ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Many of the buildings in the Old Town neighborhood of Albuquerque are comforting in that way that comes from earthy colors and thick walls and many decades of existence.
For example, one two-story spot tucked away off San Felipe Street used to be a home, but since 2010 it has played home to a different kind of family – one of cooks and recipes and good eats. Quesadilla Grille has what a late-fall diner craves: comforting food in a homey space.
The credentials of the building are proclaimed loud and proud on the mural behind the front counter, telling the tale of the building’s construction by the Garcia family generations ago.
Now, you can linger in one of two dining rooms while eating any of over a dozen different quesadillas. How the times change.
Menu prices change, too; Quesadilla Grille seems to be taking a double hit from increasing food costs and the premiums allowed in the Old Town area. Some a la carte quesadillas will set you back over 10 bucks, including the El Mondragon ($10.99, $12.99 as a meal) with its carne adovada filling and side of sour cream and guacamole. The chile flavor was all but absent from each bite — even for Old Town it was pretty tame.
Opting for a full meal adds minimal cost and the opportunity to sample the “fry bar” – French fries that you can top with an assortment of condiments. This is exactly the kind of “food bar” option many folks who end up with iceberg plus ranch on their salad bar plate can appreciate.
I was a bigger fan of the flavors in the Meatball Quesadilla ($10.99, $12.99) with nice chunks of savory sausage and mozzarella cheese, though both quesadillas were a bit light on their fillings for the price point.
The list of quesadillas even continues over to sweet offerings if you’re so inclined, with wild combinations from peanut butter and banana to apples and cinnamon. Perhaps next time I’ll be tempted.
The best thing I’ve found on the menu so far are the Street Tacos ($7.99) with shredded chicken. The meat is tender, well-seasoned, and offset nicely by a squiggle each of guacamole and sour cream. The fresh cilantro and hot sauce completed the package perfectly.
On the other hand, a Tortilla Ranch salad ($6.99) topped with piñons, tomatoes and cheese was spare on all three and heavy on the beginning-to-wilt spring mix. I’ll raise a hurrah when spring mix finally goes the way of the dinosaur on restaurant menus – it is too difficult to keep fresh, period.
At Quesadilla Grille the folks are friendly and the atmosphere lovely, but I’d like to see the menu execution up a notch or more – I know they can do it.