Los Potrillos features an expansive menu of delicious Mexican fare - Albuquerque Journal

Los Potrillos features an expansive menu of delicious Mexican fare

The Camarones al Mojo de ajo at Los Potrillos. (Heather Hunter/For the Journal)

The last two years of limited traveling during the pandemic has meant those who yearn for true Mexican flavors have not been able to plan culinary adventures to our neighboring country to the south. While getting to Mexico may be a challenge, a quick and easy drive to the northwestern corner of Cerrillos Road and St. Michael’s Drive is the answer for a solid Mexican food fix.

It’s where Los Potrillos has been satisfying customers since 2004. Los Potrillos means “foals” in English, which is reflected in the horse-centric décor of this established, well-run restaurant owned by brothers Jose and Gustavo Tapia.

The minute you step into this ample space filled with authentic Mexican furniture, art and a mural painted by a Guadalajaran artist, you will immediately feel closer to Mexico. Though the hospitable Mexican staff prefers to speak in their native tongue, they do speak English, and are listo para servirle (ready to serve you). Two other indicative signs of a family-style Mexican restaurant is the Mexican music that plays in the background and the two TVs that display assorted sporting matches, especially soccer.

A busy restaurant no matter what time of day you dine, the customers, also mostly Spanish-speaking, have come to fill up on their favorite native foods. Breakfast is served daily until noon and they have one menu for both lunch and dinner.

Breakfast seems to be the hot ticket in town as the place was packed when we arrived on a Sunday morning at 11 a.m. The one-page menu is simple and highlights the best of classic Mexican breakfasts. All plates are about $10 and come with refried beans, skillet potatoes and corn or flour tortillas. I had the Huevos a La Mexicana with nopales, while my dining companion ordered the Hey Chihuahua plate, which featured flank steak covered with chipotle salsa and two eggs. We both felt like we woke up in Mexico City and the meal sated us all day long.

If you go for lunch or dinner, you will need some time to review the expansive menu that features classic regional and seafood dishes – many of which are unique to Los Potrillos. So relax and enjoy nibbling on a bowl of light and crispy tortilla chips served with three salsas – spicy chipotle, fire-roasted tomato and cold jalapeno-avocado. Though all three salsas are delicioso, my favorite is the spicy chipotle, which I liberally spoon on everything. A generous order of homemade guacamole ($9.50), which will easily feed four people, is a terrific way to whet your appetite.

On our first visit, we dove in head-first and ordered their specialty Parrillada Para Dos (Grilled Plate for Two) Costillas Pancho Villa ($34.25). This enormous platter is filled to the brim with tender, grilled pork ribs, spicy grilled chorizo, nopal (cactus) salad, a cheese quesadilla and charro beans. More like a party platter, it could easily serve three or four people, especially if you order another entree. The charro beans are light on the beans and heavy on the chopped hot dogs and sausage, so if you aren’t into that, consider ordering the refried beans, which are stellar.

Bistek Ranchero at Los Potrillos is one of the many spicy dishes available. (Heather Hunter/For the Journal)

Over the years, I have become a regular and these are my go-to dishes – Vegetarian Enchiladas ($13), Shrimp Enchiladas ($15.50), Molcajete Al Pastor ($16.25) and Camarones al Mojo de Ajo ($15.75). Each dish feeds my craving for real Mexican cuisine. The food is neither too salty nor too spicy, but just right.

My dining companion has also enjoyed assorted dishes on the menu including Mole Enchiladas ($14.95), Bistek Ranchero ($16.75) and Tacos al Carbon ($15.25).

Because Mexican food requires a cold beverage, they offer wine and beer, including a wine margarita. But don’t miss out on the aguas frescas ($3), a non-alcoholic, standard beverage in Mexico, typically made with fruit. Choose from lemonade, horchata (made with rice and flavored with cinnamon and sugar) or pineapple.

On a cold winter day, a hot bowl of soup warms us from the inside out. From Puchero de Res ($13), a typical Yucatan soup with beef, to their popular Birria Zacatecana ($15.75), a goat meat soup that hails from Jalisco, to pozole and menudo to a steaming bowl of seafood soup, Levantate Lazaro ($14.75 small/$16.75 large), soups are popular at Los Potrillos.

Carnivores will be in awe at the selection. I recommend the Costillas plate ($16.50), grilled ribs, or Mi General ($18.95) which comes with grilled steak arrachera, five grilled shrimp, guacamole, grilled nopalitos, grilled onion, rice and beans. Similarly, the Bistek Ranchero ($16.75) features tender, beef strips grilled and smothered in a delicious tomato, onion and jalapeno sauce and rice and beans. These plates are seriously satisfying and generous.

If you prefer chicken, they have a whole section dedicated to the bird. And vegetarians will easily be charmed with plenty of options including vegetarian enchiladas, gorditas, chile rellenos and quesadillas.

With seven kinds of enchiladas, enchilada lovers will also be in heaven. From mole to chicken enchiladas, you’ll enjoy three enchiladas to an order with rice and beans. They also have traditional chile rellenos ($14.75) and Mexico’s famous chile en nogada ($16.50), which is served all year.

If you have ever been to Puebla, you’ll fall hard for Los Potrillos’s molcajete dishes. Our favorite is the Molcajete al Pastor ($16.25), as we love the combination of achiote marinated pork and grilled pineapple. Stuff these small and tender pieces of unctuous pork into a hot corn tortilla, sprinkle with diced white onions, chopped pineapple, cilantro and a little salsa and you swear you are in Mexico City.

Seafood lovers will not be disappointed either, but you may be challenged with lots of choices. Hailing from the Mexican coast of Campeche, the classic campechana ($14.95) is a seafood cocktail filled with octopus and shrimp dressed in a zesty tomato sauce with pico de gallo. I recently enjoyed the Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (shrimp with garlic sauce) ($15.75). Served with rice and mixed vegetables, the shrimp are swimming in a garlic sauce that yearns for dipping with hot corn tortillas. They also have fresh oysters on the half shell ($12.75 half dozen/$15.95 dozen), which are well-priced and very popular.

As for their desserts, we have tried the flan and the rice pudding pie and neither was memorable. With so much attention paid to their extravagant menu, desserts feel like a store-bought afterthought. But I’m OK with that because the portions are so generous and the food so good, you likely won’t even want or have room for dessert.

When I asked our waitress about the abundant menu and the most popular dishes, she exclaimed “Vendemos todo en el menu” which translates to “We sell every dish on the menu.” Though it is an extensive menu, don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new. I promise you won’t be disappointed and I also promise it will be a lot less expensive than a trip to Mexico.

Read more about the Santa Fe food and hospitality scene at Heather Hunter’s blog, “The Cowgirl Gourmet in Santa Fe,” at thecowgirlgourmetinsantafe.com.


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