It’s like coming home

Sabroso Restaurant’s wood-fired stove draws new visitors and longtime patrons

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Eating at Sabroso Restaurant & Bar is not a typical restaurant experience, in which you feel like a “transaction.” Rather, diners are warmly greeted, served and fed –– as if they were guests in someone’s home.

“It’s the quality of the food I’m using,” says executive chef and general manager Dan Kostohryz. “By ‘quality ‘I mean it’s all natural. That is so important and I source local as much as I can. I’ve sourced all my proteins locally. For example, I use Four Daughters Ranch in Las Lunas for my beef. My lamb is very local from El Rito and Pork Kaiser Farms in Albuquerque.”

He notes that the restaurant’s reputation draws people to seek out Sabroso.

“We are really a steakhouse and I don’t try to be something we’re not. I keep it pretty simple,” says Kostohryz. “The pork shank is outstanding. It is slow-braised at 180 degrees. I’m doing that different than most –– with beer, granny smith apples and herbs. I braise the cooling liquid and puree it so it has the sweetness from the apples and the freshness of the herbs. Each piece is a pound and a half. It’s an impressive piece. It’s a huge pork shank.”

Kostohryz is from the Midwest and he has seen a lot of the feedlots, saying simply, “They’re terrible. All of the proteins I use are naturally and responsibly raised animals. I meet the farmers.”

He prepares many of the proteins classically and says, “The steaks speak for themselves. I have a wood-fired grill in the kitchen. It’s a beast, a big grill. I serve mostly prime cuts, but if not available, they are choice.”

The grill is fueled by local fruit wood when it’s available and mixed in with mostly mesquite from Texas.

“On a busy night, the grill is full with steaks. We start the fire in the back. We knock down the coals and pull the hot coals forward and then keep feeding it and rotating it like that,” he explains.

Kostohryz enjoys doing little twists with the steaks. For the New York Strips, he serves sides of porcini mushroom puree and roasted fingerling potatoes. “Simplicity goes a long way,” he notes. “There is a time and place for complexity.”

Kostohryz has been in the restaurant business for 33 years. “I’m having a blast. This is my whole life and this is my favorite job. Between the restaurant and the crew –– and Mike and Donna Mellinger, the owners.”

But don’t let this carnivore fool you. He is a softie with a sweet tooth. “Our desserts are the best in town. My pastry chef, Vanessa, is amazing. Her turtle cheesecake is probably the best cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life. And cheesecake is generally dense. Hers is light and fluffy. She does a bread pudding too –– and I have trouble with bread pudding because my mom made the best-ever. I’m not disappointed with Vanessa’s at all,” he says with a smile.

Since Kostohryz assumed his position in October 2016, there are several aspects of Sabroso that he loves. Among them is the history of the building. It is 150-plus years old and was originally a place of worship. Indeed, the lounge area still has the former church’s original stained glass windows.

Sabroso has an extensive award-winning wine list and four keg draft beers from Bosque Brewing in Albuquerque.

“We have the best cocktails in town,” says Kostohryz. “The pour is good and it’s the ingredients. All of our margaritas use hand-squeezed fresh lime. Our ‘El Jefe’ is our high-end margarita.”

If all of this good food and drink weren’t enough to draw you through Sabroso’s hand-carved wooden doors, there’s the added appeal of the live music acts.

Every Wednesday night, local favorite Jimmy Stadler plays an enormous range of covers and original songs. “He’s a human jukebox,” says Rick Romancito, Tempo editor of The Taos News.

Kostohryz says Stadler has been playing music at Sabroso for over 10 years. “He tells the crowd: ‘I’ll be here every Wednesday for the rest of my life.’ And we hope so. It’s so much fun. It’s his energy. I’ve never seen him stumped when people request a song from him.”

On Fridays, Laura Bulkin plays mellow tunes on piano. On Saturdays, jazz pianist Bob Andrews plays more high-energy tunes from New Orleans. And on Sundays, singer/songwriter Charlie Bensusen charms the crowd by singing in different languages such as French and Spanish.

The contours of the building are very organic and free-flowing; there’s not a lot of straight lines. The ceiling is paneled with wood planks and hand-hewn viga beams. There’s a lot of archways, custom furniture, sofas with pillows, and fabric lounge chairs. And original art decorates the walls; their new curator is Taos artist Pat Woodall.

“Everybody loves how it feels in here,” says Kostohryz. “It’s a charming building with paintings and murals on the wall. But it’s my staff; we have one of the best in town. We make people feel at home.”

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