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What restaurants in Albuquerque are truly good and not just good for Albuquerque?

  • ninrn Mar 19, 2011 01:52 AM
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Saw the thread on Farina Pizzeria and agree with most of the comments. While it's a decent place, I think it's definitely just in the great-for-Albuquerque category. Which restaurants in the Abq area would you say are great for any city (or even any mid-sized city)?

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Farina Pizzeria
510 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM

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  1. For what it's worth, although there aren't that many non-NM-style places in ABQ that are the very best of their kind I've had anywhere, I've been steadily impressed that in terms of bang for your buck, ABQ is a great town for chow. The number of ABQ places that can pull off, say, a B or B+ rendition of a cuisine when grading on a tough, chowish curve, but at much lower prices than San Fran or NYC, is really impressive.

    Places I think are truly good for anywhere:

    * The Grove - coast-style cafe, breakfast and lunch, probably the best espresso I've found anywhere in the Southwest. And I'm a total sucker for their pressed aged salami sandwich.
    * Budai - excellent Chinese and Taiwanese, with the xao long bao dumplings being a rarity in any city.
    * Banh Mi Coda - canonical renditions of banh mi, since I discovered Coda I've stopped bothering to get my fix when I'm back in Boston.
    * Giovanni's Pizza - maybe not quite as good as you'll find at a handful of spots in Brooklyn, but I think this place's NY-style pizza stacks up impressively well against most of the other pie I've had in the country.
    * [This space reserved for a full-service Vietnamese place. I haven't discovered my go-to yet, but considering there are approximately 3 billion Vietnamese restaurants around Central and Louisiana, there has to be a great one.]
    * NM-style places - take your pick, too many to name. The place I still think gets overlooked is Taco Cabana, whose NM branches (especially the two on San Mateo and Montgomery) are head and shoulders above the rest of the chain thanks to their amazing homemade small flour tortillas and vats of warm green chile.
    * And a few upscale places up in Santa Fe, weirdly all on the same little street, deserve accolades for being both national-caliber-good and well worth a periodic drive from ABQ - Shohko Cafe, Trattoria Nostrani, and arguably Shibumi Ramen, the new ramenya by the owner of Nostrani.

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    Trattoria Nostrani
    304 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

    Shohko Cafe
    321 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

    Budai
    6300 San Mateo Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109

    6 Replies
    1. re: finlero

      Have you tried Desert Fish yet? I went once and think it has the potential to be a part of this list. I didn't order all that well, but other stuff looked fabulous and my sister nominates it for a place here. Would be interested in knowing what you, Erich and others think?

      1. re: ninrn

        Where is Desert Fish located - never heard of it.

        1. re: DebitNM

          Nob Hill-ish. Ninrn, everyone I know who's tried it has raved about Desert Fish. I don't care for seafood, though, so I've not gone. :-)

        2. re: ninrn

          Closed....

        3. re: finlero

          For Vietnamese, I consider Kim Long on and Pho #1, both on San Pedro, to be the tops.

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          Pho #1
          414 San Pedro Dr SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108

          1. re: larrymcg

            I second the nod for Kim Long on San Pedro. For Vietnamese...

        4. What a wonderful thread topic!

          I'm sure I'll think of more, but just off the top of my head, I feel that these fit the bill:

          Mary & Tito's Cafe - world class red chile and carne adovada
          Budai - wonderful Taiwanese; delightful hostess
          Torinos - wonderful lunch; wonderful owners
          Antiquity - great service; Julia-Child-circa-'63 food
          Savoy (I like it somewhat better than Zinc and Seasons - go figure) - great service, food, drinks
          Mac's La Sierra Coffee Shop - great cheap food, great service
          India Kitchen - consistently as good as anything I ever had on Devon Ave.
          Mykonos - specials are generally outstanding, particularly when the old lady is in the kitchen
          Giovanni's - when Rosario is there, the best NY pizza I've had west of Jersey
          Dog House Drive-In - red chile footlongs
          Little Red Hamburger Hut - OCD owners make for SUPERB red/green burgers/fries
          Duran's Pharmacy - good red; delightfully sassy waitresses
          Taqueria Mexico - the food almost makes up for the attendant hassles
          Restaurante El Alex - birria - never had any as delicious as this
          El Modelo - delicious, don't tell me what's in it

          (I note that Albuquerque has some truly world-class Vietnamese, but I am completely out of touch as I don't think I've been to any of these restaurants in over five years - I used to like Huang Thao, but that was in the early '90s.)

