Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

by Nick
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Published on: October 3, 2013

I get excited when I hear of a new burger place.  I was surprised to hear about a new place, a chain no less that has been open for quite some time and is just down the way.  I guess I don’t get out as much as I used to, but I checked out the menu and decided, oh hell, I have to try this place.  Not only do I love burgers, but frozen custard?  The only reason I didn’t go that night is because I had a huge lunch with friends that day and couldn’t bring myself to go out to eat again on the same day.

So three days I got my chance and went to Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers.

FreddysRestaurant1 

Located on Paseo Del Norte and San Pedro, it’s a little out of the way, but for a lot of people, It’s on the commute home.  The place was packed when we got there and it was quite noisy.  I’m not sure what it is about places doing nothing to reduce ambient noise in their restaurants but this place certainly suffers.  With the relatively small dining area compared to the size of the place and about 2 dozen people behind the counter, it’s difficult to have a conversation with anyone, including the cashier, unless you feel like snuggling up and whisper sweet somethings in their ear.  Though you may not want to whisper, or perhaps just sit outside.

Custard1The first thing I noticed when standing at the counter was the totally awesome frozen custard machine. Long ribbons of frozen goodness dumping out of a machine in a long flowing strand.  How can you NOT order custard at this point?  Well played Freddy’s, we’ll played. 

On the topic of custards, they have two kinds, a sunday and a “concrete”.  The concrete looks similar to a shake, they take the custard and all the toppings and blend it up.  It’s not.  Their description is apt in that no amount of sucking through a straw will ever provide anything but frustration and a crushed straw, but I’ll get to that more in a minute.

TurtleSunday_edited-2

If you go, you have to get a frozen custard.  The ice cream is so smooth and creamy and the portions are larger than you’d expect.  I couldn’t finish mine and neither did my friend.  I got the concrete, which turns out to mean, everything blended into a smooth emulsion so there are no identifiable flavors.  Next time I’ll try the sunday.  My friend had the Classic turtle sunday and it looked awesome.  He gave the thumbs up.

This is a burger place, so of course I had to get a burger.  Of course no burger is complete without bacon, so I got the bacon double with green chile, mayo, mustard and ketchup.  I have to make a sad face here Sad smile as you actually have to pay extra for lettuce and tomato.  You can get all the sauerkraut you want, but if you want a single slice of tomato, it’s going to cost you.  Not cool.

Whenever you look at a picture from a fast food place, you see the perfect example of handcrafted, meticulous, exquisite, delight.  A photo of the item they brought to the very first investor and said, "Here, a feast for your eyes, a feast for your stomach.  The perfect balance, served in a plastic basket, something to inspire people to stand in line for hours just for one bite."

Bacon-Cheese-Double1This is one of the few cases where the picture is right.  The meat may be shifted slightly to one side, or not all condiments showing squeezing out from the edge with surgical precision, but it’s close.  The meat looks the same, the bun looks even better as it’s slightly toasted on the griddle. 

The burger is soft, very soft, almost like you are eating meat marshmallow.  Ok that sounds gross, but believe me, this isn’t.  The burger doesn’t give you this satisfying chew, but the taste is really good.  Well seasoned, I really like the smashed burger way of cooking and this one delivers. It is a very very thin patty, if that isn’t your thing, then don’t bother.   Is it the best burger in the world?  Of course not, but this is a fast food place and it is one of the better fast food burgers I’ve had.  I’m actually craving another one and will likely be going back sometime within the week, maybe today. 

As much as I am a fan of burgers, part of that is they usually come with fries.  I love fries of all kinds, thick, thin, screwy, covered in cheese, plain, you name it, I love it.  These are shoestring fries, which you can’t really get anywhere else in town.  They are crispy and salty and as much as I want to try their onion rings, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to go and not get the fries.  The only downside is they get cold fast.  By the time I sat down, the fries were at best lukewarm. This didn’t actually bother me all that much though.  Normally when fries get cold, they get soggy and limp.  These stayed crispy and tasty through the very last scrap.  And of course they had fry sauce, which is basically mayo and ketchup mixed, which is pretty awesome.

Chile-FriesI also, of course, had to try their chili cheese fries.  I ordered a side, but what I got was a meal all on it’s own.  They use a cheese sauce instead of the traditional melted cheddar so you end up with a big pile of goo on top of a big pile of goo sitting on top of a bunch of crispy fries, which after sitting there for a few minutes turn into a big pile of goo…er…mush.  This goo covered mush isn’t bad, but I’ve had better.  Given the choice between a giant mess of mushy gooiness and the crisp salty fries ready for dipping, I’m going to have to choose the plain fries every time.

All in all, this is a fast food place.  Even though it has “steak” in the name, this isn’t a place to bring a prom date, unless she/he really likes burgers, then why not, go for it. 

I don’t’ eat at places like McD’s or BK, not because I have anything against them philosophically, I just don’t like their food.  This place I would gladly eat at again.  It satisfies a craving.  If you are only going to go out to eat once a month, you may want to save your special occasion for a slightly more upscale local, but if you like burgers and tired of the same ole same ole, then this is definitely worth the trip. 

 

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The Chocolate Cartel/Van Rixel Brothers – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: November 12, 2010

Chocolate.  Even the word itself fills me with the warm fuzzies of my childhood.  I think that is the reason Halloween is my favorite holiday.  The thought of dressing up in an elaborate costume for the sake of getting gobs and gobs of sweet, delicious and rich chocolate made all those caramels, chews, and sweet tarts extraordinarily disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong, when I was a kid, sweets were sweets, but chocolate has always been chocolate.

Years have past, and though my affinity for dressing up on the best day of the years has not changed, my taste in chocolate has.  No longer is it about the sugar rush or the caffeine high, it’s about the flavor, the texture, the aroma.

