Enchiladas are commonly available in Albuquerque restaurants, but it’s unlikely you’ll find a place as single-mindedly devoted to them as the Jealous Fork, a new spot on Menaul just east of Louisiana.
There are no tacos or burritos on the Jealous Fork’s small menu – just enchiladas. You get three for $9, with your choice of filling, sauce and cheese.
The new place is a spinoff of its next-door neighbor, the gourmet sandwich and burger shop Fork & Fig. The narrow courtyard it shares with a tasting room for local distiller Broken Trail Spirits is hung with lights and sunshades.
The restaurant is still making the small, industrial-style space that formerly housed Fillin’ Philly’s steak and cheese sub shop into its own. Among the decorative flourishes are aloe vera plants in small pots glued to the tables and a large representation of a fork that hangs over the chalkboard menu.
You order at the counter, choosing from four options for each part of the menu. Enchilada fillings include brisket, braised pork, herb chicken and wild mushroom, the lone vegetarian option. For a bit extra, you can add sliced avocado ($1.25), crema ($ 0.75) or a fried egg ($1.25) to your enchiladas.
Once your order is complete, you take a pager and wait until the food comes out, handsomely presented in shallow ceramic bowls on wooden boards.
Red chile posole ($3.50), one of four sides available, primed the palate for the spicy food to come. The kick from the red chile broth sneaks up on you, starting as a fire on the tongue before eventually disabling your vocal cords. The spice, along with the tender chunks of pork and puffs of hominy, made it a wonderful starter, even if the broad, flat-bottomed bowl was a less-than-ideal serving vessel for it.
The enchiladas arrived lined across the bottom of a similar bowl under a blanket of sauce and cheese. The brisket, shredded and moist but not fatty, was well-executed, and the red chile sauce, much of it absorbed into the tortillas, had good heat. Menonita cheese, a buttery yellow variety introduced to Mexico by the Mennonites, brought just enough sharpness to make its presence known.
We tried the green chile with braised pork enchiladas and found it almost as hot as the red. Like the brisket, the braised pork was succulent. Oaxaca cheese, similar in flavor to mozzarella, had a more innocuous profile than the menonita. Chopped Napa cabbage on top added welcome texture.
The side of elote ($2.50), about half of a cob of corn girded with crema, a slightly sour thickened cream, and sharp, crumbly cotija cheese, was messy and delicious.
Drink offerings include bottles of Jarritos soda and Topo Chico, a mineral water from Mexico that has developed an avid following in Texas. Both of the agua frescas on the menu – melon, tasting like a ripe cantaloupe, and tart, flowery hibiscus – were excellent.
There are two desserts on the menu: a piece of tres leches cake and wafer waffles, each $7. The latter, two thin waffles sandwiched around a cream cheese filling and sprinkled with toffee and chocolate cookie pieces, had a nice combination of crunch, tang and sweetness.
The Jealous Fork’s youthful staff was friendly and accommodating, but there appeared to be a bottleneck in the kitchen. The food took 20 minutes to come out, even with only one other party in the place. Of course, things are still in the iron-out-the-kinks phase, and the staff’s enthusiasm, along with the hyperfocused menu, suggests that Jealous Fork will do well alongside its older sibling.