Rio Grande Tap Room and Grill

by

My wife and I recently had dinner at the Rio Grande Grill and Tap Room in Ruidoso, NM. Situated at about 7000′ in the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico, Ruidoso is a cool, high elevation oasis for those seeking to escape the heat of the Southwest. The tap room is on the left side of NM 48, four blocks north of the downtown district.

The Location

The front door empties you into an area where table seating and the bar meet. The tables and chairs were a solid dark wood and the lighting was subdued. The square shaped bar had more light in a vaulted ceiling area and was showing a World Cup match on the TV. Upon entering, the manager greeted us immediately and asked us where we would like to sit. We prefer to eat outside and were escorted to the second floor deck that is two thirds covered and one third open. There is a second floor seating area appointed with the same tables and chairs. There are no TV’s in that area. We chose to sit in the sun but quickly changed our minds as the New Mexico summer sun was just too intense. The ambiance outside was a little difficult with the whirr of hummingbirds interspersed with the heavy traffic from the road.

Our server attended us quickly and took our beer and appetizer order. Throughout our visit the service was competent but not polished (our server asked us about dessert when we were barely halfway through our entrees).

The Beer

Rio Grande/Sierra Blanca Brewing  is located about 140 miles away in Moriarty, NM. As the name implies it is a single brewery with two product lines ( I am a big fan of the Desert Pilsner). The Tap Room serves all of their regular brews, there were no seasonals on the beer menu. On this visit I had the Sierra Blanca Pale Ale with my appetizers and Outlaw Lager with my entree. My wife ordered the Nut Brown Ale. They all tasted very fresh; it is apparent that they are keeping the tap lines clean!  I have had the Pale Ale before and as I expected the tap version was much better than what I experienced with the six-pack I had purchased. The Outlaw Lager was a fine accompaniment to my pastrami sandwich, big enough flavor to compete with the sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard. The Nut Brown Ale is a Great American Beer Festival award winner and it tasted like it, lots of dark complexity with notes of coffee and chocolate. Seek that one out!  Our server seemed knowledgeable about the beer but didn’t seem to be an advocate for the product. Wine is also available but liquor is not.

The Food

Overall the menu is what you would expect from a grill; standard appetizer fare, burgers, steaks, grilled sandwiches (including some vegetarian choices) and salads. For appetizers we choose chips and salsa as well as bacon wrapped dates. The tortillas were freshly prepared and seasoned with lime salt, a nice touch. The salsa is house made and just over the line from mild into the medium range. Scoville Unit aficionados might scoff but we enjoyed it. The bacon wrapped dates were presented with a balsamic vinegar glaze/reduction. It appears that they were baked and not fried as the bacon was not crispy on all portions. Admittedly, crispier bacon would probably overshadow all other tastes on the plate but I prefer my bacon crispy.

For entrees my wife ordered the golden pear/walnut salad and I ordered The Yankee; pastrami with sauerkraut, swiss cheese and spicy brown mustard on pumpernickel. The salad arrived without the pears and upon correction the pears were obviously canned. My wife did enjoy the strawberries and the basil dressing and the portion was large. My sandwich was as nicely prepared as anybody could expect. The pumpernickel was pan toasted but remained moist inside the outer crust. The sauerkraut, cheese and mustard were all portioned correctly and all of the ingredients retained their individual presence. The pastrami was the weak link here but I am from the East Coast so my opinion is jaded. It was good, it just wasn’t the star of the show that I wanted.

The portion sizes on the appetizers and entrees were more than adequate so we did not order dessert

Overall Impression

We both agreed that the beer was very good but the food and service need some fine tuning. The Tap Room and Grill really need to make all of their servers dedicated ambassadors for their beer. Given that Ruidoso is visited by an extraordinary number of Texans they have a real opportunity to create demand back in that market when those tourists return home.

 

facebook; Rio Grand Grill & Tap Room

Twitter: