Tag Archives: Dining

Pete’s Restaurant – Belen, New Mexico

Real New Mexican Food

During an Internet search I found multiple references to Pete’s restaurant in Belen; reviewers recommending the real New Mexican cuisine. No Tex-Mex here.petes-exterior

Pete’s stands across the street from the historic Harvey House next to the busy Belen railyard.

Founded by Pete  Torres in 1949, the restaurant follows his philosophy sixty years later. Pete believed chile was basic to New Mexico. He valued authenticity – his recipes are followed closely using fresh ingredients, and consistency of what the his customers receive.

Having skipped lunch we’re eager to dig into the crunchy tortilla chips and spicy salsa – highly recommended by Bob. The chile relleno plate entices Bob and fulfills expectations with perfect crisp rellenos, rice, beans, dinner salad and sopapillas.


Pete's Chile Rellenos

The staff willingly met my request to make a substitution on the stuffed sopapilla entree. I wanted to try both the chicken and beef instead of two of the same. They came smothered with green chile and accompanied with a choice of rice or beans. Flavors were exactly what I’d looked forward to. The spiced ground beef impacts intense but well balanced flavors. I’m certain it would make a great taco. Just planning ahead to my next visit.

I evesdrop on a table of locals discussing the high quality of Pete’s burgers. No doubt they’re good but I’m sticking with traditional New Mexican.

Too full for dessert but interested in the pineapple cream pie we ordered one slice to go. The yummy bedtime snack makes us wonder why we’ve never before heard of pineapple cream pie.

We agree with Pete’s motto, “We’re not the best because we’re the oldest; we’re the oldest because we’re the best.”

When You Go: Pete’s Restaurant, 105 North 1st Street, Belen, NM, 505-864-4811.

Russell’s Travel Center – Springer, New Mexico

I-25 Exit 419

pink-thunderbirdI’m not a truck stop aficionado but Russell’s Truck Stop four miles north of Springer, New Mexico merits a visit. Actually I believe the more correct term is Travel Center. A few days before our trip the March issue of New Mexico magazine arrived with a feature on Springer. An interior picture of Russell’s caught my eye and I vowed to stop on our way south. The magazine didn’t identify exactly where to find Russell’s, we went sailing by at 75 mph, had to go four miles to the next exit and head back north.

Russell’s most unique feature is the four 1950s convertibles on  display among the Subways, snack foods and souvenirs. The pristine paint jobs and shiny chrome takes me back to my teenage years. The Chevy Bel Air recalls dates at the drive-in movies and Steak ‘n Shake.

cars-big-and-smallA clerk tells me that the owner of Russell’s started with just a couple of old cars but now has bout 35, mostly convertibles and mostly from the 50s. She says he’s building another truck stop on I-40 near the New Mexico / Texas border housing about two dozen of his collection. Almost as much fun as the convertibles is the row of peddle cars and firetrucks from the same era.

We’ve planned a late breakfast at Russell’s. The full-service restaurant, like everything else here is spotless. The breakfast quesadilla sounds interesting and we decide to split one. Wedged between two large flour tortillas are scrambled eggs, sausage (one could also choose bacon or ham), jack cheese, and green chile, grilled until crisp but not dry. Salsa, sour cream and a plate of hash browns accompanied the quesadilla. Very tasty and we’re both satisfied without being stuffed.

betty-boop-lampWe note the clientele as almost an equal mix of local rangers solving the world’s problems over coffee, over-the-road drivers and travelers. After breakfast Bob browses the trucker supplies while I take pictures of rhinestone studded purses, and Coke and Betty Boop memorabilia. In addition to the restaurant there’s also a Subway deli and an ice cream counter all under the same roof. I’m impressed with the fresh flower bouquets in the Ladies restroom.

travel-centerTourists and truckers will find all the amenities they expect from a good travel center plus a bit of nostalgia at the I-25 exit 419 in Northern New Mexico. Don’t fly by, stop for a visit to Russell’s.

