Thursday, November 19, 2009

Paging Adam Richman…Paging Adam Richman

I have a love-hate relationship with the Travel Channel’s "Man vs. Food." I love the first twenty minutes when Adam Richman visits small restaurants and bars, and I hate the last ten minutes when he takes on a massive feat of gluttony, i.e. eating a four-foot diameter pizza with sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, etc.

Well, following a suggestion from Chuck’s cousin and Albuquerque native, Jack, we found a place for Adam – Grandma’s K&I Diner in Albuquerque. (The K&I refers to Irene and her daughter Kay.) Grandma’s was opened by Irene Warner in 1960 as a breakfast bar (right) and has expanded to include three more dining rooms.

And what is Adam's eating challenge going to be? The Travis on a Silver Platter – a monster-sized burrito of beef and beans topped with green chile, cheese, lettuce and tomato and served with fries and beans. Eat it in an hour and it’s free.

The story goes that the Travis was named after a mysterious stranger (stories always have a mysterious stranger as the key character) who came in one night and wanted a burrito with everything on it but the kitchen sink. And the Travis was born.

More on the Travis in a moment.

The interior of the diner might be called "rustic eclectic" with an old stove, license plates, and farm tools displayed around the dining room and its walls.

Many of the items in the dining rooms have been contributed by Grandma's customers.

The food is described as “ranch” New Mexican which may explain why the portions are huge--and not just for the Travis. The Travis comes in five sizes: the aforementioned On a Silver Platter, the Full Travis, the Half Travis, the Quarter Travis, and the Wimp Travis.

I knew that any of these was beyond my appetite, but Chuck chose the Quarter Travis. Take a look at this photo and then picture this plate increased fourfold.

It is hard to tell under the mountain of fries but the burrito was a good four or five inches long and as thick as my wrist. Here (below) some of the fries have been moved to another plate to reveal where to start eating the burrito. Was he going to finish? I give him credit. All of the burrito was consumed along with about three quarters of the beans and fries. And this is no gimmick. The burrito was delicious with lightly seasoned ground beef and smothered in a mild but delicious green chile.

According to Chuck, the fries seemed to go perfectly with the burrito.

The menu also includes some standard comfort foods – hamburger steak, chicken fried steak, and ham steak along with a short list of hot and cold sandwiches. But New Mexican style food predominates, and it was to this portion of the menu that I gravitated. I narrowed my choices between the chile relleno and the Navajo Taco plate – a sopapilla topped with beans, beef, lettuce, tomato and your choice of red or green chile. But I tend to judge a New Mexican restaurant by the quality of its chile relleno, so the chile relleno it would be. And a wise choice it would be.

The plate included two good-sized chiles stuffed with both the seasoned beef and cheese. And though green chile is the norm on a chile relleno, I ordered one with green chile and one with red chile. The rellenos were perfect with a thin batter rather than the puffy egg batter that too many restaurants use. The chiles packed some heat, but just enough to be noticeable rather than overpowering.

One of my wisest decisions was to order the red chile. Now a red chile purist would probably scoff at Grandma’s version which seemed to be thickened with either flour or corn starch; I loved it. You could tell by the small bits of chile that it is made with whole dried chiles which are soaked in hot water and pureed. Not too hot, not too harsh. And perfect as a condiment for the french fries.

When I told our server that I enjoyed the chile, he asked if I would like a cup to take home. Now I expected to get one of those small containers used for takeout salad dressing but instead got three cups of chile in a large Styrofoam cup. And when we gave him the check to add the cost of the chile, he replied with those wonderful words: “There is no charge.”

That customer-focused approach was apparent throughout our meal. Grandma's was a fun place to eat. It's located in an industrial part of town, but the customers are a diverse group. Conversations among diners at nearby tables ranged from U.S.-Canadian trade relations to an up-date on the health of other regulars.

A sense of humor was apparent in the greeting of this sign at the front door.

My only complaint is that the beans were again the whole beans. Not my favorite. So a minor deduction and an Addie score of 4.5.

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