Golden Crown Panaderia – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Golden Crown Panaderia, one of Albuquerque’s premier dining destinations

Although we pride ourselves on keeping a pulse on the local dining scene, it took a nationally syndicated Food Network cable program called Food Finds to introduce us in 2003 to the Golden Crown Panaderia, an Albuquerque fixture for nearly three decades.  In an episode entitled Viewer’s Choice filmed entirely in New Mexico, hostess Sandra Pinckney visited several small-town shops, mom-and-pop stores and local vendors that pride themselves in creating specialty foods the old-fashioned way.

The Golden Crown Panaderia is an exemplar of dichotomy, a highly successful operation in which old-fashioned meets state-of-the-art and father and son proprietors rely on both technology and tradition to create one of New Mexico’s most unique and beloved dining experiences.   The Panaderia crafts its magnum opuses on equipment that is positively ancient by modern automation standards, but it uses avant-garde technology to grow the herbs and vegetables for its salads, sandwiches and pizzas.

View from the Patio

Old-fashioned might also describe the relationship between senior proprietor Pratt Morales and his son Chris.  It’s an old-fashioned father and son relationship in the tradition of Andy and Opie. On Food Finds, Pratt recounted having helped deliver his son, calling it the beginning of a life-long love affair.  Pratt also demonstrated his unique craft–bread sculpting. He can literally prepare bread in any shape and form as chronicled in a photo album replete with pictures of the artistic bread creations. Although the Food Network made larger than life celebrities out of father and son, they are both as friendly and accommodating as possible.

I probably wouldn’t be writing about Golden Crown, however, if the end product wasn’t good. Make that outstanding! Make that “the very best bakery in Albuquerque” outstanding!”  Situated in a ramshackle old building just outside Old Town, it’s far enough off the beaten path as to be relatively inconspicuous.  Inconspicuous, however, doesn’t mean diners aren’t finding it.  This humble Panaderia has been consistently ranked by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel community, as one of the top five out of 1,235 restaurants in the Duke City.   Golden Crown receives similar praise from Yelp while Lonely Planet, a French publication calls Golden Crown “Albuquerque’s best place to eat.”

A rare sight–no queue

The Panaderia’s crown jewel (no pun intended) is the original New Mexico green chile bread on which is sculpted a Santa Fe style coyote baying at the moon. Aside from green chile, this staff of life is fashioned with onions, fresh tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and cilantro.  The bread is baked slowly to seal in the flavor and aroma of all the fresh ingredients.  Toast it with butter and (if you can get it) New Mexican chokecherry jelly and you’ve got a mouth-watering breakfast.

All artisan breads are baked fresh daily and are out of the oven at regular intervals between 10:30AM and 2PM.  There may be no more pleasing bouquet in the Duke City than the aroma of fresh bread baking in one of the Golden Crown’s ovens: honey whole wheat, cinnamon raisin honey whole wheat, cinnamon pecan honey whole wheat, Appaloosa bread (a dark and light swirled rye), black rye and even seven-grain bread.  They’re all great!

One of the most beautiful pastry cases in New Mexico

The Appaloosa bread is edible artwork.  Swirling patterns of visually appealing dark brown pumpernickel ornament the bread like a beautiful Rorschach ink blot.  This is a full-bodied bread, the type of which makes outstanding delicatessen style sandwiches thickly smeared with a fine mustard or with sauerkraut piled on generously.  It’s also excellent toasted which enhances the vibrancy and flavors of the bread.

Also beyond reproach are the biscochitos, New Mexico’s official state cookie which is mildly sweet with a light taste of anise and a hint of cinnamon. These orb-shaped treats are melt-in-your-mouth delicious!  The minute you step into the bakery, a complementary biscochito is handed to “children of all ages,” a gift from the bakery gods.  You’ll probably leave with a dozen or more biscochitos courtesy of that warm cookie welcome.  In January, 2016, Spoon University named those bizcochitos New Mexico’s best dessert.  Spoon described them as “sweet, cinnamony cookies” that became the “official state cookie almost 20 years ago” and “deserve to graduate onto the official dessert.”

