Monday, February 22, 2010

So What IS a "Roadhouse"?

According to “an inn (usually outside city limits on a main road) providing meals and liquor and dancing and (sometimes) gambling.”

When referring to The Roadhouse in the early 1990’s TV cult classic Twin Peaks, I described it as a site for “nefarious deeds and illicit assignations.” Which best describes Harry’s Roadhouse just south of Santa Fe?

Well, Harry’s is located outside of the Santa Fe city limits, is on a main road, and does provide meals and liquor. Dancing and gambling were not evident during our recent breakfast, nor did we notice anyone openly engaging in the aforementioned nefarious deeds and illicit assignations. So perhaps definition Number One is the choice.

According to the Fodor’s web site: “This quirky, always-packed adobe compound consists of several inviting rooms, from a diner-style space with counter seating to a cozier nook with a fireplace—there's also an enchanting courtyard out back with juniper trees and flower gardens. The varied menu of contemporary diner favorites—pizzas, New Mexican fare, and bountiful salads—is supplemented by a long list of daily specials. Favorites include smoked-chicken quesadillas and grilled-salmon tacos with tomatillo salsa and black beans.” The menu is all things to all people and includes vegetarian, pizza, New Mexican, American, barbecue, breakfast, bistro, burgers, southwestern, continental, family, pub, seafood, soups and salads.

We wandered in at about 10:00 a.m. one morning and found about a dozen cars and trucks in the parking lot. When offered our choice of seating, we selected the small diner-like front room. Had the weather been better, the courtyard would have been the choice.

While Chuck perused the menu, I paid more attention to the specials board, located next to the cash register. That morning, I had my choice between the whole wheat pecan waffle with strawberries; the breakfast quesadilla with scrambled eggs, chorizo, rajas (roasted poblano peppers), corn, and asadero (cheese); and the smoked trout scramble with eggs, smoked trout, goat cheese, asparagus, tomato, and scallions. The pastry of the day was a corn meal and strawberry muffin.

The menu listed such interesting options as Mexican Chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican dish made with corn tortillas cut in quarters and fried. Harry’s version was served with tomato salsa, asadero and cotjia with, for an additional cost, eggs and black beans on the side. And the Breakfast Burrito was a flour tortilla rolled around scrambled eggs with bacon and potatoes and topped with red or green chile and melted cheese. But Chuck ordered the Migas, a dish that included scrambled eggs with chorizo, toasted tortilla strips, onion, green pepper, tomato, pickled jalapeno, and cheese and served with a side of black beans. And, of course, he ordered a side of home fries.

I selected the corn meal strawberry muffin and the Smoked Trout Scramble. The muffin came out first, as I had requested, and had been warmed prior to serving. The coarse textured muffin was full of soft and sweet strawberries and came with a small cup of real butter. What a pleasure not to get one of those foil containers of “whipped spread.”

The trout scramble was tremendous. Light and fluffy eggs were mixed with large pieces of smoked trout with just enough tomato and asparagus for additional flavor. Special compliments to the kitchen for their use of the goat cheese. There was just enough cheese to give the dish a rich and creamy flavor without overpowering the rest of the flavors. The scramble came with a side of home fries, which, for my taste, could have been crisper but had just the right amount of added onion and two slices of hearty whole grain toast. Again, the toast came with a cup of REAL butter.

Chuck’s Migas was equally good. The tortilla strips provided a textural counterpoint to the soft eggs, and the pickled jalapenos and chorizo sausage gave the dish plenty of flavor and heat. Almost too much heat for so early in the day. The whole black beans had been gently seasoned with cumin.

Knowing that we would be back in the neighborhood, so to speak, in three months, we asked to see the dinner menu. Wow. The selections included (but were certainly not limited to) Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Blackened Catfish with Creamy Grits, Grilled Salmon Tacos, Dry Rub Ribs, and Sautéed Grouper with Crawfish Etoufee. Also, there was Gumbo Ya Ya with smoked duck, shrimp, and andouilli and a variety of pizzas, including a Margherita with fresh tomato and basil sauce and fresh mozzarella. And one of the desserts listed was a Chocolate Mexican Mousse Pie with Cinnamon Meringue. Double Wow.

During season five of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, host Guy Fieri visited Harry’s Roadhouse. Somehow I missed that episode, but I’m glad I didn’t miss Harry’s and can’t wait to come back to try some of the restaurant’s lunch and/or dinner items. This time around, we give Harry’s a 4.5 Addie rating.

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