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Taos / Santa Fe / Duke City - Weekend Edition

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Hi 'Hounds - Here is a brief trip report from two weekends ago, Friday thru Monday, offered with candor and conviction:

Taos - Took advice on this site and visited Orlando's - a very charming spot, to be sure, but I was with a party of five and not one plate was worth recommending - not one. The service was friendly, the wait staff attractive, and the place was full - beyond that I have to say it was just decent fill at a fair price. Maybe they had an off day, but this was a disappointment - next post recommending Orlando's really should explain why it is so outstanding - not just because it is cute and the garden seating area and the waitresses are pretty. 'Nuff said about this joint.

Santa Fe 1 - Mother's Day weekend and Saturday night at the Compound - along with half of the well-heeled senior citizens in town. I praise this restaurant in the exact same way I condemned the last: the food is not excellent but it is competent and beautifully and professionally presented. The setting after all these years is still tops - it reminds me of Michael's in Santa Monica. But this is not a "foodie" experience, if you understand my meaning. Everything was gorgeous on the plate: the fresh pea soup, fresh morel mushrooms, osso bucco - all looked like they were ready for the cover of Food & Wine magazine. But the taste? Eh. The only place I've had food that looked this good but tasted so average is in London (where, I swear, every dish seems to go through a flavor scrambler to through off us Yanks). This is a restaurant where the atmosphere and service and presentation outshines the food - and that may be due to their clientelle - I was the youngest diner except for an attractive couple in their twenties who looked like they had gotten on the wrong cruise ("this is Cabo, right? Not 'Whale Watching in Alaska'?"). All this sounds like damning with faint praise - but I promise you that Compound is a very nice evening and they know their stuff: the menu and the wine list are great, the food is way above average if under salted (due to the average age of the patrons? I don't mind and don't think there is anything wrong with this - just saying), the room is cheery, modern, clean without being cold, and the staff is on their toes. I heartily recommend the Compound as a wonderful place to take "Mother" and her friends. I will be back when the need presents and will be looking forward to it. Santa Fe is very lucky to have such a restaurant!

Santa Fe 2 - Bobcat Bite! THE BEST CHILE BURGER IN THE WORLD. Somebody take a swing here, I dare ya: this place is a "category killer" like White House Subs in Atlantic City - it's just the best and there's nothing anybody can do about it. :-)

Santa Fe 3 - Just a quick note about the Spanish Kitchen, the Spanish imports gourmet shop in town around the corner from Hotel Eldorado that also has branches here in California - what a treat! I spent the better part of an hour in their cookbook section (and brought home the wonderfully revised Penelope Casas "Tapas" book). If you are in town definitely pop in - the selection of imported foods, cookware, and foodie gifties is impressive and the staff is really nice!

ABQ - Duke City never disappoints ME! (But I think a lot of people, even those who love it and those who live there are groaning reading this statement!) I stock up on the good stuff when I'm there (read other posts on shopping and bringing home a loaded cooler), and I get to have my Mary & Tito's fix - this time I got the treat of chatting to Mary herself - the Southwest's own Julia Child - a nice treat and I picked up a few great cooking tips. Only time for this one meal out - rest of the time we were cooking up a storm with BBQ'd quail from Kellers, fresh tortillas and carne adovado and eggs, and plenty of margaritas, guacamole and chips around the pool.

All in all a great weekend - I highly recommend the drive to Taos and the pueblo, the Harwood Museum (and their new Hopper show), Santa Fe shopping (and the music and barmaids at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame), and R & R in Albuquerque (the course at Tanoan is beautiful - even if my game isn't). Off to Seattle tomorrow and may stay the weekend there - never been so . . . time to check out that board! See ya round!

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  1. Orlando's. Maybe you just don't appreciate killer chile. I've been going to Orlando's for at least 15 years and have never been disappointed. It's downscale and I couldn't give a rat's patoutie about it being 'cute'.
    The Compound. Ditto my comments about Orlando's except that it's upscale.
    Bobcat Bite. At least you got that right. It's top notch.
    I assume that you're from L.A. where there is an abundance of top notch eats spanning the price scale. Maybe that contributes to your disappointment at less than absolutely stellar restaurants.

