Alibi V.28 No.41 • Oct 10-16, 2019 

Best of Burque Restaurants 2019

Global Cuisine

Best Greek/Mediterranean

Gyros Mediterranean

Gyros Mediterranean is one of those places that changes the way you view a culture’s food. Having existed for 41 years in the University area, you know they have to be doing something right. Everyone and their mother has eaten here, and if you haven’t, what are you doing? The magic of the University area is that it breeds long-lasting quality eateries because of student buying power. Trust their thin wallets and the loss of home cooking to find the best food nearby and to keep those places afloat with every ounce of their being. So if you find yourself in the area and you haven’t partaken of the magic that is their moussaka or their traditional gyros combo, then you can ai sto theeaolo!

2) Olympia Cafe

3) Yanni's & Lemoni Lounge

Best Middle Eastern

Sahara Middle Eastern Eatery

Sahara Middle Eastern Eatery is another one of those University area restaurants that has become a staple on Central Avenue. With their masterful skill at creating some of the best Middle Eastern food in this city, it’s hard to argue with their choice for first place. Taking the care and love of family style cooking with a passion for high-quality ingredients, you’ll find that sweet spot that leaves you imbued with a sense of joy on your first bite, and a sense of relaxation by the last one. With their baba ghanouj featuring perfectly char-grilled eggplant with tahini sauce or their Lebanese plate featuring a skewer of chicken tika kabob and a skewer of kafta kabob, you’ll find yourself so satisfied that you’ll question why you ever ate anywhere else.

2) TIE: Chello Grill / Alquds Mediterranean Grill & Grocery

3) Yasmine’s Cafe

Best Italian

M'tucci's Italian

M’tucci’s
M’tucci’s
Eric Williams Photography

It’s no surprise to our more consistent readers that I myself come from a family of Italians, both my grandparents on my mother’s side immigrated to America from Italy. So it should follow that I know good Italian when I taste it. While one of my favorite places in the city didn’t even make the top four (incazzato, you all are monsters), M'tucci's Italian was the obvious choice for first in my eyes and clearly yours, too. With a dominating lead, they’ve been the hot go-to spot for Italian since they opened six years ago. With an extensive menu featuring some of the classiest food you can find in the city, it’s gonna be hard to find another place with as impressive a set of offerings as those you can find here.

2) Trombino's Bistro Italiano

3) Saggios

Best Pizza

Dion's

Of course you’d put Dion’s here. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them, and in fact, I’m a big fan. While not the traditional gourmet ideal of pizza, they’re accessible, delicious, family friendly, affordable and diverse enough to have something for everyone. Double that with the fact that half of this city has done a stint at one of Dion’s multitude of stations, and it’s clear they’re an icon in this city, much like Heisenberg, the Zia symbol and our lovely state bird, the roadrunner. Half of the magic behind Dion’s is that nothing is hidden from view when it comes to pizza. From the second the dough leaves the fridge to the moment it’s pulled from the oven to be sliced and set in front of you, every step is visible and instills confidence in what you’re soon to digest.

2) Farina Pizzeria

3) Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza

Best Pasta

M'tucci's Italian

The best Italian food in the city won Best Pasta?! How could that possibly be?Kidding. M'tucci's Italian would have to take one of these subcategories if they were truly the best Italian in the city—food, that is, we all know I’m the best Italian person in the city. With nine pastas on the menu that each sound more amazing than the next, you’re never gonna go wrong with a bowl of the iconic dinner staple from our favorite boot-shaped country. A personal favorite of mine is the Bolognese di Cinque Maiale, a five-pork pasta featuring Slow Braised Savory Duroc Pork Ragu, Tomato, Red Wine, Fresh Herbs and Fresh Pappardelle Pasta. It turns out that it’s impossible to write that and not immediately begin salivating. Have we twisted your arm enough to try their food yet?

2) Trombino's Bistro Italiano

3) Scarpas

Best French

La Crepe Michel

You know in stories when the main character gets lost somewhere and ends up in a totally magical place that’s far removed from the world they came from? That is Le Crepe Michel. Tucked away on a side alley in Old Town, you always seem to stumble upon it when hunger is at its peak and you’ve given up hope of finding something different and fun for lunch. Featuring an entire battalion of amazing savory crepes, you’d have to be abruti to not fall in love from the first bite. The magic of Le Crepe Michel comes from their secreted away nature, allowing you to exist outside the walls of the city for an hour and be alive somewhere else entirely. It’s entirely worth the hero’s journey to discover their offerings on your own.

