As I had a fair amount of time off for the holidays, my wife and I decided to road trip home from Los Angeles to Louisiana, part of the way travelling along I-40. We took a few days, with no worries and no hurries, stopping where we wanted and trying to find outstanding local spots to enjoy great food.
Our primary stops along the way (relevant to this board) were Flagstaff for Salsa Brava, Winslow for The Turquoise Room, and Albuquerque for El Patio and Frontier. Quick reviews are below...
Flagstaff: Salsa Brava
I was reading a gigantic Diners, Drive-ins & Dives thread over on the Food & Media board right before we left, and having eaten at a few of the "DDD" spots in Los Angeles and really enjoying them, we decided to cast our lot with one of their spots in Flagstaff, Salsa Brava.
We stopped in for dinner on a Saturday night, quickly made our selections and went to explore the salsa bar everyone there made sure to tell us about.
While I don't recall exactly which of the salsas we tried, I know I went straight for the spiciest of the bunch. To our dismay, for us the desired heat factor was not there. Forget sweat, I had nary a tingle. They were ok; not great but certainly not terrible.
Our order quickly arrived - two GIGANTIC dishes - one the Navajo Tacos with Pork and the other the Stuffed Sopapilla with Chicken and the Verde (spicy green) sauce. Both were solid/good – like the salsas not great but far from terrible. This felt very “classic New-Mex/Tex-Mex” to me. It’s a solid meal, and neither of us was disappointed to have gone, but we would not go back, unless we spent some extended time in the area. Service was pleasant.
I would give Salsa Brava a rating 3 to 3.5 out of 5.
Winslow: The Turquoise Room
We drove on from Flagstaff to Winslow for the night, hoping to stay at La Posada but unfortunately they were fully booked. Nevertheless, we woke up the next morning, got ready and headed over for breakfast.
First impressions, this place is really cool (the entirety of La Posada, and the restaurant as well). Built into an old train depot, I really dug the funkiness of this place, and would absolutely stay here next time I am coming through.
We were quickly seated and presented our menus by one of the nicest servers I believe I’ve ever encountered. I don’t have her name in front of me, but she was a younger girl (mid-20s?) who absolutely did everything and then some to ensure we had a great experience.
First we ordered a couple of their flavored coffees, which we enjoyed while awaiting our order. Mine was a Hazelnut Cappuccino, while my wife had a Latte (for the life of me I cannot recall the flavoring). Both were quite delicious.
Our breakfast arrived quickly and we each tucked in – me into my Baked Beef Machaca Chilaquiles and my wife into her Prickly Pear Cactus and Spice Bread Pudding.
Both were prettily plated, very appealing to the eye, and upon first taste we were not disappointed. Each dish was scrumptious, and we kept swapping to savor the different tastes – it was a nice contrast between sweet (though not overly so) and savory. Personally I would choose the Chilaquiles over the bread pudding, but one would not go wrong with either. Something about the spice (not overly spicy, but a little hint of heat from the chilies), the crunch of the shredded tortilla chips, the fluffiness of the eggs and then the beefy hit of the machaca really did it for me.
I cannot wait to swing through here again, and look forward to grabbing dinner the next time. I would rate this a strong 4 to 4.5/5 and would certainly recommend it for anyone driving through.
Albuquerque: El Patio and Frontier
Making our way to Albuquerque for a late lunch, I took the recommendations of a great friend of mine who grew up in Santa Fe and went to school at UNM. We pulled up to El Patio for some truly authentic New Mexican food and I was instantly excited just by the look of the place. It’s basically a converted house, and it definitely has that “hole-in-the-wall” feel that I so often associate with great grub.
Stepping inside, we were seated immediately and perused the menu before ordering based on recommendations from CH, Yelp and my friend.
Straight away we were brought our Carne Adovada plate, done “Christmas” style so we could try both the Roja and Verde sauces. We also ordered a Chile Relleno on the side because we found so many reviewers raving about it.
The adovada was really, really good. In particular, the green sauce made it, and for the first time on our trip I actually felt my lips and mouth buzzing from the heat of the chilies. Hearty, tasty and filling, I would definitely recommend this to anyone … though next time I would get it with the Verde sauce only.
Unfortunately the Chile Relleno did not live up to the glowing recs I had read. Granted, I have not had many and it may just be a lack of affinity for this type of dish (though how could cheese and pepper/chilies be bad, right?), but this was just missing that certain “oomph” I really wanted it to have.
Service was pleasant, and you should know it is cash only.
After finishing we walked right around the corner to Frontier to sample their famous cinnamon roll. Though completely different from El Patio in style, the substance of the two is the same, and I really dug the vibe.
Stepping to the window we quickly ordered and received our roll, doused in butter. We sat and enjoyed it while people watching both in the restaurant and on the street/campus. Is this my favorite cinnamon roll? No, absolutely not, far from it. I prefer more of a brioche, much more cinnamon slap to the face, and more on the side of caramelized brown sugar than melted butter.
That being said, it was good, and I can only imagine this place being slammed by hordes of students late in the evening after a night of drinks.
I’d rate El Patio a solid 3.5 to 4/5, and Frontier unrated because we only sampled the one item.