Located on the original Route 66 and with 45 years of restaurant experience between its owners, the Calico Cantina satisfies satiation seekers with hearty helpings of rustic comfort foods and swift, friendly service. Famished farmhands and ravenous ranchers can take a seat and scour the menu of southwestern standbys available to meet any omnivore's needs. Rev eating engines with a preliminary plate of sliders topped with cheddar and grilled onions ($7.99) or beef taco fingers, corn tortillas wrapped around taco filling and cheese ($6.99). Diners try their hand at culinary construction with customizable burgers ($7.99), made from Vernon's prime beef and outfitted with their choice of edible accessories such as smothered chili, bacon, or guacamole ($0.50 to $0.95 each). Placate vocal stomachs with comfort-food platters, such as battered pork chops with mushroom gravy ($9.99) or New Orleans–style grilled catfish and vegetables ($12.79), the meal General Andrew Jackson ate before defeating the French Canadians in Super Bowl XLIV.
Though he opened the first Garcia's Kitchen more than 40 years ago, each one of the seven present-day locations smacks of founder Andy Garcia’s lively personality. His portraits beam down from the walls among festive Mexican decor, while vibrant spices characterize his menu of Mexican and New Mexican cuisine. Within kitchens, chefs craft tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and all-day breakfast specialties, arranging them onto colorful plates before sousing them in homemade red and green chili. Jars of the signature Garcia's Kitchen chilies and salsas can be found at any of the restaurant locations, as well as on display in local grocery aisles, supermarkets, and the trench-coat linings of shady black-market salsa dealers.
The Grill's smokemasters sear hand-formed burgers and steaks to perfection atop their eponymous mesquite grill, and ply appetites with hot dogs, fried sides, and entrees accompanied by complimentary chips and salsa. Fix an eye on the menu and the other two on an open window to the kitchen to take in views of hearty 16-ounce rib eyes sizzling ($13.95) or green chilies and cheese being tucked into the southwest chicken sandwich's tortilla ($6.89). A family of three burger sizes greets appetites with the 8-ounce papa burger ($5.89 à la carte, $7.89 for a combo), 6-ounce mama burger ($4.89 à la carte, $6.89 for a combo), and 4-ounce little rascal burger ($3.89 à la carte, $4.89 for a combo). Dress patties with duds from the topping buffet before ambling to The Grill's patio or sitting down amid interior walls strewn with a collection of antiques, including a two-man cross-cut saw and a wood radio that occasionally hums superhero theme songs.
A native of Santa Fe, Chef Charles Thompson shares his passion for traditional native cuisine with visitors. At Tabla de Los Santos, located in the Hotel St. Francis, he puts an elegant spin on traditional northern New Mexican cuisine using organic and local farm-to-table ingredients and French cooking techniques. Starting at 7 a.m., the restaurant fills with spicy aromas as his kitchen staff prepares breakfast, lunch, and Sunday brunch entrees. For dinner, they fire up the grill to prepare Angus rib-eye steak that has been aged 21 days as well as lamb chops accompanied by peppercorn demi-glace spinach, which the wait staff brings to indoor fireside tables or a secluded outdoor patio. For dessert his signature organic flan is made with goat’s milk from Sweetwoods Creamery.
Netting hangs from the ceiling above the sushi bar at Nippon Sushi, suspending plastic fish against the backdrop of a bright yellow wall. Diners can slide onto the sleek black chairs below or settle into green booths nearby to begin plucking carefully packed sushi rolls from plates. The skilled hands of sushi chefs produce artful arrangements of diamond rolls or patterned cross rolls, and cooks in the kitchen prepare teppanyaki fare on an iron griddle.
Helmed by the former general manager of Gruet Steakhouse, The Black Olive Wine Bar & Grill offers a menu full of elegant, Italian-inspired fare for lunch and dinner daily. Start with an order of house-marinated olives ($5), savoring the succulent lemon- and herb-soaked spheres before plunging into the New Mexico green-chile stew ($8), loaded with spuds and ground sirloin. Entree selections feature hearty, hand-held sandwiches and burgers (starting at $7) and authentic Italian pastas (starting at $12) alongside a mouthwatering collection of meats and succulent seafare. When a vitamin-D deficiency gets you down, opt for a 10-ounce filet mignon ($24) topped with bleu-cheese butter or green-peppercorn sauce (each $1 extra), or indulge an aquatic craving with an order of the Australian lobster tail (market price). The Black Olive's savory sides, such as mascarpone polenta ($7) or creamed spinach ($7), offer accompaniments for any stomach-bound supper, while ricotta and chocolate-chip-filled cannoli ($7) promise enough meal-concluding sweetness to soften even the most sour-faced.
Named Best New Restaurant in 2010 by Alibi, CoolWater puts a spin on traditional recipes with a menu full of creative flavors and plating techniques, leading to upscale American-inspired dishes nuanced by French and Italian flavors. Alibi recommends CoolWater's "scrumptious" boneless short ribs, which braise their protein with a mix of red wine, chilis, and plums, and Albuquerque Magazine touts the well-blended flavors of the rainbow trout. Lunches star five sandwich plates and London-style fish 'n' chips, a tilapia battered in the English tabloids but comforted by red-cabbage coleslaw and house-made potato chips.
Seated in cozy booths that are softly lit by dangling light fixtures, patrons can enjoy occasional live music or hone their x-ray vision by staring intently at the brightly colored walls.