Restaurants & Bars 4

AZ & NM road trip report

prescitt | Oct 2, 2012 02:29 PM

first stop, tucson, for our first sonoran hot dog. we (my wife & i) knew to go to the heart of tucson
mexican food, S 12th av., for the best. BK CARNE ASADA & HOT DOGS big sign was the first to catch my eye. here they are mesquite grilled, and that makes all the difference in the world. this is a superior hotdog to the one we tried next, down the road a piece at EL GUERO CANELO. though it was pretty good, the mesquite at BK makes this one pale in comparison. we picked BK the winner by a full length in this race.

our next stop was in sierra vista, an hour or so southeast of tucson where we ate sushi the first night at TANUKI JAPANESE RESTAURANT. our appitizer of house made goyza was followed by fresh, high quality sushi. the uni, hamachi, unagi (i just love that eel sauce), and spicy tuna roll were all well done, and we were very happy we chose to go to TANUKI. the following night, still in sierra vista, we ate at a korean restaurant called SUNNA'S KOREAN KITCHEN. i knew what i wanted when we stepped through the door. we ordered (in english) the seafood pancake, kinchi fried rice, & BBQ short ribs. i can't pick a favorite, all three dishes were as good as they can be. we finished the plate of sweet, mildly spicy, chewy BBQ ribs & vegetables, & took 1/2 the pancake & the fried rice back to the room for breakfast. it was very good cold. the owner, sunna, & her son jason, have reason to be proud.

next day found us a couple hundred miles east in deming, new mexico. supper this evening was at the adobe deli. i know--i know, it's not a deli, and i don't think it's adobe. but what it is is a mighty fine steakhouse. my wife had a filet, she loved it. i had my usual, ribeye (rare-med. rare), baked potato, and the soup. oh the soup. it is a wine drenched french onion--baked until the wonderful asadero cheese is melted on top & runs thickly down the sides of the bowl. GOD is it good! the steak was perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked (crispy fat = bonus), & perfectly delicious. my only beef, as it were, was the tin foil baked potato. i hate that. a bottle of local red table wine washed it all down.
in the mornin', still in deming, an early lunch at ELISA'S HOUSE OF PIES. this "darling" (my wife's words) little, alley hole in the wall is soul food heaven. this is the approachable soul food of the american west, not deep south soul (no chitterlins, or pig's snouts). it's a real meat & three joint. we decided to split stuffed bell peppers with collards, macaroni & cheese, fried cabbage & a square of cornbread, coconut cream pie followed. we were stuffed. mrs. curtis jackson is the "elisa" of the name. but curtis told me they both do the cookin'. (he's left-handed, gotta' like that in a man)

on to hatch, NM to get a green chile cheeseburger at SPARKY'S, famous around these parts for said burger. CLOSED, good grief!!
so we drove across the white sands missle range on an empty stomach. alamagordo popped up on the other side. it just so happens, i have with me a map of the green chile cheeseburger trail, compliments of the new mexico tourism folks. i looked at the map and picked out the HI-DE-HO DRIVE IN. since 1952, they have served one of the BEST green chile cheeseburgers ANYWHERE. a large, juicy, beefy burger $4.15, american cheese & a mess of green chiles $1.60 extra, dressed with shredded lettuce, tomato, & mayo, on a big soft bun, was perhaps the hilight find of the trip . it's a burger that makes you think of maybe moving to alamagordo. ???
up & over apache pass & down into ruidoso, NM is one scenic route. we've never been to ruidoso and don't know what to expect. now i do. TOURIST TRAP!! one redeeming feature though, is JORGE'S CAFE . wedged between two motels on the main drag, US-70, seemed to be an unlikely place for locals to flock; but flock they do. mexican food rules here, and oddly enough we both craved the same thing, the #12 combo plate with a chile relleno & an enchilada served christmas (both red & green chile), rice & beans the chile relleno was a thick fleshed poblano chile stuffed with white cheese, egg battered, & either grilled on the flat-top or skillet fried, this is the right way to make chiles rellenos. the green chile was milder and tasted of fresh chiles, while the more picante red was thick, earthy and smokey. i got a tortilla to mop up any extra sauce.

come morning, we were off again. a hundred mile, two hour drive on US-380 takes us to san antonio, NM, home to arguably the two best green chile cheeseburger joints in NM, and therefore, the world, MANNY'S BUCKHORN, and the OWL BAR & CAFE. i wanted a souvenir T-shirt so we went into the OWL. now we have eaten GCCBs at both of these fine places, but we tend to favor the owl. why? beats me. we sat down in a booth knowing what we wanted, but looked at a menu anyway. i noticed near the bottom, chile cheese fries $4.50. i inquired of the server: "are the chile cheese fries a worthy purchase?" she smiled and said "oh yea". so it was that we got a plate of fresh hand-cut fries, cooked to a turn, smothered with nacho cheese sauce and piled high with diced green chiles. SO GOOD! our burgers were as good as ever (I got double meat, $1.50 extra), juicy, hand formed meat cooked on a flat-top, american cheese, & green chiles, dressed with mustard onion, pickles, lettuce & tomato. my double stood so tall i had to take off the rabbit food & a thick slice of tomato to eat the damn thing. the XX T-shirt was a steal @ $15.95.

the next leg of the trip along US-60, heading back to AZ, has some unique roadside attractions. first
you'll come upon the "very large array" (VLA). it is a radio astronomy installation, consisting of 27
huge dish antennae, all connected electronically, and listening to outer space. cross the continental
divide, and turn north on NM-603 at pie town to reach the "lightning field", a land art work concieved by walter de maria in the mid '70's. it is a one mile grid of 400 pointed stainless steel poles meant to attract lightning strikes during a storm, & you can pay big bucks to stay in a cabin near the site and watch. and yes, there really is a pie town, NM, it's on the map. pie town consists of a few houses, and two cafes selling pie, the PIE-O-NEER on one side of the road, & the GOOD PIE CAFE on the other. the PIE-O-NEER has the better pies, & a more convivial spirit. wife had a mixed berry slice, & i had pear ginger. they will be remembered fondly.

in my attempt to be brief, (unsuccessful i guess), i have neglected to mention our mediocre meals, of which their were a couple, or our lousy hotel breakfasts at every stop. one truely bad meal begs to be revealed. that would be the "sliced smoked brisket sandwich" with a side of pinto beans at the BIG TEX or CIRCLE J BAR-B-QUE (signs touting both names are in evidence) in willcox AZ. the restaurant is in an old, turn of the last century, train car. i had read some good things while researching another trip years ago, so we stopped in for an unexpected lunch. anyway, the "sliced brisket" was instead clumps of unslicable, dry, stringy, in some cases unchewable, outer bark. and thank god i got the sauce on the side. it tasted strongly of liquid smoke, and straight from the bottle. my wife was able to doctor the unseasoned pinto beans with tabasco, salt & pepper to make them edible. this joint is a serious 1/2 to one star joint. anyone who can serve food like that has no pride in their craft. i don't know if this sandwich was an abberation, i've only been there this one time. but they should take note of the damage one bad meal can do. i have singled them out in a bad review, on a site seen by thousands of people.

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