Gil's Thrilling (And Filling) Blog

Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico's Sesquipedalian Sybarite. 840 Restaurant Reviews, More Than 6500 Visitor Comments…And Counting!

Roma Bakery & Deli – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Roma Bakery & Deli is a culinary oasis north of Albuquerque's downtown district.

The Roma Bakery & Deli is a culinary oasis north of Albuquerque’s downtown district.

Galdamez and Albertine.  If you saw those names on a building, you might expect to see them appended with “Attorneys at Law.”  That’s especially true if the building is in the area  immediately north of Albuquerque’s burgeoning downtown district, an area teeming with lawyers’ offices and bail bondsmen (is bondspeople the politically correct term?). Instead, the building in which Oscar Galdamez and Bruce Albertine ply their own noble trade houses a diminutive and charming dining establishment, Roma Bakery and Deli.  You won’t see their named displayed in any officious self-aggrandizement manner, but it’s a good bet you’ll get to know their names soon enough.

That’s because frequent return visits are imminent, especially for hungry patrons lucky enough to live or work close to the restaurant.  The Roma Bakery and Deli launched in the summer of 2006 and despite seating for only about 40 patrons, this comfy, cozy diner has established itself as a very popular dining destination.  Visit during the lunch hour and you’ll find yourself standing in a line that extends from the entrance to the counter at which you place your order.  There is no menu overhead, but most of the patrons don’t seem to need it.  That familiarity and the banter they exchange with Oscar and the genial staff means they’re regulars.

Oscar Galdamez, the baker and chef, is quite a character.

Oscar Galdamez, the baker and chef, is quite a character.

While delicious, made-from-scratch food is the big draw, it doesn’t hurt any that Oscar and Bruce are as outgoing as any restaurateurs in town.  Oscar, who does the cooking and baking, is from El Salvador but don’t expect any pupusas on the menu any time soon.  He frequents  the Pupuseria Y Restaurante Salvadoreño for his pupuseria fix.  His restaurant launched four months after the popular pupuseria.

Finding a place to sit during the weekday lunch hour is a challenge so a lot of people call in to-go orders, sometimes for dozens of sandwiches.  An early lunch (or late breakfast), say at about 10 o’clock might be your best bet and if you’re not in a hurry, make sure to imbibe the ambiance.  The first thing you see when you walk in is a pastry case under glass in which colorful, delicious looking Central American pastries and cookies are put on display.  If you do succumb to the tasty temptations, you’ll be heartened to learn that these pastries don’t derive all their flavor from sugar as do many of their American counterparts.

The pastry display case is replete with delicious treats.

The pastry display case is replete with delicious treats.

Instead, these goodies showcase other distinct tastes.  The prominent flavors on the orange raisin scones, for example, are the citrusy freshness of oranges and the sunny sweetness of sultana (golden raisins).  The coconut butter cookies are indeed buttery and studded with smoked coconut flakes (not unlike coconut macaroons which bear a surprising similarity in appearance), but I digress…

The walls are festooned with giclee prints of original Julie Maas pastels, all very reasonably priced.  Interspersed among the colorful giclees are paintings of automotive designed concepts from the 1960s, all painted by Miller Johnson, a retired automobile designer.   The building which houses restaurant still has old-fashioned windows which open and close with a crank handle.  It’s one of the deli’s charms, along with the worldly eclectic music which plays mostly upbeat and concordant tunes continuously.

On the left, the 5th Street Grilled Cubano and on the right, The Rostisado.

On the left, the 5th Street Grilled Cubano and on the right, The Rostisado.

The menu features five deli-style sandwiches and two croissant sandwiches made on all-butter croissants made in-house.  Four salad options, a soup of the day (on Tuesdays, it’s Baja Lobster Bisque, a bisque spiced up with sauteed jalapeno and tomatoes with fresh cilantro tossed in) and two breakfast entrees (breakfast burrito and breakfast croissant) are also available, albeit served only until 10:30AM.  A chocolate chip cookie is served with every sandwich.  When you bite down on this cookie, you might forever swear off anything baked by an elf.  The chocolate practically oozes out with each heavenly bite. 

15 March 2007: Perhaps the most popular sandwich on the menu is the 5th Street Grilled Cubano, a slight departure from the traditional Cuban sandwich Duke City diners have embraced with a passion. This Cubano is crafted from tender marinated pork loin and Swiss cheese with fresh spinach, pickle and a Citrus dressing (a marinade of lime and orange juices, onion and garlic) all grilled on an in-house baked Roma baguette.  It is served warm and is as comforting and delicious a sandwich as you’ll find anywhere in the Duke City.  The freshly baked, just out-of-the-oven baguette (crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside) is a perfect canvas for any sandwich, especially panini.  The citrus dressing, a tangy elixir may just transport you to Miami.