          Please understand that these I've listed have different things that make them great - at least some of the food is solidly very good at all of them though I'm not claiming that it all is (e.g., I have never ordered a burger at Dog House and anyone who expects a world-class steak at Mac's deserves what he gets), but the service and environment definitely vary. I unhesitatingly bring people from all over (including food snobs from the Big City) to these places and have never been let down.

          Again, my compliments on a superb thread idea! While I believe it fairly cries out for a companion negative topic, such would probably be too divisive.

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          India Kitchen Restaurant
          6910 Montgomery Blvd NE Ste D, Albuquerque, NM 87109

          Mac's La Sierra Coffee Shop
          6217 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM 87105

          Little Red Hamburger Hut
          Albuquerque, Albuquerque, NM 87104

          Budai
          6300 San Mateo Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109

          11 Replies
          1. re: Erich

            I just want to note that I did NOT copy finlero's list or even see it until just now - he posted before me, but I was working on my post for quite a while.

            That said, I think it's interesting that we had similar thoughts about the Vietnamese.

            1. re: Erich

              Great minds.

              1. re: finlero

                Casa Vieja

                Nobody has mentioned Jennifer James yet--i've never been but it seems to get a lot of praise.

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                Casa Vieja
                4541 Corrales RD, Corrales, NM 87048

                1. re: jjdot

                  Just one hound's opinion, but I personally think Jennifer James 101 epitomizes 'good for ABQ' but not 'truly good'. The ingredients are fresh and high quality, the recipes are modern, the technique is solid, (the prices are high), but in a national arena, this place is totally missing the wow factor.

                  I'm pleased it exists in ABQ, I hope NM gets tons more places with similar culinary playbooks, but I think JJ101 is really lucky it doesn't have stiffer local competition.

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                  Jennifer James 101
                  4615 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110

                  1. re: finlero

                    What a coincidence, I was just going to ask what you all think of Jennifer James 101 and Casa Vieja, and here are jjdot and finlero's posts. I've never been to JJ101, but was not wowed by Graze.

                    Two I think I would add to the good-for-anywhere list:

                    Huong Thao, which Erich mentions, and, though it's not quite a restaurant, La Crepe Parisienne. Their croissants and breads like the multi-grain ciabatta are amazing and could probably hold their own in NYC, if not Paris.

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                    Casa Vieja
                    4541 Corrales RD, Corrales, NM 87048

                    Jennifer James 101
                    4615 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110

                    1. re: ninrn

                      BTW, James Beard finalists for best chef SW were announced this a.m. - JJ didn't make the cut. WTG on making the semifinalists, tho.

                    2. re: finlero

                      Yeah, I did Jennifer James once, the tapas place--one excellent dish, two that were ok but not great. Disappointing.

              2. re: Erich

                Glad to see El Modelo finally showing up on a Chowhound post. In three visits to ALB over the years, the only recommendation I could draw out of friends and locals was Sadie's. I kept thinking that I must be missing something, but a third visit this past week confirmed that this is merely average NM Mex (though the chips and salsa are very good). Yesterday, I found El Modelo and my faith in ALB New Mex Mex was restored. The place is a bit of a dive in the sort of area where they film the underside of ALB in Breaking Bad, but it's far from unsafe. "Seating" is picnic tables outside and plastic combo spoon/forks. Only open until 7PM, but delicious, real and cheap. 50 or so patrons, only three of us Anglos. What more need I say?

