Los Amigos satisfies those chile fixes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When we opened the door to Los Amigos, friends and I knew we’d come to the right place. The savory smell of bubbling chile sauces greeted us like a welcoming hug.

Los Amigos serves a variety of mostly New Mexican fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a mom-and-pop place attracting customers ranging from students at Santa Fe Community College to retirees, working folks on lunch breaks, families with kids and couples looking for a break from cooking. Conversations flow in Spanish and English and the bilingual staff floats between the two languages with ease.

Located on Rodeo Road just west of the Richards Avenue intersection, Los Amigos offers a delicious alternative to franchise eating at the same price or less.

At dinner, we started with a complimentary dish of salsa with the flare of jalapeños and a basket of tri-colored chips. There’s a lot to consider on the menu, so this fortification came in handy. One of my friends was attracted to the breakfast side, and the waitress assured him he could order whatever he liked. The restaurant serves the entire menu all day. (On a return visit for breakfast, the table behind us enjoyed fajitas and beers!) Kids get their own menu and a sheet to color.

The staff work in unison here. One server brought our drinks, another took the order, another delivered the food. But the system ran smoothly. We got what we needed without a mishap.

Chile, of course, is the heart of New Mexican cooking and I like both the red and the green here. The days I visited the green was milder, the red spicier but neither of the eye-watering variety. The sauces both tasted long-simmered, perfect for the combinations of bean, tortillas, onions, cheese and chicken, pork or beef, that make up the essential elements of New Mexican cooking.

Because I hadn’t been to Los Amigos for a while, I ordered the Mexican Platter ($11.99), a combination plate with a sampling of my favorites: a rolled cheese enchilada with a yellow corn tortilla, a chile relleno stuffed with mild white cheese, a meaty pork tamale and good fresh pinto beans and Spanish rice. The beef taco came on the side along with a fresh hot sopaipilla as big as the bread basket in which it arrived. The chile relleno was the best thing on the plate, lightly battered, stuffed with cheese and flavorful without too much heat.

A smaller combo plate without the relleno or tamale is available for $3 less. One of my friends tried the sopaipilla stuffed with ground beef and topped with cheese, her chile on the side. It was large enough for two and a bargain at $9.99. She got the same sides of beans and rice, and agreed with me that the beans were good and the rice rather gummy.

Another friend ordered chilaquiles ($7.99), a bowl with festive-looking red, blue and yellow corn chips as the base topped with chile, cheese and a pair of fried eggs. Some versions use scrambled eggs and intermix them with strips of fried tortillas, but Los Amigos’ variation is less fussy. He ate every bite.

Other dinner choices range from carne adovada and fajitas to tostadas, posole and chile cheese fries, with a Navajo taco tossed in for good measure. The Navajo taco uses a “flat round sopaipilla” as the base instead of the traditional fry bread.

If you’re not hungry for New Mexican cuisine, Los Amigos serves up a few salads, sandwiches, burgers, steaks and even a salmon filet. Prices top out at around $14.

We finished off our dinner with an unusual pink Tres Leches cake ($3.75), one that included strawberries. My friends liked it. I appreciated the moistness and creativity in including the berries, but found it too sweet. On another visit, we investigated the breakfast menu, starting with fresh coffee. It was a holiday-season Saturday and the restaurant was busier than when we’d been here for dinner, but the service remained prompt and courteous.

I had eggs with chewy corned beef and home fries, and chile on the side. ($8.99). My friend ordered the Buenos Dias, an eye-opener built from a base of home fries and chile, topped with cheese, a pair of eggs and a flour tortilla on the side ($7.95). We shared a light buttermilk pancake, as big as the plate it came on ($3.99). What a way to start a New Year!