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Jan 2, 2013 01:36 PM

New Mexico Trip Report

I went with my husband and 11 year old to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos for about 9 days ‎over Christmas.

Friday - Arr. ABQ. Dinner at FRONTIER. Fine. Pleasant. Not OMG wonderful. Enchiladas for everyone. We ‎prefer green chile.

Saturday - Bkfst at EGG & I next door. Again, fine but not OMG. Waffles, pancakes, scrambled ‎eggs and bacon. Headed up to Santa Fe. Lunch at MINESHAFT TAVERN in Madrid, again fine but not ‎OMG. Buffalo burger, chicken enchiladas. Dinner at CASA CHIMAYO. Delicious soup, chile ‎en nogada. My son learns that when they say spicy green chile in SF, he should be careful. Yummy ‎flan.

Sunday - 3 meals at PLAZA CAFE for various reasons. None of it blew us away, but it was all ‎perfectly pleasant. Buttermilk pancakes, blue corn pancakes, chicken fajitas, chicken burrito, ‎chile with pinto beans, fish and chips, GCCB, key lime pie.

Monday - Lunch at BURRO ALLEY CAFE. Funny mix of NM, ‎French and Mideastern. Enchiladas and breakfast burrito. Again, pleasant but didn't blow us ‎away. KAKAWA CHOCOLATE HOUSE for interesting and delicious Meso-American style hot chocolate: ‎water based instead of milk, dark chocolate, not sweetened much. We had with vanilla and ‎chiles. Loved it. Also bought some chocolates in interesting flavors that so far have been yummy. ‎Dinner at LA BOCA. Outstanding! Blows away every other ‎meal so far. Among the three of us we had quail with espresso-cardamom reduction and blood ‎orange vinaigrette, salad with pom molasses dressing, boquerones, flat iron steak with salted ‎caramel sauce, gambas al ajillo, almond cake, chocolate pot de creme and I'm forgetting a couple ‎of things. All wonderful. Also couple of nice sherries. ‎
Tuesday - Christmas. Dinner at RAAGA. DON'T ‎BOTHER. Showed up on time for a 6:30 res. Stood around for 15 minutes while three different ‎people told us someone would be with us in a minute. Husband's cauliflower app was deep fried with ‎thick batter, which wasn't mentioned on menu and also overcooked. My lentil soup too salty and ‎has given me a stomach ache. (I eat lentils all the time w/o problem.) Entrees take roughly ‎forever to show up (about an hour after we sat down, which is way too long) and were very odd. ‎Two chicken dishes from the tandoor, tikka (ordered mild) and with ginger and peppercorns ‎‎(ordered medium) were virtually identical. Each came as single serving on plate with small scoop ‎of rice, bunch of generic (no Indian spicing) mixed vegetables that looked frozen and small ‎ramekin of sauce. Tasted both sauces, seemed to be identical except for heat level. Two dishes, ‎described differently, with same practically the same chicken and the same sauce? I'm guessing ‎this is their generic "Indian food" sauce. Ordered chicken vindaloo, got lamb vindaloo. This ‎comes family style, like every dish I've ever had in any other Indian restaurant. Note that the menu doesn't at all indicate which dishes come family style and which come designed as a plate for one person. Would have sent the lamb back, but didn't want to be there another hour. Didn't even bother saying anything. Waiter felt ‎bad about long wait for entrees. Took soup, beer and naan off bill. Would have preferred food ‎served properly (all family style, no generic mixed veggies), receiving what we ordered, good ‎service and better food.

Wednesday - CASA CHIMAYO for dinner again. Food was fine, but nothing was as interesting as my ‎chile en nogada the first time there.

Thursday - Breakfast at CLAFOUTIS. Sorry we waited until our last morning in SF to try it. Very ‎yummy egg sandwich on croissant and nutella crepe. Also bought some pastry for dessert after ‎dinner that night. Very good. Drove the Turquoise Trail up to Taos. Lunch at SUGAR NYMPHS BISTRO. Fine, etc. NM food is starting to get old. Dinner at GRAHAM'S GRILLE, because we wanted something other than ‎NM. Liked my mac and cheese reasonably well. Food was fine but undistinguished. ‎

Friday - MICHAEL'S KITCHEN for breakfast. Again, fine, but nothing to get all excited about. We're ‎finding the bar for "wonderful" to be pretty low in NM. Surprisingly excellent coffee, though. Headed back down to Albuquerque with a stop in Santa Fe. Ended up at BURRO ALLEY CAFE again for combo of convenience and eclectic menu. There ‎is so much middle eastern on the menu, I was hoping that meant someone in the kitchen with a ‎clue. Nope. Weird felafel. Other food fine but not spectacular. I wasn't feeling well, but the guys ‎went to BUDAI for dinner and were not impressed.

Saturday - Lunch at CHURCH STREET CAFE and you know what I'm going to say. I wasn't feeling well at dinner, but the ‎guys went to HUONG THAO and gave it mixed reviews.‎

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    1. Oh-oh. That's too bad. I saw your earlier post requesting feedback on your itinerary and thought of advising against The Plaza and Casa Chimayo (the good place is RANCHO de Chimayo, altogether a different restaurant some way out of Santa Fe), but I thought I'd leave the recommending to Hounds who know Santa Fe better. It seems like you didn't get a chance to go to the best places on your list -- The Shed/La Choza and Mary & Tito's. Of all the places you did go, I think I'd only have recommended Kakawa (with some reservations) and La Boca. Budai and Huong Thao can be great, but I can see how you could go to either one, order things that looked like they'd be good, and end up with a so-so meal. And I really don't understand the popularity of Frontier, Mineshaft, Raaga, Church Street and Burro Alley. To me they range from weakly OK to downright not good. I guess you're right that the bar for wonderful can get pretty low here (and you'd be amazed at how many restaurants manage to limbo down under it anyway), but I hope you had enough non-food fun to make your trip enjoyable nonetheless. Happy new year, Ninrn, Albuquerque

      3 Replies
      1. re: ninrn

        ninrn, when we come to Albuquerque we are staying at Los Pobalnos and plan to eat there the first night for ease and feeling at home. Do you think this is an ok idea?

        1. re: magiesmom

          I'm not sure, Magiesmom. I've never eaten at Los Poblanos. They have some holiday meals and wine-pairing dinners that are open to the public, but the dining room is generally just for guests of the inn. I'm guessing the food will be decent at least, -- definitely better than run of the mil hotel food and maybe quite good --, but it will probably be expensive for what it is. If I were staying there I guess I'd eat in at least once, just to try it. A branch of our local health food co-op and a branch of the popular local coffee/dessert/lunch place, Flying Star, are both just a short way down Rio Grande Blvd from the inn, so if their menu is off-putting for any reason, there are a couple of options for an easy dinner quite nearby.

          The inn itself is nice. As you probably know, it's a historic John Gaw Meem adobe building, with lavender fields and a stunning lotus pond on the grounds (both in full bloom around mid-Summer). I'd love to hear about your stay if you have a chance to post afterward.

          Hope you have lots of fun,

          1. re: ninrn

            ok, thanks. I think we'll eat there the first night as planned, the menus look very nice and the expense is balanced by not having to go out once we are settled in on day one. Breakfasts, which at least sound delicious are included, so in a week's stay we'll have lots of chances to sample. I will certainly report. Good to know about the co-op, thanks.