                1. re: bruce3404

                  It's more Mexican than New Mexican, though.

                2. re: Erich

                  Hey Erich, inspired by your comments, I took my parents to Savoy for lunch yesterday and it was great. Good food, good bread, nice atmosphere, and, most surprisingly, priced about the same as Flying Star at lunchtime. I had dinner there shortly after it opened and it was fine, but somehow I never went back. Thanks for the reminder.

                  1. re: ninrn

                    Just saw this post - glad to hear it! We really blew it with friends this past weekend and did NOT leave a restaurant-that-will-not-be-named in favor of Savoy. (When it became apparent that things were awry, we thought about abandoning the first restaurant and heading to Savoy. Alas, we did not. We still had fun with our friends, but we would have had a nicer meal at Savoy.)

                3. don't know if they're still there, but I was taken to Zinc for a business dinner a few years ago. I'd have been delighted to have been served that meal in any city.

                  1. I agree with The Grove, Bahn Mi Coda, Torino's, El Modelo and Giovanni's being great. I am not a fan of Budai ...
                    Hm, what can I think to add...we really love Prairie Star but it is in Bernalillo. The Guave Tree Cafe is amazing. We also frequent Brasserie La Provence and I am always impressed with the food. I wish I had more to add but I am happy that things have changed since we moved here 9 years ago, there seems to be more quality and competition out there =)

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                    Prairie Star Restaurant
                    288 Prairie Star Rd, Santa Ana Pueblo, NM 87004

                    Brasserie La Provence
                    3001 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106

                    Budai
                    6300 San Mateo Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: tracyH

                      Not familiar with Guava Tree Cafe - where is it and what do they serve? Thanks.
                      {BTW - my last meal will be the truffle fries from La Provence ! :o) }

                      1. re: DebitNM

                        They serve Latin American food - my favorite thing on the menu is the Cubano, but everything is good =)

                    2. So much good food in Albuquerque....For starters...New Mexico, classic.
                      Duran's - either location or......my absolute favorite, for the moment, Los Compadres
                      Mexican - I would say Tacos Mexico on Lomas, I always smell like onions, lime, and cilantro after I leave so go only when you have no where to go after. ....don't forget to try our little pupuseria down on bridge.
                      Ok, Vietnamese - Our ultimate favorite is Vietnamese 2000 hands down.....seriously delicious.
                      Pizza - Still love me some Il Vicino and I really enjoy Mario's, their pizza and traditional pasta, and Saggio's, pretty much everything there is super tasty.
                      Mediterranean/Persian - Sahara on Central seriously good

                      Sushi - everyone has their favorite, I don't know I still love Shogun always.
                      Let's see what else, chinese - I really like ko palace at lunch only, not dinner, I don't know I think the dinner prices just do not substantiate it when you can get great combos at lunch.
                      Greek - I love Gyros and Yanni's, both have different atmospheres and prices ranges from the other.
                      Surpisingly good I thought was Jinja, really enjoyed it. Is that a local restaurant? I don't know just assumed it was for some reason.
                      I would have to agree with the Grove, love the proscuitto, asparagus, yummy bread and cheese and poached eggs dish....extra proscuitto please.
                      I think that people really look down on the food in Albuquerque but I always crave it when I am away, we have an amazing non-pretentious culture here, people who work hard and eat hard! All types of food are really amazing here not just our chile alone....hope you guys agree too.

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                      Il Vicino
                      321 W San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                      Saggios
                      107 Cornell Dr SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106

                      Los Compadres Restaurant
                      424 Isleta Blvd SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105

                      Jinja
                      510 N Guadalupe St Ste P, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: pinoncashew

                        Thanks, pinoncashew, what's good at Los Compadres?

