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Breakfast at Atrisco is real eye-opener

Atrisco Cafe and Bar is a good choice for a weekend breakfast. (Journal File)
Atrisco Cafe and Bar is a good choice for a weekend breakfast. (Journal File)
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What’s for breakfast? How about something most of us wouldn’t make at home, eye-opening enchiladas created from scrambled eggs and bacon rolled in corn tortillas and hidden beneath good chile sauce?

That’s one of many choices available at Atrisco, a family-operated New Mexican restaurant in DeVargas Center. With easy parking, an efficient waitstaff and good chile – the key to my heart when it comes to this cuisine – Atrisco is a solid choice for weekend breakfast. In most cases, this more-than-ample meal will stick to your ribs far into the afternoon. The cafe also is open for lunch or dinner any day of the week.

I loved the breakfast enchilada ($8.95). I ordered mine with green chile, but requested a side of red. The green here is simple, chopped chile with a bit of salt and just a touch of sauciness. The red is richer and more complex. Both are delicious. I’ve eaten at Atrisco for lunch and an occasional dinner for many years, so I understand that they know their chile. They brag, with reason, that their red and green chile both come from New Mexico’s lower Rio Grande Valley and that the beef is natural, grass-fed and raised in New Mexico.

So, the surprise of the morning didn’t concern cows or chile. It was Jimmy’s Biscuits Benedict ($9.95). As the name implies, this is a twist on the traditional Benedict. No English muffins here, but what the menu describes as house-made biscuits instead. The biscuits, which really did taste homemade in the best way, arrived as the ground floor of a creation that included a slice of ham, a perfectly poached egg and lemony hollandaise.

Atrisco Cafe and Bar
LOCATION: 193 Paseo de Peralta (De Vargas Center), Santa Fe, 505-983-7401HOURS: Lunch and dinner, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; breakfast 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

FULL BAR

As with all the breakfasts I sampled at Atrisco, the two eggs and biscuit halves came with good shredded hash brown potatoes — crisp on the outside and soft and hot within.

The true potato-lover in our group ordered Montaña de Papas. She didn’t get quite a mountain’s worth of potatoes, but her bowl was piled high. The regular, traditional version here includes home fries but my friend requested hash browns instead. The restaurant made the substitution with no problem. The chef mixed cubes of ham with the potatoes and put her egg, medium as requested, on top with cheese. She asked for her tasty green chile on the side ($8.95).

The other non-New Mexican dish we tried, and the only disappointment, was the breakfast special — the Atrisco version of chicken-fried steak served with eggs, potatoes and toast. Instead of gravy, the meat came with a topping of cheese and a side of chile. Sounds good, but the day of this breakfast the meat was chewy (although it had a good flavor), and the eggs arrived overcooked.

I had no argument, however, with the carne adovada breakfast plate. The pork, nicely seasoned with chile caribe, had the perfect amount of chile heat. The two eggs arrived over-easy as requested, accompanied by an abundance of potatoes and a touch of cheese and garnish ($10.95). I could eat this for breakfast at least once a week.

One of my companions ranks Huevos Rancheros as his favorite New Mexican breakfast. His only complaint about Atrisco’s version was that he doesn’t want lettuce and tomato garnish on his early-morning eggs and chile. Everybody gets to whine about something, eh? The meal comes with both potatoes and beans and a flour tortilla with butter on the side ($8.50).

Artisco’s tag-steam service is efficient. We received ample coffee and water refills without ever having to ask. The restaurant has a clean, well-tended look. It’s usually busy.

Atrisco’s lunches and dinners are good too, and the New Mexican choices come with light, hot sopaipillas. You can find lamb dishes here, as well as good salads and daily specials. You can enjoy a good lunch here and get back to work (or whatever) in an hour because of the well-managed kitchen.

The name of one of the entrees, Central Cafe Meat Loaf, speaks to the family’s roots in Albuquerque. According to information shared on the menu, owner George Gundrey’s grandmother, Sophia, operated the Central Cafe there beginning in the 1940s, teaching her children both a love of chile and the concepts of restaurant management.

Atrisco is a cousin in the extended family of restaurants that also includes Tia Sophia’s, Tomasita’s and Horseman’s Haven. All of them offer good food at reasonable prices.

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