2) frenchish

3) P'tit Louis Bistro

Best Vietnamese

Basil Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant

My first experience with Basil Leaf Vietnamese was on a date. The girl was an unfortunately bad choice, but I found real love with the restaurant. With one of the most customizable bowls of pho in the city, you can find yourself with your dream date staring up at you from the broth’s steaming surface. Not a fan of pho? It’s unfortunate that you choose to be so wrong in life, but fair enough. With a multitude of rice dishes, stir fried noodles, vermicelli and appetizers, it’s a clear winner in a category that is loaded with competition. Basil Leaf Vietnamese is always going to be better than any date you bring there, so don’t be afraid to go enjoy it on your own.

2) Cafe Da Lat

3) Viet Taste Restaurant

Best Thai

Thai Cuisine II

You never see sequels to restaurants, probably for good reason. But then, out of nowhere, came Thai Cuisine II. With its iconic building adding a bit of color and style to Nob Hill, it’s hard not to be drawn to it based on aesthetics alone. Add to that a menu filled to the brim with authentic Thai options, a gorgeous interior and some of the cleanest, prettiest plating you’ve ever seen in this city, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Our personal favorite is the pineapple curry, featuring red coconut milk curry with pineapple chunks, onions, red bell pepper, fresh basil and lime leaves. Now when are we getting Thai Cuisine III: Return of the Curry?

2) Orchid Thai Cuisine

3) Thai Vegan

Best Chinese

Budai Gourmet Chinese

Someone once told me there was no good Chinese food in this city. I told them they weren’t trying hard enough. Point in fact: Budai Gourmet Chinese. So many people have gotten used to their favorite quick, easy Chinese place that they forget there are places that do authentic Chinese food with finesse and style. Budai Gourmet Chinese does that and more, with a robust, complex menu that offers a look at authentic cuisine with choices for even the pickiest eaters, while hitting some interesting takes the deeper you look. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have good Chinese in Burque if they haven’t eaten here first.

2) Fan Tang

3) Chopstix

Best East Indian

Taj Mahal Cuisine of India

Taj Mahal Cuisine of India is the definitive East Indian food experience here in the city. Yes, others have their takes on these foods and traditions, but the level of quality and attention to detail here is second to none. This was one of the landslide victories in our voting this year, and if you’ve ever eaten there, you’ll know why it was such an easy decision. I was lucky enough to grow up around a lot of East Indian food from my father’s side of the family, and while homemade curries will always hold a special spot in my heart, Taj Majal Cuisine of India has found the delicate balance of spices and ingredients to grow and exceed expectations of most people’s wildest dreams.

2) Curry Leaf Restaurant

3) Namaste Cuisine of India and Nepal Restaurant

Best Ramen

O Ramen

O Ramen
O Ramen
Dan Pennington

O Ramen was the restaurant that my young nerdy heart was yearning for for so long. So many days spent watching anime and seeing those delicious bowls and characters devouring them while I was stuck at home eating Maruchan trash left me devastated until one day, they showed up. With their gorgeous traditional interior matched by an almost impeccable attention to detail in flavor, you’re offered the closest experience to an actual ramen restaurant here in the 505 that you could hope for. Add to that the ability to customize your bowl with spiciness and add other delectable additions, and it’s no surprise that the Noodle District sprang up around this gem.

2) Magokoro Japanese Restaurant

3) Oni

Best Japanese

Magokoro Japanese Restaurant

There was a time when a friend of mine had told me about a new restaurant that opened, one that specialized in Japanese cuisine. His claim, told loudly and proudly to our small group, were that he had eaten there four times that week. Surely, I thought, there was no way this place was that good. So a trip was made—for him the fifth time that week, and for the rest of us, our first. Lo and behold, he was right. There was no reason that Magokoro Japanese Restaurant should be as good as it is, and yet there we were, four dudes sitting around a table, devouring everything in sight. The donburi anago tempura was just so delicately constructed with layers of taste, that you’re left with your mouth hanging open, which is rude when eating but inevitable when your senses are exploding with every bite.

2) Japanese Kitchen Sushi Bar & Cuisine

3) Ichiban Japanese Restaurant

Best Mexican

Taqueria Mexico

I won’t lie to you all: I thought this would be a contentious pick. With a city more covered in Mexican restaurants than any one place should be, all good in their own right, who deserved to be the crowned king of the city’s Mexican food? But then I saw it was Taqueria Mexico, and I knew you all would make the right choice. Up until very recently, they were almost ironically stereotypical as a tiny little roadside place that was constantly busy because their food was so good that you couldn’t go anywhere else while they existed. When I brought out-of-town friends to their storefront, they instantly knew what they were in for. You cannot do justice to this food with words, as Taqueria Mexico is food as a language, speaking through its own masterful creation to deliver you to your own happy place.

