are satisfied and pampered, Burque eaters vote Baggin’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Flying Star Café, Midtown Café, Outback Steakhouse and Scalo Northern Italian Grill as the best establishments to order to your whim.

1. Tie: Baggin’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Flying Star Café, Midtown Café, Outback Steakhouse, Scalo Northern Italian Grill

Best Restaurant for Health-Conscious Diners

The world's a dirty place. We've got our Hummers, our pesticides, our pestilence. We've got Big Macs, Big Oil and the Dirty Dozen. We've got President Bush. We could all use some Ayurvedic saag paneer and flat bread from time to time. With tempting daily specials, one of the best darn mango lassis in the city and a menu that's entirely vegetarian, voters say Annapurna Ayurvedic Cuisine and Chai House is their favorite spot to get a health fix. Stop on by sometime and wash all that worldly dirt away.

1. Annapurna Ayurvedic Cuisine and Chai House

2. Tie: Fei Health Café, Sweet Tomatoes

3. Tie: Graze, 20 Carrots

Best Use of Nontraditional Ingredients

For a restaurant with affectionate Midwestern roots, Graze's ingredient canon is surprisingly exotic. The seasonally shifting menu might pair a French aioli with Malaysian sambal spices, Thai chiles with tomatoes grown in Socorro or delicate Japanese white soy with Hawaiian fish. The ingredients read like an adventurer's map. Perhaps even more unusual, however, is Graze's commitment to seeking out small-scale farmers and suppliers--a philosophy that feels just as good as it tastes.

1. Graze

2. The Standard Diner

3. Ambrozia

4. Annapurna Ayurvedic Cuisine and Chai House

Best Side Dishes

Corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cinnamon apples are obviously favorites of Albuquerqueans, and chain-chain-chain Cracker Barrel tied for numero uno in this poll, alongside Flying Star Café and Zea. What makes us love our carbs the way we do? It’s taste, it’s that full feeling, and most of all, it’s that white gravy with the pepper in it.

1. Tie: Cracker Barrel, Flying Star Café, Zea Rotisserie

Best Signature Dish

Imagine you're being fed bites of food with a blindfold on--can you tell what that taste is and from whose kitchen it came? That's a signature dish. Shut your eyes and think about a Blake's Lotaburger ... the experience of this particular hamburger is so unique it's imprinted its sensory "signature" on many of your memories. Or at The Standard Diner, think about meatloaf that's served under a Cabernet wine gravy. Contemplate Thai Tip's mango and sticky rice dessert, or the sole and chops at Yanni’s. Concentrate on a bowl of oatmeal topped with cinnamon ice cream, walnuts and strawberries at The Range. Starting to get hungry? You're starting to get the picture.

1. Tie: Blake’s Lotaburger, The Range Café, Thai Tip, The Standard Diner, Yanni’s Mediterranean Grill

Best Sandwich

Relish, oh, Relish, with your pickles so sour and chipotle-rubbed roast pork so ... porky—to say nothing of your sweet honey ham, cilantro mayo and Swissiest of cheeses. Yes, the Cubano rules our hearts and waistlines, every inch of it heated lovingly. And though I almost can't bear the thought of the thing so compromised, I'm told by my flesh-loathing friends that it's quite good in tempeh form, too.

1. Relish Sandwich Shop

2. Baggin’s Gourmet Sandwiches

3. DG’s Deli

Best Salad

Who says a salad has to consist only of nearly tasteless iceberg lettuce and a drizzle of low-fat ranch dressing? No one! Relish Sandwich Shop's Chop Chop is not a boring salad, and it's not burdened by lettuce either. Red and yellow beets, haricot verts, grilled chicken, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes with a light buttermilk dressing—it's all the goodies without the greens.

1. Relish Sandwich Shop

2. Il Vicino

3. Dion’s Pizza

Best Meat

Good food, good meat, good Lord, let’s eat! Duke City diners have shown a preference for both Rudy’s and Tucanos, and if you’ve ever eaten at either place you already know why. If you haven’t, tell your parents you’re going to the library and get your meat on instead.