TooJay’s Gourmet Deli – Florida

Comfort Food – and, So Much More

When we’re in southeast Florida and need comfort food or want a comfortable setting at the end of a hard day TooJay’s is never far away. Thankfully! It’s dependable, it’s consistent, it’s good!!toojays-door

Comfort can come in a crock of French onion soup, a caesar salad, Mom’s meatloaf or a traditional turkey dinner. Equally well done are classic deli dishes  – hot pastrami, nova salmon on a bagel, blintzes and matzo ball soup. Oh, I can’t forget their rye bread.

On our latest trip we tried two of TooJay’s Gourmet Specialties. Judy oohed and aahed over the crabmeat stuffed tilapia; baked to perfection and topped with a rich francaise sauce. Served over rice pilaf and fresh veggie of the day – lovely tender asparagus spears. I opted for a chicken and portabella mushroom marsala with roasted potatoes and asparagus. Soup or salad accompany dinner along with a plate of  rye bread – and plenty of butter. We both chose salad with blue cheese dressing, they came fresh and crisp. Servings were generous with half of each entree going into to go boxes. Judy oohed and aahed just as much when she feasted on the leftover tilapia. Our waitress was attentive without being invasive.


I’ve saved the best till last. TooJay’s Ultimate Combination – slices of three of their most popular cakes; banana dream, carrot and chocolate layer. As the menu says this is the ultimate dessert. Perfect for sharing, if you’re feeling generous. We order the “Ultimate” to go. For the price of $5.25 I expect thin slices of cake. When I opened the box I was amazed at the big thick pieces. I had a very bites every evening for almost a week. The banana dream truly was a dream, too bad I’ll have to wait until the next Florida trip for another slice.

Deli sandwiches, gourmet dinners and delectable desserts – TooJay’s defines comfort and so much more.

When You Go: You’ll find more than two dozen TooJay’s scattered around mid and south Florida. We like the one in Jupiter’s Bluffs Shopping Center. TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as carry-out and delivery

The Sunnyside Cafe – Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Looking on the Sunny Side

sunnyside-cafeI want to like the Sunnyside Cafe in Highlands Ranch. It’s a couple of miles from home, locally owned with fair prices. After our first visit today I’m on the fence. Maybe everyone was tired at 1pm but that shouldn’t be our problem. We were seated promptly but without a great deal of warmth. The waitress mirrored the same behavior, efficient for the most part but not many smiles.

Bob and I both ordered sandwiches accompanied by our choice of fresh fruit, french fries, cottage cheese, house potatoes, onion rings, sweet potato  fries, soup or salad – a nice variety. Bob went for the BLT and fresh fruit. I ordered the chicken salad sandwich with sweet potato fries. The toasted whole wheat bread came topped with apple slices and chopped chicken mixed with grapes, walnuts and green onions in a light dressing. It was a generous helping and tasty if not outstanding. The sweet potato fries were nicely seasoned but not very warm, by the time I was done eating some were hard as tree twigs. Bob judged his sandwich lower with a “I wouldn’t order it again” rating. The bacon was extremely hard, not crisp – probably prepared in advance and allowed to dry out. The dish of fruit was fresh not canned or frozen. Ice tea acceptable but wasn’t refilled until we were presented with the bill.sunnyside-sandwich1

The Sunnyside has an extensive breakfast menu that is available from opening until the 2pm closing. Perhaps our mistake was selecting sandwiches. If breakfast is the specialty, stick with breakfast – scrambles, skillets, omelettes, benedicts, south of the border selections, plus traditional fare such as biscuits and gravy or hash and eggs. Gravies, soups, dressings and desserts are made from scratch in-house. Once again, we missed the specialties – our mistake.

The restaurant opens for breakfast and lunch daily and on Saturday night for dinner and live local jazz. There is a full bar. Sunnyside originated in La Puente, California in 1980 and the interior mildly reflects a  California/Mexican decor.

We will return to Sunnyside Cafe for breakfast and another chance to show us friendly service and quality food. I’m still straddling the fence but trying to look on the sunny side.

