Church St Cafe: Traditional New Mexican Selections
One of my fellow guests at the Blue Hotel had recommended this Old Town restaurant and I decided to check out the menu.
Church St Cafe is located in Casa de Ruiz (the house of Ruiz) and has a long and distinctive history. The house was built in the early 1700s during the founding of Albuquerque, making Casa de Ruiz the oldest residence in Albuquerque and one of the oldest structures in New Mexico. The building remained a residence until the last inhabitant, Rufina G Ruiz died in 1991 at the age of 91. The house had never been sold and had remained in the Ruiz family since the early 18th century.
The owners of Church St Cafe take great pride in the history of their establishment and continue to research the building and it's past.
OPENING HOURS :
Monday thru Saturday - 08:00 to 21:00
Sunday - 08:00 to 16:00
Favorite Dish: I thoroughly enjoyed the Navajo Taco, an Indian fry bread served with a topping of beans, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes to which I added beef for an extra US$1.00.
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
Tucanos: Selections aplenty!
During my visit to Albuquerque, I posted a mini-meet and selected Tucanos from AlbuqRay's tips - and he joined me for the evening.
Tucanos offers Brazilian Churrasco style dining; this is where fresh meats and vegetables are grilled and brought to your table by servers. I really like this dining style; each table has wood block of one style or another which is painted green at one end and red at the other. Place your 'cue' green side up and the servers will stop by your table with whatever delicious meats and vegetables they have brought out fresh from the kitchen; if you wish to take a break (or have completed your dining experience) you simply turn your 'cue' red side up and the servers skip your table.
At Tucanos, there is also a salad bar which offers various items which are suitable as starters or side dishes to your selections.
Tucanos is an 'all you can eat' dining experience with Lunch costing US$13.95 and Dinner costing US$20.95.
OPENING HOURS :
Monday thru Thursday - 11:00 to 22:00
Friday & Saturday - 11:00 to 23:00
Sunday - 11:00am to 21:00
Favorite Dish: I had a great selection of meats, vegetables and salads but one thing I really did enjoy was the grilled pineapple which was wonderfully sweet and succulent.
- Historical Travel
La Placita: New Mexican flavours
La Placita Dining Rooms is located on the outer corner of Old Town Plaza. The restaurant is made up of series of rooms and includes an enclosed outdoor seating area which has a large tree growing up through the roof.
I had lunch here on a weekday during November 2011 and was pleased by the steady stream of customers through the restaurant.
Upon being seated, I was brought the usual complimentary tortilla chips and salsa which were pleasant.
I ordered the combination fajita plate which arrived sizzling away - in fact, I had to wait a while until it wasn't spitting as furiously. The warm tortillas came with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream whilst the skillet held the sizzling chicken, beef, onions and green peppers.
I'm pretty sure I made an utter mess of putting the fajitas together - having no experience whatsoever - however, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and really enjoyed them.
OPENING HOURS :
Daily from 11:00 to 21:00
Favorite Dish: Fajita combination plate - a great option with a delicious guacamole and a suitably soothing sour cream.
- Historical Travel
Romero House Ices: Meet a medallist!
A warm sunny afternoon spent exploring the Old Town surely called for an ice cream at some point, and we found a few places to choose from to the west of the Plaza, opting for this one because it had plenty of seating outside. It is located in an old house, Romero House, which was built in 1915 and was the last major home built on the plaza. Today it has been converted into a sort of mini mall, with a couple of galleries/shops opening off its central corridor and this small café tucked away at the back. As well as a good selection of ice cream and frozen yoghurt, as promised outside, they also sell cakes and fast food savoury treats such as nachos and grilled sandwiches.
While perusing the different flavours on offer we got talking to the woman selling behind the counter and asked if we could take a few photos. She agreed, and suggested that her father should be in them. It turned out that he was one of two older men sitting at a table in the corner, and as she explained, he is a bit of a local celebrity, having won medals at the Senior Olympics for race-walking. Slightly bashfully he agreed to pose – to be honest, I think he really rather liked the attention even while protesting that he wasn’t worth a photo!
Favorite Dish: Photography over, we turned back to the display of ices. I had a mango sorbet and pistachio, and Chris chose chocolate and strawberry. We ate them outside in the shade of the flowering bushes on the patio and they were fine – not the best ices of the trip (those were in Silver City) but pretty good just the same.