ChocolateCartel

There used to be a Gelato place in town that had the absolute best gelato I have ever had.  I waited for the place to open, then went there every week to get my fix.  Then it got cold and I stopped going, but as the warmer months approached, I decided it was time for my ritual to start anew.  It was closed.  No warning, no notifications, just a sign on the door saying goodbye.  I was distraught, where in the world was I supposed to get my gelato fix?

SignThat is when I found it, Van Rixel Bros Gelato and Sorbeto.  Or is it The Chocolate Cartel?  I don’t really care, I have to try it.

In the corner of what appears to be a warehouse is a tiny shop, easily missed by the average passerby, including myself.  I have driven by this place a hundred times before and not once did I see the word chocolate OR gelato.

When I entered this unusual location the inside was far different than the outside.  Cases of chocolate, chocolate on the wall, shelves full of the stuff.  I was in heaven.

chocolatesWhat to try first?  Well that was decided very shortly by the owner, or one of Van Rixel Bros anyway.  “Here, try this truffle base, this is what we use in all our truffles.”  It was smooth and creamy, such a simple thing elevated to heights I had not previously known.  Super rich chocolate flavor, not too sweet, not too dark, just intense and smooth.  I had to try as many of them as I could.

With flavors like Vanilla Lavender and Wildflower, I wasn’t sure this was going to be my kind of place after all. Worry not, they also have a dark chocolate, blood orange, cinnamon, smoked chile and Sea Salt Caramel.  Their flavors change regularly, there is always something new to try when I go in.  All of their truffles are beautifully designed and hand crafted.

chocolates2I nearly tried one of each the first time I went and let me just say, they were ALL awesome.  The smoked chile seemed very mild at first, then the heat kicked in.  The Blood Orange had a nice strong citrus flavor without being overpowering, peppermint, butterscotch!  The chocolate has a very crisp bit to it on the outside, but the truffle inside is soft and rich and decadent.

For all you nut lovers out there, you have not been forgotten.  Caramel, Giandujas (nut pastes) and fruits also fill their perfectly tempered chocolate.

A must when getting a box of sweets, is the sea salt caramel.  The salt is like a punch in the mouth, taking all of the chocolate and caramel and turning the flavor knob to 11.  There is just something about that salty/sweet mix that really puts a smile on my face.  Shelf

This store has more than just truffles too.  Toffee, chocolate covered almonds, cocoa powder, drink mixes, even chocolate covered parmesan cheese!  A treat I attempted to get a friend of mine to taste, but he chickened out.  Pfft, some parmesan lover HE is.

I got the cocoa powder too and it’s intensely rich and made some of the best brownies I’ve ever had.  I also used it to make a Cocoa Syrup per Alton Brown, which makes the perfect accompaniment to any bowl of ice cream, or gelato.

Another bit of the chocolate that you can buy is in bar form.  Most of which have a light dusting of toppings like cocoa nips, espresso beans, toffee, puffed rice, salt, and Bacon.

This list and combinations just seem to go on and on.  I will give you one warning though, if you see on a package, the label: El Diabo, that means it’s really stupid hot!  Or maybe I just wasn’t expecting it to be as hot as it was, but you have been warned.  Their chocolate, as with anything in the store is phenomenal.  The perfect snap, the salted chocolates and the cocoa nibs are my favorites, I’m still debating on the bacon.

Barsa

Ok ok ok, so what about the Gelato?  They don’t have a case for the Gelato, it’s all sold pre packaged.  The good thing though, they have a 4 oz pack, as well as Pints and Quarts.

They didn’t have the standard Gelato flavors that I was accustom to.  What they DO have are ever changing.  Chocolate and Sea Salt appear to stay on the menu, but the seasonal changes make for a very tough decision.  I also got the smores and for my girlfriend a Lemoncello.

The Lemoncello was such a tart gelato, it took me by surprise.  With that said, it’s very clean and refreshing.  Like drinking a lemonade, freshly squeezed, on a hot summer day.  The orange was a bit sweeter, but just as refreshing.

Gelatoa

Give me a scoop of smores, chocolate and sea salt and I’m a happy camper.  As with all gelato, the flavors are intense and a little goes a long way.

If you’ve never had gelato, it’s denser than regular ice cream, containing only about 20%-35% air, compared to ice creams which can have up to 50% air.

Each flavor was unique in texture as well as flavor.  The sea salt almost tasted like butterscotch.  The chocolate was rich and  decadent.

The flavors may be closer to ice cream than gelato, but this is definitely gelato at it’s finest.  You can also find the pints at Whole Foods, but I prefer to go to the source as that is the only place you can find the chocolates, at least here in Albuquerque.  There is nothing about this store that I do not like.  The chocolate is amazing, the gelato, the guys running the place.  With an emphasis on quality, you are assured to have a very happy Halloween, though these are treats you will want to keep for yourself.

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Brio Grille Restaurant – Radisson Hotel, Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
Categories: Bar, Restaurant Reviews
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Published on: September 27, 2010

Brio2

This weekend my brother’s family, my girlfriend and I went to the Water Park at the Radisson Hotel.  That’s right, a water park INSIDE of a hotel.  We spent several hours in the water, going on slides, the Lazy River, hot tub, pools and of course the FlowRider.  So this review starts, not with food, but with a story.  If you don’t care to read the story, then by all means, skip ahead.  The review will be marked as to where it begins, but I should tell you, this is the story of legend.

FlowriderMy brother and I decided to strut our way on over to the FlowRider and do some body boarding.  What is the FlowRider you ask?  It’s a Surf simulator that pumps 100,000 gallons of water per minute, 30MPH in a 3 inch sheet up a padded hill.   The picture is pull from their website.  Though they do have the flowboards, most of the people use the bodyboard, which is basically a boogie board.

