Monday, January 10, 2011

On the Trail--

not of green chile cheeseburgers, nor culinary treasurers--but of blue corn pancakes.

Our friend Tom the Traveler has often—almost obsessively—talked about the blue corn pancakes that he had eaten at a restaurant north and west of Albuquer-que. When we saw him last he added a new piece of data—the road he took went past Balloon Fiesta Park. Sure that he was talking about the Range Café in Bernalillo, we headed north and west for breakfast.

“The Range Cafe was founded in September 1992 by two men with a dream…. Meeting in 1991, Matt DiGregory and Tommy Fenton discovered their passions together while working at Scalo in Albuquerque and then the Prairie Star in Bernalillo. The two young minds soon began to share their dreams of someday…striking out on their own, footloose and fancy free” (from

“…Housed in what was once an old drugstore, the restaurant has a pressed tin ceiling and is decorated with western touches, such as cowboy boots and whimsical art” ( We had eaten at the Wyoming Avenue branch (there are now three Range Cafés with two in Albuquer-que) and were intrigued by the ultra funky décor, and the Bernalillo mother ship didn’t disappoint in that regard.

The walls were festooned with art that was both contem-porary and reminiscent of Native American and Wild West themes. One supporting column sported a mini-VW bus painted to remind one of the “Flower Power” days of the 1960’s.

The brightly colored tables and chairs had been “dis-tressed” for an antique look.

Old toy ranges were arrayed on a shelf above the kitchen pass-through

and an antique range in the lobby displayed the cards from local businesses.

The breakfast menu caters to hearty appetites. There is: the Wagon Train with eggs, sausage, bacon, pintos, Range fries, and pancakes; The Range Roundup with a homemade biscuit topped with crumbled bacon, sausage, and eggs and smothered in chile with Range Fries con Queso; the I-25 Omelets (It'll get you to Denver!) with diced ham, bell pepper, onion, and white cheddar and smothered in green chile; the Kitchen Sink Omelet with ham, bacon, green onion, avocado, tomato, white cheddar, and cream cheese; monster-sized breakfast burritos; Huevos Rancheros which had been voted “Best of Albuquerque” by the readers of a local magazine; Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs; biscuits and gravy; and Eggs Benedict.

I was hungry. I was very hungry. The Range Roundup sounded like just the ticket to sate this hunger. The plate contained an enormous (at least three inches across) split biscuit that had been covered with a most generous amount of pork sausage cubes and bits of good and crispy bacon. On top of the meat sat two eggs over easy (my choice). Ladled over the eggs was New Mexico chile Christmas style (both green and red) and melted over this was a thin layer of cheese.

The biscuit foundation was decent. Not great, but much better than many. The eggs still retained their liquid yolks which ran onto and mixed into the mélange. The chiles were both medium spicy, and I preferred the green with its fresh fruity flavor over the red. The Range Fries (home fries) were half-inch squares of fried potato and mine were covered with a thin coating of cheese, lettuce, and tomato. The beans were…well, they were beans.

And no. I didn’t finish it all. Most of the potatoes and beans returned home with me to be reheated for a future breakfast.

Since we were on the blue corn pancake trail and blue corn pancakes (along with your choice of bacon or sausage) were a breakfast special that morning, Chuck had no alternative but to order them. His plate arrived with three six- to seven-inch cakes that had been made with the restaurant’s basic buttermilk batter in addition to blue corn meal. The buttermilk made them light and fluffy, but they lacked the deep corn flavor that we found at Sophia’s. Once on the grill, a copious amount of piñon nuts was sprinkled over each cake. These buttery nuts, whose texture reminds me of macadamias, were present in almost every bite.

So whose blue corn pancakes were better? Sophia’s (yesterday's entry) or Range Café’s? It is a toss-up. Sophia’s had better blue corn flavor, but the Range’s cakes had a more interesting taste because of the piñons.

Was this the place we were looking for? No. Chuck e-mailed a photo of the exterior to Tom the Traveler and this wasn’t it. But Tom did provide us with more information. The hunt goes on.

Oh, and we give Range Café 4.0 Addies—please, no more beans.

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