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                        Los Compadres Restaurant
                        424 Isleta Blvd SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105

                        1. re: ninrn

                          Their red and green is equally tasty and not overly spicy, I'd say it's perfect. I love their enchiladas with red, their chile rellenos are delicious, like you would have in mom's kitchen, and their steak and eggs is served la plancha style it is yummy too with eggs over medium, a great breakfast or lunch place......service is well enough to get me the great food....but I'm not blogging about service in this post so I'll just focus on the food...hope you like it, let us know..

                      2. The Artichoke Cafe on old 66 between Downtown and I-25 is quite good.

                        1. For what it's worth, here (in no particular order) is my Hall of Fame. Pick for yourself those that are "Good for Anywhere:"

                          1. Best Green Chile Cheeseburger -- Sparky's (in Hatch) ♥
                          2. Best Stuffed Sopaipillas (Carne Adovada) -- Mary and Tito's; Infinitesimally close runner-up -- Rancho de Chimayó Restauranté
                          3. Best Red Chile -- Mary and Tito's
                          4. Best New Mexico Meal Ever (tie) -- BellaLuca (Truth or Consequences)
                          and Lucia (Albuquerque)
                          5. Best Thai -- Siam Cafe
                          6. Best REAL Mexican -- El Norteño and Los Equipales [tie]
                          7. Best Indian -- Namaste
                          8. Best Bread Pudding -- Barry's Oasis and Lambert's (Taos) [Tie]
                          9. Best Coffee Shop -- Oasis Coffee & Tea (Corrales)
                          10. Best New Mexican Restaurant -- Mary and Tito's
                          11. Best Pizza -- Nicky V's Neighborhood Pizzeria
                          12. Best Chinese -- Budai ♥
                          13. Best Corrales Restaurant -- The Indigo Crow
                          14. Best Seafood Restaurant -- Desert Fish
                          15. Best Cubano -- The Guava Tree
                          16. Best Pasta Dish Ever -- Orvietto at Nicky V's Neighborhood Pizzeria ♥
                          17. Best Middle Eastern Restaurant -- San Pedro Middle East Restaurant

                          -----
                          Indigo Crow Cafe
                          4515 Corrales Road, Corrales, NM 87048

                          Los Equipales
                          4500 Silver Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108

                          Barry's Oasis Restaurant
                          4451 Osuna Rd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109

                          Budai
                          6300 San Mateo Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109

                          Nicky V's Neighborhood Pizzeria
                          9780 Coors Blvd., Suite A, Albuquerque, NM 87114

                          1. We were in Aluquerque a year or two ago and had a most memorable dinner at the Standard Diner. I had one of the specials which may have been duck tacos and it was right up there among the best things I ever ate. We'll be back next week so please tell me if Standard Diner is still good. I didn't see it on anyone's list.

                            -----
                            Standard Diner
                            320 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM 87102

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: yahooer

                              My experience at Standard has been that some things are very good every night, but you never know which ones they're going to be. I guess the specials are usually a good bet, but not always. They used to have a genuinely inspired pastry chef, but whoever that was seems to have left because their desserts have gone down hill and on a couple of evenings they've even said they weren't offering any desserts at all. I'm glad Standard's here, but I don't put it on my GFA list (good for anywhere) because you could never get away with that kind of inconsistency in most other markets.

                            2. Since I'm a chowhound, not a foodie, I don't eat in expensive restaurants, but there are a few relatively inexpensive places in Abq that are outstanding. Viet Taste on Menaul. Mykonos on Juan Tabo and Eubank (much better than Yannis!). India Palace I'd give a B+ to. And I do love the carne adovada at Los Cuates, although it's just one of many good NM restaurants--Sadie's, Monroes, Eloys--i'm a traditionalist, i guess you can tell! Also gluten intolerant, so that limits where i can eat. Am looking forward to trying Budai, since up til now I haven't found a really great Chinese restaurant here. I like Thai Tip and Orchid Thai, they would be good anywhere--both make everything fresh, so be prepared to wait--both are tiny, family run places. Oh, tried Annapurna this week--ayurvedic vegetarian Indian, on Silver and Yale--very good food, although it's Indian home cooking, not festival food, and to die for mint and lavender iced tea. I'd go back just for that!

