Throughout the pandemic I kept getting to tell myself I was some kind of American hero for consistently ordering takeout from local restaurants, and now that the world is...whatever it is, my new world eating habits have changed and I long for a breakfast burrito always. On top of that, people are always asking me about my favorite this or that. “You try so much food,” they’ll say, “what’re your favorites?”
When it comes to breakfast burritos—especially in a town like Santa Fe—this is a more complicated question than one might think, so we’re setting out to tear through every breakfast burrito we can find (I say “we” because other SFR writers will help tackle the challenge) and we’re gonna pass the info along to you.
Café Castro (2811 Cerrillos Road, 505-473-5800; Lunch and Dinner Tuesday-Sunday)
“Castro started as lunch and dinner mostly, and I had to check in with my aunt and my parents, but we started doing brunch in the original location on Rodeo Road,” says Alma Castro, who took over the restaurant from her parents Julia and Carlos Castro in February of last year. “It’s still evolving.”
You might not think you’d find a solid breakfast burrito on a lunch and dinner joint’s menu, but at Café Castro, the menu item is so for real, you won’t care about what hour of the day you scarf it down. Still, ask around and you’ll find a contentious smothered v. handheld debate; Castro says her family’s version is “very much smothered and huge.”
Yes it is. A massive combo of egg, home fries, meat of your choosing and chile, the Café Castro breakfast burrito ($8.99) is not for the faint of heart—or for anyone who’s thinking they might like to eat more than one meal that day. I’ve been obsessed as far back as I can remember for a few reasons: The chile at Café Castro is on point, particularly its red. Green, in my opinion, can be fairly similar in taste from eatery to eatery (with some notable exceptions); red takes a little extra effort and works best when it isn’t too thin or too thick. Denia Castro (Alma’s aunt, who has cooked in the Castro kitchen for 25 years) delivers just that. Yes, in a town like Santa Fe, chile recipes go back generations, though Carlos Castro’s rise to restaurant ownership was forged in the kitchens of places like Tomasita’s and Vanessie. In other words, the menu was developed from a lifetime of expertise, and it’s now being honed, tweaked and otherwise perfected by subsequent generations.
“The history of Castro is really the history of New Mexican food,” Alma explains. “My parents worked at Tomasita’s as young folks, they met there, and for many years they’ve been friends with the folks in charge there, the folks at Atrisco and Tía Sophia’s—Santa Fe is such a welcoming place, and as much as we say there are so many recipes for chile, we know each other and many of these recipes have been here since...It’s funny when people come in and say ‘Your chile tastes different,’ because, yes, chile can taste different at different restaurants, but my dad learned to make it from the people at Tomasita’s.”
Thus, you’re getting a deeply embedded historical taste test when you order up the breakfast burrito from this particular Midtown eatery. The egg-to-potato ratio is practically perfect, and the home fries—chosen, according to Alma, because they needed a potato that would stand up to the structural stress of a smothered burrito—add a texture and crispiness while also soaking up the chile. Pro tip: Instead of slapping honey on your sopaipilla, shovel some of the burrito inside and thank me later.
“One thing my parents instilled in me is that good business begets good business,” Alma tells SFR. “Especially during the pandemic when things got really dark and we needed to help each other. We tried to advocate for small business as much as we could, we tried to keep our prices low while [the price of] meat skyrocketed and we couldn’t always get produce—for the people who aren’t tourists, who aren’t independently wealthy, who live on the Southside. Our customers have supported us through everything.”
In exchange, you get one of the best breakfast burritos ever around.
The New Baking Company (504 W Cordova Road, 505-557-6435; Breakfast and Lunch Every Day)
When the Santa Fe Baking Company closed its doors in 2016, a collective shriek went up amongst the breakfast burrito faithful who’d long gathered for handheld bliss. Thankfully, by the following year, Filiberto and Norma Rodriguez opened The New Baking Company with a more focused menu, a less cluttered dining room and, thank the universe, the selfsame breakfast burrito we all love. In the smothered v. handheld debate, handheld wins out here, and you’re unlikely to find a better egg-to-potato ratio anyplace in town. Toss in a more-than-reasonable price ($6.50) and a staff that’ll remember you by name forever and ever, and you start to understand why longtime regulars were so terrified as the original closed. Pro tip: I vote green for this particular burrito—and get a croissant on the side, then pop in any burrito contents that may have fallen out.
Posa’s (3538 Zafarano Drive, 505-473-3454; Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Every Day)
As I was elbow deep in a massive handheld breakfast burrito ($6.40) with red chile the other day (thanks to SFR art director Anson Stevens-Bollen), I wondered if I was just hungry, or if this was indeed one of the best breakfast burritos of all time. I duplicated the order a second time later that week in the interest of science, and the results are in: The red chile, no-meat breakfast burrito from Posa’s is insane, and it’s almost all I could think about for days. Simply put, I think it’s the melty cheese and flavorful red. Like, if there had been no eggs or potatoes, I’d have been fine (I know I’m basically describing an enchilada at a certain point). Pro tip: One’s enough for two people, frankly, but you probably won’t want to share. Listen to your heart and get everyone their own burrito.