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Federico’s Mexican Food – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Federico's in Rio Rancho

Federico's in Rio Rancho

The former site of a Kentucky Fried Chicken and its familiar red and white edifice has been transformed into the lemon green and sunshine yellow home of Federico’s Mexican Food where authentic treasures from the northern Mexican states (with a touch of California) are available for dining-in or taking-out 24 hours a day.

Launched in April 2005, Federico’s features an extensive menu with more than 20 combination plates in which inexpensive Mexican favorites are served.  A second edition of the California and Arizona chain owned by Lorena and Juan Almanza launched four months later in a far Northeast Heights (1109 Juan Tabo) strip mall.

Duke City area dining patrons are a dichotomous lot when it comes to burritos.  The cavalcades of cars crowding Taco Bell’s parking lots and queuing like a parade route around its drive-up window  seem to indicate Duke City diners don’t care so much about quality of their burritos; as long as it’s cheap, many will eat it.  That theory is quickly dissipated when you hear vociferous criticism of burritos which are otherwise deemed to be “not New Mexican enough.”

The shrimp burrito weighs in at about one pound.

The shrimp burrito weighs in at about one pound.

It was the latter aspect of the Duke City area dining patron personality that made me wonder if Federico’s would be able to compete in the tough Burque burrito market. With more than a dozen burritos, the house specialty, Federico’s burritos are several orders of magnitude superior to the scrawny, tasteless burritos at Taco Bell, but they’re also vastly different from New Mexico style burritos.

The difference perhaps most noticeable is the absence of New Mexico’s favorite fruit and state vegetable, the ubiquitous red and green chile we love so much.  Many of the burritos at Federico’s don’t feature any piquancy whatsoever, relying instead on other ingredients to provide flavor.  Chile not withstanding, locals also love prodigious portions and Federico’s doesn’t disappoint there with each burrito weighing in at a strapping full pound.  The tortillas are engorged near the bursting point with quality and delicious ingredients.

Aside from the visual assault of an unnaturally bright, but certainly not offensive color pallet, the first thing that will hit you when you approach Federico’s is the aroma of meats and onions on the grill.  It’s a pleasant precursor of things to come.  The challenge will be picking from a wide and varied menu that in addition to the aforementioned burritos (and breakfast burritos) includes tortas, various combination plates, tostadas, tacos and tortas.

Chorizo and egg torta with guacamole and lettuce

Chorizo and egg torta with guacamole and lettuce

Tortas (a popular Mexican sandwich typically made from a soft Mexican roll called a bolillo) of several varieties are as popular in Mexico as burgers are in America.  The ham torta features Mexican ham which isn’t nearly as salty as its American counterpart while the beef torta showcases shredded beef.  Neither is nearly as tall as the skyscraper high “Dagwood”sandwiches Americans love, but they are both very tasty sandwiches.  My only complaint is that the ham torta would be even better with two or three more pieces of ham (but wouldn’t everything, including some desserts).

Perhaps the most pleasing torta is Federico’s fish torta stuffed with hoki (misspelled on the menu as “hoky”) fish, cabbage, tartar sauce and chunky salsa.  Hoki fish is a white fish that only recently has gained wide acceptance as a prime fish.  It is light and flaky and complemented well by the slightly tart tartar sauce and piquant salsa.

Conversely, the fish burrito which also features hoky fish has been a major disappointment the two times we’ve tried it.  Although the burrito is engorged with several pieces of fish, the fish has been overdone–so much so that it was dry and overly crispy.  Not even the tangy coleslaw style cabbage could salvage this burrito.

Rolled tacos covered with shredded cheese and guacamole

Rolled tacos covered with shredded cheese and guacamole

We’ve had better luck with the shrimp burrito (pictured above) which is stuffed with several pieces of shrimp, Spanish rice, cabbage and a tangy piquante sauce.  Shrimp is a misnomer for this two-fisted burrito with a boatload of taste.

Federico’s features a passable fountain quality (definitely not homemade) horchata, but you can also wash down your meal with traditional Mexican beverages such as jamaica, tamarindo and pina.

Federico’s Mexican Food
1590 Deborah Road, S.E.
Rio Rancho, NM
891-7218
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 30 June 2009
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 18
COST: $
BEST BET: Fish Torta; Ham Torta; Shrimp Burrito, Rolled Tacos, Chile Relleno Burrito, Carne Asada Burrito, Chorizo Torta

Federico's on Urbanspoon

  • Vanessa says:

    This is hands down my favorite Mexican fast food place in the greater ABQ area! The rolled taco plate is amazing, as are the gorditas. They have the best spanish rice that is light and fluffy, not ketchupy like so many others. You have to try the green sauce and red sauce with your tacos or burritos. The horchata is perfect, not overly sweet. Generous portions, fresh ingredients, great price, good food!

    January 30, 2009 at 6:38 PM
  • steven says:

    the new one on juan tabo is just as good…love the chile rellenos !

    April 19, 2009 at 9:02 AM
  • Rico V. says:

    My Favorites are the Bacon Breakfast burrito, no cheese, add potato. It’s awesome. I grab one every morning. Next best thing, the carne asada burrito with potatos(the new mexico i think). I haven’t had much luck with other items on the menu. I have found to killer favorites and i’ve stuck to those.

    May 1, 2009 at 1:56 AM
  • Andrea says:

    I just posted a soliloqy of sorts to the Federico’s burrito and how it saved me after a particularly draining day topped off with yoga class. (hehe)

    Oh, and I linked to your photo…. sorry bout that.

    Enjoy!

    http://dukecityfood.com/2009/05/20/do-not-ignore-a-craving/

    May 20, 2009 at 9:34 PM
  • Michael says:

    Open 24 hours Fredricos is a family favorite! I can’t stop craving the Carne Asada Burritos or the fish tacos. We love to load up on hearty food on the way home after sports event or when we return from a trip. Top that off with a large Horchata and we are good to go. Yes the food is not New Mexican style but that is why we like it. We all eat a ton of New Mexican all the time it’s great to mix it up. Thanks Gil!

    July 8, 2009 at 4:17 PM
  • Kacie says:

    I love Federico’s! You can’t go wrong with the super nachos, either! They make a killer quesadilla when you’re just looking for something simple, as well.

    July 25, 2009 at 2:58 PM
  • Jess says:

    I like the fact that its the only mexican food that uses certified Angus Beef. You can taste the diffrence. The Horchata is home made at the westside locations and so is everything else is made in house. A must try is the New Mexico burrito you will love it. Federicos won first place in “best restuarant in NM for under $10″ in the local newspaper. Also its good to have a local owner Federico works at the Rio Rancho store and he is very friendly and will made a wrong order right.

    December 31, 2010 at 10:20 PM

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