Addicts are all too familiar with the symptoms, especially the insatiable cravings that can only be quelled by a fix. There’s nothing like the high you get from the addictive mistress that is New Mexican chile. That’s why we willingly singe our tongues and scald our taste buds to get that fix.
What gives chile its intense fire and creates the need for a fix is a chemical called capsaicin, a natural ingredient that stimulates the mouth’s nerve endings, causing a burning sensation. In response to this burning sensation, the brain releases endorphins, natural painkillers that may produce a temporary “high.”
So, the more of a fiery chile you eat, the stronger the soothing effect. Even though chile isn’t medically addictive, some chile lovers may be hooked on the high they get…just ask anyone in New Mexico who loves the stuff.
Better still, ask a chile addict who no longer lives in New Mexico and can’t get the stuff everyday. The withdrawal is painful. In dreams they are plagued by the unrequited yearning which can be fulfilled only by a satisfying bowl of red or green. They wake to drool soaked and chewed up pillows.
New Mexicans are fortunate indeed in that we can satisfy our lust for chile whenever we want–and we want it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between. We want it in all foods sweet and savory. We want it at work and at play.
One of the very best new restaurants in Albuquerque in which to get that fix is the aptly named Mick’s Chile Fix. Mick’s isn’t situated in a bustling, well-trafficked, well eaten area, but in a humble brick stand-alone building in an industrial area off Candelaria.
Open 7AM through 2PM from Monday through Saturday, it’s a locally owned and operated diner in which patrons willingly risk spilling some of the red stuff on their nattily whites or grungy blues. It’s a classic greasy spoon and in 2006, Mick’s earned a Greasy Spoon award from a local rock station.
The dining room is stark and functional. It’s not the type of diner in which comfy chairs invite lingering for post-meal conversations. Come to think of it, the only conversations I recall during our inaugural visit were in between utterances of umm and yum. Conversations that did take place centered around how good the food is. A persistent, droning hum from the ice maker could be another reason conversation seemed so sparse.
The menu, on which the letter “i” in chile is painted like a red chile and the “i” in Fix is painted like a green chile features all the New Mexican standards. Breakfast is served all day long.
Salsa isn’t complementary at Mick’s, a trend that seems to be increasing among Duke City restaurants. It’s a nice salsa, pureed but not to the point of being liquefied. It’s got a piquant bite that goes oh so well with the plateful of crisp, low-salt and heated chips.
Two of the more popular entrees at Mick’s are generously endowed combination platters fittingly called the “Hungry Man’s Lunch” and the “Hungry Man’s Breakfast.” What makes their popularity so surprising is that many of the partakers have to go back to work on what will invariably be an overfull belly.
The Hungry Man’s Lunch is bountiful: two beef tacos, one meat and one cheese enchilada, a tamale and two paper-thin tortillas along with the de rigueur beans and rice. Everything is smothered in your choice of chile (red, green or Christmas style) and a blanket of Cheddar.
If you’ve ever had a combination plate in which you can’t discern much difference between the enchiladas and the tamale, you’ll appreciate Mick’s version of both.
The tamale has the perfect amount of masa with a nice texture. It provides a complementary contrast between the pronounced corn flavored outer “shell” and the chile blessed, shredded meat inside.
The enchiladas are substantial with fried, soft corn shells enveloping generous portions of meat and cheese. Rarely do you find a cheese enchilada as flavorful as Mick’s rendition.
The tacos aren’t your garden-variety tacos busting at the seams with lettuce and tomato. Once you get past the greenery (and reddery?) there’s plenty of well seasoned and flavorful beef.
The chile isn’t quite piquant enough for a fire-eater like me, but it’s quite flavorful. The red chile isn’t quite the color of Day-Glo, but seems to run almost as orange as it is red. The green chile is almost luminescent and packs a fruity flavor. Both will assuage your fix.
There are plenty of options on the menu for folks who don’t necessarily need a fix (unindoctrinated tourists mostly).
For them, there’s the Hungry Man’s Breakfast which is missing only one thing–an angioplasty. That’s what you might need after three eggs, hash browns, two strips of bacon, two sausage links, a pancake and toast or tortilla. This is the type of breakfast that will fill you up for an entire weekend. The pancake itself is roughly the size of the saucer seen flying over Roswell some sixty years ago. It’s also an excellent pancake, the only room for improvement being warm syrup instead of syrup from a squeeze bottle.
I’m not quite ready to proclaim “get your kicks on Route 66 and your chile at Mick’s Chile Fix,” but it is a great option when you’ve just got to have it.
Mick’s Chile Fix
2930 Candelaria, N.E.
LATEST VISIT: 30 October 2007
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Salsa & Chips, The Hungry Man’s Breakfast, The Hungry Man’s Lunch