Bebe Café: Lovely spot for lunch
Looking for lunch in the Old Town it seemed to us that most of the places around the Plaza were more suited to a large dinner than the sort of light meal we were after. But then we spotted the sign for the Bebe Café and followed the trail into a pretty courtyard surrounded by interesting little shops, and in one corner this small café with just a few tables outside. There was one other customer there, waiting for his lunch, and with just the one server we had to wait a short while as all the sandwiches are made freshly to order. But we didn’t mind as it was very pleasant sitting in the courtyard with our cold drinks, and the sandwiches when they came were very good. The server explained that she had to get to class (clearly a student working to pay her way through college) so would have to lock up the café, but the owner would be along soon – or if we finished our meal before then we could just leave plates etc on the table – very casual and friendly.
Favorite Dish: I had the special of the day which was a turkey and mango salsa wrap with cheese and salad. The salsa was delicious so I appreciated the little pot of extra on the side, along with a few tortilla chips. Chris had a ham and cheese panini, which was also good. With a fresh orange juice and bottle of sparkling water our bill came to $17.
We also enjoyed exploring the little shops off the courtyard, especially a very good photography gallery opposite the café – well worth a quick look if you’re in the area.
Flying Star Café: Casual and good – but take ID!
We had thought about eating in the Old Town on our one evening in Albuquerque but when we discovered that there were several options within walking distance of the Hotel Blue we changed our minds. Most of these were along Central Avenue, but another, recommended in our Moon Handbook, had caught my eye – the Flying Star Café. This is a small local chain with a handful of branches in the city and one in Santa Fe. They aren’t fancy places but have a great reputation for good quality if simple food at very reasonable prices. You won’t find table cloths, flowers and candles, and you have to go to the counter to order, but you’ll get good deli-style food alongside some more interesting and substantial dishes, and a friendly buzzy atmosphere.
This particular branch also happens to be located in an interesting and rather striking building – which I completely failed to take any photos of! It was originally the Southern Union Gas Company and was designed in 1950 by a regionally famous architect, John Gaw Meem. The gas company stopped using it about 17 years ago and the building was restored for use by the café. It has been granted the status of a National Historic Place. On the evening we visited it was busy with a wide variety of diners – students making a coffee last for hours while working on laptops (there is free wifi), groups of friends evidently on the first leg of a night out, tourists like ourselves, family groups, business people etc etc. This is clearly a popular spot.
There were several tempting dishes on the menu and we decided to keep with the casual vibe and go for sandwiches – Chris’s the Turkey and Swiss on rye, and mine the “MOO-ve Over Meat” veggie burger, which was delicious (I’m not a vegetarian but I do like anything spicy, which this promised to be: a “grilled, spicy southwest black bean patty with melted cheddar & Cajun dressing”. Both our sandwiches came with a choice of sides – I opted for the homemade BBQ potato chips while Chris had the French fries.
To go with our meals we ordered a couple of bottles of Santa Fe pale ale – and thus began one of the more amusing incidents of our trip. It is New Mexico state law that anyone drinking alcohol must be over 21 years of age. Neither Chris nor I are under any delusions that we look anything like that young. Consequently we were not surprised to be able to buy beer and other drinks in a number of places during the first few days of our trip. The friendly Buffalo Bar in Silver City happily served us beer and Jack Daniels; the Socorro Springs Brewery had no problem with us enjoying their brews both with and after our meal; and our hotel in Grants served us without a quibble. So imagine our surprise, and initial amusement, when we were asked to show ID here. It is a very long while since anyone questioned whether I was over 21! But the server was adamant – no ID, no beer. She did however offer to see if her manager would waive the rule, but the manager too was insistent. According to her, state laws meant that anyone serving alcohol to anyone had to ask for and see evidence that they were of legal drinking age. We pointed out that no one else had so far done so, but she said that she could lose her job if the police were to raid the restaurant and find anyone drinking without ID, so Chris popped back to the hotel (thankfully only a few minutes away) to get our passports.
To be fair the manager was only doing her job and we certainly didn’t want her to lose it because of us! And she obviously felt a bit bad because when I went up to the counter to order dessert (Key Lime pie to share and a decaf latte for Chris) she came over to tell the server that it was on the house :-)
High Finance: Room at the top
If you're looking for a good reference, you'll be disappointed; at best, I am ambivalent about High Finance. Consider that our booking was for 7:30, and we still hadn't been seated 40 minutes later. Turfed to the bar to wait, we enjoyed our beverages of choice but found the appetizer we ordered (calamari) had been cooked in rancid oil and was inedible. (Our waiter arranged to have the substantial cost deducted from our bill.) Although the "draw" at High Finance is being able to see the sunset, in fact many tables in the restaurant, and all the seating in the bar, either do not look in the proper direction or lack a viewing angle. Sometime after sunset, we were finally seated at our table; but then we were compelled to try to complete our dinner within about fifteen minutes in order to make the descent or we'd have had to wait another thirty minutes. By then, of course, the temperature had fallen dramatically and hanging about atop Sandia Peak wasn't enthralling.
