Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub

 Scrumptious Food and Brews on the Wesrside

Latest visit: April 10, 2014
First visit: February 19, 2014 

SS PanoramaGood Riddance Quartets, Welcome Stumbling Steer.

Bartman and the Ruthie

Bartman and the Ruthie, two charter members of the TNCGT.

My Thursday night Culinary Gastronome Team stumbled into the Stumbling Steer on a recent outing.

Good choice.

This place is the brainchild of General Manager Sonny Jensen, a San Diego transplant. Sonny likes beer and gastropup food. He likes people, and can usually be seen working the room. He recognized me on my second visit.

The Stumbling Steer brings a fresh approach to Albuquerque in terms of great beer and delicious food. As a gastropub, The Stumbling Steer’s mission is to provide a place where anybody can come and enjoy our expertly-crafted beers with a full menu that, well—pretty much tastes awesome with their beer.

Chef T

Chef T

The magician in our kitchen is Chef Thanawat Bates. Chef T, as he’s commonly known, was the Executive Chef at the Brown Palace in Denver (where he received a James Beard Nomination) and The Ritz-Carlton in Washington D.C. In other words, the guy knows what he’s doing! Although Chef T has made a name for himself in fine-dining, he has always wanted to reinvent pub food. He says, “There is no reason why bar food should be so boring and predictable. It can be fun, exciting, taste great and still be priced the same.”

Well,  it is exciting and excellent.

The Lunch

Before getting to the delicious details, I need to offer kudos to the excellent waitstaff. Knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Crisp fried sprouts, garlic, peanuts, tamarind, and bird peppers (the chef, Chef T, is Vietnamese). Wimps can opt out of the incendiary peppers, but I think this would be a serious mistake. The blend of all the elements masks the searing heat (50,000 – 100,000 Scovill units).

If I told  you Brussels Sprouts haters out there that this is a fantastic appetizer, you might think me daft, and you would be wrong. Chef T will change that for you.

This dish as made its way to a spot on my coveted Best Dishes of 2014 List. It’s just that good. Amazing.

Stumbling Steer Burger

Stumbling Steer Burger

The Steer Burger

Half-pound Angus patty, turkey pastrami, mushrooms, onion compote, and Gruyere cheese on an excellent challah bun.

When I am in the mood for a burger, I almost always opt for a competition-style GCCB. Had I done that here, I would have missed out on one of the most delicious burgers I have ever had.  Perfectly cooked medium rare, the juices ran down my cheeks. Don’t miss this tasty gem.

What’s for  Dinner

Korean-style baby back  ribs

Korean-style baby back ribs

Korean-Style Baby Back Rib 

Full rack braised in IPA and grilled in Dragon Sauce with potato salad and kimcgi.

This was Ruthie’s choice, but she ad the Dragon Sauce on the side anticipating that it would be too hot for her. These are among the very best ribs in town. The spicing of the dry rub is phenomenal. Were I to order these ribs, this is how I would get them.

Steak and Fries

Steak and Fries

Steak and Fries

8-oz. culotte top sirloin, onion hay, scallion sauce, and pickled watermelon.

The Bartman often goes for steak, and he exclaimed that this is among the very best he has ever had. Thick and perfectly cooked to his specifications, it looked like a masterpiece on its cutting board. The fries are among the best you will get anywhere.

Braised Pork Belly

Braised Pork Belly

Braised Pork Belly

Ginger beer-braised with a creamy potato salad.

Pork belly is back in again, and I’m sure glad about that. This is a truly  outstanding dish, and it is beautifully plated. I asked Sonny if Chef T. did the plating, and he replied  that T. was in Augusta that weekend, having been invited to be the executive chef for the masters Golf Tournament. Nice gig.

This is one heckuva fine treatment of pork belly.  Not fatty, not greasy, bur perfectly cooked. The ginger is mindbending. I am a pork belly freak, and this is one of two absolutely stunning pork belly dishes in The Duke City (the other is at Budai Gourmet Chinese, Dong Bo Pork). Stumbling Steer’s pork belly has made its way to a spot on my coveted Best Dishes of 2014 List.