Los Dos Potrillos – Centennial, Colorado

Nacho Nirvana


Imagine a great chile relleno – a crispy wrap around a snappy chile filled with smooth, quality Mexican cheese, sliced into bite-sized pieces. Imagine a great plate of nachos topped with a fresh zippy salsa. Now, imagine combining the two. Chile Relleno Nachos – Nacho Nirvana!

I’ve heard about this appetizer served at Los Dos Portillos in Centennial, Colorado. With an urge for Mexican food I talk Bob into heading to County Line Road and Holly. From the exterior Los Dos Portillos looks totally unassuming, it sits in the middle of a strip mall that includes a New York pizza place, a Thai cafe, childcare center and sports bar. The mall has its back to busy County Line – customers do not just stumble on this site. 

We arrive a little before 5pm and ask about the early dining special. The current feature includes a plate of the chile relleno nachos and two combination plates for $15.99. Such a deal! The nachos alone are usually $8.95 and combinations $10+ each. A well blended margarita, on the rocks with ice, costs just $3.95.

We dig in as soon as the nachos arrive, there’s immediate audible satisfaction. YUM! Bob ordered Combo #12 of beef burrito, beef enchilada and one beef taco. They happily substitute shredded beef in the burrito for ground beef at no additional charge. I opted for #13 of chicken enchilada, chile relleno, taco with rice and beans. We finish the plate of nachos but weren’t as successful with the combos. About half came home, enough for another meal. Pillowy sopapillas capped the meal.

By 6pm only  a couple of tables weren’t filled with hungry families. Even on a snowy February evening returning customers know Los Dos Portillos is worth the effort. One can expect a wait on weekend evenings. Service is efficient if sometimes impersonable. My only niggle is that the entrees came too quickly after the nachos were served, I would have liked to have had more time to enjoy the nachos.

We’ve always been enchanted with the shredded beef burrito, however I think a platter of chile relleno nachos, an order of guacamole and drinks would completely satisfy – nirvana.

When You Go: Los Dos Potrillos, 8251 S. Holly Street, Centennial, CO, 720-529-0299 and 10065 W. San Juan Way, Littleton, 303-948-1552. Open daily from 9am. Menu available online.

Brown Palace Hotel – Denver, Colorado

“Affairs of the Heart” Tours

brown-palace-exteriorHistoric tours of Denver’s venerable Brown Palace Hotel focus on “Affairs of the Heart” during February. Oh, the tales Debra Faulkner, hotel historian and archivist, has to tell. After 117 years the “Brown” reveals stories of intrigue, romance, love triangles and even murder. Public tours are offered every Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm and last 45-60 minutes. Tours are free, however reservations are required.

Besides “Affairs of the Heart” and general history tours, specialized  themes include a presidential tour (Every U.S. president  since Teddy Roosevelt in 1905, with the exception of Calvin Coolidge, has visited The Brown Palace.), an architectural tour and the ever-popular ghost tour (October tours often fill to capacity). Groups of 10 or more must make arrangements for a private tour. Private tours – for a fee – can be arranged for those requiring a time outside of the normal scheduled tours.

brown-palace-lobby-teaI suggest making reservations for Afternoon Tea following your tour. Served in the eight-story atrium lobby the traditional afternoon ritual includes tea sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream shipped directly from England and tea pastries. All accompanied by a harpist or pianist. 

Is your valentine a chocoholic? If so, make reservations at the hotel’s elegant Palace Arms restaurant for a special Valentine’s Day dinner. Thanawat Bates, executive sous chef, has created a six course decadent dinner ($150/couple + tax and gratuity) with chocolate incorporated in each course.

Extend the celebration to Sunday, February 15th, with Ellyngton’s Dom Perignon Sunday Brunch. An extensive buffet offers selections from waffles to sushi and incredible desserts. Prices start at $54.95 per person.

