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2015-05-13-1431539661-8896771-RangeCafeCows.jpgA cross-country road trip is accompanied by an endless parade of recognizable chain restaurants nestled at the ends of interstate off-ramps. Because there is something familiar and comforting about eating food with a known reputation, that's often welcome. But it's a fact. That well-known, chain-governed fast food fare or restaurant meal is going to taste pretty much the same no matter which state serves it up. Fortunately, there are some truly joyful alternatives, like the Range Café in Albuquerque, NM.

There are three Range Cafés, but anytime my husband and I pass through Albuquerque, we beeline for the one on Menaul Blvd.2015-05-13-1431539919-2750491-RangeCafeStoves.jpg Though it is not at the end of an off-ramp, it is just a hop, skip and a jump from one, providing easy off and easy on interstate access.

We first discovered this dining treasure a few years ago when we spent the night at an area hotel. We asked the desk clerk if she could recommend a good place for breakfast. The rest is history. We fell in love with this quirky local restaurant with its inventive décor and its delicious offerings.2015-05-13-1431539997-8439066-RangeCafeLargeTable.jpg Honestly, I don't know where they score their bacon, but it is extraordinarily scrumptious. I'm told they bake the high-quality slices, and perhaps that's the key to sealing in some of the rich flavor that gets left behind when bacon is pan-fried or grilled. Whatever they do, it seriously works.

The "range" concept is represented in living color by the many vintage toy stoves (ranges) that dot the walls, as well as by the 3-D murals and other décor that represent the western version of "range", as in "Home On the Range". Both concepts work to embody the vibe you get when dining there. It's like chowing down on a fresh meal by the campfire or filling your belly in Grandma's vintage kitchen. The experience is homey, tasty, and nostalgic. Fun fact: the original name of the restaurant was to be the same as the iconic song, "Home On the Range", but co-owner Tom Fenton thought that burly guys in pickup trucks just wouldn't be enticed to eat at someplace called "Home On the Range", so he and co-owner Matt DiGregory shortened it to "Range Café". The name fits perfectly.

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