Blueberry Empanada and the World’s Greatest Coffee Shake

You might think it heretical, but the Moraleses also feature a chocolate biscochito made from a strong, slightly bitter dark chocolate and sprinkled liberally with anise.  If you like your chocolate dark, you certainly won’t care that New Mexico’s official state cookie has been altered such. A more recent addition to the biscochito family is a unique cappuccino biscochito. It’s like dunking a biscochito into strong coffee.  Abuelitas everywhere (or at least in New Mexico) marvel at the fact that Golden Crown even bakes biscochitos from blue corn flour. 

How good are the Golden Crown’s biscochitos? The October, 2005 edition of Gourmet magazine indicated the Golden Crown’s handmade version of biscochitos “make a delightful holiday accompaniment to red or white wine.” Wine, by the way, is how biscochitos were originally served in Spain. With or without wine, biscochitos are an absolute treat in which New Mexicans delight.  The Golden Crown’s biscochitos were also celebrated in the July-August edition of National Geographic Traveler magazine.  An article entitled “five American desserts worth the trip” describes them as “fragrant, infused with anise, this flaky shortbread coated with cinnamon.”  A more succinct way to describe them is absolutely wonderful!

Combination Pizza on Blue Corn Crust

Another pastry favorite are the flautas (flutes). No, not the corn tortillas rolled around a filling of shredded chicken or beef then fried until crisp. These flautas are filled with glorious lemon or apricot filling and dusted with white powdered sugar. Not too sweet and not too tart, they are absolutely delicious.  The Golden Crown’s empanadas are nonpareil, absolutely the very best in New Mexico–whether pumpkin, sweet potato, apple, blueberry, strawberry, apricot, lemon or raspberry.  The crust is reminiscent of the biscochitos in both texture and flavor. 

The menu purports to offer the “creamiest latte in town,” its creaminess attributed to”the freshest milk in town–straight from the cow.”  Espresso, latte and mocha coffee drinks are all available if indeed you wish to dunk your biscochito into excellent coffee.  The coffee-flavored milk shake also has the flavor of strong coffee (courtesy of two shots of espresso) without the cloying flavor of coffee that’s been over-sweetened.  It’s an adult coffee shake and it’s served cold thanks to nearly a full pound of vanilla ice cream out of the freezer.  This is my very favorite shake in Albuquerque and the very best coffee-flavored shake I’ve ever had anywhere.  Obviously, both the proprietors and legions of fans agree with me as this shake has earned the designation of “the world’s greatest coffee shake.”  That’s how it’s listed on the menu.

Make Your Own Pizza: Sausage, Canadian Bacon, Extra Cheese on Peasant Bread Crust

The Morales family goal is to serve products which are delicious, nutritious and beautiful. In keeping with that lofty aspiration, Pratt has figured out how to bake breads that are free of trans-fats, oils and fat without losing absolutely nothing taste-wise.  Still, it’s the artistic nature of his bread sculpture that continues to induce awe among visitors, including Guy Fieri who visited the Golden Crown Panaderia for a 2013 airing of an episode titled “All kinds of Gobble, Gobble” celebrating restaurants who specialize in Thanksgiving offerings.  Pratt Morales demonstrated his technique for sculpting a bread turkey.

By popular demand, the Golden Crown Panaderia also serves bakery-style pizza that starts with your choice of three innovative crusts: blue corn dough, peasant dough or the famous New Mexico green chile dough.  Doesn’t it stand to reason that no one knows bread (or pizza) crust as well as a baker?  While Albuquerque The Magazine‘s staff didn’t give this pizza enough love to place it among their top five pizzas in their annual Food & Wine issue for 2010, it was rated the best pizza along Route 66 by a Roadfood crew rating the “best of the best” from among the dozens of restaurants they sampled in a 5,250-mile excursion along the route.  The pizza which captured the Roadfood crew’s affection was a green chile and roasted chicken pizza on a blue corn crust.  Golden Crown’s pizza is among my top three in Albuquerque and top five in New Mexico.

