Seferino’s – Rio Rancho, New Mexico
One of the first things you notice when you step into Seferino’s New Mexican Restaurant is the large portrait hanging just above the hostess station of an avuncular bearded gentleman with an air of dignity and class. Though he’s been gone for about a decade and a half and the restaurant which bears his name is in a new location, you can almost feel the comforting presence of Seferino Perea looming like a charming host bidding you welcome to his restaurant.
Seferino’s daughter Cathy sports the same snowy white halo as her father, dignified argentine locks everyone should be fortunate enough to age into. Cathy, who along with her husband Joe Guitierrez own Seferino’s is a frequent presence at the Rio Rancho restaurant her father helped start.
The family patriarch, Seferino managed Perea’s restaurant with his son in Albuquerque before helping Cathy start up the restaurant named for him. For nine years, Seferino’s was located on Rio Rancho’s main north-south thoroughfare, Highway 528. A move to Southern Boulevard placed them in another heavily trafficked area and in an edifice nearly twice as large (4300 square feet) as their previous location (2400 square feet).
Those comfortable confines served Seferino’s very well for years, but in 2009 the restaurant moved to its third Rio Rancho home since 1985. It is now situated in the building which housed Weck’s for years. The steady streams of dining traffic throughout its hours of operation are starting to find Seferino’s at its new location. Many come for the all day breakfast menu and others for some of their favorite New Mexican food in the Rio Rancho area. Portions are prodigious and service is excellent.
A second Seferino’s restaurant is located at 5801 Central Avenue in Albuquerque, ironically in the same complex that previously housed Perea’s New Mexican Restaurant, Cathy’s brother’s restaurant. Chilepeno’s, a defunct restaurant in Cedar Crest was owned by Cathy’s son Rodney Guitierrez and his wife, Dianna. The long line of restaurateurs in the Perea family has served New Mexicans for generations with no surcease in sight.
The menu at Seferino’s is a veritable compendium of New Mexican favorites. While prices have increased over the years, chips and salsa are still complementary. That in itself is becoming a rarity. The salsa derives its heat from jalapenos and its freshness from tomatoes (not the mushy stuff out of a can). Onion is a subtle additive to the salsa. More pronounced is the flavor of garlic, but it’s pronounced in a perfective manner. The chips are formidable and sufficiently weight-bearing to sustain Gil-sized scoops of salsa.
If you’re famished for fine New Mexican food or want to share a gargantuan meal with your dining companion, order the “super combination” plate which tips the scale at several hundred carbohydrate-laden calories. The “star” of that combination plate is a carne adovada burrito which would make a huge meal by itself. Tender pork chunks bathed in red chile are enveloped by a thick, house-made tortilla (definitely not the paper-thin tortillas served at many restaurants).
On a piquancy scale the red chile would fall somewhere between mild and medium (leaning toward mild). It’s not an anemic chile from a “heat” perspective, but neither does it give you the endorphin rush of a piquant chile. A less desirous quality in the red chile is the excessive use of a thickening agent (perhaps corn starch). A pinch of flour is sometimes necessary to keep the chile and water from separating too much, but too much of any thickening agent (roux) ultimately impacts the purity, earthiness and flavor of the chile. That’s the case with Seferino’s red.
The prodigious super combination plate also includes a wonderfully seasoned ground beef taco, a cheese enchilada, a cheesy relleno, Spanish rice and refried beans, enough food to feed a small family. The refried beans have a “bacony” aftertaste, a huge plus. They’re also topped with shredded, melted Cheddar. The Spanish rice is a bit on the dry side, fairly characteristic of this misnamed but ubiquitous standard.
Enchilada enthusiasts have several options at Seferino’s including a combination that includes a carne adovada enchilada, an enchilada engorged with chicken and an enchilada bursting with ground beef. All three are rolled and topped with melted Cheddar cheese and chile as well as a heaping portion of the ubiquitous lettuce and tomato garnish so many people discard.
The best of the triumvirate are the chicken stuffed enchiladas. That’s courtesy of very flavorful, well-seasoned, mostly white meat chicken, the kind which would make a great stewed chicken entree. It’s moist and tender without being mushy. During future visits, chicken enchiladas with green chile are definitely warranted.
Unlike with the generously stuffed carne adovada burritos, there just isn’t enough carne adovada on the enchilada to suit adovada aficionados, but what is there, is tender and delicious. The adovada appears to have been marinated in a chile caribe, a more concentrated chile made from crushed pods. Only the ground beef enchilada is unremarkable and in fact, a cheese enchilada might have been a better option for this combination plate.
When the menu calls something a “plate,” it means the entire plate is likely to be covered in New Mexico food goodness. The tamale plate (pictured above), for example is roughly the size of a frisbee and might challenge even Takero Kobayashi, the renown gurgitator to finish it all. Two tamales (the size of the tablets on which the ten commandments were written) resemble a crimson and amber (red chile and cheese) island surrounded by a generous amount of refried beans and Spanish rice.
Even though they don’t provide the unwrapping (corn husk) experience some people cherish especially around Christmas time, the tamales are quite good. The masa has a nice texture and is of perfect thickness–not so thick the corn taste overwhelms its meaty innards, but not so thin you can’t taste it. Tender tendrils of pork are well seasoned and very flavorful. In fact, my least favorite aspect of this entree might (for reasons previously mentioned) be the red chile.
Complementary sopaipillas are yet another endearing touch that has made Seferino’s a long-time family tradition in Rio Rancho. The sopaipillas are thicker than most, but they manage to retain the puffy pockets that serve as perfect repositories for honey. Alas, you won’t find real honey on the table. Seferino’s serves honey flavored syrup, a short-cut too many New Mexican restaurants take. Sure, real honey has the unfortunate tendency to crystalize and has some maintenance requirements, but it’s far better than the artificial pretender.
Seferino’s breakfast burritos, particularly those featuring chorizo, make getting up in the morning worthwhile. If you want a more traditional American breakfast, several combination plates featuring eggs and crispy bacon (at least nine-inch strips) are available. At the very least, order Seferino’s pancakes which are light, fluffy and wonderful.
It wouldn’t be the City of Vision without Seferino’s, a local institution beloved by generations.
1690 Rio Rancho Blvd, #B.
Rio Rancho, NM
LATEST VISIT: 20 May 2009
# OF VISITS: 4
BEST BET: Super Combination Plate, Pancakes, Bacon, Enchilada Combination Plate, Tamale Plate