The house that Ben built
If you’re on any kind of schedule, you should probably avoid Ben Michael’s restaurant on even a half-busy evening. The slow-moving spectacle that often passes for service will be frustrating if there’s some other place you need to be. But if you aren’t in a hurry, that same chaos could pass as entertainment. And if you show up during a quiet lunch hour and you’re the only one there, expect to be treated like royalty.
Tía Betty Blue’s
What’s red and green and blue all over?
The appeal of Tía Betty Blue’s might seem skin-deep at first. The paint is fresh. The food comes fast enough to service a drive-thru window. A collection of bottled soda pops is so vast, it could be a gimmick. And the image of a raven-haired hottie—Tía Betty Blue, presumably—stares you down from the sign, the walls, the menu. But despite its candy-coated veneer, Tía B’s means business. The food is simple but thoughtful, and it’s different. And as long as food is the priority, who cares how cute the servers are?
Which is better: having the best location and the worst tamales, or the best tamales and the worst location? Only soul-free capitalists would choose the former, while a soulful stream of Burqueños regularly choose the tamales at El Modelo.
Cable darling, red chile queen
It was a cold and snowy Sunday morning when I first went to Cecilia’s. The air smelled like piñon smoke. Inside, it was still chilly sitting by the old brick wall at the south end of the dining room. I noticed a wood stove at the other end, so I switched seats. There was a woman sitting next to the stove sorting a big sack of pinto beans.