Affairs of the heart isn’t limited to Valentine’s Day, the Brown Palace offers specials and packages for romantics year round. Check the website to find the right one for your occasion – Cupid’s Cuddle, Royal Romance, Light Up the Night or Tranquility With a Twist. For spur of the moment getaways try On A Whim. With the fine dining options, room service and pampering at The Spa at the Brown Palace you may never what to leave.

When You Go: Brown Palace Hotel, 321 17th Street, Denver, Colorado. 

Ling & Louie’s – Denver, Colorado

Ling & Louie’s

Asian Bar and Grill

While in Scottsdale a couple of years ago we visited Thaifoon for dinner. We loved every bite and left licking our lips. In the midst of planning our next Arizona trip Bob recalled that yummy evening. Checking the Scottsdale CVB website I discovered Thaifoon was history. Yet, the restaurateur, Randy Schoch, behind Thaifoon is also the founder of Ling & Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill. The concept being a fusion of the best traditions from the Far East and the West. The good news was we didn’t have to wait until we made it to Arizona. Denver has two Ling & Louie’s, one downtown and one in the new Northfield Stapleton shopping district.

ling-signAfter a tour of a nearby wildlife refuge we tried the Northfield Ling & Louie’s for lunch. A friendly greeting and immediate seating started everything off on a pleasant note. Our booth was against the wall separating the dining room from the kitchen; the top half was a frosted glass water wall. The gentle flowing water sound hid any kitchen noise. The west wall was all windows looking onto the patio and landscaped grounds.

 We both ordered fresh-squeezed limeade – refreshing with just the right balance of sweet and citrus tang. We ordered from the Chop Chop Lunch menu with entrees at $8.99. I choose the Orange Peel Chicken, described as crispy chicken stir-fried in a citrus-soy sauce with fresh orange peel and mild chilies, on a bed of crispy spinach. Bob selected Ling’s Sweet & Sour Pork – crispy pork tenderloin wok-tossed with lings-orange-chickendiced pineapple, red peppers and a sweet citrus sauce. Brown or jasmine rice accompanied both dishes. The orange flavor was very evident in my chicken nicely blended with the mild chilies, a little zip but certainly not spicy hot. I liked that the waitress brought two plates when she first approached the table, we were prepared to share. We enjoyed generous servings of both entrees and still boxed some to go.

Lunch was very good, not quite was outstanding as we remembered from Thaifoon but memory often plays that trick. We will gladly return to try Firecracker Chicken with Broccoli, Korean Sizzling Salmon or Evil Jungle Princess Shrimp

When You Go: Ling & Louie’s,8354 Northfield Blvd., Suite 1710, Denver. Hours Sunday – Thursday 11am – 9pm, Friday & Saturday 11am – 10pm. Happy Hour 3:30-6:30 daily. The majority of dinner entrees are priced in the mid-teens.

Additional locations: Downtown Denver in the Tabor Center, 1201 16th Street and Scottsdale in the Shops at 9400, 9397 E. Shea Blvd.

Hotel Monaco – Denver, Colorado

“Travel + Leisure’s Top 500 Hotels List”

Denver’s Hotel Monaco

hotel-monaco-lobby2One of eight Colorado hotels named to Travel + Leisure magazine’s “Top 500 Hotels.” This is the fourth award Denver’s Hotel Monaco has received in the magazine in six years. “This honor speaks to Hotel Monaco Denver’s ability to create a stylish and sophisticated hotel stay, brimming with warmth and uniqueness,” said Von de Luna, general manager at Hotel Monaco Denver.

Inclusion on the Top 500 hotel list is determined by reporters, editors, readers and survey results from around the country conducted by Travel + Leisure magazine.  The hotels included have been evaluated based on criteria such as differentiating characteristics, the best rooms to book and specialty services, amenities and perks offered.