The Cubano

15 March 2007: Perhaps even better (if possible) is a sandwich called The Rostisado.  This beauty is crafted with slow-roasted beef, pepper Jack cheese, marinated Italian red peppers, lettuce and a proprietary Bistro sauce.  The roast beef is roasted on the premises (as are the pork and turkey) and it is piled high on a fresh-baked Roma French roll.  It’s a very tender roast beef which might just rekindle memories of mom’s pot roast.  The Italian peppers (roasted and marinated in oil and oregano) are so good, you might want to order a separate Italian red pepper salad (for a mere pittance more).

19 August 2014: Having an office within easy walking distance of the Roma Bakery & Deli is one of the very few perquisites of my Kim’s job.  Over the years she’s sampled virtually everything on the menu several times over.  She raves so much about the croissants that not having one was not an option for me.  The Southwest Tuna Croissant is the very best tuna-based sandwich I’ve had in New Mexico (and as my readers know, one of my life’s quests is to find a tuna sandwich equal to those in Massachusetts).  This one is close!  The tuna is as fresh as is possible and it’s not overwhelmed by mayo or salad cream.  Instead, it’s ameliorated with just enough finely chopped jalapeño peppers to earn its sobriquet and give the tuna a discernible punch without detracting from the freshness of the tuna.  Onion, cilantro and tomatoes are the only other ameliorants.  The croissant is buttery, soft and flaky (though not overly so).

The Southwest Tuna Croissant with Pasta Salad

A separate deli case displays the deli’s various salads, all of which appear as fresh and inviting as possible.  The Southwest Tuna Salad, a cool mound of the aforementioned tuna on a bed of fresh mixed greens, will forever be my choice after having experienced that tuna on a croissant.  The pasta salad, however, is no bride’s maid.  In a city where it may be impossible to find a good pasta salad, this is a great one.  Salads are available in small or regular sizes.  The soup-of-the-day is made daily from fresh ingredients.  Monday is green chile stew day, a cause for celebration in Albuquerque.

The name “Roma,” by the way, has nothing to do with the Italian city by that name or with the wine which once sponsored Championship Wrestling on Channel 7 (does anybody remember Cyclone Negro panning Duke City drunks?).  It has everything to do with being located on Roma Avenue.  The Roma Bakery & Deli is open on weekdays from 7AM to 2PM.  It’s closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Coconut Butter Cookies

This tiny gem has been called one of downtown’s best kept secrets.  Frankly, it’s far too good to be a secret.  This is the type of treasure the downtown revitalization folks and Albuquerque tourism should trumpet with pride.  Residents and tourists can’t live on chile alone.

Roma Bakery & Deli
501 Roma, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 843-9418
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 19 August 2014
1st VISIT: 15 March 2007
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: The 5th Street Grilled Cubano, The Rostisado, Southwest Tuna Croissant, Pasta Salad, Red Pepper Deli Salad, Coconut Butter Cookies, Orange Raisin Scone, Pumpkin Empanaditas, Raspberry Margaritas,

Roma Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

Panaderia El Dorado – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Panaderia El Dorado on the intersection of Broadway and Gibson

Over the Mountains of the Moon, down the Valley of the Shadow, ride, boldly ride…if you seek for El Dorado.”
~
Edgar Allan Poe

In the 16th century when the Spaniards reached South America, natives regaled them with tales about a tribe with profligate wealth living high in the Andes.  According to raconteurs, when a new chieftain ascended to the throne, he was covered in gold dust.  Gold and precious jewels were then tossed into a lake to appease a god who lived underwater.  The Spaniards called this golden chief “El Dorado” which translates to “the gilded one.”  Legends of El Dorado fueled the Spaniards insatiable lust for gold, an effort they pursued for more than two centuries.  Though they found great wealth, they never did find El Dorado nor were they ever sated. 

Duke City diners don’t have to go far to find El Dorado where treasures untold can be found.  Panaderia El Dorado is located at the terminus of Gibson Boulevard where it intersects with Broadway. Essentially where Gibson ends, the Panaderia’s parking lot begins.  Long-timers remember this site as having housed everything from Chinese restaurants to failed Mexican restaurants.  With more than six years of pleasing its patrons, Panaderia El Dorado has outlived several previous tenants.