The  Beer

The Brewnaster

Kirk, The Brewnaster

The Stumbling Steer’s brewmaster is Kirk Roberts.  Kirk has more than 15 years of experience brewing beer in Southern California. He’s won 8 medals worldwide for his beers including a Gold Medal at last year’s  Great American Beer Festival for his Scotch Ale. He plans to brew his famous IPA, Double IPA, Pale Ale, Imperial Stout, Red Ale, Blond Ale, Scotch Ale and some very exciting seasonals. You’ll be able to stop by and watch Kirk do his thing as our entire brewing system will be on display…you can even tap the glass and make him feel like an animal at the  zoo exhibit.

I am especially fond  of the Red and the Nut Brown. Anxiously awaiting the appearance of a Scottish.

Please note that The Steer is open late after most of the Westside has gone to bed.


Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub

Door Handle(505) 792-7805 

Paradise Hills
3700 Ellison Dr NW
Albuquerque, NM 87114

SS HoursWebsite

Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Posted in American, Barbecue, Brew, Burgers, Pub Food, Steaks | Leave a comment

Hartford Square

Sarah Hartford’s spirit is in every bite of her food

Fourth visit: April 10, 2014
First visit: March 6, 2014 

Hartford Panorama

daffodilsLast night I dreamt I went  to Hartford Square again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the patio, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the gate-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate….


My friend Michael Gonzales, owner of Cafe Bella Coffee, urged me (several times) to try Hartford Square. After my first visit, Micheal wrote to me:

“I am so delighted you were able to make it there Larry! Like I was telling you in my opinion that place has opened a new chapter in central new mexico dining.”

Michael is one of several food people I know who I trust completely.  So, what is so special about Hartford Square that makes me dream of it?

Sarah Hartford.

This place is Sarah’s dream.  She serves only the freshest local stuff, organic wherever possible. This is farm-to-table at its best. Seasonings are phenomenal, and nothing is oversalted. There are salt shakers on the tables if you must destroy her delicate balance. I won’t. Fresh flowers, daffodils and forsythia during my last two visits. The decor is simple: black, white, and stainless steel. The delightful staff wear black and white.

For each of my visits, I had a cup of soup and a half-sandwich. My guest Deanell had salmon twice and salad/sandwich the latest time.  Did I say that everything is fresh and delicious? Well, I said it again.

Corned Beef on Rye

Corned Beef on Rye

Corned Beef on Rye

Sarah does corned beef from  scratch. The outside is slathered with orange marmalade making for a delightful rind. The Swedish  rye (house made, of course) is sprinkled with orange zest before baking. Truly amazing combination.

The soup — Cabbage, Bacon, Caraway & White Beans — was hearty and quite amazing. I got my corned beef and cabbage this day.

Meat Loaf Sand and Cabbage bacon white bean soup

Meat Loaf Sand and Cabbage bacon white bean soup

Hot Meatloaf & Mozzarella Sandwich on Homemade Herb Bread 

With cabbage and white bean soup.

Everybody’s mom makes meatloaf and serves meatloaf sandwiches the next day. Well, Sarah’s meatloaf trumps your mom’s. And it’s better than what I make. Her homemade herb bread is spectacular, with a delicate taste and perfect texture. Don’t forget to eat your spinach.

Italian with Carrot-Ginger Soup

Italian with Carrot-Ginger Soup

Italian Sandwich— Ham, Salami, Sundried Tomato, Pepperoncini & Provolone on Herb Bread 

Surely you have been to sub shops and had an Italian sub.

This Italian is better. The real star here is the use of oil-packed sundried tomatos. Delicious.

The real hit of this lunch, however, is the carrot-ginger soup. The finely pureed carrots are sweet and not salty (although sarah assured me that there was salt added in the cooking). I could  not taste it, and that is a tribute to her delicate and thoughtful seasoning. The ginger was fresh and pungent. One of the best soups I have had during my six years in The Duke City.

Salmon with Spinach Butter and Kale Salad

Salmon with Spinach Butter and Kale Salad

Salmon with Spinach Butter

Deanell loves salmon. This spinach butter-covered filet was perfectly cooked. Soft and buttery.