Ten reasons to stay at Hotel Monaco Denver, a Kimpton boutique hotel:

  • Hosted evening wine reception, a chance to relax and unwind after a busy day with complimentary chair massages by the Renaissance Aveda Spa & Salon and appetizers by Panzano
  • Panzano Restaurant, featuring contemporary Northern Italian Cuisine
  • Full-service on-site Renaissance Aveda Spa and Salon
  • Unique bath menu, to personalize your bath experience.
  • “Mind, Body, Spa” in-room wellness program, with the Yoga Channel on every TV and complimentary yoga accessories to use during your stay
  • hotel-monaco-suite4Bring your pet with you –  a pet friendly hotel
  • Complimentary pet goldfish delivered to your guestroom upon request
  • “Tall rooms” available, featuring extra-long beds and heightened showerheads
  • Themed Suites: “Imagine” – the John Lennon Suite,  “Seven Steps to Heaven” – the Miles Davis Suite, “Rock” – the 60’s Classic Artists Suite, “Step into Wonderland” – the Grace slick Suite
  • Outstanding, personalized service

When You Go: Hotel Monaco, 1717 Champa Street, Denver.

Bud’s Bar – Sedalia, Colorado

NO French Fries, Dammit!!


 No question about it – there are NO French Fries at Bud’s Bar in Sedalia, Colorado. Actually the options are simple – do you want a hamburger ($3.25) or cheeseburger $3.50)? Single or double ($5 & $5.50)? That’s it. The burgers are served with pickles, onions and chips along with squeeze bottles of mustard and ketchup. As the menu says, “What more do you want at these prices!!”

 This basic formula has worked for Bud’s since 1948. We’ve heard of the popular bar for years and years yet have never stopped in Sedalia to try Bud’s burgers.buds-burger

On this gorgeous last day of January we went exploring and dropped in for lunch. The only seats available were stools at the bar, which felt just right for propping my elbows on the bar and biting into a hot, juicy cheeseburger. And, it was just off the grill hot, definitely not precooked.

buds-place1In addition to bar seating there are a dozen tables and booths – today filled with families, teens, Harley bikers and gray-haired geezers. Nancy was working behind the bar this afternoon. The local sitting next to Bob informed us, “She’s been my therapist for years.”

Exactly as billed, Bud’s loyal following knows they’ll get served a good burger – and NO fries.

When You Go: Bud’s Bar, 5453 Manhart Street, (just look for all the cars and cycles in town), Sedalia, 303-688-9967. Opens daily at 10am.

Cafe de France – Littleton, Colorado

Cafe de France – Aspen Grove Lifestyle Center


Stopped at Cafe de France in the Aspen Grove Lifestyle Center on South Santa Fe Drive for lunch. We visited a previous location in Highlands Ranch several times before that location was closed. The same friendly greeting welcomed us. The cafe is open from 7 am – 9 pm daily. I appreciate restaurants that serve all afternoon since I frequently want a meal at 3 pm. Our waitress said you can order breakfast during the entire day; helpful to know if bacon and eggs or waffles sounds good for dinner some evening.

Bob ordered the pastrami croissant. The fresh croissant was topped with lettuce a thick stack of pastrami and topped with melted Swiss cheese. The sandwich was served with crisp potato chips and chunks of watermelon. I chose the Santa Fe Quiche – a generous slice of ham and cheese quiche topped with a green chili sauce. The pastry was rich and flaky. The sauce was a disappointment, I will select a different quiche in the future. A tossed salad and watermelon accompanied the quiche. Although neither of  us ordered one today we recommend the Croissant burgers.pastrimi-croissant

We are both ice tea drinkers but did not like the tea served at the previous location and quit ordering it. Bob’s tea today tasted fresh made and was up to our standards. A dessert case filled with cakes, pastries and cookies tempted mightily but we resisted.

The owner or manager – I don’t know which – likes to greet each customer and thank them as they leave. This is often done from the other end of the restaurant. He’s a lively person and communications with staff tends to be loud. I would find it more comfortable if he toned it down letting us continue our own conversations.

Food is fresh, service prompt, location convenient, comfortable interior – we’ll be back.

When You Go: Cafe de France, 7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, 303-347-2424.