Wednesday, January 5, 2011

“Is the Baseball Field . . .

on the other side of town named for your daddy?”

When you overhear a conversation like this, you know that you are in a locals’ place. And we were at Old Town Restaurant for a mid-morning breakfast.

I learned about Old Town in one of those free local city newspapers and the reviewer emphasized the large portions, low prices, and the number of farmers and ranchers you see sitting at the counter having an early breakfast. We were too late to see the farmers and ranchers, but we did find a number of patrons dining on omelets, pancakes, eggs, french toast, and other breakfast standards.

Décor? Forget about it. The closest thing to décor was the Elvis commemorative postage stamp that had been enlarged to poster size and the multi-colored display of salty snack bags hanging from a rack.

Chuck’s breakfast choice was the Spanish Omelet, smothered with green chile, made with ham, onions, jalapeno peppers, and cheese with sides of home fried potatoes and refried beans and a dish of spicy salsa. The omelet was of the “fluffy” variety and was loaded with the aforementioned ingredients. In fact, there were so many jalapeno peppers that the spicy was unnecessary. (Don’t worry. It didn’t go to waste.)

I ordered the Chile Relleno Breakfast Burrito, a six-inch long monster stuffed with refried beans and mild to medium whole unbuttered green chiles with a side of home fries. I also ordered my burrito smothered in green chile.

While I am reaching my limit when it comes to refried beans, these were quite good and were my preferred mix of completely pureed beans and partially pureed beans. The home fries were nice and crisp, and Chuck’s salsa served as a good alternative to catsup.

I have come to the conclusion that there are as many versions of green chile as there are cooks in New Mexico. Old Town’s was a unique version and was almost like a cream gravy mixed with finely diced green chiles. This style worked with both of our breakfast dishes, but I think I would be disappointed if served this at lunch over a plate of enchiladas.

A couple of days later found us back on the Culinary Treasurers Trail for lunch at Hiebert’s Fine Food.

"The small restaurant has an outsized reputation for its tender batter-dipped and fried steak fingers with gravy, red chile sauce, jalapeños, or chile con queso, originated by Danny Medina, father of the current owner Anna. The elder Medina began working at Hiebert’s in 1958, under the founder, J.W. Hiebert, and eventually was able to buy the business. You can get classic diner specialties, New Mexican dishes, or another Medina family creation, the steak finger burrito. Friendly family-oriented atmosphere with customers who come for multiple meals a day or week. Oh, and those steak fingers have even been featured in magazines as diverse as Maxim and Saveur" (

Chuck decided on a multi-cultural lunch. From the Southeast, he chose the Chicken Fried Steak which came with sides of corn and mashed potatoes and a dish of white gravy. And from the Southwest, he chose two ground beef crisp tacos.

The chicken fried steak had been breaded and cooked on a flat top rather than being deep fat fried. Still, it was lean and juicy with a crisp coating. The mashed potatoes had a texture and a taste as if they were mashed baked potatoes. Not bad, just different. The corn was your basic boiled frozen corn and the gravy was in desperate need of black pepper.

To me, the tacos were the best part of his meal. The taco shells were thin and crisp and the ground beef had been lightly seasoned. With the tacos came a small cup of their green chile in lieu of the more traditional salsa.

If they were good enough for Maxim and Saveur, I knew that I needed to try the fried steak fingers with chile con queso. They were really quite good. The meat was tender as promised and the coating was light and crisp. Not something I’d want to eat on a regular basis but something I am glad I tried.

The chile con queso was simply the restaurant’s regular green chile melted with some cheddar cheese. Normally, the steak fingers are smothered in the sauce, but I am glad that I requested mine on the side. That way the steak fingers didn’t get soggy.

Two good, but not exceptional meals, and both the Old Town Restaurant and Hiebert’s Fine Food earn a solid 3.5 Addies.

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