Albuquerque (Los Ranchos), New Mexico, USA.
Walk to the back of the Los Ranchos Liquor Store and turn right. There’s a heavy metal door with a small grated opening. Knock and wait for a voice behind the door to demand, “What’s the password?”
Tonight the pass word is “Jacob Levinsky,” the name of a notorious Jewish mobster. The door swings open and we’re escorted into Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse, a veritable replica of a 1920’s speakeasy — and a seriously good, modern-day steakhouse.
This culinary gem is located just a few miles outside of Albuquerque in the little village of Los Robles. The mobster theme carries throughout the décor — black walls with dark glass sconces, tables covered with black tablecloths and tall crystal vases with a single red rose, waiters dressed in all black, art with images of Al Capone and Sonny Corleone.
Vernon’s is a theme restaurant that really pulls it off. It feels clubby and secretive, like you’ve been allowed into a place just for those in-the-know. And, in a way, you have been because, during the three years the restaurant has been operating, it’s only been in the past six months that they’ve begun to advertise or even have their number in the phone book! To dine at Vernon’s, you had to know someone who knew someone who told you about it.
All the skullduggery has paid off, as evidenced by the crowded tables on the Thursday night that we dined there. That and the fact that they serve some excellent steaks.
The menu is a vegetarian’s nightmare — rib eye (both 12 and 20 oz.), filet mignon, New York strip, prime rib, lamb chops, and pork. It’s all prime meat and cooked to perfection. My 12 oz. rib eye came juicy and tender, medium rare with a dollop of herb butter adding to the delicious calories. My neighbor’s lamb chops were similar — flavorful Colorado lamb, pink and juicy with just a hint of charcoal on the bones.
Dinners are served with the vegetable of the day, which was string beans almandine, and your choice of mashed potatoes three ways — wasabi, truffled, or loaded (cheese and bacon) — or new potatoes, baked potatoes, or wild rice. The emphasis at Venon’s is on the meat, so don’t expect the sides to be particularly inspired.
The exceptions are the excellent salads, which are generous
and fresh. The Chopped Salad was full of crisp, perfectly cut vegetables dressed with oil and vinegar. My Hidden Valley Salad was a large fistfull of baby greens, three big medallions of silky goat cheese, slices of tart Granny Smith apples, topped with chili candied walnuts. The creamy blue cheese salad dressing, which I requested on the side, came in a large gravy boat with big chunks of blue.
The Cream of Green Chile Chicken Soup was creamy and quite spicy with chunks of potato and chicken and the guest who ordered it seemed quite satisfied with it.
The wine list is extensive and even the coffee is smooth. The desserts, which included crème brulee, pumpkin cheese cake, a pecan silk, and a chocolate silk looked scrumptious, but the big portions of meat left us too full to indulge.
None of this swanky atmosphere or prime meat comes cheap. The most expensive entrée on the menu will set you back nearly $50; most dishes were closer to $30-40. For a fun night out in Albuquerque when you’ve got a yen for a good steak, realfoodtraveler recommends Vernon’s Hidden Steakhouse. — BH
Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse
6885 4th St. NW
Los Ranchos, New Mexico