The first thing you notice when walking in the room is the amount of water the thing shoots out the top, it’s intense!  The second thing is how much fun the life guards are having!  They love helping people and they have lots of practice, so they make it look easy.

My nephew went first and he did great, building my confidence in the process.  The lifeguards help you your first time out.  You lay down on the board and they slide you out onto the turbulent water and the fun begins!  Having seen several kids go before me and watched as each of them go flying over the back, I was less nervous about that when it was my turn as I weigh considerably more.  More enough in fact to feel my legs push through the water a few times and stick to the padded surface.

As long as I kept moving though, I had a good time.  swinging back and forth, I got up on me knees and started showing my previous years of experience being pulled behind my dad’s boat all summer on kneeboards, skis, inner tubes, and of course, the boogie board.  the lifeguard jumps out on her board and says, “Ok, now do a barrel roll!”  “Ah what?!”  “Here, watch.”  She proceeds to show me her months of experience and expertly pulls of a barrel roll, making it look as easy as can be.

Ok, so here it goes.  I swing back and forth, to make sure I’m not sticking again and getting ready to show the world my skills.  As I spin over on to my back, I feel this sinking sensation.  The sensation starts not with my heart, but with my pants, shortly followed by my stomach.  The great rush of water had grabbed a hold of my now, loosely fitting shorts and pulled them halfway down my thighs.  In a sequence I still have yet to understand, I managed to finish the roll, still hanging on to the board, pants halfway down my legs and thinking, what do I do if they come off completely?  Maybe the water will shoot me over the top of the rider and I’ll be hidden from view in the great wash as the water sinks back down through the grates at the top into the depths below.

No such luck, my substantial weight of course propels me back down the ramp toward the front, my pants hanging on my sheer force of will.  If I turn, they will come off completely exposing not only by very pale behind to the world, but the rest of which needs not to be seen.  I managed to grab hold of the shorts somehow, and slowly pull them against the great force of water, back to decency.

Ok, I think it’s time I exit this thing.  I pull off to the side, where the rather attractive female lifeguard who was so helpful earlier asks, “Are you ok?”  “Oh yeah, I’m fine, I’m good.”  At this point I was laughing my head off because really, what else are you supposed to do?  I laughed even harder though as I turned around and saw every single guy in line tightening the drawstrings on his shorts, including my brother.

I returned the next day, triumphant in having gone to the store and purchased new shorts, with a drawstring of sufficient tightness.  As I go through the routine, back and forth, up on to the knees and showing off my skill.  I prepare myself for a second attempt.  Will I brave the trick that depants me one day prior?  You bet your ass I will.  Or maybe I’m betting my ass I will.  As I prepared to lay back down and start the roll, the water suddenly stops and propels me toward the bottom.  Maybe the knew I would try again, maybe they decided, “you know, we just can’t risk it.”  I had my fun, time to let another step forward and claim his glory.  Maybe one day I will brave the 3” depths and try my skills again, but for now I sit defeated, having given a full moon to my family and a room full of strangers.

REVIEW TIME:

So after the eventful evening of sliding down slides, floating in the lazy river, losing my pants on the FlowRider, it was time for dinner. My mom not only paid for the rooms so we could go to the water park, but also gave us money for dinner.  Dinner was a given, Brio Grille Restaurant inside the Radisson.  She was told by a good friend that they had the best pizza in Albuquerque.  I’ve got to try it!  I’m a big fan of pizza and in my life I’ve had a LOT of it.  Best pizza in Albuquerque is a bold statement, but I have high hopes.

Brio

They have 2 restaurants.  The first, as you walk into the Radisson is a bar, featuring Karaoke and a pool table.  The second entrance is a restaurant entirely, complete with excellent lighting, and an upscale feel that makes you want to change out of your wet swimsuit and flip flops to have a nice sit down dinner.

I’m slightly confused, it’s a Grill that serves pizza?  Ok, I’ll go with it.  The menu is pretty simple, having given one paper sheet to a table of 8, we all had to fight to take a glance and decide what we wanted.  Pizza, salads, breadsticks.  Well that makes it easy, let’s try them all!

They have a menu on their website, and I’m not sure if that menu has changed or if they have a separate option if you just want pizza.  So out first is the salad

Salad

Before I even have a chance to grab my fork, I’m struck immediately with the thought, “huh, my salad is frozen.”  I glance at my girlfriend’s dish, yep, the telltale signs of frozen lettuce are everywhere.  You can see it, plain as day.  When lettuce freezes, it turns slightly translucent.  My brother and sister-in-law dig in to theirs and retreat with a mouthful of ice.

We tell the server and they apologize profusely and offer new salads.  Mine was only mostly frozen, so I decide to just deal with it, but for the other 3, they brought out new dishes with fresh lettuce.  I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I really want to be nice here and say, oh well they made a mistake and fixed it as soon as they found out, but I’m not going to do it.  I’m going to remain firm here and say when lettuce is frozen it changes appearance.  Any Chef, cook, server, person who eats salad, should be able to grab a handful of the stuff and say, wait a minute, something doesn’t feel right, something doesn’t look right.  Why would you serve poor quality food to your guests, knowing full well that there is something wrong?  I could see it before they had even set my bowl down, why couldn’t someone who get’s paid to prepare food for a living?

PizzaOn to the pizza.  When they set the pizzas down, my first impression was, there is something not right here.  We ordered pepperoni extra cheese, but the cheese seemed to be pulling away from the sauce in the middle. I’ve seen a pizza like this before, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  It looks pretty good, but something just didn’t quite feel right about it.

I grab a couple slices and on first examination, the dough is awfully thick, and a little too even.  The cheese looks like a mix of cheddar and maybe mozzarella, but it was hard to tell.  It’s all about the taste, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, they always say.  This is not the best pizza in Albuquerque.  There is a hint of yeast flavor in the dough, but the texture is very familiar.

