Thursday, May 27, 2010

It Would Have Been the Perfect Day, . .. .

but Sugar’s wasn’t open.

After a busy morning in O’Keefe Country, we were ready for lunch. Realizing that we were about fifty miles south and west of Embudo, Sugar’s BBQ & Hamburgers immediately came to mind. Why, you might ask. Because we had eaten there on our first visit to New Mexico, and we remembered fondly the wonderful green chile cheeseburgers and the general funkiness of the setting.

A Jane and Michael Stern (Roadfood) “Top Pick,” Sugar’s is described as a “...way-out-of-the-way little barbecue hut.... Sugar's serves knock-out beef brisket, at its best when rolled with green chile and cheese inside a soft flour tortilla.... Sugar's is just a kitchen in a tin-sided trailer.”

Named for the owner’s daughter’s late bulldog (that’s Sugar in the framed photo), Sugar’s was named in May 2005 as one of America’s ten best drive-ins by no less than Gourmet Magazine. The same year, the Forty-Seventh Legislature of the State of New Mexico issued a proclamation that ends with: “Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate of the State of New Mexico that congratulations be extended to Neil, Nancy, and “Sugar” Nobles on being named one of the best Road-Side Eateries in the US.”

We were primed and ready. Visions of sharing a green chile cheeseburger and a BBQ Brisket Burrito danced in our heads (lunch at Sugar’s is like Christmas).

And they weren’t open.

Well, one web site had advised calling ahead for hours, but we ignored that advice.

The outdoor dining area was a lonely setting.

Alas, we left with only the years-old memory of having eaten at one of the 10 Best Road-Side Eateries.

Time for that ever popular Plan B. Drive to Santa Fe and have lunch at Harry’s Roadhouse Café, the site of an amazing breakfast during our February sojourn in Albuquerque (2/22/10). (I fondly recall the smoked trout scramble with goat cheese.) We arrived after 2:00 p.m., and there were still a good number of cars in the parking lot and diners in each of the three dining areas we saw. (The patio was empty. This was one of those very windy days we have learned are common in New Mexico in May.)

We were led to our table by a man who I swear is the twin of the “Woo-Woo” man you see at Cubs’ games. We were seated in the glass-enclosed porch that looks out on the patio. And a colorful porch it was. The walls were painted salmon and bright blue with green trim.

On one wall was hung a “Tree of Life” metal sculpture just above a painted wooden table.

The other tables were covered with gaudy plastic table-cloths—no two of them alike.

Just perfect for the mismatched chairs at each table.

The lunch menu included appetizers, soups, salads, and pizza. Other choices included: a Turkey Reuben with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island Dressing and served with fries; a Cold Turkey Meatloaf sandwich on sourdough with sweet 'n sour tomato sauce and caramelized onions and served with chips; Dry Rubbed, Smoky St. Louis Cut Pork Ribs with cowboy beans, slaw, and cornbread; the California Dreamin’—a big hand-held burrito filled with grilled carne asada, onions, garlic, poblanos, beans, and rice with guacamole and chile arbol salsa on the side; and Grilled Salmon Tacos with tomato salsa, refried black beans, and a salad.

Chuck was in a comfort food frame of mind and ordered the Hot Turkey Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy and a house salad. He did have a few qualms about turkey meatloaf, but why not go for it. This was actually one of the better meatloaves of the year. It was moist, juicy, and had a minimum of filler and contained chopped onion and carrot – the latter of which gave the meatloaf a slight sweet flavor. Not being a mushroom man, the fungi from the gravy quickly made their way from his plate to mine. The mashed appeared to have been made from Yukon Gold potatoes and definitely were not from a box or bag. The accompanying salad of baby greens, tomato, and sliced red onion was tossed with a non-vinegary salad dressing.

I had more difficulty choosing and debated between the California Dreamin’ burrito and the grilled salmon tacos. What did I chose? The Roasted Turkey Breast Sandwich with bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and green chile and served with cole slaw and chips. Why? I’m not sure. A turkey sandwich is a turkey sandwich, even when it is made with REAL roasted turkey—none of this sliced deli stuff. The slaw was more like a pickled cabbage salad and had an undertone of spice. Different and good when eaten on the turkey sandwich. This was good, but no substitute for a Sugar’s BBQ brisket burrito.

We gave our breakfast at Harry’s a 4.5 Addie rating, but this lunch only earns a 4.0.

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