Roast Beef Sandwich with Chips and Queso

24 July 2016: This hand-tossed, thin-crust pizza features a housemade pizza sauce, mozzarella and your choice of ingredients in sizes ranging from personal to extra large (30% larger than the regular large). Gourmet toppings include anchovies, oven roasted chicken, artichoke and more.  Each pizza is baked to order in about fifteen minutes baking time per pizza.  Each pizza comes with a biscochito, an amuse bouche you don’t often see.  The personal-sized combination pizza (tasty pepperoni, hearty Italian sausage, black olives, crisp bell  peppers, red onions and mozzarella) is my favorite, an artisan-style pie that isn’t nearly as circular as what you might find at a chain, nor is the crusty rim of equal thickness throughout the circumference of the pie.  Not that it matters much because every morsel of the pie is an adventure in deliciousness.  At eight-inches, the personal-sized pizza is probably right-sized, but it’s so delicious you’ll want a larger sized pie to sate your pizza cravings.

The ingredients are of the highest quality and are absolutely terrific, but it’s the crust that will absolutely blow you away.  If you love your pizza crust imbued with the memory-inducing, olfactory arousing aroma of fresh bread just out of the oven, this is the pizza for you.  You won’t be leaving behind any of the crust from around the rim, nor will you be sharing it with the annoying pigeons scavenging around the outdoor seating areas waiting for a hand-out.  When it comes to olfactory arousing, the green chile crust is absolutely for you with just enough piquancy to get your attention, but moreover, the bouquet of roasted green chile.  The green chile crust includes some 18 ingredients while more than 20 ingredients go into both the blue corn and peasant crusts.

Blueberry, Cherry and Lemon Empanadas with Biscochitos

24 July 2016:  The housemade sauce is slathered on thickly and is quite good, a perfectly seasoned tomato sauce that complements other ingredients well.  The Italian sausage is not that benign sausage which tastes like so much hamburger meat; it’s sausage with a bit of attitude and a pronounced smokiness.  The pepperoni is nicely spiced; several thinly-sliced orbs generously applied throughout the pie.  The black olives and green peppers are fresh and delicious and the mozzarella is creamy and chewy.  My Kim’s favorite pizza is a make-your-own topped with sausage, Canadian bacon and extra cheese on a peasant crust.  It’s an outstanding pizza!

A sandwich board features six sandwiches built on the panaderia’s fresh-baked bread and uses only high quality meats, cheeses and fresh vegetables. Your sandwich can be built on sliced bread (including the fabled green chile bread) or sub sandwich bread.

Turkey sandwich adorned with fresh from the garden lettuce, tomatoes and more

in the November, 2010 edition of New Mexico Magazine I was asked to write an article showcasing the use of turkey for breakfast, lunch and dinner in  three Albuquerque restaurants.  My featured lunch selection was Golden Crown’s Turkey & Swiss sandwich (served with mayonnaise, Italian dressing, deli mustard, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and a kosher pickle).  It is an outstanding sandwich–and thankfully NOT named the “Albuquerque Turkey” as so many turkey sandwiches (particularly those offered by chains) seem to be.  Crafted on the Panaderia’s fabulous bread and adorned with vegetables grown on the premises on a hydroponic (a method of growing plants in water using mineral nutrient solutions with no soil) garden, the sandwich is accompanied by a biscochito and chips.

