Alibi V.27 No.43 • Oct 25-31, 2018 

Restaurant Review

Eat Your Meat!

A preamble for seasonal carnivores

Green chile cheeseburger with fries
Green chile cheeseburger with fries
Eric Williams Photography

Demonstrably—like many non-equatorial primates and some ursine mammals facing winter—I am bound by nature’s succor to crave animal flesh as a primary source of nutrition. When the dark months overtake the northern hemisphere I fancy meat and make no bones about it.

This seeming contradiction, by the way, is balanced out with information I gleaned from the fourteenth Dalai Lama. In 1989, I totally asked the dude about the eating of yak meat and mutton among Buddhists in Tibet. His Holiness’ reply was simple, as he repeated the words of Guatama there in the Keller Hall Green Room, telling me quietly, yet firmly, “When hungry, eat.”

Of course there’s not much else to encourage human sustenance on the Tibetan tundra—and I know for sure that it’s merely a first world, postcolonial fantasy that allows me to indulge in meat and Eastern philosophy at the same time—but my semi-mythic portrayal of a common human practice provides a vivid way of underscoring my primary mission. When Burque’s part of the Earth is not aimed toward the sun, from October through February, survival is job number one.

That disclosure made, I came to believe that the week that just passed was a perfect time to begin enacting my annual slew of meaty encounters. Thinking in resolute, practical terms, I came up with a plan.

Right down the street was a joint that fit squarely into the parameters I’ve previously described: local, quirky, part of the culture en El Duque, and in this case, suitably centered on serving steak. I am talking about the Monte Carlo Steakhouse on Central near Atrisco, in case you are wondering.

For those further tantalized by the rendering of such information onto this page, I assure you that what follows is a true journal of an epic journey into the flavor of flesh.

The Monte Carlo Steakhouse has been in operation for more than 50 years and wears the hearty eatery tropes of that age on its gloriously-stained-with-A1 Steaksauce sleeves.

Leatherette booths, a dimly lit interior where the brightest light comes from teevees set to this or that sportsball exhibition and get this—tables set with cloth napkins, amber glasses and verifiably bottomless straw cracker barrels—make the Monte Carlo the ideal setting for either a family sit-down featuring Uncle Junior or a randomly wonderful, darkish other-world where ’70s obsessed millennials can get good and drunk in the middle of the day while munching on absolutely killer fries ($6) or a Greek appetizer plate ($9) that slays.

My companion, more delicate and deliberate in her sustaining consumption of flesh, had come to similar conclusions. The cheeseburger she ordered was so fine a specimen of postmodern winter time foodstuffs that she nearly cried when she took the first bite. But, instead of letting a tear fall for the cow sacrificed in this grand parade of temporal indulgence, she raised her glass of ice-cold Coca-Cola swallowed the tasty morsel she had lovingly gathered into her mouth, proclaiming afterwards that the burger was “damn good.”

I arrived at 2pm for my instinct-driven visit and did not leave until nearly 3:30, as I was mortified about the girth I might have acquired whilst consuming half a pound of cow meat; also I had to convince myself that hibernation was not an imminent issue. Though I suppose that latest survival protocol was partially initiated by a comment my partner made about the huge taxidermic Brahma bull head on the wall—no he didn’t look sleepy to me, at all!—I had to admit hers was a wonderful idea after such an expansive meal.

In detail, that meal might mark a change in my seasonal consumption habits. More generally, symbolically too, the meaty encounter Samantha and I had at the Monte Carlo Steakhouse was incredibly satisfying, calling forth comparisons to holiday meals, family functions and long-ago romantic dinners. In that way the comfort level, spread smoothly through the space by a super-friendly and competent staff, nearly superseded the stellar steak I was about to gratefully chow down upon.

I ordered the small top sirloin steak with a baked potato, garden salad and Texas toast ($12.95) while my dining partner chose the Monte Carlo Burger with cheese, green chile and French fries ($11.50). In case you are unaware of the fact, the cooks as the Monte Carlo use one of those old-fashioned spud-slicing machines to produce some of the most long, lovely and damn-good tasting French-fried potatoes this side of the capital of Idaho. They are golden brown, lightly crispy and tender as hell on the inside.

Not to be outdone, the baked potato that came with my meal was just heavenly. The creamy texture, crispy skin and buttery sauce drizzled upon this prized tuber was a sublime and tongue-loving contrast to the firm and delightfully but not unconquerably chewy texture of the steak that came with it.

Then there’s the matter of the super salad: That is one self-assured and simple creation of fresh iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber and laudable amounts of bleu cheese dressing. Did I mention it comes with millions of crackers?

And the steak itself, you might well ask? Well, to begin with, all the steaks at the Monte Carlo are cut by hand and handled with culinary care by seasoned chefs. The broiler is part of an open kitchen bounded by tile and adjacent to the bar. From there patrons can get a good idea of what to expect. It’s damn good.

My order was cooked to perfection, seasoned to be juicy and smoky, but not salty and ashen. The smaller size of this particular cut of meat makes the order perfect for lunch or for those whose meat consumption is limited for whatever reason. Believe me now, scrawny humans: After cleaning my plate at the Monte Carlo, I vowed that I would not have to eat for at least two more days.

My companion, more delicate and deliberate in her sustaining consumption of flesh, had come to similar conclusions. The cheeseburger she ordered was so fine a specimen of postmodern winter time foodstuffs that she nearly cried when she took the first bite. But, instead of letting a tear fall for the cow sacrificed in this grand parade of temporal indulgence, she raised her glass of ice-cold Coca-Cola swallowed the tasty morsel she had lovingly gathered into her mouth, proclaiming afterwards that the burger was “damn good.”

She was referring to the toasted sesame seed bun blanketing a burger whose juicy essence was baked into it through a grilling process that can only be called miraculously fine and fiery. When cheese and American-style condiments are added to this brain-rewarding mixture, be careful, a sort of easily vocalized ecstasy may be imminent.

In an after-world that was more reverie than stupor, we wandered out of The Monte Carlo Steakhouse and into the bright sunshine. It was still autumn out there with the winter approaching, but we went forth satisfied and unafraid. The hunting would be good; the meat couldn’t be better.

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Monte Carlo Steakhouse

3916 Central Ave. SW
836-9886
Hours: Mon-Sat. 11am-10pm, closed Sunday
Vibe: Meaty
Alibi Recommends: Small top sirloin steak, green chile cheeseburger