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Spicy blend: Chumly’s serves delicious fusion of Creole and New Mexican cuisine

Despite a difficult-to-access location near Carlisle and Interstate 40, Green Jeans Farmery is still chugging along more than three years after it opened as Albuquerque’s first restaurant complex built from shipping containers.

Spicy macaroni and cheese with blackened chicken and seasoned bread crumbs. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

Green Jeans vaguely resembles a fortification from the outside, with its corrugated metal walls and corner tower. Inside, the vibe is more welcoming. The restaurants open onto a small plaza with picnic tables and a fire pit. You can get pizza, burgers and tacos, but on a recent weekday I was there to try out Chumly’s Southwestern and its fusion of New Mexican and Cajun/Creole cuisine.

Manning the counter was owner and head chef Jesse Zimmerman, who told me the restaurant’s name is a play on the word “chum,” or friend. The menu offers selections of pastas, sandwiches, fajitas, quesadillas, hot dogs and soups for less than $10. There’s also a separate breakfast menu served until 11 a.m.

After ordering, I briefly considered sitting outside, but the blustery weather drove me into one of Green Jeans’ two inside dining areas. Zimmerman brought the food up in about five minutes.

Chumly’s chile cheese dog gets an extra kick from spicy queso and Hatch red chile. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

The New Mexico gumbo ($4.95 for the cup) is built off a roux base with onions, bell peppers and celery – the so-called holy trinity of Cajun cooking. The addition of Hatch red chile sauce gives it a nice sting. With rice, shredded chicken and half-moon slices of andouille sausage, the generous serving is more like a meal than a soup. Had a piece of bread or a roll been added, it would have been perfect. Hatch red chile also makes an appearance in the chile dog ($6.95), a slim Nathan’s frank served in a bolillo roll, the Mexican version of a baguette. The roll holds up well to the smoky, spicy chile and queso sauces.

Macaroni and cheese ($6.95) is one of three pasta options at Chumly’s. I added blackened chicken to mine for $2 extra. The macaroni is actually ziti in a spicy cheese sauce topped with seasoned bread crumbs. The dish doesn’t have much appeal to the eye; it’s crying out for a sprig of parsley or something to add color. It tastes good, though, with the perfectly al dente tubes of ziti picking up the spicy cheese sauce at the bottom of the bowl. The thinly sliced marinated chicken breast adds some heat and backbone.

Although I’ve never been a fan of unsweetened iced tea, the tropical-fruit-infused version at Chumly’s was just the thing to cool the fires from spicy food.

The pile of repurposed shipping containers that make up Green Jeans Farmery seems like an appropriate setting for Chumly’s and the other restaurants. They’re like a plucky group of independent operators banding together to survive against the tide of franchise operations rising outside the walls.

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