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Comfort is tops in both food, ambience

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Whether you’ve lived in New Mexico for a year or a lifetime, you know that certain foods mark the seasons, along with an appreciation for fresh produce and family gatherings. Late summer is for chiles, green for roasting immediately and red for drying to use all year long. Before a refrigerator in every kitchen, it was red that locals consumed without seasonal pauses. We have finally re-emerged into the traditional red chile months; I am celebrating with a bowl of posole from local favorite Los Compadres.

Years have passed since Los Compadres was first recommended to me as a bastion of south-of-the-border comfort food; my first brunch-hour visit proved the point with a wait for tables and a lively dining room of families, friends and morning-after meet-ups. We sat in the bouncy padded booth and dug into the bowl of salsa so garlicky that vampires departed for another ZIP code. Don’t get me wrong – this is darn fine salsa – but make sure your love for garlic is true.

We placed orders with the friendly server and continued decimating the chip basket with a newly delivered side of guacamole, bright green and chunky as guacamole should be. On all sides we were surrounded by the devout – most diners appeared to be as comfortable with this place as with their own kitchen table, relaxing while they ate or catching up on the weekly news while kids played with their food and squabbled with each other. Weekend apparel ranged from “a day around town” to “yesterday night on the town,” yet commonality was found in big bowls of stew or platters smothered in chile and cheese.

Los Compadres Mexican Restaurant
LOCATION: 2437 W. Central (near Atrisco), 452-8091
HOURS: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays-Mondays

Speaking of smothered, our table soon handled the onslaught of dishes and sides, beginning with a simple Bean Burrito ($3.50 a la carte), tasty and filling if a little on the gooey side. Los Compadres is known for its Chile Relleno ($7.99), and judging by the flavorful batter and rich cheese the reputation is solid. Is it the best relleno I’ve ever tasted? No, but this cafe’s stuffed chile is no slouch.

After nearly filling up on guacamole, my first few bites of Carne Adovada ($7.75) – a New Mexican diversion from the rest of the menu – were timid and meant to test my appetite. One clean plate later, it seems that I aced that test. We shared bites from a plate of mildly spiced Huevos Rancheros ($5.25), deciding that from the entire plate of tortillas, chile, eggs and beyond, only the beans were uninteresting.

Los Compadre’s appeal works across all populations with its satisfying but not flashy flavors, this much is clear. The food is not something you’d tell folks to make a road trip for – really, how many places fit that bill? There have to be a good number of down-home spots that you’ll rely on for good eats, good value and minimal fuss, and this is one of those destinations.