Some of the luscious baked goods available at El Dorado

While it’s only natural to suspect this humble Panaderia is named for the golden treasures prepared on the old-fashioned Mexican oven, the bakery actually takes its name from the Dorado family: proprietors Daniel, Juan and Roberto.  In 2008, the Panaderia was showcased in a community development conference held in Albuquerque as an example of what drive, initiative and a good product can accomplish when given a little opportunity and help with a little start-up capital. 

The instant you open the door and step into the venerable edifice, you’re enveloped in a fragrant bouquet of  pastry goods wafting toward you.  The source of these olfactory-arousing siren’s call is a pastry case jam-packed with pastries and breads of all shapes, colors and descriptions.  It’s a veritable treasure trove of gold and jewel-colored deliciousness, so inviting and attractive you might suffer involuntary (and embarrassing) salivation as you contemplate which one (or four) you’ll have. 

The old-fashioned Mexican horno in which baked goods are created

These baked treasures are prepared on an horno-like oven you’ll espy as you place your order.  It’s an old-fashioned and very traditional Mexican oven, the type of which are used throughout the Land of Montezuma.  A long wooden bakery paddle is used to insert and extricate baked goods from the oven.  In addition to the wondrous pastries, Panaderia El Dorado bakes bread and dozens of flour tortillas every day–and not the artificially tasting machine-made variety.  The griddle-made gems are absolutely delicious. 

These tortillas may be purchased by the dozen or you can enjoy them on at a time in the form of behemoth burritos.  A small menu on the wall offers six burritos: picadillo, chicharrones, rajas con queso, rojo, verde and almuerzo.  At well south of four dollars (as of this writing), they’re much less expensive than most restaurant burritos and better than most.  While cumin isn’t used on either the red or green chile, it is used on the pork inside the rojo burrito.  The chicharrones aren’t the deep-fried crackling pork nuggets New Mexicans love, but the tripe-like strips served in Mexico.   The menu also offers menudo in small or large sizes.  The only beverage available is Coke.

The Almerzo Burrito with ham, bacon, sausage and chorizo smothered in green chile

In terms of ambiance, Panaderia El Dorado offers an interesting melange of Catholic iconography and perhaps the city’s largest collection of framed black and white photos and posters of General Francisco “Pancho” Villa.  Seating is more functional than it is comfortable.  The most uncomfortable aspect of dining at the Panaderia, however, is the stifling heat.  If you visit on a sweltering summer day, the lack of air conditioning will certainly be noticeable.

During our inaugural visit, two terms often used in Mexico could be used to describe how my friend Bill Resnik and I ordered.  Those two words are machismo and bravado.  Assuming such inexpensive burritos would also be small, we ordered two apiece.  One burrito would feed a small family, especially if smothered with the chile rojo (red) or chile verde (green).  This Panaderia doesn’t scrimp in stuffing its burritos.

The Almuerzo Burrito Smothered with Chile Rojo and Queso

The best bet for meat lovers is the Almuerzo burrito with potatoes, eggs, cheese and your choice of ham, bacon, sausage and chorizo–or better still, enjoy all four meats.  Almuerzo, a Spanish term for lunch, is a bit of a misnomer since the four aforementioned meats are just as good during desayuno (breakfast).  Your immediate impression is “wow, this huge.”  Your next utterance will be “wow, this is good!”  The green chile has a very pleasant piquancy, more bite than chile used at most New Mexican restaurants.  It’s also very flavorful with sweet-savory flavorful reminders that chile is more fruit than vegetable.  The four meats are plentiful, all perfectly prepared with the characteristic smokiness of bacon taking center stage, but it may have been the potatoes with which we were most impressed.  These are not blandish potatoes which have sat around for a while before being served.  They have a fresh flavor with the occasional crispy caramelized bits.

Another burrito which surprised us is the burrito with rajas and queso.  Rajas translates to “strips,” but are actually sliced Poblano peppers.  Queso, of course, is cheese.  Poblano peppers warrant 1,500 – 2,500 units on the Scoville chile pepper heat index which means they’re actually more piquant than New Mexico and Big Jim chiles.  It isn’t piquancy you’ll notice, but how nicely roasted and sweet they are.  They’re also surprisingly delicious as in “can’t wait til the next bite” delicious.  The queso is a Mexican queso blanco (white cheese) which proves a perfect complement to the chile.  This is a burrito you probably shouldn’t have smothered because the roasted Poblano flavor profile needs no amelioration.