I also had the opportunity to introduce the world to Golden Crown in an article entitled “America’s Best Food Regions” published on the May, 2011 edition of Frommer’s Budget Travel Magazine. Along with bloggers from other storied American food regions, I was given 500 words to explain why New Mexico’s “Chile Country” reigns supreme over other culinary regions. Naturally the Golden Crown was one of six purveyors of America’s most incendiary regional cuisine I wrote about.

Ham and Swiss toasted with avocado on the famous New Mexico Green Chile bread

Ham and Swiss toasted with avocado on the famous New Mexico Green Chile bread

It’s no surprise this humble bakery was also featured in the Unique Boutique section of the November, 2005 edition of New Mexico Magazine. In May, 2007, the magazine published a lengthier article profiling Pratt and his passion for baking. It’s no longer a surprise when the Golden Crown Panaderia receives national accolades….such as a designation as the “best place for a book stop” from Southwest Airlines’ Spirit magazine. The magazine extolled the green chile bread and urged readers to “buy a loaf and snack away during an extended session.”

The Golden Crown Panaderia leaves no stone unturned in providing the highest possible in quality products and produce. In 2010, the Morales family began cultivating its own herbs and vegetables for use on its salads, sandwiches and pizzas. In a temperature controlled indoor environment, utilize state-of-the-art aquaponic techniques to grow several varieties of lettuce as well as fresh basil which resonates with flavor on pizza. The garden is somewhat of an anomaly in that so much of the equipment throughout the bakery is an anachronism, veritable antiques which function under the master bakers to create culinary masterpieces.

Chris Morales proudly shows off the Golden Crown’s herb and vegetable garden from which they craft fresh salads.

Before the advent of propane-powered chile roasters, New Mexicans either roasted chile themselves or they took it to their favorite baker.  With advance arrangements, the Moraleses will still provide this service for loyal customers.  Under the skillful hands of the Duke City’s very best bakers, the chile is roasted far more evenly than it is on a gigantic rotating drum–and without the abuse to which the chile is subjected in the tumbling process.

At 81 years young (as of this writing on July 24, 2016), Pratt Morales still has the energy of a man half his age.  He bikes distances that would tire out people generations younger if they drove those distances.  His youthful exuberance and energy are resultant from having a passion for what he does.  He loves being a baker so much that he often wakes up at three in the morning and walks to work so he can get started on his next sculpting project or bread innovation.  We should all love our jobs as much as he does.

My friends and frequent dining companions Sr. Plata, Bill Resnik and Paul Lilly with Pratt Morales, a baker’s baker.

The Golden Crown Panaderia is a rarity–a bakery-slash-restaurant that does both well.  Pratt and Chris Morales have made this panaderia an Albuquerque institution and in the process, have become part of the fabric of the Duke City’s unique cuisine culture themselves.

Golden Crown Panaderia
1103 Mountain Road, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 24 August 2017
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Bread, Tres Leche Cake, Biscochitos (Traditional, Chocolate and Cappuccino), Specialty Pizza, Turkey & Swiss Sandwich, Combination Pizza, Blueberry Empanada, Cherry Empanada, Lemon Empanada, Roast Beef Sandwich

Golden Crown Panaderia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Pink Adobe – Santa Fe, New Mexico

The world famous Pink Adobe

Santa Fe's world famous Pink Adobe

Culinary historians credit the advent of the modern Santa Fe fine dining scene to a painter who moved to Santa Fe shortly after World War II to join the burgeoning art community. Having to support herself and a young daughter, Rosalea Murphy turned to something else at which she excelled–the culinary arts.  As with most rags to riches success stories, Rosalea did not immediately set the Santa Fe dining scene on its ear, but then this wasn’t the “City Different” now widely recognized as a tourist Mecca.  Good things take time.  Great things take longer.

When she first launched the restaurant she christened the Pink Adobe after the hue of its facade, her humble menu consisted solely of French onion soup and apple pie.  As her business grew, so did her menu.  She added “Pink Dobeburgers” to the menu and sold them for twenty-five cents each.  Chicken enchiladas followed suit, the first of several New Mexican specialties she would add to the menu.  Eventually her Pink Adobe became the first restaurant in Santa Fe to serve seafood, then a novelty in what was, in her words, “a lazy, sleepy town.”