Kale and Brussels Sprouts are back in, it seems. I hated these things when I was a kid, and so did you.  Well, forget that your mom forced these on you, and order this salad. I love it. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t make it bad. On the contrary, it is fabulous.

Granola Bar

Granola Bar

Granola Bar 

For breakfast, snack, or lunch, these bars can’t be beat.  Not at all like the junk you get in the yuppie camping stores, these beauties are lovingly hand made. Dates, apricots, apple, cranberry, flax seed, millet, brown sugar,and more are gently blended and lightly baked. Michael Gonzales would be proud to serve these in his place. Get a bagfull. Take  them home. Or just eat them in the car.

Zingtopia Macu  Drink

Zingtopia Macu Drink

Zingtopia Macu Drink 

Sarah makes many drinks, including a special blend of coffee provided by  Michael Thomas.

You will do well to order a zingtopia macu, which has become one of my very favorite delicious cold drinks  I have found in this town.

Just get one. Or two.

Hartford Square is small, having but seven tables and a lunch counter.  Size doesn’t matter. It is the piece of Sarah’s spirit that is contained in every bite of food that does matter.

Come back here when the weather lightens up and the small patio opens.

By the next time I dream of Hartford Square, I will have planted a suggestion to get up at o-dark-thirty to get there for breakfast. Friends tell me that it, too, is great.

Hartford Square

Dining Area(505) 265-4933 

300 Broadway Blvd NE
Hartford HoursAlbuquerque, NM 87102


Hartford Square on Urbanspoon

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Standard Diner

Really Great Superdiner Food. 

Fourth visit: March 26, 2014 
First visit: June 4, 2008 

exterior pan

 Fathers Day Brunch….

July 27, 2010

logoThe Standard Diner is neither standard nor a diner. But you already knew that. The food is a gastronomic delight — a young chef’s collection of inventions loosely based on typical diner fare. Vive la différence. It is served in the beautifully constructed and a hip built in 1938 along Route 66. No cars here now, just incredible food. Would you believe Meat Loaf that is better than Pâté served in many French restaurants and bistros?ppointed interior of what was originally the Caruthers & Maudlin classic car dealers

An early visit  visit there was a Fathers Day treat supplied by my daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren (and my lovely wife). Killer brunch buffet. Eggs Benedict with a chipotle-flavored Hollandaise. I had mine with a crabcake (good even by my Maryland standards) taking the place of Canadian Bacon. Chile Cheese Mac. Beautifully eggy French Toast. Carving station. Pastries (save room for these). The list goes on….

Festive atmosphere with perfect service, this was surely among the finest brunches I have had. Anyplace. Watch for these festive day events, and get over there. Early.

Standard Diner is part of the outstanding Matt DiGregory empire, along with Range and Gregorio’s Italian Kitchen.

A Night at the Opera. 



There is no better way to enjoy an evening opera performance (Bizet’s Pearl Fishers at the NHCC by Opera Southwest) than to start out with a really good meal. Since I live in Corrales, my friend Marjorie and I  chose Standard Diner because it is a short hop to the opera venue. 

Good choice. I had forgotten just how good Standard is. And the opera was stunningly beautiful. 

Baltimore Crabcakes

Baltimore Crabcakes

Baltimore Crabcakes 

Good enough, but misnamed. I grew up in Baltimore, and I know Maryland Crabcakes. The Crabcake appetizer, while tasty, should not be labeled “Baltimore.” They are adorned with a Red Chile Remoulade. 

Too much soft filler. I did not detect the required Old Bay Seasoning. If you are not from Maryland, you will probably like these (I did, and so did my companion.).

If you want to make a REAL championship-quality Maryland Crabcake for yourself, look no farther than my own recipe as featured in Albuquerque The Magazine.   

Bacon-Wrapped meatloaf

Bacon-Wrapped meatloaf

Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf 

Meatloaf is a diner staple. The meatloaf at Standard is probably better than any you will find elsewhere, and that is sufficient reason to return to Standard. Often. This dish is legendary.