Two of the magnificent pastries

The pastry case is never far from view or out of mind so even those of you with iron willpower will succumb to its lure.  Bring a friend and share whatever pastries you decide on.  Frankly, every aspect of Panaderia El Dorado is meant to be shared.  It’s a great place to share with friends and family who have a passion for wonderful Mexican pastries and some of the very best burritos in Albuquerque.

Panaderia El Dorado
2125 Broadway, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 247-2979
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 24 June 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Almerzo Burrito with ham, bacon, sausage and chorizo; Rajas con Queso Burrito; Almuerzo Burrito with sausage and green chile; Baked goods

Bakery of Eldorado on Urbanspoon

Hartford Square – Albuquerque, New Mexico

HartfordSquare01

Hartford Square, a delightful cafe on Broadway just north of Central

The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star.”
~ Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Dante Alighieri’s 14th century poem Divine Comedy postulated the existence of nine circles of Hell, each circle appropriate to the sins of the damned.  The fourth circle, for example, is reserved for hoarders and wasters whose punishment is to spend eternal life rolling giant boulders at one another.  While gastronomy is a virtue and not a sin, were there to have been a circle in Hell for gastronomes, there’s no doubt it would have been to spend eternity eating in chain restaurants where we would be subjected to the tedium and monotony of forevermore eating homogeneous foods.  It would certainly make prophetic my words “I’ll be damned if I ever eat at Chili’s or Applebee’s.”

Gastronomes need the spice of life that is variety.  Unlike gluttons who eat and drink excessively or voraciously, (and therefore spend eternal life in the fourth circle of Hell where they wallow in muck and mire) gastronomes need not consume food in large quantities.  Instead, we (and I’m including the faithful readers of this blog here) need the diversity that comes from foods with varying food profiles.  We need restaurants like Hartford Square.

HartfordSquare02

The very active exhibition kitchen at Hartford Square

Fittingly Hartford Square’s motto is “variety is the spice of life” and it’s not a motto that graces the menu and its Web site solely for the sake of pandering to an adventurous demographic.  It’s the restaurant’s modus operandi.  Hartford Square changes its menu every week, based on what is abundant and available.  For gastronomes whose favorite dish is the next new adventure in deliciousness, it’s a formula that works.  We like being surprised and rather than fretting the absence of a favorite dish, we celebrate the new dish which took its place. Visiting Hartford Square is almost like visiting a new restaurant every week.

The menu is simple and short.  It’s the antithesis of the compendium menus which promise all things to all diners and fall woefully short.  The only aspect of the menu that’s even remotely formulaic is that you’ll always find outstanding pastries, soups, salads and main course dishes.  Hartford Square embraces farm-to-table concepts; most of its food is local (often organic), seasonal and healthy.  Local sources–Kyzer Farms, Michael Thomas Coffee, Chispas Farms, Old Windmill Dairy and more–are exemplars of quality, freshness and social consciousness.

HartfordSquare04

Pumpkin Donut and Michael Thomas Coffee

Hartford Square is ensconced in a 1,200 square-foot ground-floor storefront at the Belvedere Urban Courtyard condos to the immediate north of the old Albuquerque High.  The restaurant is wider than it is deep with the exhibition kitchen occupying more than half of the space.  To maximize seating, a bar-like counter with stools provides the best views in the house, allowing guests to watch the assiduous staff preparing various dishes in small batches throughout the day.  If great fortune is smiling on you, that might mean warm scones just out-of-the-oven.

Hartford Square is named for founder-owner Sarah Hartford, a New Mexico resident for two decades but with roots in New England.  On any given visit, you might see East Coast influences throughout her menu.  You will see a distinctive menu unlike that of any other restaurant in Albuquerque.  That might even mean no red or green chile on any dish–even on burritos.  This is a vive la difference approach gastronomes, much as we love our red and green, have embraced.

HartfordSquare05

Boston Baked Beans with Piccalilli Relish and Macaroni & Cheese

The first thing your eyes will probably fixate upon when you walk into Hartford Square is a glass case showcasing pastries and main dishes.  Then if your eyes need confirmation as to what they’re ogling, menus are scrawled overhead, describing each dish.  Atop the gleaming steel counter where you order as well as on top of the pastry case, you’ll espy covered pastry plates so tempting they may evoke wanton lust (and if you don’t curb that lust, maybe a future trip to the second circle of Dante’s Hell).  Pastry chef Acacia Prechtel is the talented creator of the restaurant’s artisinal pastries, all so good you might be prompted to propose marriage to her if not to one of those pumpkin donuts. 