The restaurant is not handicapped accessible.
Favorite Dish: The prime rib was excellent, and enormous -- easily enough to feed two people. On the strength of that cut of meat, I can't completely pan the restaurant.
- Food and Dining
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
66 Diner: Get your kicks on Route 66
The 66 Diner is a fixture on Central Avenue, also known as Route 66, and it is a throw-back to the 1950s. You're certain to enjoy the ambience, the excellent and friendly service, the large portions and the diner food -- complete with "blue plate specials." They have everything you expect from a place serving lunch, dinner, and "late night" (which includes the trademark PILE UP, composed of pan fried potatos, chopped bacon, chopped green chile, two eggs, cheddar cheese and red chile sauce on top), except alcohol; some time ago, they gave up their liquor license. No fear, you'll be happy with the soda fountain options. And be sure to save room for dessert. You absolutely will not believe how immense the banana splits are! I like their motto: this is homage to a vanishing part of American history.
There are a variety of T-shirts and collectibles for sale, both at the restaurant and on-line.
Open Monday-Friday 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM. Breakfast is served on weekends from 8:00 AM until noon, and the diner is open Saturday and Sunday until at least ten o'clock.
Favorite Dish: The green chile burger is without peer in the city. Although it sounds ludicrous to pair it with a milk shake,you might want something to put the fire out.
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
The Quarters BBQ: Amazing BBQ, New Mexico style
So, I was a little non-plussed at the notion that my package store and my luncheon spot would be essentially the same place, but that was before I visited them both. Great liquor store, and really nice restaurant space where I was introduced to the New Mexico style of barbeque. We enjoyed very good service in a pleasant atmosphere, but none of that would have mattered if the food didn't live up to its billing.
We ordered a selection of ribs, French fries, and onion rings. The portions were huge. The ribs could have used some additional BBQ sauce, but upon request, this was provided promptly. Really the only marginal complaint is that the rolls weren't worth eating -- and who had room for them, anyway? Everything else tasted very good. I did think it was a bit pricey for this kind of meal, though...$32.00 for a platter of ribs is a lot.
There are three Quarters restaurants in the Albuquerque metro, and each has a slightly different menu.
- Family Travel
Church Street Cafe: Great grub in Old Town
For my first full day in ABQ, my hostess took me to Old Town, to her favorite restaurant there: Church Street Cafe. Now you need to understand that my palate doesn't run to hot-and-spicy; I am basically a wimp, so the Cafe's reputation of having the best hot salsa in New Mexico did not draw me as a moth to the flame. But I was impressed by this restaurant, located in a building which may be the oldest residence in the State (certainly one of the oldest in the city), and managed to eat what I was served without having apoplexy. I actually enjoyed it a lot -- but I did get the kiddie version of what they usually serve.
The restaurant is open daily from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM (Sunday close at 4:00 PM).
There is a small gift shop at the entrance, but you can also order the salsas, chiles, gift baskets, cook book and apparel on-line.
Favorite Dish: The house-made guacamole, though much spicier than what I was used to, was so good that I wound up running my finger across the bottom of the bowl lest any escape the more rigid corn tortilla chip. The beer was icy and the rice and beans were deliciously satisfying. Everything looked good, but you have to be careful because green and red chiles are lavished on many dishes.
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
Mai Thai Thai Cuisine: Good Lunch Buffet
Sadly, Mai Thai Thai Cuisine is another restaurant that has gone out of business. Being next to La Salita is not an easy thing. This makes three restaurants that have not made it in this location. We miss Sam and her family too.
The Mai Thai Thai Cuisine Restaurant opened in Aug 08. Having a reasonably priced Thai lunch buffet ($7.25, Mon-Fri) this near to where I live is a good find for me since I really enjoy Thai food. The service is good too. The restaurant can get busy at lunch time because of the quality of food and price. There is an extensive menu from which to order at both lunch and dinner. It is a family owned business; Sam is the hostess and Kit does the cooking. The only downside is parking. It is located in the same building as La Salita, one of the more popular local New Mexican restaurants. When both restaurants are busy, there are definitely parking issues.
