Gil's Thrilling (And Filling) Blog

Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico's Sesquipedalian Sybarite. 814 Restaurant Reviews, More Than 6100 Visitor Comments…And Counting!

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

La Super Rica Taqueria – Santa Barbara, California

Two minutes before opening, lines have already formed for the world-famous La Super Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara

Truly legendary restaurants, those which can legitimately be called institutions–and there are very few of them–don’t just inspire return visits; they inspire pilgrimages. Institutions have generally stood the test of time by remaining consistent over time, thriving even against the onslaught of more polished and pristine interlopers.  Institutions are beloved beyond the communities they serve, their fame and acclaim growing with each satisfied visitor, many of whom make pilgrimages from hundreds of miles away. One restaurant which has earned the distinction of being called an institution is La Super Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara, California.

Hungry patrons line up half an hour before the restaurant opens because they know that very shortly the waiting time to place an order will be an hour or longer. While they wait, they swap stories about their favorite dining experiences at La Super Rica Taqueria, usually recounting in epiphany-like loving reverence, their first visit or favorite entree.  They talk about how far they’ve come either to revisit previously experienced deliciousness or to find out for themselves if the experience matches the hype.

The super clean dining room at La Super Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara

You can’t be in line to place your order without someone mentioning that La Super Rica Taqueria was the favorite Mexican restaurant of chef, author and television personality Julia Child, herself a living institution.  It’s one of the restaurant’s biggest draws as well as one of those inane bits of trivia only someone who’s lived under a rock doesn’t know.  It’s the reason most newcomers visit.  We all want to compare our palates with the very pedantic, very sophisticated palate of the legendary French chef–either to validate that we have comparable tastes or to decry her as a fanatic Francophile who didn’t really know Mexican food.

What is more surprising to me is not that Julia Child loved La Super Rica Taqueria, but that someone of her stature–both literally at 6’2″ and figuratively–would stand in line with dozens of other patrons.  Then again, the grand damme was a true gastronome with an adventurous spirit and willingness to experience foods where they are most respectfully and authentically prepared.  I also suspect that Julia may have received special treatment befitting her celebrity and age (89) when she moved to a retirement community in Santa Barbara in 2001. In any case, she enjoyed La Super Rica Taqueria until just months before her death at 92.

The Super Rica kitchen is a very busy place

A relatively nondescript white with teal trim shack, no more than a proverbial hole-in-the-wall belies the worldwide fame of the taqueria it houses.  There is no signage letting you know you’ve arrived.  In fact, where it not for the perpetually long queues of hungry patrons waiting to place their orders, you might pass it by.  There’s also little parking to be found, save an occasional  open space on the mostly residential street.  La Super Rica Taqueria is most assuredly on the map because Julia Child proclaimed its greatness during a 1985 appearance on Good Morning America.  It begs the analogy “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

The answer is most resoundingly “yes” because of intrepid foodies who boldly go where normal diners don’t to find the best and most authentic cuisine available.  Foodies like my friend Sandy Driscoll who drives from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara (no easy feat in heavy traffic) every year to visit La Super Rica Taqueria have our own networks of fellow gastronomes with whom we share outstanding new finds.  It’s not likely the taqueria would have achieved its fame without the endorsement of a legendary culinary figure, but rest assured, if a restaurant is worth visiting, the world will eventually find out about it.

Aguas Frescas de Sandia (Watermelon Fresh Waters)

You might assume that because the French food Julia Child loved and wrote about so much is so rich, heavily sauced and seasoned, the food at La Super Rica would also explode with rich flavors ameliorated by heavy sauces.  To the contrary, the food is much more subtly flavored though it can be spiced up a bit with the addition of pico de gallo or one of the complimentary salsas.  By the standards of New Mexico’s piquant Mexican cuisine, La Super Rica’s food is comparatively bland.

There are few Mexican restaurants in New Mexico which prepare and serve tortillas nearly as wonderfully fresh and delightfully delicious as La Super Rica.  Through the windows which you pass by while in line, you’ll have the opportunity to observe the well-practiced hands of a tortillera as she deftly makes easy tortilla by hand, lovingly shaping the masa into a ball, shaping it on a tortilla press then grilling them on an archaic stove.  Each tortilla is as tender as your mother’s heart and has a pronounced corn taste.  Pay special attention as the tortillas are engorged with grilled and lightly seasoned meats.  It’s love before first bite.

Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Tomatillo Salsa and Red Chile Salsa

21 July 2012: These tacos are the antithesis of the Taco Bell travesty on a hard-shell.  There’s no crunch to the tortillas nor will you find oodles of cheese, fields of lettuce and a surfeit of sour cream on these tacos.  They’re straight-forward, simple, uncomplicated…pretty basic stuff, but basic can taste pretty darned good.  Cash poor (the taqueria doesn’t accept credit cards) during our inaugural visit, we managed three tacos each: chorizo, grilled steak and pork carnitas.  The temptation to hold up a bank and return for more was pretty strong. 

While the tacos were memorable, my every instinct as a gastronome told me we (actually my Kim ordered while I waited in the car with our four-legged children) ordered far too safely.  The consequences of unadventurous ordering were a disappointing “so what” feeling that tacos may not necessarily be what this legendary taqueria does best.  During our second visit two years later, nary a taco was on our order.

Top: Frijol Super Rica: Cooked pinto beans with chorizo, bacon and chile. Bottom: Super Rica Especial (Roasted pasilla chile stuffed with cheese and marinated pork. Three tortillas.

19 June 2014: Faithful readers recommended the Super Rica Especial, a roasted pasilla chile stuffed with cheese and marinated pork bound together with three tortillas in a Big Mac fashion.  This is more like it–more of what has made La Super Rica Taqueria an institution.  In terms of piquancy, the pasilla ranks just above the Big Jim, Anaheim and New Mexico chiles with a Scoville index of 1500-2500 units, so it’s not especially hot.  Its roasted olfactory-arousing flavor is very reminiscent of New Mexico in autumn, while the pasilla’s flavor is more subtle.  The marinated pork is porcine perfection.  It’s moist, tender, superbly seasoned and marinated in a heavenly sauce that brings out the salty, fatty flavors of an otherwise mild meat.  Gooey globs of queso and tortillas redolent with the aroma of corn complete the explosion of flavors.

19 June 2014: The sense of smell, more than any of our other senses, influences our ability to recall past events and experience. It’s very well established that aroma is one of the most potent mediums for conjuring up a memory and for tugging at the heart strings. The aromas emanating from the  Frijol Super Rica transported me back to my mom’s kitchen in Peñasco where the most magnificent beans in the universe are cooked.  At Super Rica, the beans are cooked with chorizo, bacon and chile and are so good you might just imbibe the bean juice.

Chorizo Especial (melted cheese and chorizo between three tortillas)

19 June 2014:  The menu offers three “con queso” type entrees, all of them showcasing the grandeur and splendor that is the corn tortillas.  The Chorizo Especial features melted cheese and chorizo between three of those corn-flavored orbs.  For New Mexicans, the chorizo isn’t in ground form as we’re used to, instead resembling chopped wieners.  No matter.  They’re smoky, fatty and delicious, a perfect foil for the melted white cheese.  The Chorizo Especial pairs especially well with the guacamole and the pico de gallo.

La Super Rica Taqueria is a humble, but truly wonderful institution worth a pilgrimage or ten from anywhere in America.

La Super Rica Taqueria
622 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, California
(805) 963-4940
LATEST VISIT: 19 June 2014
1st VISIT: 21 July 2012
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 23
COST: $
BEST BET: Pork Carnitas Taco, Chorizo Taco, Grilled Steak Taco, Frijol Super Rica, Super Rica Especial

La Super-Rica Taqueria on Urbanspoon

El Sabor De Juarez – Albuquerque, New Mexico

SaborDeJuarez01

El Sabor De Juarez on Gibson Avenue

Before it was embroiled in the grip of violence born of warring drug cartels vying for control of the drug traffic destined for the United States…before its shameful history of violence against women was uncovered…before it was accorded the dubious honor of being named the world’s most dangerous city, Cuidad Juarez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua was long known as a rite of passage destination for hormonal adolescent males.  It was heralded for its shopping districts where everything from kitschy trinkets to high-quality jewelry and leather goods could be purchased after engaging in the sport of spirited haggling with enthusiastic merchants.

Perhaps not as well known is that Juarez was, and perhaps still is, a great dining destination–and not just for authentic Mexican food (though several high-end and inexpensive Mexican restaurants were very highly regarded).  A number of luxurious, steakhouses pampered guests with exceptional service and slabs of succulent beef.  The very best Chinese restaurant (Shangri-La) in the El Paso-Cuidad Juarez metropolitan area warranted many a visit.  As great as the culinary fare was, the familiar disclaimer “whatever you do, don’t drink the water” was always heeded.