It tastes like an over-sized, “self-rising” frozen pizza that you buy at the grocery store, you know the one, “It’s Not Delivery…”  I’m not going to say the pizza is bad, but if held to any standard of pizzeria where you see the guy at the counter tossing the dough in the air, making the ultimate thin and crispy crust, bubbly from a super hot oven with melty cheese and fresh toppings, this would probably be the worst pizza in town.  It’s completely even, doughy and I would be surprised if this didn’t come into the building pre-prepared and frozen. They do bake them in a hot oven, so they get crispy around the edges, but I’m in shock.  The kids loved the pizza, though I still wonder how they can call this extra cheese.

Pizza2

They screwed up my brother’s pizza as well.  Though looking at his, at least the green chile looked good.  He ordered half and half, which they mixed up and put half the toppings on the wrong half.  The sausage look like the frozen pellets you get from any fast food pizzamart.

Breadsticks

Let us not forget about the breadsticks.  Is there something here that they really excel at? No.

These are store bought breadsticks, frozen at some point, dry in the middle, hard on the outside, with crappy pre-shredded parmesan sprinkled over the top.  The “marinara” is more like salsa.  This chunky mess has a bitter tasted that not even the kids liked.  Just try dipping these hardened sticks that at one point used to be something resembling bread and get anything to stick.  The weight of each chunk is enough to drip every bit of “sauce” so all you are left is the clinging water left behind.  These are the worst breadsticks I have ever had.  Olive Garden uses the same type of breadsticks and they make them something you might ask for.  This place, takes the same thing, minus the flavor and makes you want to send them back.

All in all, the food was less than appealing.  The Dr. Pepper was the highlight of the meal for me.  The pizza came in a distant second and I would rather have been slapped in the face than served the rest.  Perhaps they have something else on the menu besides pizza, if you go, try something else.  Let me know how it was.  I would love to find out they actually do something right, but for now, I’d rather buy a bake at home pizza than spend 4 times as much eating the same thing here.

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Which Wich – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: August 23, 2010

I have never come across a more aptly named place than Which Wich.  I highly suggest, the day before you go, check out their menu, figure out what you want to have because the selection process takes a while.  With over 50 Sandwiches to choose from, it’s tough to decide.

P1010266

My friend Marcus invited me to dinner one night, and of course begins the debate, where to go?  Hey, have you ever been to Which Wich he asks?  No, what do they have?…Oh, right.  And thus begins my journey downtown to try a new chain restaurant.  Not really feeling like driving halfway across town just for a sandwich, of course I grab my camera and decide, we’ll give it a go.

Menu1

The conversation was a tad more extensive and involved some rather long winded convincing of my girlfriend, but eventually we get there and the ordering process begins.  This is not your standard menu, you don’t walk up to a counter and say, “I want a number 6 with Dr Pepper.”

BagThere are 10 categories to chose from.  With everyting from Turkey to beef, Vegetarian to Seafood, Classics which include BLT, Club and Gyro, Italian includes Meatball and Muffuletta, the options are quite daunting.  Within each of the 10 categories are 5 sandwiches, and then a special of the week.

For me, the choice was easy, I’ll have the Chicken Parma, no wait, the Club, or maybe the Bac-Hammon (Bacon and Ham), the Beef Cheesesteak!!!  Oh no, I see what I’m having, the French Dip.  How could pass up the Ultimate Beefy goodness?  The sandwich I got at every restaurant when I was in high school, the sandwich my friends would order for me before I even showed up?  That is what I will have.

So to place an order, you grab a bag. Menu2

Not just any bag, they are numbered. Choose your bag carefully, then it’s time to choose your options.  You pick your sandwich type from the category, the type of break, cheese and then toppings.  If your sandwich sucks, you have no one to blame but yourself!  My girlfriend made the mistake of ordering the BLT, but didn’t check the boxes for Lettuce or Tomato, so what did she get?  A loaf of bread full of bacon and a bit of melty cheese.  An order which they quickly remedied by explaining we assumed the L and T would be included, given the name.

French DipThey give you what you want, so make sure to order it, even if you would assume it should be included.  I notice, out of the corner of my eye, Milkshakes.  What goes better with a sandwich than a milkshake?  So we sit and wait impatiently for our order.  My name is called, and out comes, in the bag you wrote your order on:

French Dip on Wheat, crispy onions with pepper jack, salt pepper and garlic oil. A cup of the Au Jus and a bag of their house made salt and pepper chips, it looks promising.  And I was not disappointed.  The bread was fresh, soft in the middle, but crisp all the way around.  The Au Jus wasn’t even enough to completely soggy up this bread.  Such flavor I have not had, almost too much flavor actually.  A little heavy on the salt, but I was ok with that.  There is something to be said about a well made sandwich, you just can’t beat it.

Gyro

My girlfriend got the Gyro and she was pleasantly surprised.  A place like this which specializes in all different kinds of sandwiches, you’d expect that have a few that fall short.  I have not tried them all, not even close.  As a matter of fact, I have only tried a few sandwiches and they have all been excellent.

As good as the sandwiches are though, they also have milkshakes.  I am a huge fan of chocolate, but when it comes to ice cream, give me vanilla.  I don’t know where they get their ice cream, but give me a bucket of it!  That’s some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.  So good in fact that every time I go, I take my camera with me.  Every time I get my camera out to take a picture, all that is left is an empty cup.

The last time I went, I had a vanilla malt and it was stupendous!  I took my family to this place for Father’s day and am happy to report that everyone thoroughly enjoyed their sandwiches and shakes.  The best part, they have a buy 10 get one free deal, so I filled that card up quite rapidly and had a free sandwich waiting on my next trip.

