The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

New Mexico 2010: Restaurants That We Keep Going Back To

My goal was to gain less than 5 pounds on this trip, because the food is always so good in New Mexico. I went slightly over, but considering how well we ate, that’s almost miraculous. We went to many great restaurants, which I’m going to review, and a few that were okay, which I’m going to leave out. There were some old favorites, which I review in this post, and some exciting new ones that I will review next time. Let’s get started:

Albuquerque Favorites

Our “just flew 3/4 of the way across the country and feel zonked” restaurant in Albuquerque is the Flying Star Cafe. It’s idiot-proof (me being the idiot) and good, and there are several of them in Albuquerque. I had the excellent Blues Burger our first night in, and I’ve had other good food there over the years. It’s the perfect place to sit across from your traveling companion and make brilliant statements like “wow, we’re finally on vacation” or “it’s good to be in New Mexico.” Like I said, idiot-proof and good.

More upscale is another Albuquerque restaurant, Zinc. I love Zinc, and I make reservations there every time we visit New Mexico. My favorite item on the menu, bar none, is the smoked trout and potato pancakes appetizer. The entrees are all superb, and the desserts are very special. This time, we had the creme brulee trio and the chocolate truffles. Last year, we had the truffles alone, which relates to a particular change that Zinc has made that I believe shows true wisdom on the part of its management: they’ve right-sized the menu. Don’t you hate having to choose between wasting food and eating too much at a restaurant? Although the online menu doesn’t show it, you can get smaller portions of many items, including the wonderful smoked trout and potato pancakes. I had a half-portion of the quail entree, as well. So we saved money and avoided waste. What’s not to like? I wish more restaurants would do that.

Madrid, Santa Fe, and Penasco Favorites

If you take the Turquoise Trail from Albuquerque to Santa Fe (or vice versa), you cannot avoid seeing the Mineshaft Tavern, in the small town of Madrid. We eat there at least once on every trip, and this time we visited twice, ordering sandwiches. It’s damned good bar food, even at lunch. Beer optional. Plus, it’s hard to beat the roadhouse atmosphere.

Another small town eatery not to be missed, but with an entirely different vibe, is Sugar Nymphs, in Penasco along the High Road between Santa Fe and Taos. We had lunch there. Service is slow, but there’s no need to rush — you’re going to get a delightful meal no matter what you order. When Dave and I were there, eating a salad and a burger respectively, I sat facing the bar and watched the pastry chef bring out a beautiful, cinnamon-scented hot apple and walnut crisp to cool. Of course we had it for dessert — how could we not?

In Santa Fe, we always go to The Shed, usually with our friends Pat and Bonnie. The food is classic New Mexican cuisine, and The Shed is an outstanding and affordable place for it. This is the restaurant where I was introduced to New Mexican food, which is very different from what is served as Mexican food in the rest of America, and so I will always think fondly of the place. But aside from that? Funky yet authentic decor, friendly service, a fun environment, great food, and low prices. I normally have the chicken enchiladas, followed by “Shed cake” for dessert.

Next: Restaurants we visited for the first time and would happily return to.

October 31, 2010 - Posted by | Albuquerque, food, New Mexico, Santa Fe, travel | , , , , , , , ,

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