2) El Paisa Taqueria

3) Lindo Mexico

Best Southern Food

Nexus Brewery

Nexus Smokehouse
Nexus Smokehouse
Dan Pennington

Nexus Brewery seemed to pop up out of nowhere, at a time when I had just discovered the magic of chicken and waffles yet knew of nowhere that did it right. Then, I went to a comedy show there and was set to indulge. I remember specifically that it was a friend’s friend performing at an open mic, and I tagged along because I was hungry. It was packed and the wait was appropriately long, which made the plate that landed on the table taste all the better. The giant drumstick with its perfectly fried skin stared up at me, begging to be devoured. My friend’s friend asked if he could have some chicken, to which I replied “sure.” He ate the entire drumstick. 9/10: Love the food but not that one comedian who performed at Nexus that night.

2) Frank's Famous Chicken & Waffles

3) Ragin' Shrimp

Best Fusion

Ohana Hut

Fusion brings to mind “Dragon Ball Z,” which isn’t going to be the weirdest thing I write for Best of Burque Restaurants this year. What I find odd about this category is what defines fusion. Here in New Mexico, it doesn’t matter which style of cuisine you go out for, you can almost assuredly find some New Mexican twist within it, most notably of the green chile kind. I distinctly remember someone doing a green chile milkshake, which is technically fusion, though of what and why, I couldn’t tell you. Thankfully Ohana Hut surpasses bad ideas, finding the magical balance by fusing sushi and Hawaiian with the added benefit of New Mexico twists to help give everyone a little something they love. Give it one trip there, and you’ll be saying “hana hou” before you’re even out the door.

2) Ragin' Shrimp

3) Dia De Los Takos

Best Pho

Cafe Da Lat

Cafe Da Lat, home to one of the reddest buildings in this city, is also home to the best pho in the city. This category was contentious for a lot of reasons, most stemming from the large Vietnamese population that lives here and has given our city a wealth of options when it comes to Vietnamese food. Cafe Da Lat has been a staple of the neighborhood for a long time, and that comes from their attention to quality and consistency. Is it hard to mess up pho? No, but it’s a whole other thing to be able to do it so well that you wouldn’t consider eating pho anywhere else. In that sense, Cafe Da Lat took the field, swept everyone else off and stood atop it, proud and defiant. This victory was theirs, and no one can contest it.

2) TIE: Pho #1/Viet Taste Restaurant

3) Viet's Pho

Best Sushi

Ohana Hut

Apparently, fusion is in. Ohana Hut swooped in for the win on this one, with an energized base of eaters who love their food. We live in the desert, and good sushi is definitely hard to find. With the magic touch of fresh ingredients, love and innovation, they’ve found the magical sweet spot that gives life to the raw, flavor to the unimaginable and joy to that which we’ve said was impossible. Welcome to the new flavor administration, one of craftiness and bold declarations.

2) Shogun Sushi

3) Sushi Hana

Best Korean

Soo Bak Seoul Bowl

Soo Bak Seoul Bowl
Soo Bak Seoul Bowl
Eric Williams Photography

I was lucky enough to go try out Soo Bak Seoul Bowl last month, getting the chance to eat some of their amazing food. I don’t get the hipster claim to fame of loving them before they were a food truck, but I can say I loved them before they were the top spot for Best Korean. With a mix of traditional and innovative twists, they’ve found the ideal spot to be in for pushing the boundaries on what we expect of Korean food. Kudos to you, Soo Bak Seoul Bowl. May your journey forward continue to be successful and delicious, not just for you, but for all of us.

2) Asian Pear

3) Ichiban Japanese Restaurant

Best Falafel

Sahara Middle Eastern Eatery

Sahara Middle Eastern Eatery makes the home run hit again, this time with falafel. With the deliciously deep-fried doughy patty of chickpea and spices, you’re not going to be disappointed. For a dish done simply, it’s simply the best. The gentle balance of spices allows the chickpeas to excel and have their natural flavor be the force that carries this dish, while adding that extra flavorful oomph that makes it truly worthy of the top spot.

2) Gyros Mediterranean

3) Alquds Mediterranean Grill and Grocery

Best Gyros

Gyros Mediterranean

Gyros Mediterranean has it right there in the name, so of course they won. With the right balance of meat and pita, it’s always a gorgeous sight to see that steaming hot meal come your way. It’s hard to take the time to savor it and give it the attention it deserves because you can’t seem to put it down once you start to dig in. It’s worth the love of your votes, and it’s worth the dollars in your pocket.

2) Olympia Cafe

3) Alquds Mediterranean Grill and Grocery

Best Tapas

MÁS Tapas y Vino

MÁS Tapas y Vino is another one where the story is in their name. Who doesn’t want more tapas and wine? Nothing pairs with a glass of wine better than a light snack or five, so let the love take control and give in to your base desire to eat a multitude of dishes and enjoy the winer things in life. Fill your stomach, fill your heart and get an Uber home, because you can’t just have one glass of wine. That’s okay, and it’s what they’re there for. Let MÁS Tapas y Vino take care of you and your evening.

2) The Cellar Tapas, Beer and Wine

3) Gecko's Nob Hill