By the 21st century, the ambitious menu featured variety unlike no other in Santa Fe with steak, seafood, New Mexican specialties, Creole and French dishes and much more.  The Pink Adobe was the place to be seen, one of the city’s most popular dining destinations for both locals and tourists alike.  Commenting once to Katharine Kagel of another iconic Santa Fe restaurant Cafe Pasqual, Rosalea described business conditions during a recession: “Well, we’re not turning away as many customers as we normally do.”

Steak Dunigan, the signature entree on the menu

Steak Dunigan, the signature entree on the menu

Across the courtyard from Santa Fe’s oldest family run restaurant, Rosalea launched the Dragon Room Lounge which remains one of Santa Fe’s most popular bars as well as being named one of the top 19 bars in the world by International Newsweek. The dimly lit Dragon Room is best seen in daylight when you can better appreciate the elm trees growing straight through the ceiling and the tangle of gnarled Medusa-like vines that creep and crawl along the walls and ceilings.  You’ll also want to take in the colorful and eclectic art and nurturing fireplaces in the small dining rooms adjacent to the bar

Still going strong after more than six and a half decades, the Pink Adobe has experienced its share of changes over the years.  One of the most noticeable was the mandated color change that belies the restaurant’s name.  No longer pink, Rosalea’s baby is today a shade of sandstone.  Roselea lobbied Santa Fe’s Historical Design Review board to restore the restaurant to its original pinkish hue, but the board steadfastly refused because “pink is not an earth tone” (the board was obviously comprised of “grey scale visually referenced persons” or persons who have never visited the Abiquiu area or paid rapt attention to a New Mexico sunset).

The biggest change since the Pink Adobe began serving Santa Fe in 1944 is that Rosalea is no longer with us.  After she passed away in 2000 her family ran the restaurant until 2007, when the restaurant and bar were bought by Dave and Christie Garrett of the Garrett Hotel Group which also owned the Inn of Five Graces, one of Santa Fe’s most highly regarded hotels.  Nay-sayers often it just wasn’t the same without Rosalea Murphy, the grand dame of one of Santa Fe’s most famous restaurants and progenitor of the city’s culinary revolution.  That was true on many fronts.  The changes (including tampering with a perfect apple pie recipe) made by the new owners weren’t well received and by November, 2010, the Pink Adobe’s door closed.  On December 17th, Priscilla Hoback (daughter of Rosalea), her son Joe and his wife Jennifer reopened the restaurant.  Now that it’s back in family hands, the continuity of excellence is back.

Fried Chicken at the Pink Adobe

Fried Chicken at the Pink Adobe

The Pink, as it is affectionally known by locals,  is located in the center of the historic Barrio de Analco, across the street from the San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the United States.  It’s just two blocks south of the Plaza.  The Barrio, a modest enclave dating back to the 1620s, is at the confluence of Old Santa Fe Trail and East DeVargas Street.  “Analco” translates to “the other side of the water,” appropriate considering the area is south of the Santa Fe River.  It is one of Santa Fe’s oldest neighborhoods.

The 400-year old building which houses the Pink Adobe predates the Dragon Room by about a century.  In centuries past, it housed military barracks with 36-inch walls and six fireplaces.  Diners can have the best of both worlds at the bar: either the Pink Adobe’s dinner menu or a unique and highly regarded bar menu.  The Dragon Room also has several accommodating little dining rooms which are perfect for Sunday lunch gatherings.  My first visit to the Pink Adobe and the Dragon Room since Rosalea’s family sold the restaurant was for such an occasion, my mom’s thirty-ninth birthday.

