ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Behold huevos rancheros, a breakfast dish served at many local restaurants at any hour of the day — even when their usual egg dishes are retired in favor of the rest of the menu. This is how strongly we as diners demand that combination of tortillas, eggs and chile sauce — with or without sides of beans and hash browns.
From tortillas hot off the comal to packaged discs of yellow, each plate of huevos rancheros must start with corn tortillas — flour tortillas might be used, but they are not the preferred execution to most folks I know. Those exceptions will be noted. What follows is eggs done “your way” — scrambled will help soak up the chile, while over medium adds yolky richness — and then a heaping cover of chile.
The origin of huevos rancheros, or “Rancher’s eggs,” is thought to be North Mexican, and uses a tomato-based spicy sauce instead of our New Mexican chile. Arizona and California occasionally use a warm salsa-like stew instead. But everywhere, the formula is tortilla, eggs, sauce.
Mick’s Chile Fix
2930 Candelaria NE, 505-881-2233
After a few years of loyal yet light traffic, Mick’s Chile Fix cooks up some excellent New Mexican. The huevos rancheros are deserving of another visit (or 10). Choose your chile color: the red holds myriad spices I don’t normally expect in red chile, but it still had a nice mild heat and balances well against tender pinto beans. Alternatively, the green seems a bit sweet, with a milder heat level than the red and restrained spices, so all you taste is chile.
Barelas Coffee Shop and Restaurant
1502 Fourth SW, 505-843-7577
South of Downtown is the neighborhood of Barelas and its beloved New Mexican restaurant, Barelas Coffee Shop. Once you get in the door and find a spot to sit in the extensive dining area, just ask for the “best Huevos Rancheros” — as Barack Obama did in 2008. He wasn’t just kissing up to the owners; the legendary comfort food has been served for decades to locals, long before relative whippersnappers like the Range came along (though it is younger than Frontier by seven years, 1978 to their 1971). Huevos rancheros here come drenched in a bright red chile and accompanied by seriously excellent hash browns, but for extra crunch and a little adventure get a side order of chicharrones.
2400 E. Central Ave, 505-266-0550
Start the huevos rancheros tour with a slightly unconventional take — at the Frontier Restaurant you’ll want to drench them in the house-made green chile stew rather than a simpler red or green sauce. It is in that stew that heat emanates both in steam and in capsaicin, perking up your outlook and your morning, too. A mug of the strangely weak and yet still quaffable coffee serves as counterpoint to the breakfast plate — if you add enough sugar. The Frontier also offers one of their flour tortillas on the side, but uses corn underneath.
Perea’s New Mexican Restaurant
9901 E. Central (west of Eubank), 505-232-9442
Perea’s New Mexican has endured a location move, but the fans simply have to travel a little bit farther east on Central for their chile perfection — some of the hottest green in the city can be found here. For that reason the huevos rancheros are a spicy antidote to whatever ails you, whether you get standard corn tortillas as the base, or homemade flour tortillas. Consider it a good option, for these moist and tender thick circles will soak up any juicy goodness on the plate; the crisp edges add a little char and give away their griddle-cooked preparation.
Duran’s Central Pharmacy
1815 W. Central, 505-247-4141
With award-winning huevos rancheros, Duran’s Central Pharmacy has a reason to get you in the door. Try them with red, try them with green, try Christmas style and no matter what, your breakfast will be delicious. Despite the corn tortilla formula, the flour specimens at Duran’s are a wonder to behold: fragrant, tender and handmade every day, probably just minutes earlier. The pinto beans are whole rather than refried and seasoned well. If they come adorned with cheese, it is easy to remove it for maximum bean pleasure.
El Camino Dining Room
6800 Fourth NW, 505-344-0448
The oldest restaurant on all of Fourth Street is not the bustling Sadie’s, nor even 50-year-old Casa Benavidez. Rather, it is a more unobtrusive little hangout called El Camino Dining Room. Directly out of the ’50s — 1950, to be exact — El Camino has an original gorgeous old sign out front, and a lovely plate of huevos rancheros with eggs over medium. They rise to greatness under spicy green chile and perfectly cooked pinto beans. The dining room is cozy and well-loved in its six decades of service. A visit for a leisurely meal is a must-do for any New Mexican cuisine fan.
This is a large city when it comes to a dish as broad-spectrum as huevos rancheros, and this round-up will be woefully short — even so, there are a few more spots worth mentioning on the strength of experience and recommendations from friends and fellow foodies:
Serafin’s Chile Hut
3718 E. Central; 505-266-0029;
Hot chile makes for a great plate
La Mexicana Tortilla Company and Restaurant
306 Coal SW; 505-242-2558;
Homemade fresh corn tortillas are amazing
Monroe’s New Mexican Restaurant
1520 Lomas NW; 505-242-1111 and
6051 Osuna NE; 505-881-4224;
The “super huevos plate” is the stuff of not-too-spicy nostalgia