Recently, the Southside has seen a growing number of new businesses open their doors, such as the Second Street Brewing Company's Rufina Taproom and Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, which also share the neighborhood with Wise Fool New Mexico and the art juggernaut that is Meow Wolf. But there have always been gems hidden away in the gritty corner of town known as the Siler-Rufina nexus, and Alicia's Tortilleria has been quietly nestled in a one-story shopping center since 1997, providing Santa Fe with thick, fresh stacks of corn tortillas made in-house every day for years.
Alicia's also has a takeout menu available written on a whiteboard hanging over the counter and a little attached dining room where you can sit and wait for your order and devour it on the premises, washed down with a glass bottle of Coke (featuring real sugar!). The whole place is so casual and unassuming it almost sneaks up on you how delicious your food is until you actually put it in your mouth. Alicia's also counts some popular local restaurants in their list of customers, such as Bumble Bee's Baja Grill, but at some point you might as well cut out the middleman and eat here because everything is really excellent, from the chile marinated meats to the spicy jalapeño salsa to the tortillas themselves.
Owners Jorge and Alicia Lovoya originally hail from Chihuahua, Mexico, but their grandparents owned a tortilleria in Juarez that is still run by the family to this day. "Our family still sends us recipes," says Alicia Saenz, the Lovoyas' daughter. "We based our business on what they do. The concept is the same, except over there they drop off 2-pound bags of tortillas at people's houses, and we don't do that."
Everything is made in-house, including the masa for the tortillas, which come in corn, regular wheat or whole wheat, and are baked by machine in an airy space behind the front counter. A pound of each costs $1.95 or $3 for the latter two, respectively, and you can also get the masa itself for $1.50 a pound, if you have the means to make your own at home.
The menu is staggering, with seven different breakfast burritos and 12 different lunch options, all for $4.50 and ranging from chicharron to mole to chile colorado. The mole is fantastic, by the way—spicy with a hint of sweetness and thick without feeling weighty. There are seven kinds of tortas as well, all for $7. Many hinge on the same meat available for the burritos prepared in different ways, such as bistek, desebrada, picadillo and azada. Bistek is braised sirloin, desebrada is slow-cooked beef that is then shredded, picadillo is a beef that's prepared in a spiced stew with potatoes, and azada is roasted.
If you don't like beef there are plenty of chicken and fish options on the menu, such as camaron and pescado tacos for $10. There's even a mojarra frita ($12), a whole fried tilapia served with the head and tail still attached. I ordered it just to have something other than burritos and tacos in my takeout, and it was absolutely delicious, if not a little terrifying in terms of presentation. The added bonus was that it came with salty, spiced papas that were served in strips like French fries and were definitely my favorite pointlessly delicious carbohydrate served on the side (although the rice and refried beans were also tasty).
Alicia's is so cheap and good, in fact, I came back a second time for an order of flautas ($10), a mixture of shredded chicken and beef served with a side of whipped guacamole that is so creamy and fluffy I could eat it with a spoon like ice cream. And if you don't eat meat, I would still give this place a try, because everything is clearly made with care and demonstrates a real depth of flavor, from the potatoes to the beans and rice.
At least take home a stack of tortillas, which don't lose their magic even when served in different ways. For example, I picked up an order of chips ($3.50), made from fried tortillas. They came in a plastic bag that was roughly the equivalent of 8 ounces and were crunchy, light, and not at all salty but still slightly warm. It was one of the best things I ate, and I ate a lot of pretty amazing things over the course of two takeout orders.
I wish I could come up with a more glamorous way of describing it, but nothing about Alicia's Tortilleria is trying to be glamourous. The food is cheap and unpretentious and feels satisfyingly filling like junk food but doesn't weigh you down with grease and make you feel gross after you eat it. I'd highly recommend Alicia's to anyone with a deep, abiding love for Mexican and New Mexican food. Places like this make you feel like you've found another good reason to call Santa Fe home.
1314 Rufina Circle, 438-9545
8 am-6 pm Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday