Los Potrillos has horses, and lots of them. Horses are on its menus and on its walls, in its name and on its sign.
But why am I writing about Los Potrillos? It’s not new, and it didn’t just undergo a renovation or a change of ownership. I was led to Los Potrillos, like the proverbial horse to water, by the praise of others—and because I was out of excuses. That I can walk to it from my house makes it even more preposterous that it took me so long to get there.
I could make a meal out of the superb beans and rice at Los Potrillos, and intend to do so during future states of autumnal grace, dietary minimalism and bankruptcy. The charro bean purée is justly lauded for its toothsome silkinesss, and the papas fritas, crunchy without, downy within, are the stuff of dreams. There are two varieties of rice sides, one seasoned traditionally with chile and Mexican spices, the other studded with buttery corn kernels as mild as nursery fare.
I brought Caldo Tlalpeño ($10.25) to an ailing friend but ended up eating most of it myself, standing quietly in his kitchen, my eyelids growing heavier with each spoonful. This was not my momma’s chicken soup, but rather a nourishing stew of mellow red broth made smoky with chipotle brimming with shredded chicken, garbanzos, avocado and cheese.
Guacamole with Totopos ($9.50) is not made in a molcajete but is served in one. It will likely need a proper showering of salt, but is nonetheless one of the most well-balanced guacamoles in town, its cradle of waterlogged lettuce shreds notwithstanding. Nachos Potrillos ($9.25) hit the spot each time with every last chip sagging beneath the weight of beans, cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo. My only gripe is the strangely gelatinous sour cream, a quivering offense that is asking to be pushed aside and ignored.
Chicharron Hay Guey! ($8.25), a starter described as “soft chicharron in a ‘Chile de arbol’ hot, hot sauce (very spicy)” was a definite miss—brackish and sticky—but the server quickly noticed that our table of enthusiastic diners had left the dish uneaten and asked if we were unhappy with it, after which it was whisked away.
Dishes that will draw me back again and again include the Quesadilla Camaron ($11.25), a toasty tortilla filled with juicy, spicy shrimp and gooey cheese. The Costillas Carrilleras Asadas ($11.95) is a plate of charbroiled ribs that put to shame any other ribs on Cerrillos Road and beyond.
Cabrito ($14.95) was out both times I attempted to order it, but I will have it— and soon. Marinated and smoked goat with a peanut and almond sauce? Sign me up.
I found the arrachera (skirt steak) in Mi General ($13.95) too thin and tough, but I’ve seen it devoured with great relish and, for lovers of well-done beef, it makes a stunning plate of food.
Chile Rellenos de Pescado ($12.95) are poblanos stuffed with fish and grilled pickled onions, and are among the lightest dishes on the menu, but the tanginess of the onions is quite pronounced. I found it delicious, but next time I’ll try the purportedly divine Chile en Ahogada ($12.95) with ground beef, walnuts and raisins.
Upon first tasting the Camarones Los Potrillos ($11.25), shrimp wrapped in bacon, topped with cheese and served with grilled nopalitos, it was declared reminiscent of the hors d’oeuvres of bygone days that went out of style around the same time as eggs and butter. Now that dairy is back in the good graces of the American people, what about bacon-shackled shrimp? I say bring it on, but one plump shrimp the size of a child’s fist was more than enough.
The Mixed Chicken and Beef Fajitas ($11.95) being carried to a nearby table smelled so incredible that my tablemates and I were unable to resist ordering it. They were good, and unlike so many fajitas, in which the taste of bell pepper permeates every last morsel, the flavors were clear and distinct. If you want bell pepper, eat bell pepper. If you want fajitas, go to Los Potrillos.
Horchata and Aguas de Frutas ($2 each) are the drinks of choice for most visitors to Los Potrillos; the Sandia and the Lemon-lime are very nice, if a little sweet. As for margaritas, I prefer to have mine at home because at Los Potrillos the margaritas are made with agave wine. Avoid them.
As it turns out, Los Potrillos is an excellent example of what Santa Fe is lacking in the food arena: a place that serves good, affordable food and keeps you coming back for seconds.
1947 Cerrillos Road
Open Thursday-Tuesday from
8 am-9 pm.