Harry's Roadhouse fires on all cylinders with sensational specials and a menu for all - Albuquerque Journal

Harry’s Roadhouse fires on all cylinders with sensational specials and a menu for all

Beef Fajitas Special at Harry’s Roadhouse. (Heather Hunter/For the Journal)

When a restaurant has three decades’ experience and a shining reputation, you can rest assured the business is running on all cylinders. You can also bet the owners are visible, that ingredients are never questionable in quality, and you can bet the food is spot-on. In addition to a wildly diverse menu, this beloved local watering hole, gathering spot and restaurant also features a rotating handful of weekly specials. Most of the specials are so sensational, you’ll check the menu on the regular and hope your favorite dishes show up again and again.

Carefully positioned away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, Harry’s Roadhouse sits along Old Las Vegas Highway near El Gancho. But don’t think this short jaunt from the center of town means there won’t be a wait. Accept this reality as a confirmation that you have good taste.

One of the city’s most revered casual dining establishments, Harry’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and hits the spot for everyday meals and special occasions. Harry Shapiro, his wife, Peyton Young, and the talented kitchen and front-of-the-house team serve up a ton of homemade food that is consistently creative, well-priced and well-seasoned. This is home cooked food enjoyed in and with the benefits of a very busy restaurant.

And a very colorful restaurant. Just as the regular menu and specials are comprised of global dishes, the quirky rambling and cool space feels piecemealed together as Harry’s grew in popularity. “The original space was a gas station,” says general manager Kathleen O’Brien, who has been working at Harry’s for a whopping 23 years. “And then they added the front room with the counter and the bar was the garage – and there is still a hydraulic lift under the cement. When this space was formerly the Nifty Café, probably its most famous iteration, Sam Shepard used to read poetry.” Oh, the stories this place could tell.

Whether you seek New Mexican, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean, African or Asian cuisines, hearty or healthy dishes and seriously solid desserts, including plenty of gluten-free options, Harry’s Roadhouse is here to serve and please. And they do. This buzzy restaurant often feels like the “Cheers” of Santa Fe – where you see people you know and where the staff often call regulars by name.

Vegetarian Michalada Torta with French Fries and Cole Slaw at Harry’s Roadhouse. (Heather Hunter/For the Journal)

Known for sensational margaritas, and we tried two – Blood Orange ($10.75) and the House ($9.25). Served in a small shaker with a strainer and salt rimmed glass, the margaritas are a magically balanced combination of sweet, tart and stout and promise to light up your night.

While I appreciate Harry’s regular menu as it offers something for everyone, including standards such as Buffalo Burger with homemade French fries ($16.25), Turkey Meatloaf ($14.95) and the Buddha Bowl ($13.75), a favorite for vegans and vegetarians, it is the specials that are truly, well, yes, special. Each week, Harry’s rolls out five inspired entrees, a special appetizer and desserts.

On the night we visited, the specials were so enchanting, we struggled to zero in on two entrees, but happily settled on the Bahian Seafood Stew ($19.95) and the Veggie Relleno ($13.25), and started with the Smoked Trout Cakes ($9.25), the appetizer special, a stellar choice. Two small, four-bite-sized cakes are placed on salad greens with a side of crunchy Everlasting Slaw and tartar sauce. This was an ideal starter to set the stage for our sturdy and savory entrees.

My dining companion and I fought over the Bahian Seafood Stew ($19.95). Loads of tender seafood – rock cod, squid, shrimp, clams and mussels – are featured in this South American dish where the kitchen shows off its culinary prowess. O’Brien shares, “Bahia is a section of Brazil, where many African slaves relocated. This dish has the fusion of both cultures and influences of Creole as well. The base features a house made fish stock simmered with coconut milk, peanuts, tomato, onion, garlic, habanero chile and green bell peppers.” Served with white rice, fried kale and crispy plantain chips, this is a crispy, salty, spicy dish you don’t want to end.

One of my favorite salsas at Harry’s is the bricklayer salsa. The Veggie Relleno ($13.25) with bricklayer salsa was a special and I didn’t think twice. A roasted poblano is stuffed with quinoa and assorted chopped vegetables and a generous dousing of bricklayer salsa. A jicama slaw serves to bring a welcome bit of acid to this light and healthy dish.

The New York Strip Beef Fajitas ($20.95) was a great take-away choice as it was easily reheated and enjoyed by a friend who was unable to join us in-person. He says, “The steak was nicely grilled, medium-rare, tender and a generou

Harry Roadhouse’s Gluten-Free Tahini Brownie and Caramel Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. (Heather Hunter/For the Journal)

s portion. And the green peppers were also smokey. I prefer the red salsa because it had a kick to it. And the pinto beans were delicious.”

When I returned for a late Sunday afternoon lunch, I stumbled into the bar and enjoyed great service from Ruth, who wears a big smile and offers a blend of sassy and confident service. She happily granted my request of no chicken but extra vegetables on the special Michalada Torta ($14.25). The torta arrived with a layer of beans, guacamole, rajas (poblano peppers), onions, sauteed spinach and a thin layer of cheese. Served with a side of french fries and a few bites of Everlasting Cole Slaw, and I ate every bite.

Because there is a significant amount of intention placed on the dessert menu, with assorted options and gluten-free items as well, dessert is mandatory. There are 10 items on the dessert menu which include a few gluten-free options, and five weekly dessert specials. The gluten-free Tahini Brownie ($5.50) is a rich, soft and decadent dark chocolate treat that is even better with a scoop of ice cream. The Chocolate Cream Pie ($6.75) is a large slab of a thin, flaky crust is topped with equal parts dark chocolate pudding and whipped cream decorated with chocolate shavings. Whatever your sweet tooth craves, Harry’s has something to soothe it.

But what I really love about Harry’s is that everyone can eat there – seafood lovers to carnivores, vegetarians to gluten-free diners. And all without being stuffy or in your face. Appreciated by a wide swath of Santa Feans and tourists as a go-to spot for whenever and whatever you want to eat, Harry’s never shuts their doors during the day, and there is rarely a lull in the action. Those who know, know. Harry’s is the place to go.

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