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Sophia's Place/Ezra's Place, Albuquerque, NM

We discovered Sophia's thanks to Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. So far Guy has never steered us wrong—we also like the other three places we've tried: Standard Diner and Monte Cristo Steakhouse in Albuquerque and Tuneup Cafe in Santa Fe.

Dennis Apodaca, the owner, has a long and distinguished track record cooking on the line of some quite famous places, among them Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, La Casa Seña in Corrales, and Albuquerque's Artichoke Cafe.

It's a small place, although in season there is also abundant outdoor seating. The atmosphere is homey, not fancy, but I don't generally care about decor, especially when the food is this great.

The menu is on chalkboards; order at the counter and they'll bring the food to your table. I usually get their chef salad. The greens are as good as you'll find anywhere, and you can top it with beef, chicken, or one or more seafood selections; I often get scallops. Also recommend are any of the “eat like the locals” New Mexican fare: quesadillas, enchiladas, and such. Breakfasts are particularly amazing. On weekends they will often have the most phenomenal pancake option I've had in the state: blue corn pancakes with fresh fruit and piñon butter, and real maple syrup.

Dennis's son Ezra runs their other operation, which has the advantage of being open for dinner. I haven't seen a bay scallop omelet at Sophia's, but I've had it twice at Ezra's, and it is outstanding. Once they apologized that they were out of bay scallops and asked me if it would be okay if they used sea scallops—and there were at least six big ones in there. Ezra's is in another homey space, part of a bowling alley, but the bowling noises are barely audible. This space gave birth many years ago to Sadie's, another popular New Mexican-style place, but Sadie's has since then built a much larger space just north of there.

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John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 2010/11/27 00:36:56