Favorite Dish: My favorite item on the buffet was the green curry with tofu and eggplant, but the spicy chicken wings, spicy grilled chicken salad and pad thai were excellent also. The items on the buffet change often (a good sign). Actually some items are always there but many cycle depending on the day of the week. The som tum (papaya salad) and massaman beef were quite good.
- Budget Travel
Chicago Beef: I can't believe how much I loved it ....
AS OF OCTOBER 2007 THIS BUSINESS IS CLOSED, BUT I'M LEAVING THIS TIP US CUZ I LIKE IT :) THANKS ALBUQ_RAY FOR LETTING ME KNOW THIS GEM IS NO MORE ... SNIFF, SNIFF
My Dad has a gift ..... well he has many gifts actually. But the gift I experienced this week is his ability to find out of the way eateries that tickle the palate. He indicated he wanted to go to lunch this week, so I climbed in his car and waited to see where we'd end up. After a bit of a drive into the South Valley, we pulled into a parking lot. I looked at the sign, looked at dad, then said, "we drove down here for HOT DOGS???" He smiled and said, "YESSSS. Oh Boy!"
I like my hot dogs. But have never before said I LOVE my hotdogs! Chicago Beef is a small place in the South Valley (just across from the library there) that has only been open for about 6 months. I've never been to Chicago, so can't comment on similarities. BUT the food is amazing :)
Yes, they are dogs .... there is also sausage, bratwurst, and similar items. Where most places have salad bars, this place has a condiment bar filled with all sorts of wonderful things to add to your purchase: relishes, grilled onions, mushrooms, sauces, and more. The folks there were friendly and helpful to this neophyte, and helped me make condiment selections as I found it overwhelming but wanted to try new things that day.
Favorite Dish: At Dad's insistence, I ordered as he did: the Beef Sausage Dog with cheese. First off, it's a wonderful sausage covered by beef slices then covered with melted cheese. Not that fake cheese sauce, but real cheese melted under the broiler. With a side au jus to cover this dish with I was awestruck at the size. I asked for a fork and knife as I knew that I wasn't able to put this thing into my mouth without breaking it up a bit.
Dad also insisted I try the veggie relish ..... OMG! It was wonderful! A teeny bit spicey, a teeny bit sweet, a teeny bit sour ... it was perfect ;)
I almost forgot! Order the onion rings! Delicious and enough for two to share :)
Graze by Jennifer James: Smooth with a definite feminine touch
It only took once or twice of me walking by this restaurant for it to catch my eye enough for me to want to check it out. In this case, the icing on the cake is just a little bit better than what's underneath. The food was good and clean, but it lacked any serious punch that would send me back here in a hurry. I ordered the 3 course set lunch menu, though everything else is served as small plates so that you can "graze" and try several different things. One day I might go back, but I will be checking out other places before that.
Kelly's Brewery: Unique beers brewed in house & ostrich burgers!
Favorite Dish: The quesidilias were really good...nice and super cheesy. For dinner we split the Ostrich Burger, because...well... how often do you get to order that at the local brew pub. Ostrich was tasted pretty burger-y (i.e. like cow) for being ostrich. Definatly something to try just so you can say you did!
Review of the BEERS coming soon!
- Beer Tasting
- Road Trip
The Frontier: Classic New Mexican Food, Scary Clientele
The Frontier is an ABQ landmark. It's open 24 hrs a day and located across Central from the UNM bookstore. It's the best place in town to go for post-midnight snacks, but if you go after 2 am (that's when the bars closed) prepare to wait in line, and even get searched at the door. It's worth it, though. Tell someone to meet you under the big picture of John Wayne, and then watch them get all confused, because there are like 23 of them.
Interesting fact: The Alibi (http://www.alibi.com/editorial/toc.php), ABQ's weekly alternative paper, has an annual Best of Burque contest; The Frontier always wins Best Breakfast, and also some other category like "Best Place to Eat Where You're Scared of the Other Patrons." Last year 63% of respondents voted for it, which is ironic, because if more than half of the people are scared of the other people, then we're all just scared of EACH OTHER.
Okay, that sounded a lot more profound at 3:30 in the morning over a big messy enchilada.
Favorite Dish: Grilled cheese and fries, or breakfast burritos. The Frontier has classic diner food plus New Mexican food. Anything greasy, fatty, or fried, they got it.
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