                              -----
                              Viet Taste
                              5721 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110

                              Thai Tip
                              1512 Wyoming Blvd NE Ste E, Albuquerque, NM 87112

                              Los Cuates
                              8700 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87112

                              Budai
                              6300 San Mateo Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109

                              1. I think another restaurant worth mentioning is Padilla's. I think their chile is on par with Mary and Tito's and is tied for my favorite New Mexican spot in Albuquerque (I could be biased... I used to walk there about once a week). I also really enjoy VietTaste for Vietnamese. Another place worth checking out is Tacos Mex Y Mariscos, a true Mexican restaurant on 4th street in the North Valley. Their Lengua was tender and delicious and their ceviche was refreshing. I think its usually a good sign if you're reasonably certain you're their only customer who ordered in english that day. Also, I think checking out the restaurants Sophia's place, Jo's place and especially Ezra's place. They are all owned by a man named Dennis who has established these restaurants as hidden treasures of the North Valley. Dennis puts a different spin on some traditional dishes, like blackbean and shrimp quesadillas (delicious) and scallop tacos. His Huevos Rancheros with carnitas are some of the best I've ever had. Of all the places I've mentioned, Ezra's is probably the most relevant to this thread: truly good food and great for Albuquerque

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: greenchilephil

                                  I agree on Padilla's . . . and have to try some of the others. :-)

                                  1. re: greenchilephil

                                    I went recently to Viet Taste and definitely agree, it's some of the better Vietnamese I've had anywhere.

                                    It's still heavily predicated on what you order. My DC and I looked at each other after we'd had a few bites and said "what do you think?". I was ecstatic with mine (spicy noodle bowl with shrimp), she was "meh" with hers (stir fry with shrimp and chicken); we tried each other's and agreed there was a sizable deliciousness gap. Incidentally, the fresh coconut water is outstanding, served along with with slices of fresh coconut in the glass.

                                    -----
                                    Viet Taste
                                    5721 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110

                                  2. Any updated input on Desert Fish?? Groupon has a great deal today http://www.groupon.com/r/uu540663

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: DebitNM

                                      I got the Groupon before 6 AM today.

                                      I have now been to Desert Fish three times, and it just keeps getting better. It is #9 on my Top Ten List, and I gave it my Best Newcomer of 2010 award.

                                      You can read my latest blog review of DF at http://www.abqtopten.com/blog/2011/08...

                                      1. re: larrymcg

                                        I already decided to buy the groupon before I posted here; glad I did. I also am glad to see your link, Larry. I didn't know about your blog and will peruse it now. Thanks!

                                    2. Has anyone been to La Provence lately? Wow--what a nosedive that place took! Hope I'm not re-visiting a worn-out subject, but I haven't seen it posted.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: sandiasingh

                                        OH NO! I haven't been there in a while [Spring], what went wrong?

                                        1. re: DebitNM

                                          Gee, this couldn't have anything to do with the new ownership? ;-) Thanks for the report, sandiasingh, tho I'm sorry to hear it.

                                          1. re: Erich

                                            who, what, when??

                                            1. re: DebitNM

                                              Claus Hjortkjaer (Le Cafe Miche) took over the kitchen earlier this year, I believe.

                                              http://alibi.com/food/37899/The-Retur...

                                            2. re: Erich

                                              We were there about a month ago and were broken hearted by the changes. We have been going there every couple of months for several years. Usually lunch, but several dinners as well. Six months or so ago, Chef Klaus appeared (I think this was after the sale by the Scalo group) and the French host from Montreal (Jean? Jacques?) took over the dining room. He was a little OTT in his Frenchness, but very hospitable and good at welcoming guests and somelier duties. A month ago when we went in for lunch, the Frenchman was gone. My favorite, hard-to-find-in-ABQ dish, boudin blanc, was not on the menu, nor was the pate appetizer. When I asked the server about it, she looked at me as if I were an alien. "What is that? We don't have that." In reviewing the menu carefully, I saw that the only French item left was the onion soup. Everything else was burgers and sandwiches. They may even have nachos on the app menu.

