Porter’s–Farmington, NM

Porter’s Restaurant & Smokehouse
2210 E. 20th St.
Farmington, NM
(505) 327-5979
Porter's

Porter’s


First of all, I want to clear up some confusion about what Porter’s is. The official name of the restaurant is “Porter’s Restaurant & Smokehouse.” When looking at different web sites I saw that it was everything from a steakhouse to an American restaurant to a barbecue restaurant. The answer is that it is all of these things under one roof, and I think they must be awfully busy preparing all these different types of food. After examining the menu, though, I asked one of the employees if this was a steakhouse that had barbecue or a BBQ restaurant that had steaks, inquiring about the restaurant’s true specialty and what is popular with local people. Her reply was that it was a barbecue restaurant that had steaks, keeping this in context that she was only saying what was most popular and not necessarily what was the best food.

A second question some may have may be “why was I in Farmington in the first place?” All right, this is probably not a question anyone has, but I will give an answer anyway. It is quite notable that Farmington has one of the last remaining K-Marts in New Mexico, and in fact in the entire country. Last year I visited the K-Mart in Roswell which has since closed, and it is very uncertain what will be the fate of the remaining stores. It seems that the K-Marts have items that you cannot find anywhere else because of the fact that they do not jettison items as quickly which are not the top sellers, while the typical big box stores do not have as much patience for anything which is not earning them the top profit margins. K-Mart has good items, but just ones that are harder to find.

Also pretty hard to find, though, is good barbecue. New Mexico has become one of the top barbecue states in recent years, but of course not all restaurants in any state are of equal quality.

I told the staff that I was from Oklahoma and that I had high standards for barbecue, and after the meal I let them know that this restaurant passes the test. I would classify it as Texas style barbecue rather than Oklahoma–two of their best items are beef ribs and brisket which are known as being Texas specialties. I could not pin down the origin of the sauce but it was more spicy than in most Oklahoma restaurants (and more spicy than most I have tasted in Austin).

Moreover, I found out that their most popular item was the beef ribs, and that people literally make trips from all four of the Four Corners states to eat it. This is not a reflection of there being very little competition, but the fact that these ribs are so good that really anyone would come here who had a reasonable means of doing so. I did not know any of this before coming to the restaurant, but I am glad I found out.

The staff also let me know that the beef is locally sourced, and I think that not only the beef BBQ but also the steaks are known to be of very high quality.

BBQ Plate

BBQ plate

BBQ plate with beef rib, sausage, and brisket

First of all, I should disclose that this was not my meal for the evening. Having previously eaten at El Bruno’s in Cuba, I had only samples of the meat while my friend and traveling companion (also named Steve) ate most of the meal. The BBQ plate includes three meats which are your choice, and you can choose side dishes as well. I do not remember whether Steve asked for recommendations or not, but I believe the rib and brisket are always his first choices at barbecue restaurants. I did not eat very much of any of them, but I thought all three meats were very good.

Of course I discovered that the Beef Rib is the restaurant’s specialty. This item is almost non-existent in Oklahoma, although I have had some recently in El Paso (which largely serves central Texas style BBQ). The beef rib at Porter’s included a very large portion of fat, but there was enough meat for both of us to cut off a reasonable serving and to be very satisfied (although I had a smaller appetite as was satisfied more easily). This was honestly the tenderest and most flavorful beef rib that I think I have ever eaten, and it was through asking the staff how they did this that I found out about the local sourcing of the meat.

The Brisket had a very good quality that I almost never get in Oklahoma, and which is not universal in the Texas barbecue world which includes El Paso. This was also a very good barbecued meat, which I would get as a supplement to the ribs (also in contrast to the rib’s high fat content, the brisket is very lean).

The Sausage was also very good, and I would say it was one of the best I have had anywhere. However, I am not that big a fan of BBQ sausage, so for me this was another item which took second place to the rib.

The sauce had a very good bite and in Oklahoma I would classify it as “spicy,” although it is not really at the level that New Mexicans think of as being extra spicy. The sauce went very well with the rib and sausage. For anyone who happens to see this blog before going to Porter’s, though, I would say to order the brisket plain with the sauce on the side. This brisket most likely would have been very good plain without any sauce, but I did not get to taste it this way.