First and foremost, service was absolutely impeccable.  Our waiter was accommodating and friendly, a perfect host determined to ensure mom’s special day was memorable and enjoyable.  His knowledge of the menu was encyclopedic, but it was his sense of humor that was most endearing.  Alas, service was THE highlight of our meal!

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

Most of us ordered the Steak Dunigan, for years the house specialty at the Pink Adobe.  Named after one of Rosalea’s friends who asked for a steak smothered in green chile and mushrooms, it has been on the menu for at least four decades.  It’s a charred New York Strip with mushrooms, green chile, sauteed vegetables and choice of potato.  It used to be better.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not a bad steak.  It’s just not the steak that earned a reputation as one of Santa Fe’s best.  Though prepared to my exacting specifications (medium, salt, pepper and garlic on both sides), it was uncharacteristically tough with more sinew and fat than a great steak should have.  Everyone who had this steak had a similar experience. In a May, 2011 episode of the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” program, Santa Fe native turned chef Rahm Fama, host of the network’s Meat and Potatoes show, declared the Steak Dunigan “better than mine.” Surely he experienced the steak when it was prepared by Rosalea’s family.

Another dish for which the Pink Adobe has long been known–and based on its exorbitant price ($28 for dinner), obviously thinks very highly of–is Southern Fried Chicken.  Southern fried chicken is a rarity in Santa Fe restaurants, but something we enjoyed on many a Sunday while living in Mississippi.  As they say in the Deep South, “you have to go a far piece to get better fried chicken than the South.”  The Pink Adobe doesn’t go far enough.  To be clear, it’s several orders of magnitude better than anything you’ll find at the Colonel’s, but for the same price you could feed an army at KFC.  Served with a hush puppy (almost as big s the fried chicken), mashed potatoes, gravy and coleslaw, we might have liked it much better at a more reasonable price.

Chicken Enchiladas were the very first New Mexican entree at the Pink Adobe.  Served with sour cream cheese, green chile and a flour tortilla, it’s an entree long esteemed even by hard-liners.  It, too, has seen better days.  Looking at the picture above, it even looks dry, but not as dry as it tasted.  Worse, the enchiladas are served with black beans, a favorite at Santa Fe based New Mexican restaurants, but something many native New Mexicans disdain with the foods we grew up eating.  The chile was so unstimulating that not even my Phoenix transplanted sister found it piquant (she thinks bell peppers are too hot).

The Pink Adobe's famous apple pie

The Pink Adobe's famous apple pie

It wouldn’t be a visit to the Pink Adobe without a slice of Rosalea’s famous homemade French apple pie which many regard as the best you’ll ever eat.  Over a million apple pies have been made at the Pink since 1944.  Served piping hot and smothered in a delicious rum hard sauce and vanilla ice cream, its recipe has been shared for years in the Pink Adobe cookbook though we’ve never been able to make it quite as well.  This French apple pie, along with Rosalea’s French onion soup, are what started The Pink on its ascension into greatness. 

Even long-established restaurants with reputations bordering on legendary such as Pink Adobe have an occasional “off” day.  The test of true greatness is whether such days are few and far in between.  I’m inclined to believe we hit The Pink on a bad day and that we’ll be rewarded with a Rosalea quality meal during our next visit.

The Pink Adobe
406 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, New Mexico
505) 983-7712
LATEST VISIT: 6 December 2009
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Steak Dunigan, Chicken Enchiladas, Fried Chicken, Rosalea’s Legendary French Apple Pie

Pink Adobe on Urbanspoon

Leona’s Restaurante de Chimayo – Chimayo, New Mexico

Leona's under the catalpa trees in Chimayo

Leona’s under the catalpa trees in Chimayo

In his book Authentic Happiness, Dr. Martin Seligman posited that there are two kinds of smiles. The first is called the Duchenne smile, named for its discoverer, French neurologist Guillame Duchenne. This is considered a genuine smile in which the corners of the mouth turn up and the skin around the corners of the eyes crinkle (ala crow’s feet). This type of smile may sometimes begin with laughter that generates a wide smile which causes the skin around the eyes to crease. The Duchenne smile is very hard to fake and is therefore often used to detect sincerity.

