Monday, May 3, 2010

The First Thing You Notice. . .

are the vendors with their tables set by the entrance of Earl’s Family Restaurant in Gallup, NM.

This is where the locals come to eat, particularly on weekends, en route to and from trading in Gallup. Often, vendors set up tables out front, so the whole place takes on a bustling bazaar atmosphere, and the restaurant allows Native Americans to sell their wares to you while you eat. However, you have the option of putting up a sign (available at the register) asking not to be disturbed.

Earl's has a vendor program with which sellers must comply to ensure that the items offered are genuine Native American-made. The Council on Indigenous Arts explains in its brochure, “This program was designed to encourage Native Vendors and Artists to honestly represent their products,... (demonstrate) ethical behavior..., and (learn) better marketing skills....”

The second thing you notice is that the restaurant is jam-packed with breakfast diners and that, with the exception of Chuck and me, all of the diners appear to be Native American--as is virtually all of the staff. (Earl’s is known for treating their Native American staff well.)

Earl’s has been owned and operated by the Richards family since 1947 when Route 66 was a major highway that ran directly in front of the restaurant’s doors. While it may have been by-passed by I-40, the number of cars in the parking lot at all hours of the day are proof of Earl’s continuing popularity and the loyalty of its customers.

The breakfast menu lists: Belgium waffles and hot cakes, each with your choice of bacon or sausage patties; a six-ounce rib eye, ten-ounce hamburger steak, chicken fried steak, or two-four ounce pork chops – each with two eggs; a breakfast burrito with ham or bacon and cheese; biscuits and gravy; and huevos rancheros with your choice of chili.

We decided to split two different items – one breakfast burrito with eggs and ham topped with green chili and one order of the biscuits and gravy. And we each ordered a side of the hash browns.

I started with the biscuits and gravy, and to be kind, I will just say that they weren’t very good. We decided that different regions of the country have their own specialties and that biscuits are not a specialty of the Southwest. Earl’s biscuits were flat and heavy, and the bottoms were hard to cut. And the gravy wasn’t much better. My guess is that the sausage had been cooked as whole patties and then chopped into relatively large pieces. And the white cream gravy was bland and needed both salt and pepper.

If I started with the biscuits and gravy, that must mean that Chuck started with the breakfast burrito (lucky him). This was delicious. A large flour tortilla was filled with scrambled egg, mildly smoky ham, and covered with cheese. But most breakfast burritos are only as good as the chili they are smothered with. And this was a very good green chili. Not as good as Sophia’s Place in Albuquerque, but still very good. It was medium hot (spicy enough to notice but not so hot that your eyes water) and filled with large chunks of ham. When it came time to trade orders, I was surprised that Chuck lived up to his end of the bargain. But that’s the kind of good guy he is. (I, on the other hand, wouldn’t have been so honorable.)

We have had a run on good hash browns and these, while not quite as good as the Pine Country Restaurant in Williams, AZ, were a cut above the norm. Like Pine Country’s, they had a dry non-greasy exterior and were fried crisp as I requested. The medium shred kept the interior from resembling mashed potatoes.

During our meal we were approached by a number of vendors but our “No Thanks” was all that was required and the vendors moved on to the next table. I didn’t want to emulate the person on the web who “spent $10.00 on breakfast and $47.00 for turquoise.”

Instead of an overall Addie rating, I am going to break it into individual components – 5.0 for the hash browns, 4.0 for the breakfast burrito, and 2.0 for the biscuits and gravy.

No comments: