Saturday, March 2, 2013

“…Drive it Like You Stole It”

But we’ll get back to that later.

As you can tell from the past two day’s blogs, we are back in Albuquerque for what was intended to be a very short stay. And, as always, we started with lunch at Asian Noodle Bar on Central Avenue in downtown. But I won’t bore you with yet another description—or photo—of the Asian Shrimp.

Well, maybe one more photo.

And on this visit we did something radical. We ordered a noodle dish at a noodle bar. To be specific, the Spicy Sesame Noodles with udon noodles (thick wheat flour noodles), chicken, carrots, onions, broccoli, and mushrooms in spicy sesame sauce with the kind of heat that just makes you want to keep eating. And keep eating we did. This was so good that we attacked the bowl with dueling forks before remembering to take a photo. So you will need to make do with this one.

But back to the topic at hand. There are a certain number of cities that have become regulars on our travels. And in those cities, we now know where to locate the best laundromats, Dollar Trees, used paperback book stores, supermarkets, and Ford dealers. So when a light lit on the display on our dash board, we knew just where to go. And, in a conversation with the service manager, Chuck explained that he tried to keep his driving speed to somewhere between 55 and 60 MPH. “You’re babying it.” the service manager said. “My diesel tech says you should drive it like you stole it.”

Well, that stop changed our plans for the day, and we wanted to find a place for lunch somewhere between the dealership and the RV park. “We haven’t been to Monte Carlo Steak House in a long time.” I said to Chuck. “Why don’t we stop there?”

“It takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust to the dimly lit beef and beer palace by the Rio Grande–and when they do adjust, you’ll wonder if you stepped out of a portal into the 1960s. The Monte Carlo Steakhouse is an anachronism, a bona fide throwback to a bygone era–and indeed, the restaurant has been in business since 1970.

“Kitschy mirrors emblazoned with the logos of beer distributors, anthropomorphic alcohol decanters, faux wood walls, garish neon signs, Velvet Elvis and stereotypical ‘leatherette’ booths were signs of the times then and the restaurant’s management has seen no reason to change. Why should they?...” (Gil Garduno at

Monte Carlo Steak House has seen its share of celebrities. It was visited by Guy Fieri for his program, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, on Food Network.

And, on the day of our visit, the restaurant was graced by the presence of “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” (“He lives vicariously through himself” and “He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels”) Although I am not sure why he was hanging around a corridor leading to the restrooms.

I didn’t even have to look at the menu. If I am at Monte Carlo for lunch it has to be their version of the green chile cheeseburger. As Guru Gil says: “The charbroiled green chile cheeseburger is a role-model for how this New Mexico staple should be served. While the chile isn’t particularly piquant, it does have an excellent flavor. What sets this cheeseburger apart is the freshness and moistness of the beef patty which is essentially ground steak. Wholly unlike the desiccated Frisbees served at other burger establishments, these meaty orbs are oh so wonderfully juicy…” ( What sets this cheeseburger apart is that it is grilled over the same open flame as are their highly praised steaks. There is something about the flavor added when meat juices hit flame and the resulting smoke wafts up and around the meat. But I have to say that Monte Carlo’s green chiles are pretty wimpy.

Instead of fries, I could have chosen rice, baked potato, or salad. And when I remembered that the restaurant has a much better than average house Greek dressing, I took the salad. Like any steakhouse from the 50’s and 60’s, the predominant component of the salad is iceberg lettuce. No fancy micro greens here. But the lettuce was cold and crisp and contained some slivers of red cabbage and carrot. But it is the mild and non-acidic dressing flavored with a not too sharp and not too salty feta cheese that I most appreciate.

Chuck’s choice was the Louie’s Special which was their version of the cheesesteak except, as Emeril Lagasse would say, “kicked up notches unknown to mankind.” A really good crusty roll contained a half-pound of sliced rib eye steak that had been cooked on the same open flame grill as my burger and the steaks. And, like the hamburgers at 66 Pit Stop outside Albuquerque, the slices of meat contained a good portion of crispy edges and ends. The steak was far from being overcooked and these edges and ends intensified the flavor. The rib eye was topped with sautéed onions and cheese. My only quibble is that meat of this caliber deserves something better than sliced American cheese.

Chuck chose the fries which are house-cut and twice cooked. But I have always thought that the somewhat limp fries need work. Do most diners chose the baked potato and thus the fries are not a priority?

We left remarking that we had forgotten just how good the food at Monte Carlo Steak House really is. Maybe one day we will return and actually order steak. But, for now, we did enjoy our 4.5 Addie lunch. My tip to the owners—work on those fries.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

No comments: