SANTA FE, N.M. — There is every sort of variation on the very basic elements of el cocinar mexicano, from Coyote Cafe to the streetside taco cart. Texas and Tex-Mex bears little relation to New Mexico, and northern New Mexico is nothing like Phoenix, or Echo Park in L.A.
To whit, Adelita’s Mexican Restaurant in the rather ornate, two-story Mediterranean-style building at the northeast corner of Cerrillos Road and Calle del Cielo (just south of the Goodwill) serves distinctly northern Old Mexico dishes, and not the smothered-in-chile-and-melted-cheese of northern New Mexico. No matter the time, morning noon and night, from breakfast at 8 a.m. until closing at 9 p.m., Adelita’s serve’s superb quality Mexican-inspired classics at extraordinary value.
Like many pleasant things that come our way, it was by chance that we happened in one dreary Monday eve. No sports bar and Monday Night Football this night, thanks.
Quiet, warmth, inexpensive Mexican was what we were looking for. Cruising down Cerrillos, we went through our checklist of old favs and thought no, something new, and cruising on … . Boom! Driven by it a million times and there always seem to be a reassuring number of cars in the lot.
Perfect. Immediately inside, a tiny, charming, four-stool bar (“Adelita’s Cantina” in cool rope script above), Liga MX soccer highlights on the little telly tucked high in a corner. Welcoming warm, warmly lit, revolution in the air with Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata posters and photos on the walls, a terrific street scene mural. Perfecto! Just what we were looking for.
No sooner tucked away in a red leather booth – a modest and varied clientele this evening, la gente, gringos, a tatted couple and cute kid, me – than a basket of excellent chips and saucer of superb from-the-kitchen salsa ranchera of spicy tomatoes, jalapeños and onions appeared. Picante, but not too. (I like it hot, so consider.)
A quick glance at the vast menu is not possible, but immediately obvious from the many mariscos appetizers, menudo (!$6.25) and the Pancho Villa wanted poster above me, is that we were in Old Mexico.
Just what I wanted and a great value, the enchiladas de mole ($10.95) were authentically and correctly earthy, dark, a trace bitter and not sweet, with fluffy white rice, classic refried beans, lettuce and tomato garnish, and three warm corn tortillas! So satisfying, at such value that the next morning found me in a different, sunny booth ready for breakfast and the real Adelita’s revelation!
Huevos rancheros – regularly $8.95, only $5.95, 8-11 a.m., Monday-Friday – Bingo!
Two eggs over easy on corn tortillas, the slightest, at first undetectable, bit of queso blanco melted atop, in a creamy bed of tangy, hot New Mexico green chile, freshly made country-style potatoes and, again, classic frijoles refritos.
There is a healthy list of chile sauces to dress the huevos, from a dusky, anejo rojo, to Adelita’s special green chile (jalapeños pureed with mushroom soup?!). Anyway you suit them up, this is an extraordinary deal and find. And as soon as I am finished with this, I am definitely headed over just to make sure it really isn’t too good to be true.
Adelita’s has been around for 17 years – six at the current location and before that southward on Cerrillos. See you there!