All beef, wrapped in bacon, and cooked perfectly to a juicy tenderness, this will easily satisfy your palate. It is served with smashers (mashed potatos with tender lumps) and perfectly sautéed veggies. Great gravy.  

Norwegian Salmon

Norwegian Salmon

Grilled  Norwegian Salmon 

Unbelievably phenomenal.  

I have eaten salmon all over the world, including in Alaska where I had some every day  for two weeks.  This salmon at Standard was cooked perfectly— barely crisp at the grill marks and buttery soft on the inside. The first bite of this will really get the salivary glands into high gear. It is served atop a perfectly done risotto containing four vegetables. Large portion, but Marjorie ate everything except the plate (and then got to work on my meatloaf). 

This salmon dish had earned a place on my coveted Best Dishes of 2014 List

Last night I dreamt that I went back to Standard Diner again. That dream will surely  come true soon.  

Oh, what about the opera? It was splendid. A magical evening. 

Standard Diner

(505) 243-1440  


320 Central Ave SE  
Albuquerque, NM 87102


Standard Diner on Urbanspoon    STD Diner Hours


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Joe’s Pasta House

Like an Old Italian Friend….

First visit: July 29, 2010
Ninth visit: March 1, 2014

Naryland Crabcakes

If you have been here, chances are good that Pasta House proprietor Joe Guzzardi will remember you as soon as you walk in the door. On my second visit, he all

owed that it being a crowded Friday evening and we were without reservations, there would be a long wait for a table. Then he remembered me, saying “I remem

ber you. [Must be my unforgettable voice.] 

You been here two months back. Follow me, I got a table for you.” And so it goes at Joe’s Pasta House.

Joe’s Pasta House reminds me of the countless small neighborhood Italian restaurants that dotted the Bronx and Brooklyn areas where I started out life. There’s a reason: Rio Rancho is like NYC neighborhoods transplanted to New Mexico. Listen to the accent spoken here.  There’s no mistaking that the food is as it genuine as it was back there.

The Rio Rancho area was originally part of the Alameda Grant, which was founded by the Spanish in 1710. By the early twentieth century, much of the land grant had been sold to land investment companies. Amrep Corporation purchased 55,000 acres  in 1961 and turned the land into a housing development called “Rio Rancho Estates” with the first families moving in the early 1960s, most of whom were New Yorkers. The population grew tenfold between 1970 and 1980, and the City of Rio Rancho was incorporated in 1981. The opening of a large Intel Corporation plant in 1981 had a major economic impact on the city.

Joe's Pasta House

Kassie Guzzardi serving at the 2013 Taste of Rio Rancho

Since the 1990s, Rio Rancho has taken steps to become more independent from neighboring Albuquerque, including the establishment of separate school and library systems and attempts to attract businesses to the area. The city’s latest project is the Downtown City Centre development that includes a new city hall building, a new UNM West and CNM campus as well as the Santa Ana Star Center. The arena opened in October 2006. City Hall opened in September 2007.

We enjoyed our first visit so much that we returned with our gastronome friends of some 40 years, Sally and Andy from Taos. Good choice, they said.

Southwestern Shrimp Fettucine

The menu lists many standard Italian dishes as well as house specialties, mostly pastas. None of us got beyond the pastas. We have had, at various times:

  • Southwestern Shrimp Fettuccine — Jumbo shrimp with green chile, crushed red peepers, and parmigiano cream sauce tossed with fettuccine pasta. Delicious.
  • Ziti Carbonara

    Carbonara — Fettuccine (or Ziti — my preference) pasta, green peas, red onions, and prosciutto in light pink sauce. Delicious, and very rich. My favorite version of this disk in the Duke City. Please have a glass of their very fine dark red Zinfandel. It gomplements the dish and stands uo very well to the carbonara spicing. Lightly tannic with a terrific finish.

  • Ravioli Rustica — Round cheese-filled pasta in a tomato cream sauce with Italian sausage and fresh herbs and spices. Wonderful.
  • Baked Lasagna

    Baked Lasagna — One of the very best lasagnas in town. My geust for this meal loved the lasagna, and allowed that the sauce was better than most that he had ever had. This seems to be a hallmark of Joe’s: all the sauces are superb. Fresh, tasty, and perfectly spiced, never in-your-face.