1. Tie: Rudy’s, Tucanos

2. Great American Land and Cattle Co.

3. Gruet Steakhouse

Best Potatoes

The name of the restaurant is Spuds. How could it not be the place Albuquerque goes for the best potatoes? The taters at Spuds are frickin' huge—like the size-of-a-football huge. Don't spike these puppies; pile them up with all your favorite toppings from cheese and chili to chicken and chives. Potatoes at Spuds aren't the side dish, they’re the main course. Tuberific.

1. Spuds

2. The Range Café

3. Tie: El Patio, Sadie’s

Best Fresh Pasta

Pasta deserves its own food group--mainly because it's so versatile. College students depend on it--drizzling strands in bottled marinara or rehydrating it in little styrofoam cups. Gourmet chefs bring it to life--blending, rolling and cutting it themselves to build stunning works of gustatory art in creations like conchiglie con salsiccia panna or farfalle al salmone affumicato. Such savory masterpieces can be found at this category's winner, Vivace, declared Albuquerque's best restaurant to relish fresh pasta. Bon appetit!

1. Vivace

2. Scalo Northern Italian Grill

3. Paisano’s

Best Bread

Is there anything worse than sitting down to a fine meal and being served a basket full of lousy, cold bread straight from the bag? Come on. Nothing signifies the quality of a restaurant more than the bread the owners set down in front of customers when they first get to the table. Apparently, when it come to bread, Alibi readers prefer to eat loaves baked by Fano at home.

1. Fano Bread Co.

2. Tie: Artichoke Café, Macaroni Grill, Yanni’s Mediterranean Grill

3. Tie: Le French Corner Bakery, Scalo Northern Italian Grill

Best Local Pizza

A big, cheesy, meaty pie is never a bad idea, and if Burque babes and dudes were on death row they’d choose Saggios as the pie palace where they’d get their last lick. Heck, they even have wheat crust on their specialty pizzas and rampagin’ good lunch deals.

1. Saggios

2. Giovanni’s Pizza and Subs

3. Dion’s Pizza


5. Mario's Pizzeria and Ristorante

Best Soup

Flying Star Café has rocked this town yet again with soup that leaves an impression. We like it hot, we like it wet and we want it every chance we get. Chowder and curry, veggie and meat, these bowls of bliss are served with a tasty roll, big enough to be a meal, and there’s always something new on the menu.

1. Flying Star Café

2. Hello, Deli!

3. Annie’s Soup Kitchen

Best Barbecue Sauce

There are only so many ways you can cook a pig, which means the key to award-winning barbecue is the sauce you smother it in. Sauce--or, as they say at blue ribbon winner Rudy’s, "sause"--is a proprietary secret to those who truly know their barbecue, akin to NASA's rocket fuel or Coca Cola's "7X" formula. Heck, we know a chef who's spent the last two decades perfecting his barbecue sauce recipe, working on it late at night or very early in the morning, when his wife and children are asleep. It's a little twisted, but he's right: Good barbecue is worth the effort.

1. Rudy’s

2. Robb’s Ribs

3. Mr. Powdrell’s Barbeque House

Best Deal

We can’t all be a Hilton, and for the penniless among us there are two hot spots for a big meal with a small price tag. Frontier is in a tie with Ho Ho Chinese, and so for pennies you have a choice between an 80-pound box of Chinese food or an 80-pound breakfast burrito.

1. Tie: Frontier, Ho Ho Chinese

2. Eloy’s Mexican Restaurant

3. Tie: Mannie’s Family Restaurant, Saggios, Weck’s

Best Appetizer

Appetizers can be a tricky business, as greasy mozzarella sticks and gummy nachos still exist. Graze makes starters into an artform with creations like pâté with fig bread, chickpea fries, ancho barbecue pork spareribs and the honorably mentioned house specialty, the sweet corn tamales with mango salsa and poblano cream sauce.

1. Graze

2. Tie: Artichoke Café, Yanni’s Mediterranean Grill

3. Tie: Zinc Wine Bar and Bistro, Seasons of Albuquerque, Outback Steakhouse, Gecko's Bar and Tapas