The restaurant does give you a choice of whether you want sauce on the meat, on the side, or not included. I did like the sauce on the rib and the sausage.

Other Items
There is a popular buffet which I think includes all the BBQ items but not the steaks. I believe they also have regular meats which are not smoked on the menu and the buffet. The buffet is supposedly a bargain if you are fairly hungry. When I went the buffet was already closed (shortly before the restaurant’s closing time) but they did have the same type of soft serve ice cream machine I find at many barbecue restaurants in Oklahoma.

Summary
I did not have a large sample of this restaurant’s food, but I did try the beef rib which is what people “drive from Durango” in order to eat. This was an exceptional rib, and even more so because it had enough meat to satisfy what I would judge to be a normal meat portion when I consider the size of an average meal.

My other general recommendation is that prices here are extremely good for the amount and quality of food that you get.

There are other barbecue restaurants in Farmington that come up higher on the Yelp ranked list of restaurants, so I cannot say which one is actually the best. For beef ribs, though, it seems to be Porter’s.


Porter’s Web Site


RATING: 23

Cuisine: BBQ, Steaks
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Beer & Wine

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 6, 2019
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: Beef Ribs

Special Ratings
star 5 Beef Ribs
star 5 Brisket
star 5 Sausage

El Bruno’s–Cuba, NM

El Bruno’s Restaurante y Cantina
6453 Main St.
Cuba, NM
(575) 289-9429
El Bruno's

El Bruno’s


I have made two treks to Cuba, New Mexico in recent years in which I stopped to visit the famous El Bruno’s Restaurant (famous to me, at least, because I read about it on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog). The trips happened to be thirteen years apart, and in this time the original restaurant burned down and was relocated across the street (there is only one main road in Cuba, so you are technically correct when you say it is across “the street”).

On my first visit in 2006 I stopped to buy some salsa, but I was so impressed by the restaurant itself that I took photos of the restaurant and patio area to catalog its New Mexico style architecture and decor. I have included some photos from the old restaurant farther down on this page, and perhaps some readers will remember the original El Bruno’s. When I heard about how devastating the fire was, I was surprised that the mural from the old restaurant remained intact (and is shown in both the before and after photos). The new El Bruno’s has a pleasant patio area, but I am still a little saddened by the loss of the old one because it was such a special atmosphere.

El Bruno's front entrance area

El Bruno’s front entrance area

When El Bruno’s moved across the street I understand that it took over a former Tastee Freez, which is now the kitchen area. They expanded this area with the addition of a large dining room and patio area. El Bruno’s also has an Albuquerque location, but for anyone who goes to the restaurant in Cuba I think they will find the setting especially relaxing and enjoyable.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

They brought out the sopapillas with my meal before I could really dig into the chips and salsa. The chips and salsa were excellent, but especially notable to me were the very flavorful and fluffy Sopapillas.

Enchiladas

Red enchiladas

Red enchiladas with regular corn tortillas

There was a mix-up on my order because I ordered Enchiladas with blue corn tortillas but they came with the regular tortillas. They were happy to correct the mistake, and in the meantime I ended up with photos of both versions.

Blue corn enchiladas

Blue corn red enchiladas

The Blue Corn Red Enchiladas did not look much different outwardly, but the blue corn flavor was really excellent (for some reason they seemed to have more flavor than some others I had tried). In addition, I liked the fact that both these and the enchiladas with regular tortillas were served flat without the customer having to ask for it, and that the sopapillas were brought to the table at the beginning of the meal. These are important parts of what I conceive as traditional New Mexican cuisine.

The most important part, of course, was the chile. I decided to go with the red chile because this is almost always what I like best (and I believe the reviews indicated that this was the best one to order). I thought the flavor was very near the top of all the ones I had tried in New Mexico in recent years. I have not made it to The Shed in Santa Fe or some other restaurants where the chile might be a little better, but honestly I do not know how anyone could make it any better than at El Bruno’s. The sauce had a deep red color, it was spicy to just the right point, and the flavor seemed to include enough spices to make it interesting but it had nothing that detracted from the chile flavor. As far as I was concerned, these enchiladas gave me everything I could want in a New Mexican style meal.

The cheese was very good as well (something that cannot be taken for granted at all restaurants). Along with the excellent sopapillas, these enchiladas seemed perfect to me.