    7 Replies
    1. re: skyeking

      Hi - I honestly do appreciate good chile. I've been enjoying it for years. I make it here in L.A. with frozen Hatch. And always have it more than once on visits to Santa Fe and ABQ. This was my first venture to Taos and what can I tell you - everyone in my party felt a bit "rumbly" after lunch there. Anyway, I am willing to try it again. And just so you know: I live next to the 4th street bridge, just across the river from East L.A. I eat at taco trucks and places with panic buttons on the wall so I don't mind downscale - our table just had a really not so great lunch food-wise at Orlando's - what can I tell you but the truth. I thought I was nice about the place otherwise, sorry it ruffled your feathers - it was just one lunch and of course every place can have a bad day. Should I not report on it? What if they've lost their chef? Maybe this info will encourage others to give an "all clear" and my experience will fade away as an anomaly. (You don't think the servers at Orlando's are cute? ;-) )

      As far as the Compound - as I said: I'll be back it makes my list. I really like the place and it has a vibe and I was trying to convey that. The restaurants in Santa Fe ARE STELLAR and I love so many of the restaurants there. And I would happily dine at the Compound once a month if I lived there - it is absolutely charming and it is a place I would be pleased to take my aged parents regularly. This was my experience two weekends ago - as they say "Your milage may vary." Have a nice long weekend. :-)

      1. re: Pigeage

        I really didn't mean to be snarky or to question your credentials, it's just that Orlando's rarely, if ever, gets a less than fabulous report. Like you said, maybe an off-day. I happen to be in Taos now and had a great dinner last night at the newly resurrected Antonio's. I'll post a full report next week when I return home.

        1. re: skyeking

          Yes! Yes! Just got back to the Bay Area, but Taos is my home.
          Orlando's has some of the tastiest caribe chile in the southwest and everything is superbly and authentically prepared.
          We Taosenas consider food at the Compound very nicely prepared "gringo grub" and perhaps that was the appeal versus Orlando's.
          The chef at Antonio's has a similar menu to Rellenos and since you may still be in Taos, try the Chile Nogales - superior!
          For the food the locals eat - go to El Taoseno ion Pueblo del Sur - have a fine bowl of green and some sopapillas with honey or more upscale, The Dragonfly next to the Post Office.
          On your way out of New Mexico, hit Garcia's on 4th or Central for some red or green with beans - delish! And even better sopapillas!

          1. re: artfxca

            Hi all - I will definitely add Antonio's to next visit list - and Garcia's is great, to be sure! (But I still dream about Mary & Tito's . . . :-) ) Happy summer, everybody!

            1. re: artfxca

              Garcia's on 4th and Mountain is by hubby's favorite [although he does prefer Frontier's fresh off the griddle tortillas] and he swears the red there is better than at any other Garcia's!

              We had breakfast there Saturday and the sopapillas were very oily! Most disappointing. He loves their carne adovado.

              Dragonfly in Taos is top notch; for a "local" place - Michael's is fun and good solid food and great baked goods.

              The Grove is a wonderful spot for breakfast, lunch or brunch. They have great patio area [those the views are nothing but Central]. Central and Walter, west of I 25. http://www.thegrovecafemarket.com/

              Deb

              -----
              Grove Cafe & Market
              600 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM

        2. re: skyeking

          I have to agree with Pigeage's experience at Orlando's. The service was excellent, the patio is lovely but all three in our party were disappointed with our meals. The food was boring. We didn't experience the 'killer chile' you mentioned. Sorry.

          1. re: CelticKate

            Hi there - the absolutely last thing in the world I wanted to do is cause harm to a good local establishment! I herby revise my comments and declare it fit for all and sundry: certainly no one in my party took ill, and it was only lunch, as I've said. But some might be agreeing that it doesn't belong on Chow as it might on Citysearch. And before I get everyone upset - there is nothing wrong with this statement: it is fair minded if you think as I do that this site (as opposed to others) has an opportunity to review and suggest only the most excellent restaurants we 'Hounds eat in since we are a peer group and not necessarily for the wider WWW - and nor are we a "guide". Personally, I am not interested in discussing every restaurant in town willy nilly since there are other websites to do that.

        3. After six days and our wedding in Santa Fe, my new husband and I spent a night in Taos. We had dinner at Antonio's (recommended above) and I have to say neither of us was impressed. My husband got the chicken enchiladas, I had the combination platter. It tasted fine but nothing special. Maybe we were spoiled by the great eats in Santa Fe. I _did_ expect better from Taos.

          My best surprise meal in New Mexico was on our way out of the state, in the NW corner town of Farmington. At the Three Rivers Brewery, I was served a massive chicken and black bean burrito smothered in green chile-and-pork stew. Wow! Their homemade cream soda was quite a treat too. Unfortunately I don't see myself ever being in the neighborhood of Farmington again...