Aldana’s Restaurant does not screw around with breakfast.
No New Mexican restaurant worth its chile does.
Breakfast is the secret weapon of New Mexican cuisine.
While all the tourists are busy having smothered combo burritos (Christmas, please!—Isn’t that cute?), green chile chicken enchiladas and chile rellenos mopped up with sopaipillas for dinner, the locals are digging in for breakfast.
Obviously the breakfast burrito has gained global fame, but that doesn’t really translate into people understanding what a New Mexican breakfast is all about (recently, in California, I noted that many restaurants are under the illusion that they are selling a breakfast “wrap” with nary a chile in sight).
In Santa Fe, the New Mexican breakfast is a slugfest among giants: Tia Sophia’s, Café Pasqual’s, The Plaza Restaurant (both downtown and Southside), The Pantry, Tecolote Café, Horseman’s Haven, Celebrations, El Tesoro—the list goes on. But these demigods of desayuno have been forced to make room for Aldana’s.
The established rules of the New Mexican breakfast have ever been thus:
The breakfast burrito is the destroyer. If it doesn’t kill without mercy, just shut the doors. Your restaurant sucks.
The burrito, and the breakfast armada that follows it, is powered by chile. If your chile doesn’t pass muster, you’re a traitor to the state of New Mexico.
If you don’t serve potatoes with your huevos rancheros, you need to be pelted with frozen blocks of Bueno-brand packaged chile.
Coffee must be watery, as goes the best truck stop tradition, but it cannot have little islands of soap or grease floating in it.
Borrow with abandon from Mexico and Central America (chilaquiles, corn cakes, plantains, etc.) but make it NEW.
Gravy, ketchup, Tabasco and other symptom killers of the bland American diet are not allowed.
No one will ever have better potatoes than The Pantry.
New Mexican food can never, ever be presented in a breakfast buffet.
Aldana’s, young upstart that it is, doesn’t appear to ignore these rules completely, but has already forgotten a few. The potatoes, for example, are at least as good as The Pantry’s potatoes. The secret blend of lard, salt and grill temperature is probably lifted straight from The Pantry (at least one of the many Aldanas used to work there), but the only crime is that the fat, golden morsels are not yet readily available to all of humanity.
Also, in a feat that can only be described as witchcraft, Aldana’s has a successful New Mexican breakfast buffet. The $6.99 buffet begins with eggs prepared as you like, rather than with the typical lukewarm scramble. One may then surround the eggs with a number of items, including tender sausage patties, excellent spicy chile and the aforementioned magical potatoes.
But the true aficionado will want a more focused breakfast entrée. If you are the type who rightly believes that Burrito Spot’s chile relleno burrito is a staggering work of gut-busting genius, you will find a little piece of nirvana in the smothered chile relleno omelet. To take a fine, hot chile, stuff it with flavorful cheeses, batter it to perfection and fry it into a state of elegance requires uncommon skill. To then wrap that relleno in a moist, fluffy omelet, an aromatic avalanche of chile and more cheese requires uncommon cojones. To plate it with crack-laced potatoes and a tortilla requires Aldana’s.
Again, the idea is to proliferate excellence, not to hoard proprietary breakfast technologies.
Aldana’s influences are evident, as are its creativity, its excellent prices, its expansive and flexible menu and its willingness to break a few rules in the name of breakfast.
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