With it’s variety of options, nearly endless combination of selections, this place has hit very high on my top places to go for a sandwich.  The prices are reasonable and all the sandwiches cost the same, the portions are perfect, not overly huge, but certainly not skimpy.  With the option to get pretty much any sandwich you want, made any way you want it, this place is definitely worth the obscene half hour of driving around trying to find a parking place down by UNM.

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Little Red Hamburger Hut – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: July 25, 2010

My girlfriend and I often have a difficult time figuring out what we want to eat on the weekends, one of the reasons I created this site.  This weekend was no different, so I looked to my good friend, Nexus One.  There is an app called Urbanspoon, you shake the phone, it gives you a random selection.  Saturday’s random selection is the Little Red Hamburger Hut.  Having had burgers the day before, we weren’t really interested, but “for the sake of the site”, I said.

Front

It’s off the beaten path, so to speak.  Act as if you were going to head down to the Melting Pot and then drive right on past.  The parking lot is next door, not paved and gives you the impending impression that this may not be the place you want to take a date on prom night.  Door

Let me help you out with the small amount of confusion as to which door to head through.  On the left,  is a Salon.  It’s not something I expected as the entire building appears to be full of nothing but this little burger joint, I was wrong.  On the right side is a very colorfully painted door, with a giant pepper and the name “Little Reds.”  Perhaps the name of the place would be a better description, but at least now you know.  The building has been there a while, you can tell, but the place I believe is fairly new, only having been there a few years.

Having never been there before, I’m very interested in their menu, burgers, taco burgers, tortilla burgers, “Little Reds,” Fries, Frito Pie and that’s about it.  If you aren’t a fan of the hamburger, then walk away.  A small burger will give you what seems to be basically a slider at 1/8 lbs, med at 1/4 and a large at 1/2.  I go for the medium as I want to try the Frito Pie too.

The person that took my order, seemed to be someone who had a vested interested in the place, likely the owner.  He apologized as he explained a busy week left them with no fountain drinks.  He made up for it by a fresh supply of canned ones, all you can drink, very nice man.  Signs on the menu and the wall free state, “Satisfaction Guaranteed!!!” I’m not entirely sure what exactly they mean by that, but they certainly do seem willing to please.  Chile and cheese are free on the burger, so feel free to load up.

Here is the food:Burger

Looks good doesn’t it?  Well let me tell you, it was VERY good.  A simple burger, cooked extremely well.  The meat was full of flavor, though the American cheese is not my favorite, it did not detract from the burger at all.  Slightly salty, very meaty, slightly crispy toasted bun, but soft.  All around an amazing burger.  Sadly they were out of green chile that day, “2nd time in 3 and a half years” the man P1010761says, which goes along with the comment from earlier, “we’ve had a busy week.”  Instead of green chile, I got red, which I didn’t eat on my burger as I have Frito Pie!.   Fresh toppings, the Frito’s are the real deal, I was assured and they were also nice and crispy.

Let me take a moment to talk about their red sauce.  I’m very particular about my red chile.  I’ve had Frito Pie with Red Chile before (not Texas chile) and it’s awesome.  This, I have to admit, I wasn’t not a huge fan.  The chile was hot, not overly so, but a good kick in the mouth.  It seemed to be lacking something, which I would highly lean toward garlic.  It had a slight sweetness to it, which caught me off guard, but in a good way.  The other thing, it has ground beef in it.  Not a lot, just a few specks here and there.  Just enough for you to think maybe was an accident, but it’s there for a reason, they said so before I even ordered it.

Last, but not least, the fries.  Fries are not an easy thing to get right.  I’ve tried to make them several times at home and I simply cannot do it.  This is the reason most places buy fries pre-cut and par-cooked in a plastic lined paper sack, frozen and shipped across the country.  I cannot make any Wimpypromises here as I didn’t get an invite into the kitchen, but these fries seem to be the real deal.  If not, I want to find out where they get them because they are certainly some of the best fries I’ve ever had.  Super crispy on the outside, hot, soft and oh so fluffy on the inside.  Lightly salted, I could easily eat a basket or 12 of these.

One last little comment here before I wrap things up.  The sign outside calls this place a Wimpy’s.  I’m not sure what their association with Wimpy is, as they have a wonderful painting of the Patron St of the Hamburger on their wall.  If this was the burger the little chubby man with the funny hat ate, when he asked for a burger, I can certainly understand his obsession.  This place, however, does not appear to have any association with the ACTUAL Wimpy Burger of UK fame, or anywhere else for that matter.  This is a one of a kind and unique burger place hidden on the back streets of downtown Albuquerque.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a burger and fries this good.  The patty is not pre-formed, it’s smashed right onto the grill, the way they used to do it.  The food comes out hot and fresh and in exactly the right proportions.  With basically one thing on the menu, they HAVE to do it right, and do it right they do.  It’s out of the way, but worth the short trek to get there.  Stop by the museum on your way and get in some culture to feed your soul because this burger will fill your stomach and please your taste buds.

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Fastino’s by Saggio’s – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: June 27, 2010

A while back a friend of mine and I were driving down Juan Tabo, an unusual event as, at the time, neither one of us lived near that part of town anymore.  Much to our surprise we drove past what I can only call an eyesore of a building which used to be Popeye’s Chicken.  Being a minor fan of Popeye’s and now having one less opportunity to drive by and think, nah, not in the mood today, I was appalled by the brightly colored and tacky paint job on the building.  Only one solution, I took that moment to refuse to ever enter and/or support the business, with a name like “Fastino’s,” I’m not going to miss anything.

Then the other day, my mom asked me, “Hey, have you heard of that Fastino’s place?  They are ALWAYS busy every time I drive by, are you going to review it?”  So this afternoon I went to Fastino’s for dinner.