                                              There was a big sign in the wine room for some kind of Texas wine. On top of all that was the music. I was completely put off. Mind you I am in the music industry so I'm a little sensitive about it, but Buddy Holly, Elvis and WALTER BRENNAN (remember "Old Blue?" are not acceptable in a restaurant called "La Provence." It shows an incredible lack of sophistication by the owner, who I believe is Chef Klaus.

                                              I've heard he owned another French-type bistro in the Heights (was it Cafe Paris or something?) which I never went to because it looked seedy to me. I don't know who he is or who he thinks he is, but my advice would be first of all to change the name of the place to "The Route 66 Diner" and get rid of anything French. There's barely anything left anyway.

                                              I was so disgusted that I asked the server for a piece of paper and wrote Chef Klaus a note outlining our issues and disappointments and told him we would not return.

                                              Too bad, they had something nice going there. Our French friend from Boston even gave it a heads up after two visits. For Albuquerque, it had just enough uniqueness and authenticity, especially with the food, to set it apart from all the mediocrity.

                                              1. re: sandiasingh

                                                omg, I am crushed. My last meal was supposed to be Truffle Frites from La Provence. D*mn, just plain d*amn.

                                                1. re: DebitNM

                                                  Looking at their website, I can't tell if the truffle frites are still on the menu (too small for my iPad)' but the lunch menu they have posted doesn't look like the one we saw (from what I can tell by squinting). The reviews are mostly old altho there are a couple of recent good reviews.

                                                  Wish I had it in me to give them another try, but it was so disappointing that I can't do it. Mind you, what we gad wasn't BAD (burgers?) but I don't need to go to Nob Hill for a good burger, which is what I told Claus.

                                                  1. re: sandiasingh

                                                    I can report that the Truffle Frites were definitely gone when we visited this restaurant last and saw Claus there (some weeks ago). So much of the prior menu was gone that it was difficult to figure out what to order. I ended up getting Steak Frites. The disappointment was immense, as the frites I was served were overcooked "battered" fries. Crispy, but awful. I felt more than disappointed, I felt insulted. I won't be back.

                                                    1. re: rpl

                                                      sigh.....

                                        2. Oh no!!! That is too bad about La Provence! 2 friends that ate there recently confirmed this downhill thing - Bleh!!
                                          I need to try P'tit Louis next. I should add I am a fan Chez Axel and Cafe Jean Pierre as well,
                                          but I will miss La Provence's Coq Au Vin very much...C'est la vie...

                                          -----
                                          Cafe Jean Pierre
                                          Albuquerque, NM, Albuquerque, NM

                                          1. There are a ton of great places listed below but one that is left out, which in my opinion is definitely the best French in town and probably my overall favorite restaurant in the state, is La Crepe Michel. Amazing atmosphere, great prices, and authentic food that I never get tired of. Seriously, check this place out the next chance you get. http://lacrepemichel.com/

                                            1. I like Budai and have gone there since they opened, but my favorite Chinese restaurant in town is ABC, on Menaul near Eubank. It looks like a dive and is decorated like a cliche Chinese restaurant from the 50's, but they served excellent Cantonese food (the owners are from Hong Kong) with a strong accent on seafood. Very often they serve Dungeness Crab, Lobster and oysters in black bean sauce. They also serve huge plates of seasonal veggies: green beans, mustard greens, bok choy, etc. Be sure to order off the blue (family style) menu, for more authentic Chinese dishes.

                                              1. I haven't been on here in awhile. This is a great place where they are doing some very nice Asian foods:

                                                http://www.streetfoodasia.com/

                                                1. Indigo Crow.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: sandiasingh

                                                    Motion seconded.