Meat sauce

Meat sauce in a side dish

There was one twist to my order, however. They asked if I wanted it with meat sauce, and I said no but please give me a little bit in a side dish so that I could try it. They also mentioned that more people ordered it with meat sauce than with the plain (vegetarian) sauce.

The above photo shows the small bowl they brought, and I tried it both in the bowl and on the enchiladas. According to the menu, the meat is the Herrera family’s favorite red pork chile recipe. I liked it in the bowl, but on top of the enchilada it changed the flavor so that other flavors did not come out as much, and I was glad that I had only ordered the meat sauce on the side. There are some restaurants where I think the meat sauce has a better flavor than the plain sauce (notably Mary & Tito’s in Albuquerque). At El Bruno’s, though, I definitely thought the regular red chile sauce was the one to get.

The beans and rice were excellent, but I was more focused on the sopapillas which really were an excellent enhancement to the enchiladas.

Photos of the Old Restaurant

The old El Bruno's

The old El Bruno’s

I took photos of the old restaurant in 2006 shortly before it was destroyed by a fire. This building was located on the east side of the highway, while the current building is across the street on the west side.

Mural

Mural at the old building

This mural fascinated me so much that I took a photo. Fortunately it survived the fire, and now is at the new restaurant.

The old patio

The patio at the old restaurant

The patio at the old restaurant seemed like a very relaxing place to eat a meal or spend some time, but at the time I was only able to buy some salsa and then be on the road again. Fortunately they were able to rebuild, and now have a restaurant in Albuquerque as well.

Other Notes
Enchiladas are the item I order at almost all New Mexican restaurants, so my rating of this restaurant reflects how I think the enchiladas compare with others I have tried. I did not try the green enchiladas, but they have good reviews (I just happen to prefer the red at most restaurants).

The red chile was spicier than many I have tried, to the point that sopapillas with honey caused a noticeable cooling of the mouth (the reason I do not wait until dessert to eat the sopapillas). However, the chile was definitely not insanely hot, and I think they did it just right not only on the flavor but also in its heat index. A wide range of items are listed on the menu, though, where it looks as if you can get different heat levels down to none at all if you wish.

Their salsa is for sale in bottles at their Cuba and Albuquerque locations.


El Bruno’s Web Site


RATING: 26

Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: Full Bar

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 6, 2019
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Blue Corn Red Enchiladas, Chips, Salsa, Sopapilla

Mexican Food Details

Chile Index: chile 4
Special Ratings
star 5 Red Enchiladas (Blue Corn)
star 5 Beans
star 5 Chips
star 5 Salsa
star 5 Sopapilla

Red Rock Deli–Albuquerque, NM

Red Rock Deli
2414 San Mateo Pl. N.E.
Albuquerque, NM
(505) 332-9656
Red Rock Deli

Red Rock Deli


Mark, the owner of Red Rock Deli, seems to be the eternal optimist. While I say Red Rock Deli is closed on Monday, the Red Rock Facebook page says it is “open Tuesday through Sunday.” When I found out he actually spends weekdays in Blanca, Colorado working at his other business (Red Rock General Store) he said he is excited about both business opportunities, and that he enjoys the commute between them every week!

Actually I should point out that Red Rock Deli in Albuquerque is run by Mark’s wife, and the General Store in Colorado is owned by other family members (who also have a deli in the store and serve Polish sandwiches as the one in Albuquerque does). The Albuquerque enterprise resulted from Mark’s desire to operate a full blown restaurant with sandwiches and complete dinner plates. The restaurant is based on food from Mark’s native Poland, but he points out that he loves food from other countries too, and includes menu items from such countries as Germany and Ukraine.

Displays in the store

Displays in the store featuring imported items from Europe

Red Rock is also a European style grocery store selling such items as sausages, pierogi, jellies and preserves from several countries, candy, cookies, and much more. Mark said he makes periodic trips to Chicago (I believe every three months) to buy sausages, etc., and items on the shelves and in the freezer are all well within their proper shelf lives. Apparently there is a very high demand for his European delicacies resulting in a high turnover of the product.

Red Rock Deli used to be located on the far east side of Albuquerque, but recently opened a new store and restaurant on San Mateo Place just north of Interstate 40. It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (closed on Mon.) and has table service for lunch and dinner as well as anything you would like to buy in the store to take home.

