Eloy’s serves top-notch New Mexican food with great service, few frills

The chile con queso at Eloy’s Mexican Restaurant is served with salsa. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

Eloy’s Mexican Restaurant is a reminder that affordable food doesn’t have to taste cheap.

This venerable little eatery, in a strip mall on Wyoming north of Constitution, has been serving traditional New Mexican fare for years, and its refried beans are some of the best in Albuquerque, but don’t expect the grandeur of Garduño’s – this place is an under-the-radar family restaurant with simple, classic dishes.

I tried the assorted combination plate ($12.75) on a recent visit and was instantly right at home: the plate came with a delicious smothered tamale, with shredded pork and red chile inside and hot red chile on top, an enchilada and a taco. The enchilada was good, and the red chile wasn’t too hot, but it had a wonderful flavor.

The taco was good, with a great flavor to the ground beef, but the taco shell made it my least favorite item on the plate. The spicy beef was flavorful, and all the toppings were fresh. It was good but not groundbreaking.

Also good was the chile con queso ($7.25), ordered as an appetizer, which came with a giant serving of tortilla chips and salsa. The queso itself was definitely tasty, with little chunks of green chile or jalapeño floating throughout, but it was canned nacho cheese. The result was tasty, but mostly in the way nachos in a stadium are tasty.

On the bright side, this queso didn’t form the telltale top crust from sitting out that most quesos produce.

The salsa, though, is fantastic: fresh, not too much cilantro, spicy enough for a local to appreciate. Along with the almost-too-delicious refried beans, the salsa was the best part of the meal.

The rice was also good, with a little spice and a rich flavor, but the beans overpowered the rice and demanded attention.

The restaurant is small and unassuming, and the ambiance is eclectic, with personal family photos and traditional Mexican art donning the walls. The service is fantastic, with possibly the nicest waitress in town delivering plates. She carried on multiple conversations with every table, sometimes from across the room, and at one point I could hear her talking to a table from the kitchen.

This is the atmosphere all Mexican restaurants should try to create: casual and welcoming like a living room, with friendly faces ready with a smile.

The meal also came with a sopaipilla for dessert, and Eloy’s version is as good as any in town.

The first bite is almost overly salty, but once the honey hits the whole interior surface, this sopaipilla, still steaming from the fryer, explodes with flavor and goodness.

In all, Eloy’s is a humble, down-to-earth New Mexican eatery with enough street cred to impress locals and visitors alike. Don’t expect a grand spread with a mariachi band, though: Eloy’s is more about affordable food than flash.

3 stars

LOCATION: 1508 Wyoming NE, 293-6018

HOURS: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Sunday

NO ALCOHOL

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