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Ezra's Place: Bowling for brunch
Food/Drink - Review
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Ezra’s Place rolls out one tasty entrée after another during family dining outing
Photo: Wes Naman
By Neal Anderson

Ezra’s Place kept cropping up when friends and I were discussing those off-the-beaten-path places in the city where you can score a great meal at a great price.

A pal raved about a place in a bowling alley on North Fourth that he and his wife frequented after church. It serves terrific pancakes that are to-die-for, he said. Our neighbors also make Ezra’s a frequent dining stop, and they particularly love the restaurant’s twist on New Mexican favorites. Of course, the off-kilter venue was mentioned as much as the compliments for its cuisine.
An online search of dining sites revealed that Ezra’s is the brainchild of Sophia’s Place owner/chef Dennis Apodaca. This made me even more eager to check it out. A few years back, I found Sophia’s savory treats eclipsed the usual noontime fare you get around town, even if it meant you were going to experience a “leisurely lunch.” Sophia’s followers also know that Ezra’s isn’t located too far from its culinary sibling on Fourth Street in the North Valley.
On a late Sunday morning, with family in tow (a wife not too eager to cook and two kids very eager to forgo cold cereal), I headed out to Ezra’s. We found Lucky 66 Bowl without too much trouble, but Ezra’s distinctive, graffiti-style signage on the building’s wall isn’t visible when driving northbound. No problem. Just find the bowling alley and walk up the ramp to the restaurant’s entrance.

Photo: Wes Naman
To my surprise, Ezra’s wasn’t jampacked. Either we had missed the morning rush or a holiday weekend meant fewer customers. So the quiet atmosphere proved a definite plus. And yes, you could spy the bowling lanes below through large plate-glass windows. But once we sat down it was easy to forget the 10-pin alley below. Ezra’s original decor seems to be your standard ’80s/’90s Southwestern style (we even had a grouping of kachina dolls behind our booth), but the staff has dressed up the space with funky brightly colored, funky paintings. Small bouquets of tiny blossoms even graced the tables — a nice touch, especially on a Sunday morning.

But it was time to turn our attention to Ezra’s food. We perused the specials board and the lunch/brunch menu as one server quickly delivered our beverage orders. The menu and specials board also delivered some good news: Everything cost between $9 and $12. After ordering, we didn’t have to wait too long before our personable and efficient server delivered our quartet of brunch/lunch orders.

Photo: Wes Naman
My daughter’s Steak Sandwich ($10) made a bit of a dramatic entrance. An Alps-size portion of fresh, hot shoestring potatoes came heaped on the main event of beef slices, tomatoes, greens and nutty Manchego cheese on chewy sourdough bread. Her teenage appetite found it flavorful but just a bit intimidating, and she did her best to devour the fries.
I couldn’t resist the Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes but opted for the half order ($5) figuring that I would be stuffed after spying another diner’s full stack. Now, I love pancakes — from IHOP and homemade flapjacks to Swedish-style pancakes with lingonberry preserves — but Apodaca’s version truly took the, um, “cake.” One forkful and I was in love. Apricot butter and a small side of maple syrup perfectly complemented the two large pancakes’ fluffy texture and sweet but not cloying flavor. What’s not to like about making your main meal a dessert with a large cup of mellow coffee?

My wife had her sights set on the Crab Benedict ($11), and her choice won us over. The dish’s spicy seasoning blended terrifically with the seafood flavor and the subtle hollandaise sauce. Petite dollops of hot sauce also gave it an extra kick. When I eagerly downed two large bites, I couldn’t tell if the crab was fresh or frozen, and she found the crab just a touch greasy, although that didn’t register with me. Perhaps I was still swooning in pancake heaven. My wife is also the first to admit she’s not the biggest asparagus fan, so I was impressed when even she found the side of crisp yet tender stalks yummy. Spicy potatoes and salad greens rounded out her plate.

In many families, it seems that the youngest diner’s eyes are always bigger than his or her stomach. My meat-loving 7-year-old is no exception. He ordered the steak and eggs special ($12) and although he did his best, he needed the family to help him out. The steak was cooked to a juicy medium, and a fluffy fold of scrambled eggs, well-seasoned pintos, spicy potatoes and side of salad greens with a piquant house dressing made this even more of a substantial meal. Another winning strike for Ezra’s.

A wonderful Sunday brunch already has us making dinner plans for Ezra’s. I’m eager to try the Grilled Quail ($10) with quince puree or the Grilled Filet Mignon ($18) that’s served with blue cheese cream, spinach and roasted potatoes. But how can you argue with the grilled salmon that also features black beans, avocado creme and a calabacita relleno? Or a trio of desserts, including vanilla pots de creme? And what about a week day lunch?
Maybe we’ll bowl a few frames after chowing down at this new local favorite.

Ezra’s Place
6132 4th NW, 505.344.1917
Hours: 11a-9p, Tue.-Fri.; 9a-9p, Sat.; 9a-2p Sun.

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