Front

The mural on the wall looked familiar, then I noticed something on the sign I hadn’t noticed before, “Fastino’s by Saggio’s.”  Saggio’s?  Really?  I like Saggio’s.  Ok, there is hope.  Their menu is interesting, pizza of course, but also Cajun Lobster Ravioli, Veal Saltimboca, salads and wrapped breakfast sandwiches.  A list of desserts and I’ve completely forgotten about the tacky exterior, or I would have if not for the tacky interior, but lets not judge a restaurant by it’s painter (a little late, but I am back-tracking here).

Pizza and pastaPizza at a pizza place, it’s got to be good.  I’m a fan of Saggio’s, so I order the pizza and sure enough, if you remember Nunzios or have been to Saggios down by UNM, and liked it, you will like this place.  The price is certainly right, at a slice of pizza, Tuscano Pasta Salad and a large soda for 6 bucks, you could easily get two meals out of it.   The crust on the pizza is soft on the inside, but nice and crispy on the outside, a little doughy, a little crunchy, the pizza that I think of when I think of pizza.

The pasta salad is not your standard pasta salad and I am happy about that.  Perfectly al dente penne coated in a mix of olive oil, garlic, parmesan and herbs.  Cold and tossed with ripe tomatoes and broccoli and this is a bowl of flavor and texture that I can be completely happy with.

This was not the only thing on the menu I ordered.  I had to try the meatball baguette as well.  Most of the sandwiches are more of a Meatball2breakfast type loaf of bread with a stuffing in the middle.  This one has meatballs and mozzarella, baked inside a baguette type loaf and served with a side of sauce.   The flavor was good, though slightly undercooked, the dough was a little raw on the inside edges.  I only ate half so I could bring the rest home and solve the problem in my own oven.  The sauce is a a nice smooth marinara with a strong tomato flavor, just of enough spice.

The place is locally owned and operated.  A wide selection of options means you will be able to find something, even if you are a picky eater, like myself.  A list of desserts from Canoli to cheesecake will also satisfy the sweettooth.  Mine was solved earlier at a different place, but that review is coming next week.  Ziti

Oh yeah, the portions are quite large too.  My GF had the baked ziti, again perfectly cooked pasta mixed with a sauce made of marinara and a ricotta mixture was quite good, if you like ricotta.

This place advertises itself as a fast food Italian place and the description fits.  This is an order at the counter kinda place and certainly has a fast food vibe.  With the prices and the good quality of the food, it’s a little easier to ignore the decor and is certainly a good choice for a good slice of pizza.

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Dakine Hawaiian Ice – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: June 16, 2010

StoreIt’s summer time in New Mexico and it is HOT!  With temperatures approaching (and reaching) 100  degrees out there, it’s time to find a way to beat the heat.  Towards the end of last summer, I kept passing by a roadside circle of promise advertising Hawaiian Ice.  At first appearance, it seemed closed as there was no one inside the booth, but further examination shows that it’s just an advertisement.  A trick to bring back memories of your childhood, walking up and getting a snow cone in one of those tiny cone shaped cups.  This is no small cup, and no snow cone. 

Let’s talk about the snow cones we had as a kid.  The big dome on a small cup, saturating the crystals of crushed ice which allowed all the goodness sink to the bottom of the cup and leave a disappointing layer of flavorless white cubes on top, all the while the ice below is melting, diluting all the flavoring.  This is not what I had this weekend at DaKine.

Menu2With a huge list of flavorings, you have your pick, surely something for everyone.  Twenty six flavors  and when I say they have something for everyone, I mean they also have sugar-free, so even the dieters out there can partake in thus summertime cooldown. 

The combos are also unlimited, with another surf board of suggestions, some of which I would never have thought of, but look good just the same. 

The surf boards are not just a clever way of showing their plethora of options, but the theme of the entire place.  You can even buy leis made of candy, and if you have a special event coming up, order a real lei or two.  FrogInaBlender

One combo, Frog in a Blender, combines lime and cherry.  The lime was a bit overpowering for the cherry, but it was nice having the choice going back and forth between the two.  Though you get a small amount of drift as the flavoring settles, you’d have to fight to get a bite with no syrup. 

The texture is like fresh snow.  To make a cup, which I typically order the Big Kahuna, a brain freeze inducing large container making sure that you get your fill, they shave big blocks of ice to the finest powder that would make any snowboarder happy.  I’m a huge fan of vanilla, so I ordered the Black Jack, a combo of Black Cherry and Vanilla.  Don’t let the picture fool you, inside what looks like a standard snow cone texture is the finest, smoothest snow-like ice, you’d swear they scooped it straight from the mountain top in the dead of winter. 

BlackJack

PurifyThey filter their own water, so the taste is smooth and clean.   You can even buy your own water there.  Not only that, but if you have yourself a big gathering, you can order custom labels.  With a outward facing 5 gallon filling station, you can have fresh clean water anytime, day or night.  The building is small, but a big windows shows their whole reverse osmosis setup.  A little piece of Hawaii in Albuquerque, surfboards and all, do not feel in the slightest tacky. 

On a hot summer day, this beats ice cream hands down.  Though if you want that little bit of cream, they have a bottle to add that touch just across the top.  Full of flavor and deep on chill, this is the perfect summer stop. 


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El Pinto – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: May 1, 2010

El PintoThe other nights asthma inducing windstorm reminded me of a night a couple of weeks ago.  My girlfriend’s mother had come to town and it has become a tradition.  She invites my parents out to dinner and where do we go?  El Pinto.   It’s not that she is a big fan of Mexican food as she is from Montana, a place not really thought about when you think of good Mexican food.  And before you start yelling at me stating El Pinto isn’t Mexican food, it’s NEW Mexican food, for the sake of having a few less words to write, I will just leave it as Mexican food and you can make the change in your head.  Deal?  Ok.