  • Traditional Gnocchi — Potato gnocchi topped with tomato sauce, served with meatballs and Italian sausage. Gnocchi is among Jane’s childhood favorites. This may be the best she ever had.
  • Ziti Florentina

    Ziti Florentina — Ziti with spinach, mushrooms, tomatos in a lovely white wile buttery and lightly garlicky sauce. This is among the best versions of this classic dish that I have tasted. The sauce is incomparable.

The service was exemplary. Everyone knew our name. Joe kept stopping by making sure that everything was OK (it was better than OK, Joe).  

Mediterranean Calamari

Mediterranean Calamari

Mediterranean Calamari 

So you order calamari in an Italian restaurant and it usually comes out deep fried with a boring red sauce on the side, right?

Try Joe’s Mediterranean Calamari when it’s on special. If it isn’t, beg for it. Maybe Joe and Kassie will make it part of the regular menu. 

Fried Calamari topped with Warm Feta Cheese, Capers, Artichoke Hearts, Red Onions and Calamata Olives in a Lemon Butter Sauce. Outrageously good.

I love red sauce stuff, but some of the whites are crazy good. You really need to try the Sea Bass and the Lobster Ravioli. Both are beautifully rich and tasty. 

Sea Bass

Sea Bass

Lobster Ravioli

Lobster Ravioli






And speaking about rich and outrageously tasty, treat yourself to the Cannoli. . 



Alas, Bob Morris, the Italian opera baritone is no longer here. Joe told me that Bob had relocated to Florida (their gain; our loss). There is now a gifted guitarist playing cool, soft jazz. Fine sound.

Bob Chase pouring some Zin for his sweet sister, Barbara

Bob Chase pouring some Zin for his sweet sister, Barbara

Don’t overlook the specials 

The Specials  can be found by looking for them on Joe’s Website. Joe and Kassie know that I love Maryland Crabcakes (here is my prize winning recipe straight from Bawmer where I grew up) and let me know that they would be available last weekend. I gathered seven close friends and showed up after asking Kassie to make sure that they wouldn’t run out. And they didn’t.  

Maryland Crabcakes

Maryland Crabcakes

House Made Maryland Crab Cakes 

Fresh Maryland Style Blue Claw Crab Cakes, Served with House Made Dipping Sauce

These are excellent crabcakes. Cooked to perfection, they remain lightly browned on the outside and just warm on the inside. Beautiful. They are accompanied by clarified butter and a remoulade dipping sauce which had chipotle added for a slight kick. I tasted the sauce, which is very good, but my Maryland heritage would not allow me to put it on the crabcake. Don’t let me stop you, however.  

Pork Ribs and PastaRigatoni Pasta and Pork Ribs 

Old World Style Tender Pork Ribs Slow Cooked in Our Homemade Tomato Sauce with Fresh Basil Olive Oil and Romano Cheese Served over Imported Rigatoni Pasta 

The ribs are slow cooked, and the tender pork slides easily off the bone. The meat is very tender and tasty. Joe takes two days to prepare this fabulous dish. The sauce is thick, rich, and complex. 

Get here early for the specials. They sell out quickly (I got the last serving, which Joe saved for me). This dish has already earned a place on my coveted Best dishes of 2014 List.  

Tiramisu and Espresso

Tiramisu and Espresso


Strictly speaking, Tiramisu is not on the specials list. It is always available. It is special to me. The taste explodes onto my perspicacious palate.  

This Tiramisu won (by far — I was one of seven judges) the desserts category at the Fourth Annual Taste of Rio Rancho in February 2014. That makes it special to me.  

See you again, Joe. Soon as my waistline will allow. Ciao.

Joe Guzzardi of Joe’s Pasta House talks to The Visionaries

 Joe’s Pasta House


Larry and Kassie

Larry and Kassie

(505) 892-3333


Rio Rancho 

3201 Southern Blvd SE
Rio Rancho, NM 87124

Joe's HoursWebsite 
View the menu

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Posted in Honorable Mention, Italian, Seafood, Steaks | 1 Comment