ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If a breakfast burrito is on your early-morning checklist for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the 39 food vendors promise to deliver that sensory delight and other yummy goodies.
Look for old favorites who dropped out of the lineup last year to return, says Jay Satenspiel, regional vice president of Ovations Food Services.
“The variety exceeds last year,” he says. “We learned a lot about the fiesta and have made some changes to make it a win-win for all. The most important thing to all of us is creating a great guest experience.”
Last year, fiesta officials hired Ovations to manage food services and help vendors save money and improve efficiency and quality.
Ovations manages the Isotopes food service as well as other events and arenas, and the company has been around Albuquerque since 2003. “We’re very much local,” Satenspiel says.
Last year vendors paid either 30 percent of their gross sales or a flat fee for their space, whichever was greater, and that didn’t go over well with some of the vendors, he says.
One change this year is that Ovations has brought back a flat rate, without requiring the accounting of sales, Satenspiel says. A space with 10 feet of frontage is $3,850, up $500 from last year, he says. A percentage of gross sales is also an option, but Satenspiel says most vendors have opted for the flat rate.
That’s a winner for Matty Romero of Perico’s who had been a regular for 18 years, before last year when the restaurant didn’t participate.
“We didn’t sit out to protest; we just couldn’t afford it. We’re really excited to be back. We’re looking forward to it. It was lonely and sad for our family not to be part of Balloon Fiesta last year,” he says. Because of the size of his space, his fee is $12,500, up about $1,000, he says.
Perico’s will have 22 employees for each of the morning and evening shifts, many of those his family members, he says.
Look for familiar comfort with the traditional breakfast burrito of eggs, green chile, potatoes and cheese, with bacon or sausage, wrapped in a steaming tortilla or change it up one morning with the tamale burrito.
Romero says he found his mother eating a tamale wrapped in a tortilla one morning for breakfast and he knew he wanted it on the menu. The tamale is covered in chile, eggs and cheese before it’s wrapped and served.
Another surprise on the menu is the breakfast funnel cake laden with eggs, a choice of bacon or sausage and smothered in chile, either red or green, he says. Funnel cakes also come with fruity toppings of strawberries and pineapple or chocolate.
Favorites for lunch and dinner include the chiccaron burrito, the carne adovada burrito and the red or green chile fiesta burger served in a tortilla. Most items are $6 and up, he says.
Eddy Burgarello of Mario’s Pizzeria & Ristorante says he would wager that a Mario’s breakfast burrito is as good or better than any at the fiesta. Just because his restaurant is Italian, doesn’t mean he isn’t New Mexican, he says. He’ll also have French toast and other breakfast goodies.
He plans to serve a hearty green chile stew for the dinner and lunch crowd and has plenty of variety for fiesta-goers, including pizza, nachos, snow cones and green chile cheeseburgers. Most items will sell for about $6.
He says he couldn’t afford to participate last year because a restaurant’s profit margin isn’t much more than the 30 percent that would have been the rent. He’s also happy to see the flat rate rent at this year’s fiesta, Burgarello says.
Mario’s had been at the fiesta for 21 years until last year, he says.
Sapenspiel says other vendors will have doughnuts, barbecue and one vendor will offer vegetarian fare.
“We had people looking for more health-conscious food last year and people with food allergies,” he says. “We want to make sure we can satisfy everyone. We have enough variety that people can come to every session and eat something different.”