The house coffee is sourced from Michael Thomas Coffee Roasters on Carlisle.  It’s a very highly regarded coffee which author Andrea Feucht lauded in an article for London’s The Guardian.  Not being quite the coffee connoisseur Andrea is, to me the coffee didn’t have the smoothness and richness of my favorite coffees at Cafe Bella.  Ironically, it was a glowing recommendation from Cafe Bella’s affable proprietor Michael Gonzales which prompted my inaugural visit to Hartford Square.  Where the coffee did is job superbly is as a wonderful complement to the best pumpkin donuts we’ve had anywhere.  The coffee and the donuts brought out flavor notes in one another we didn’t discern on their own.

HartfordSquare06

Stuffed Mushrooms

Having lived for two years in a Boston suburb, it made sense for old-times-sake that I’d try the Boston Baked Beans (simmered all day in molasses, mustard, cider vinegar, bacon and salt pork) and Piccalilli relish which somewhat countermands the sweetness of the beans.  Despite the city’s “Beantown” sobriquet, not all Bostonians like Boston Baked Beans which are often almost as sweet as the candy-coated peanuts which share their name.  Hartford Square’s rendition is among the very best I’ve had anywhere even without the housemade Piccalilli relish made from pickled vegetables and spices.  This is a relish so good it should be bottled and sold. 

When you order Macaroni & Cheese you don’t always know what you’re going to get.  Sometimes the dish is creamy and moist.  At other times, it’s got a good cheesy caramelization and crust.  The latter is how our macaroni & cheese was served.  Frankly it’s the way we like it because it generally means you get a stronger cheese flavor, one not diluted by cream or milk.  If we wanted runny mac & cheese, we’d open up a box of Kraft dinner (because Kraft dinner will never cross my lips, that’s a lie that will land me in the eighth circle of Hell.)

HartfordSquare07

Chicken Pot Pie

If you’re a fan of fleshy fungi, you’ll love Hartford Square’s stuffed mushrooms, individually priced mushroom caps stuffed generously with locally sourced Italian sausage.  The wonderful contrast between moist, woodsy mushrooms and nicely seasoned, tangy sausage is memorable.  To keep peace in the family you’ll want to order at least two each for every diner at your table.

Without having paused to photograph the chicken pot pie, we might not have noticed the six-petaled flowery display on the pie’s top crust.  That’s how eager we were to confirm that it tasted as good as it smelled and looked.  Puncture that crust with your fork and fragrant steam escapes, a portend to deliciousness.  The chicken pot pie is moist and unctuous, a panoply of smaller than bite sized pieces of tender chicken and fresh vegetables (carrots, potatoes, celery).

HartfordSquare08

Lemon Poppy seed Scones and Cinnamon-Apple Streusel Coffeecake

We’ve had scones all over England as well as in New England and have uncovered scones in the Land of Enchantment that are competitive with the best.  Hartford Square’s lemon poppy seed scones are right up there with the scones at Sugar Nymph’s in Peñasco and at Albuquerque’s Daily Grind.  That’s rarefied company.  What makes these scones so wonderful is their feather-light texture and the fact that they’re not overly sweet.  Best, we got them right out-of-the-oven when they were warm and delectable. 

A commonality among the pastries (aside from their deliciousness) at Hartford Square is that none are overly sweet.  They’re all imbued with natural flavors.  On the cinnamon-apple streusel coffeecake, it’s a pleasure to see real apples sliced into small cubes and not a surfeit of pectin from a box.  While pectin is a naturally occurring thickener, its gelatinous qualities can be off-putting when pectic is used to excess.  The streusel is moist and delicious, as good as any we’ve had in Albuquerque. 

If Dante Alighieri can posit nine levels of Hell with each circle appropriate to the sins of the damned, surely there are at least nine levels of Heaven. Gastronomes will be in one of them. So will Hartford Square.

Hartford Square
300 Broadway Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 265-4933
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 18 January 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Pumpkin Donuts, Lemon Poppyseed Scones, Cinnamon-Apple Streusel Coffeecake, Boston Baked Beans with Piccalilli Relish; Macaroni & Cheese; Stuffed Mushrooms; Chicken Pot Pie


View Hartford Square on LetsDineLocal.com »

Hartford Square on Urbanspoon