Pierogi

Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette

I was very happy for the opportunity to try Polish food for the first time since Maggie’s Cafe in Oklahoma City closed. I think if anyone had tried Maggie’s Polish specialties they would probably welcome the opportunity for more of the same as I did.

I immediately focused on two items at Red Rock Deli that corresponded to some of my favorites at Maggie’s–the stuffed cabbage (golabki at Maggie’s but I am not sure what it is called at Red Rock) and the pierogi. I think both would have been good choices, but my decision was swayed by the fact that the Russian Roulette pierogi plate had a sample of fillings with different flavors such as spinach, cabbage, sauerkraut, and potatoes with cheese. These are mostly evident only by cutting or biting into the individual dumplings to see what is inside (although I think the spinach one had a green color that could be seen through the dumpling). One of best parts of this plate was the variety, although I did like the spinach pierogi quite a bit.

Something especially recommended would be the optional onion and bacon sauce for the pierogi the restaurant makes in house.

I should note that they have frozen pierogi in the freezer section of the store which can be taken home, and I think these are also the ones served on the pierogi plate in the restaurant. Because of this I did not think the pierogi were the best items served at the restaurant, but the flavors were very good, especially with the onion and bacon sauce.

Art Wiener Schintzel

Art Wiener Schnitzel

Art Wiener Schnitzel

I was fortunate enough to be able to split two meals instead of just having my own, so I was treated to half of an excellent Wiener Schnitzel which I would say is the best item I tried. The meat was tender and the breading was excellent, as were the side dishes. The only comment I would make is to ask for a lemon slice to sprinkle on the schnitzel–to me this made it almost perfect (but the lemon is not provided unless you request it).

Potato salad and sauerkraut

Potato salad, sauerkraut, and German mustard

Of the three side dishes I thought the star was the Sauerkraut, which is made in house. This had the flavor I find in good versions of sauerkraut without the acid which is most pronounced in canned versions but which is also present is some home made varieties.

Although I was not a big fan of the Potato Salad my dining companion was, and I certainly did not dislike it in any way.

The German Mustard was very good but I did not find any items that were enhanced by adding mustard to it.

Sausage

Guinness beer brat

Guinness beer brat

On my visit to the new store I tried the Guinness Beer Brat with Sauerkraut. This is called “Double Barrel” on the menu because you get two of them, but since this was a snack for me rather than a full me I just tried a portion of one of them. This was enough, though, to convince me of the excellent flavor. Although I really liked the sauerkraut and the spicy brown mustard, the big attraction for me was the sausage itself, which made me think you can indeed get authentic European sausage in the Southwest.

The “General Store”
The new building, like the old one, is filled with display shelves stocked with imported food and other goods from Europe. While most of it looked very good and would be very useful if I knew how to cook, I decided I could at least get good use out of the sweet items that were available here but probably nowhere else that I knew about.

Cookies and candy

Cookies and candy from Red Rock Deli

These are several of the cookies and candy they have available, but buying these was a shot in the dark from the vast array of items that are available. All of them made very good snacks, and I did not try anything that I would not buy again.

Items Previously Sold at the Eastside Store
There is one special item I bought at the old store, though, but could not find at the new one (perhaps it was there and I missed it). This was one of the more expensive candies, but I thought it was the best.

Mella chocolate

Mella jelly in chocolate

The Mella Galaretka w Czekoladzie (jelly in chocolate) came with 16 rather small but very rich pieces of chocolate candy filled with orange flavored jelly. It reminded me of the old orange slice candy I used to enjoy when I was growing up, except that the one here has a slightly more liquid texture (like a jelly).

The Mella candies

The Mella candies

This is what the inside of the box looked like, and the 16 pieces lasted for a surprisingly long time. Even though I was taking a long time eating them in order to extend the time I could enjoy them, they stayed fresh for several months (they could not last indefinitely because they were too good not to be enjoyed).

I had never really explored the world of Polish chocolates before, but it turned out to be surprisingly worthwhile.


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Polish
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Mon.
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Aug. 6, 2019
Number of Visits: 2
Best Items: Schnitzel, Sauerkraut, Guinness Beer Brat

Special Ratings
star 5 Art Wiener Schnitzel
star 5 Guinness Beer Brat
star 5 Pierogi
star 5 Sauerkraut
star 5 Potato Salad