It had been a gorgeous day, though it was supposed to be a big ball a crap.  We were very lucky having gone to the zoo earlier that day, but the weather loomed on the horizon.  On to the food. 

Picking a favorite Mexican food place is like picking your favorite team.  When it comes down to it, they are all basically the same, a few variations here and there, and sometimes, even when you know they are crap, you still support them and are your favorite.  On the flip side, they can be really really good, but just something about them rubs you raw, you just don’t like them. 

ChipsandsalsaEl Pinto is what I think of when I think of Mexican food.  The atmosphere is fantastic, the place is  enormous and the food is generally quite good.  They make some of my favorite Salsa, though the stuff you buy at the store in the jar isn’t quite as good as the stuff at El Pinto.  It’s nice and hot without being mind blowing (though that can be debated if you talk to my girlfriend’s mother, or my girlfriend, but take that as you will, they are from Montana and aren’t such the huge fans of hot).  I’ve had hotter salsa before, but that’s not what this is about.  This is about the flavor.  And it’s free, and they refill the basket too, a fact that most Mexican food places leave out, first one is free, then you have to pay?  Not here, if you can eat it, they will bring it.  Oh yeah, and the chips are homemade too.  Crispy, fresh, hot, it’s a good way to start the meal.  Just make sure you save a little bit of salsa for the tacos, assuming you get tacos.  They also have quesadillas, and burgers, both of which would benefit from a nice scoop of the red stuff.

Speaking of Red stuff, I always order the #2, red and hot.  Oh, THAT’s descriptive, mmm…that sounds good, let’s all get a number 2 (sarcasm at myself).  Tamale, cheese enchilada and 2 rolled tacos.  Not being such a big fan of beans, I get the papitas…potatoes for you and me.  Dinnerplate

I usually order a side of Red chile as I smother my whole plate, but since my girlfriend always gets her’s on the side, even though it’s mild, I’ll just use that.  Start with the papitas, soft inside, crispy outside, cooked with onions and peppers, dipped in a little of the red chile, now these are a good way to start  a meal.  The tacos, dipped in what is left of the salsa are super crispy and hot, covered in melty and slightly crispy cheese, they come in chicken and beef (though I always get beef, they are flavorful cigars of taconess.  Tamales aren’t typically covered in red chile, but mine are.  A soft masa, also covered in cheese, though I think it’s just because they were a bit judicious on my tacos.  The spicy pork inside is shredded and tender and I think a great ration between meet and masa.  I’m a huge fan of cheese enchiladas.  You can get a little extra heat from the sauce and still have it cooled off a little by the cheese.  The flavor is intense, garlicy and as much flavor as spice.

Let’s talk about the heat for a second.  Now this is all very subjective, what one person finds about as spicy as a bell pepper, could be link drinking a can of sterno and striking up a match.  I like my spice flavorful and I have a reasonable tolerance.  I like medium taco sauce at Del Taco and Taco Bell because I find the hot just too hot for the flavor.  I like medium salsa, because as much as I like to have that little sweat across the forehead, I want to taste the rest of my dinner when I am done. 

CleanPlateAnd what do you do when you clean your plate?  You sit around and talk for a while because you are far too full for dessert.  It may not look like a lot of food at first, but it’s enough.  My brother could probably plow through two plates as he is a big fan of food and has an insatiable appetite.  With that, there is still a basket Sopapillaof Sopapillas on the table and there is no way we can let those go to waste.  I highly suggest you start your meal with them because after they have been sitting there for half an hour, they aren’t nearly as tasty if they were freshly plucked from the fryer.   You may want to ask your bringer of food to hold off on the Sopapillas until the meal comes to an end.  Do yourself a favor and heed my warning as you will be far happier with a nice crispy, hot, fresh and steamy sopa than if you were to let them sit.  They are quite good even still.  Bite off the corner, fill the thing with honey (make sure you have your plate still) and devour. 

RistraAs we left the wind had picked up, I could tell because my asthma was killing me.   The Ristras violently thrashing around made it difficult to get a picture, but it’s very much a big part of who they are.  The pictures line the wall of all the celebs and presidents who have walked under these red chile pods and enjoyed a meal at this local landmark.  It’s not because it has a pretty entrance, it’s not because the building is huge or has a nice bar.  It is because the food is good, damn good.  If you have your favorite place nailed down and you compare every salsa to the bowl they bring you when you sit down, it doesn’t matter what I say here.  But if you are looking for some all around good Mexican food, a variety choices and a fantastic atmosphere, give it a go. 

Oh yeah, and don’t let the lingering smell of Horse manure scare you away as you are walking in, the smell stops at the door. 


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The County Line – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
Categories: Bar, BBQ, Chain, Restaurant Reviews
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Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: April 28, 2010

When I was a kid, I remember going to the County Line with my family.  It was always a wonderful time, all the food I could eat, and as a growing young man who didn’t care for vegetables, this was the perfect solution.  An all you can eat buffet of Chicken, Beef and Pork Ribs, Brisket, Sausage and Turkey.  We didn’t have any Turkey because my Mom has never quite been the fan. 

It was a great deal for my parents too, with three boys who could eat mountains of roast beast, we frequented ‘All you can eat’ places.  It wasn’t often, but this was one of our favorites. 

So tonight a friend of mine sends a text, County Line it’s decided, we’ll just eat at the bar.  It’s amazing the number of bars I frequent for someone who doesn’t drink.  To start with, the location is amazing.  Maybe not the most amazing place to get to, but the view is spectacular.  Make sure you sit on one side of the building or the other, mountains, or city. 