The other type of smile, called the Pan American smile, is named after the smile airline stewardesses (or at least those on television commercials) supposedly gave their passengers. The Pan American smile is considered a courtesy or perfunctory smile. It is deliberately formed by contorting one’s mouth into the shape of a smile. It’s both easy for most people to slap on or to detect a Pan American smile.

Roast beef burrito on whole wheat tortilla

Roast beef burrito on whole wheat tortilla

You get the impression that when Leona Medina smiles, it’s as warm and genuine as the chile she prepares in her small restaurant situated just feet from the world famous Santuario de Chimayo. It’s visible in the corners and in the gleam of her eyes. Leona is very proud to have served as a Pan American Airline stewardess for many years. Photographs depicting Leona nattily attired in her stewardess uniform and of the aircraft in which she served are proudly displayed above the order counter in her restaurant. It’s unlikely she ever rendered a Pan American smile to any of her passengers.

The eldest daughter in a Chimayo family of eleven, Leona began mass-producing tortillas in 1984, a venture that eventually led to the establishment of a full-time, family owned and operated restaurant to showcase her products. With perseverance and a dream behind her Leona became a major tortilla wholesaler, selling her wares throughout the Southwest.

I’m not talking about a few dozen tortillas here. Leona’s industrial tortilla oven have produced as many as 40 thousand tortillas daily, all from recipes it took her two years to perfect. The gamut of flavored tortillas includes whole wheat, chile, garlic and even apple-cinnamon tortillas reminiscent of mom’s apple pie. Her tortillas include only all-natural ingredients and sugar, when appropriate.


Roast beef burrito on whole wheat tortilla

Leona’s Restaurante is as modest as the nice lady who greets all her customers with a smile. That would stand to reason considering its genesis is as her childhood home’s storage shed which she converted into a mostly take-out operation. The restaurant is nestled under large catalpa trees, one of which peeks out from the corrugated roof. Only a courtyard separates Leona’s from the Santuario which is visited during Holy Week by some 40 to 50 thousand pilgrims, many of whom are fed by Leona and her family.

Their thirst is slaked by homemade horchata and lemonade, some of the best in northern New Mexico. Their hunger is abated by a menu featuring traditional New Mexican favorites crafted from recipes in which only all natural ingredients free of any preservatives are used. That’s the manner in which they were prepared when Leona’s family settled in the Chimayo valley hundreds of years ago. Some patrons contend that Leona’s carne adovada is without peer in northern New Mexico. The chile marinated pork is tender and delicious and the chile in which it is bathed is incendiary, just the way locals like it.

One of the things for which Leona’s is known are tamales. These are some of the best in the state. A thin sheath of flavorful corn masa envelops tender tendrils of red chile marinated pork. They are wrapped in corn husks and steamed to a flavorful perfection. The chile is tongue-tingling and delicious. You’ll want to take home a dozen or more of these packages of gold, but when you get them home, don’t desecrate them by using a microwave. Steam them to elicit the melding of flavors from corn, chile and pork.

Handheld burritos are another popular item. Try the wheat tortilla engorged with roast beef, bean and red chile burrito for a real treat that will elicit a glisten from your brow. The tortilla is robust enough to hold in the ingredients, but not the flavor.

Leona’s became famous in 2003 when Michael and Jane Stern introduced the world to this Chimayo institution while writing for Gourmet magazine.

If it’s been a while since you’ve displayed a genuine smile, one visit to Leona’s will change that.

Leona’s Restaurante de Chimayo
4 Medina Lane
Chimayo, New Mexico
(505) 351-4569
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 15 June 2008
BEST BET: Tamales, Roast Beef Burrito, Horchata, Tortillas

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