What makes a great program? Sustained excellence, of course.

We all can tick off the traditional powers. But try to think of a school that wasn’t on the radar then, and is now. That’s a tough list to make.

I was thinking about this the other day when a friend sent me a Wall Street Journal article about a restaurant in Albuquerque.

My first full-time job was at the Albuquerque Journal, and I happened to live around the corner from a cafe in the North Valley called Mary & Tito’s. I was working the 4-to-midnight shift on the news copy desk, and sharing a house with a guy named Steve, who was a waiter on a similar shift.

Needless to say, beer was consumed after work. Our first meal of the day was often lunch—at Mary & Tito’s.

In those days, Tito cooked up the chile—the best red and green chile around, but especially the green. Tito, who was outgoing, often did a monologue from the kitchen that we could enjoy in the cafe.

As anyone who has spent time in New Mexico will tell you, the key question in the Land of Enchantment is, “Red or green?’’

While Tito was cooking up the chile in the kitchen with his son-in-law, Mary was working the register. And their three daughters waited on tables.

Mary & Tito’s not only had great food. It had a pickle jar filled with water. A shot glass sat on the bottom. If you could drop a dime through the water into the shot glass, you won a taco dinner. If you could do it with a quarter, you won a combination plate. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.