I was strolling the aisles of Target with the one thing I actually needed and a cart filled with everything I didn't when it hit. The fluorescent lights seemed to pulse, my palms got sweaty and my head started spinning. This was it—the dreaded side effects of hitting a big-box store on an empty stomach. I needed real nourishment, and quick.
Thankfully, just around the corner was Posa's Zafarano (3538 Zafarano Drive, 473-3454).
Seeing that I had spent pretty much all my money on a bunch of nothing at Target, I was in luck. At Posa's you get a lot of bang for your buck. It was busy enough during a Friday lunch rush that I had time to peruse the enormous menu. I settled on a burrito, but which one? Among the plethora of options there's a Frito pie burrito, a chile dog burrito or even a chicharron burrito (you can choose that last one with ALL chicharrones—skipping the beans, chile, and cheese—if you don't want anything coming between your belly and pork belly).
I went with the basics and ordered a rice and bean veggie burrito ($6.75) with red chile. I always think if the rice and beans can hold their own, then the rest of the menu is worth continued exploration. The sizable burrito arrived surprisingly fast, considering the crowd. The rice was light and fluffy, the beans well-seasoned, the chile not so spicy that its lingering burn covered up the other flavors, such as the sharp bite from the many crunchy chunks of raw onion. The best thing, though, was that the fillings were all mixed together. There is nothing worse than getting a "compartmentalized" burrito: one bite beans, another bite just rice, another just onion.
As I ate, I continued to eye the menu thinking I might have to make Posa's Zafarano my go-to power-up spot for the energy-sucking sport of shopping. And that's just what I did a few days later before braving the racks at Forever 21 (or, Forever 40-something, as I like to call it.) Posa's offers breakfast all day, and breakfast tamales with eggs ($8.65) were the ideal choice to charge my cells. I chose the cheese and green chile tamales (two to an order), topped with red chile and two eggs, over easy, with potatoes. Have you ever heard of a more delightful combination? The tamales really stood out against all those competing flavors, more dense than usual tamales and with a ripe, fresh, corn flavor. This dish was like the Southwest version of one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten: llapingachos.
Llapingachos are seasoned fried potato pancakes stuffed with cheese and usually topped with a creamy peanut gravy, fried eggs and avocado. It's a traditional dish in Ecuador, which is where I horked them down some two dozen years ago; but that specific combination of flavors and textures is one I remember and think of often. It was truly delicious. This unassuming breakfast at Posa's, though obviously made of different ingredients, left me with that same happy feeling. It's a simple thing: when every ingredient works together to make something memorable.
But, back to modern times. Posa's Zafarano is the same Posa's that has been cranking out tamales since 1955, marketed under the brand El Merendero. This tamales of this family-owned operation (also located at 1514 Rodeo Road, 820-7672) are so popular that during the busiest times of the year, it can make upwards of 14,000 per day. They are served at local restaurants and shipped across the country; probably more than a few leave New Mexico crammed in a carry-on. Posa's tamales are a little different than most, not so light and fluffy and with a little more heft. This comes from the use of fresh-ground corn versus the more processed masa harina, which also gives Posa's tamales that special flavor: the sweet of fresh corn.
At Posa's Zafarano, tamales can be ordered to go, hot or cold, fresh or frozen ($2.95 each, $14.75 per half-dozen or $27.95 per dozen). In addition to red chile pork, green chile chicken and green chile cheese, Posa's has made the effort to create vegan tamales, something you don't see often. I scooped up a frozen block of these green chile veggie tamales on my way out to see if they were as good at home as in the restaurant. I had to let it thaw for a couple of days before the little packages inside the bigger, tightly packed package came loose. Once they did, I simply popped a couple in the steamer, and out came tamales just as delicious as in the restaurant.
I now look forward to shopping, thanks to Posa's Zafarano. It's good food, fast. All day, every day.