SaborDeJuarez02

The front dining room at El Sabor De Juarez

For those of us who fondly remember Cuidad Juarez when it was a much more innocent (or at least less violent) city, some of those memories are rekindled with a visit to El Sabor de Juarez.  From a culinary, if not ambiance, perspective El Sabor de Juarez is very reminiscent of the wonderful mom-and-pop restaurants on the other side of the border.  At one time Albuquerque was graced with three El Sabor de Juarez restaurants –one on the West Mesa, one within the razed American Inn on Central Avenue and the elder sibling on Gibson Boulevard.  Today only the Gibson location, open since 1980, remains. 

From the onset, El Sabor de Juarez has been owned and operated by Jesus Mata and his family. That certainly accounts for its remarkable consistency over the years. It took effusive recommendations from Ian G. to remind me just how enjoyable the many breakfasts were that I shared with my Air Force friend and colleague Steve Cox at the American Inn location in the early 1980s.  El Sabor de Juarez was our sanctuary from chow hall breakfasts of chipped beef and runny eggs.

SaborDeJuarez03

Salsa and Chips

The look and feel of the Gibson location is understandably dissimilar to that of the restaurant’s confines within the American Inn.  For me, the most noticeable absence is the jukebox from which Al Hurricane, Tiny Morrie and Gloria Pohl songs could be played for two bits.  On the rare occasion in which El Sabor de Juarez isn’t sardine packed, you’ll likely sit on a booth in the small front dining area.  If you don’t have to visit the water closet, you might not even realize there’s a second and larger dining room on the side.  Landscape paintings, none of which stereotype Mexican scenes, adorn the cinderblock walls of that dining room.

The rather sizable menu belies the restaurant’s relatively small digs.  The breakfast menu, eerily similar to the one of my memories, lists some twenty items including six breakfast burritos, omelets, carne adovada, machaca and even steak and eggs.  Best of all, a side of papitas can be had for a pittance.  In my mind’s eye, there were no better papitas in Albuquerque.  As we were to find out, they still are!   The lunch menu is more substantial than the breakfast menu with burritos, tostadas, tacos, flautas, enchiladas, stuffed sopaipillas and menudo.  The menu also lists several plates, all served with rice and beans along with a tortilla or sopaipilla.  Steaks and mariscos (Mexican seafood) are also available.

SaborDeJuarez04

Stuffed sopaipilla with beans and rice

Every meal at El Sabor De Juarez should begin with salsa and chips.  The salsa is rather thin and will run off your chips so you either lean in toward your table or you wear a bib to protect your clothing.  It’s a very food salsa albeit not especially piquant.  The chips are low in salt and somewhat thin, but that shouldn’t matter because this salsa is made for dipping, not for scooping.

Three stuffed sopaipilla plates are available including one called simply “stuffed sopaipilla.”  Stuffed means engorged with chicken or carne desebrada, lettuce, cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo and green chili (sic).  The chicken is mostly white meat cut into small cubes.  The guacamole is some of the very best in Albuquerque, so good it may prompt you to order guacamole on the side, too.  Alas, the chile is rather insipid with absolutely no discernible bite.  Its saving grace is that it has a very pleasant flavor.  Both the rice (moist, but not tomatoey) and the refried beans are excellent.

SaborDeJuarez05

Carne Adovada with beans and rice

For my Kim, carne adovada is the standard-bearer against which she measures just how good a Mexican or New Mexican restaurant is.  To her consternation, some restaurants which don’t use cumin on anything else (for some inexplicable reason) add it to carne adovada, bringing about the ruination of a delicate dish which requires no amelioration.  At El Sabor De Juarez, the carne adovada has no cumin (in fact, only the restaurant’s ground beef uses cumin).  The marinated pork is as tender as snowflakes and absolutely delicious.

There are no desserts on the menu unless you consider sopaipillas a dessert…and most New Mexicans do. The sopaipillas aren’t the typical puffy “sofa pillows.”  Instead they’re comparatively flat and don’t puff up very much, though there’s still enough puff to serve as a repository for honey.  Alas, as most of the city’s Mexican and New Mexican restaurants do, El Sabor De Juarez uses “sopaipilla syrup” which isn’t a honey at all.

SaborDeJuarez06

Sopaipillas

El Sabor De Juarez remains the delightful treasure it was when I frequented it thirty years ago. It certainly won’t be another thirty years before my next visit.

El Sabor de Juarez
3527 Gibson Blvd,  S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 265-3338
LATEST VISIT: 3 May 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Stuffed Sopaipilla, Carne Adovada, Chips and Salsa, Sopaipillas

El Sabor de Juarez on Urbanspoon