There’s more than one pilgrimage destination in Chimayó. Just down the road from El Santuario de Chimayó, where people come from hundreds of miles on foot to sample the miraculous healing soil, another rehabilitative substance can be found that is perhaps just as divine: burritos. The restaurant, Rancho de Chimayó (300 Juan Medina Road, Chimayó, 984-2100), is a historic hacienda dating back to the 19th century. The rural Rancho has been open for just about 50 years, founded in 1965 by Florence Jaramillo and her husband—and Florence still owns and operates it. Even after a short closing due to a fire allegedly set by a disgruntled ex-employee back in 2008, it continues to be a regional favorite. In fact, the restaurant was recently a nominee for the 2016 America’s Classics Award from the James Beard Foundation, and for good reason. There isn’t anything that isn’t a gastronomic delight within these walls.
The décor is less traditional hacienda and more "whatever I like." Two dour and mustachioed gentleman stare blankly from a sketch inside the vestibule to the left of the door, burning the back of your head with their gazes. On an inside hallway is an artistic recreation of what looks like somebody's "glamour shot" photograph. Conversely, all of the waitresses are dressed in brightly colored skirts and billowing white blouses—creating an old Mexico feel in a New Mexican restaurant. The wait staff, the prospect and the food are familiar and yet anything but typical.
I'm led out to a large covered dining area drenched in the remains of the late afternoon sunlight. Small pots of fresh honey (covered with protective cling wrap) sit upon the table beside slightly worn, but still colorful, silk flowers.
It was before the dinner rush, but still busy, with pockets of vacationers and a few older locals huddled over their meals, languid after one or more of the house margaritas ($7.50). I ordered one, too. The Sauza brand tequila was in perfect proportion to the mix and not too sweet. Even one, was sufficiently potent, providing just the right amount of before-repast squiffiness.
Chips and salsa arrived at the table before long, accompanied by some of the finest guacamole ($6.75) that I've ever experienced in a restaurant (without having to make it myself). It was simple and rich, without any strange tastes that you might experience from a canned variety found in a restaurant pressed for time or expertise. I was assured that it was handmade every day from only ripe avocados, some salt, pepper and, apparently, love.
The main course was a carne adovada burrito ($13.50)— pork marinated in a spicy red chile caribe sauce and wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with more adovada sauce and cheese, flanked by what appeared to be housemade refried beans and that Spanish rice. The meat was moist and drenched in sauce. With every bite, the savory/sweet tastes of the pork and chile combined to make a seraphic sensation that lingered in my mouth long after the meal was over. One huge, puffy sopaipilla accompanied the dinner plate; when combined with the burrito, some guac and a blob of honey, they provided a flavor that goes beyond merely satisfying.
For dessert, I ordered piñón mocha mousse ($5.10). I couldn't finish it, but it was out of this world. The texture was thick and had the requisite amount of bitter chocolate flavor on the back end that balances out the sweet, plus tiny chunks of soft piñón that almost snuck past my tongue.
The service deserves mention. Going against the rule, at least in comparison to Santa Fe, Rancho de Chimayó's wait staff are prompt, friendly, knowledgeable and altogether accommodating. My server was always on hand to refill water or offer suggestions; he was remarkably friendly and proficient. It was an absolute treat to dine here and would have been even if the food was not as good as it turned out to be.
If you're the pious sort and wish to prove your devotion to your faith by taking a long walk to some magic dirt, do yourself a favor and also praise the god of burritos. He lives at Rancho de Chimayó.
11:30 am-8:30 pm (until 9 pm
starting in May), closed Mondays
Carne Adovada Burrito