If you’ve been following along of late, you’ll know I’ve been on a mission to eat every breakfast burrito in town, but what to do when you’ve got a lunch date with local artist, co-founder of the Alas de Agua Art Collective and pillar of the community Israel Francisco Haros Lopez?
Red Enchilada Restaurant
131 Osage Ave., (505) 820-6552; Breakfast and Lunch Wednesday-Monday
You message and ask if he’s down with Red Enchilada Restaurant and, if you’re lucky, he is. And so he was. And so we went.
Of course, regular readers will no doubt be aware that my love of the Midtown New Mexican/Central American eatery is long-running and well-documented, but recently learning that the folks behind Red Enchilada are family to the champions at Café Castro only solidified two things I already knew to be true: The place is fantastic and community connections are cool. But I digress to say that, despite having eaten at Red Enchilada roughly 400,000 times, I’d never tried the breakfast burrito ($7.25) until my sojourn with Haros Lopez.
For starters, the red chile at Red Enchilada is always a flavorful affair despite being less viscous than at other local spots. As I’ve said before, there’s something special about a thick and almost granular red, but, in Red Enchilada’s slightly more liquid form, it works. This is 100% about its flavor, and though we’re talking all the earthy goodness I want when it comes to a good red, the slight citrus bite in the aftertaste is something truly special. As for the green chile, well, it’s always a flavor experience, too. At this particular restaurant, expect more of a chopped experience than a saucy one, but as its textures mingle with melty cheese and bright red, something wonderful happens—particularly if you stuff some into the included sopaipilla for your own stuffed sopa.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—Red Enchilada has the best sopaipillas in town; they’re massive and taste fresh, whereas other restaurants I won’t name seem to make a big batch before they open and then stick them under a heat lamp. As an added little tip that’ll work with just about any menu option at Red Enchilada, might I add ordering a side of fries and dumping some all over the plate? Not only will they absorb any errant chile you might otherwise miss, the crispy texture and salty, fatty flavors add another layer to what’s already one of the more flavorful menus in Santa Fe. This works particularly well alongside the breakfast burrito where the egg-to-potato ratio is as generous as it gets. In fact, if I even had a criticism it would be that this breakfast burrito felt a little light in the potato department—a rarity in a town full of hotspots that, as we’ve discussed before, stick about a whole potato in a tortilla and, if you’re lucky, add half a scrambled egg. In other words? Red Enchilada should be in your regular rotation if you’re a breakfast burrito fan, and the same goes for lovers of pupusas, huevos rancheros, enchiladas and on and on and on.
Plaza Café Southside
3466 Zafarano Drive, (505) 557-6435; Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Every Day
Later that same week, I caught back up with podcast host Brian Brett because I’d won a pristine VHS copy of Dances with Wolves while appearing on his Artist With Brian podcast, then left it behind like a jamoke. Together we hit up the Plaza Café Southside for yet another smothered Christmas delight.
I’m not great about hitting the Southside of town for food, which sucks, because there’s a ton to love. Having been seduced by the Plaza Café Southside, though, I might have to change that up forever. I’m a longtime fan of the original location on the Plaza (my aunt Stephanie worked there 20 years ago), but the independent spinoff spot has a different menu and one of the better breakfast burritos I’ve had in Santa Fe ($13.25). It might have been—and hear me now, all restaurants with burritos—the side of hash browns, but the chile on this particular burrito did something I’ve not often experienced: it mingled perfectly. See, I’m the kind of diner who generally starts a Christmas dish with one chile, eating it fully before moving onto the next. I’m sure plenty of others do it differently, but I like to experience each flavor on its own.
Feeling sporty, however, I mixed and matched bites using the hash browns as a conveyance and dropping in the included lettuce and tomato. Someplace between the ample egg-to-potato ratio and the crispiness of the potatoes and lettuce—plus the flavorful explosion of the diced tomatoes—something glorious happened. It honestly seems like I might have found a new favorite in the search for burrito supremacy, and for an extra $2, I could have added Impossible sausage (Plaza Café Southside was an early adopter to plant-based meat). Next time, perhaps. Because I will be back.