Front

So I grow up, eventually it’s time for me to buy my own dinner.  It’s not just all you can eat, any combination in any amount of meat is available.  And YES, there are vegetarian options, though I imagine they are grilled on the same grill as the rest of the meat, so how vegetarian is it REALLY?  You’ll have to ask the Chefs.

The first thing I noticed when I sat down, which having never sat in the bar before, the tables.  They are made for drinking, not eating, just a little more than the size of dinner plate.  Two glasses of water the size of small buckets, 2 pairs of glasses, a phone and a napkin, the table is completely full.  It will be interesting to fit 5 people on 2 itty bitty tables. 

CheeseballsThe menu hasn’t change in 20 years, except for the things that have changed, like the garlic mashed potatoes and Fried Pepper Jack Cheese Bites.  I’m a big fan of Pepper Jack, so of COURSE I’m going to try those.  They are pretty good, bite size, slightly spicy, but not overly so.  Golden brown and crispy on the outside, melty gooey on the inside, the texture of the cheese was a little strange, but not so much that I wouldn’t order them again and again.  

Plate one comes, my girlfriends Salmon and there you go, more than half the table is now full.  We somehow manage to pack on the cheese bits, a salad and my wonderful plate of deliciousness, the combo platter.  Two meats and two sides.  Peppered turkey, sausage, garlic mashed potatoes and today’s veggie of the day, corn on the cob.  As with almost all turkey, it’s a little on the dry side, but packed with an amount of flavor that would never be possible in a home kitchen.  How?  How do they do that?  That is not for me to know, just for me to enjoy.  Sausage was alright, the casing a little tougher than I’d like, but tender on the inside and a good touch of spice. 

Food2 Now the reason I go in the first place, garlic mashed potatoes.  They’ve changed over the years, but I’m happy to say the flavor is back to what I remember.  Chunkier than once before, but that’s a good thing.  It’s like the grew up with me.  As a kid lumpy mashed potatoes would have been completely offensive. 

Overall the service was a bit lacking.  If you want dinner, don’t sit at the bar.  The food may not be the best out there, but it’s good and if you get the right seat, you can’t beat the view. 

View 

Ok, best for last, dessert.  Me and my sweet tooth have to tell you about the ice cream.  I love ice cream, I also love vanilla and I think this is the place that started it.  As with everything else the ice cream has changed, but the vanilla bean ice cream is still the best.  It’s woody like a vanilla bean, with a deep earthy flavor.  If you thought vanilla only came in a bottle and measured by the ounce, then you’ve never tried true vanilla.  This has the flavor you are used to as well though, a LOT of it.  It’s almost like they instead of a teaspoon, they used a quarter cup.  This is the best ice cream ever, I’ve yet to find another with as much flavor.  And yes, when it comes to vanilla, I really do what to be slapped in the face with it’s potency.  You can almost never have too much. 

So where is the picture?  Well, I ate it before I had a chance.  After I took a bite, I just couldn’t stop.  I highly suggest you go get a bowl of your own.  Maybe you can take a picture for me and send it to me to post. 


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Pizza 9 – 4000 Louisiana BLVD NE Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Comments: 5 Comments
Published on: March 31, 2010

There are dozens of Pizza places in Albuquerque, so how do you pick which place to go?  Come on over to Food Tasted and I’ll let you know which places deserve your well earned cash!  Today we start with Pizza 9, a local franchise that specializes in “Chicago Style Pizza.”  

StorefrontI’ve never been to Chicago so I can’t claim to be an expert.  I have, however, ordered pizza from Lou Malnati’s before and Pizza 9 is no Lou Malnati’s.  There are several places that serve this kind of “deep dish” pizza, which is just to say a special thick crust cooked in a heavy layer of oil, including Pizza the Hut.  That may not sound the most appetizing, but it’s actually quite good and makes a very crispy bottom, fluffy bready interior.  Don’t go there thinking Chicago Deep Dish, just go thinking, pretty damn good pizza and you won’t be disappointed. 

My mom loves the sausage, which, having been to Chicago before, I have to take her word that the sausage keeps up the tradition of a true Chicago native.  Today, I didn’t get a pizza, I got a pizza roll.  9” of their finest deep dish dough, covered in toppings, in my case pepperoni, and then rolled up like a burrito.  Coated in a sprinkle black sesame seed topping, and baked until GBD (Gold Brown and Delicious).  Flavor flavor flavor.  From the bread to the pepperoni, you damn near can taste the sound of the crunch. 

Pizza RollThe roll comes with a side of ranch and even if you don’t dip your pizza in ranch normally (I’m a dipper), it really makes a huge difference.  The cheese is melty and hot, even after the drive home and round of pictures to make sure I get just the right image for you, my loyal readers. 

The pizza roll is loaded with tons of flavor, even it it’s not entirely a traditional pizza flavor.  The tomato sauce is simple and tasty. The last time I ordered a pizza from this place, I ate half the thing on the way home, while driving.  It helps that I was STARVING, but it’s a pretty damn good pizza. 

CheesecakeNot in the mood for a rolled up pizza? Not in the mood for “Chicago-Style” deep dish pizza? Fear not my friends, you are in luck!  They have thin crust, calzones, gourmet pizzas, sandwiches, spaghetti and more.  One offering which I was advised to try, but have yet to head is the Combo, a Beef and Sausage pizza with Au Jus, maybe next time.  The desserts are pretty standard for a pizza place, chocolate cake is usually on the menu as is Tiramisu and Cheesecake.  It’s a nice soft style cheesecake, but certainly not made in store, still good though.  

All in all, I am happy to have this local Pizza place nearby.  This is not your high end pizza, but especially for the price, the pizza roll hits the craving every single time.  Though it may not be the best pizza in Albuquerque, but a great takeout option that beats most of the chain stores any day.  (this location has no seating, other than the picnic tables outside, shown above). 


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