Acapulco–just the name evokes images of pristine sandy beaches, translucent blue waters, a comfortable climate, luxury hotels, and world-class gourmet cuisine. There are many reasons Acapulco has earned its nickname of the “Mexican Riviera,” after the famous French resort area.
It’s unlikely Albuquerque’s three Acapulco Tacos & Burritos restaurants will ever be mistaken for one of Acapulco’s pricey and sometimes pretentious three- and four-star restaurants. There’s absolutely nothing pretentious about Acapulco Tacos & Burritos. To the contrary, these humble denizens of deliciousness seem to symbolize the wonderful simplicity of Mexican peasant food in the finest and most complimentary sense of the term.
Okay, maybe the crossed palm trees and bright sun painted on the restaurant’s colorful facade might be a bit over the top, but that’s the extent of its veneer and polish. These restaurants are little more than food stands specializing in take-out orders. Tiny picnic tables is where hungry patrons park themselves and wait for their orders to be filled.
The restaurant truly lives up to its name with an extensive menu of homemade burritos and tacos. Wood signage boasts “our famous homemade burritos built our business!” It’s a business that’s been going strong for more than a quarter century. The original restaurant location in the Southeast Heights has long been a popular dining destination for Air Force personnel stationed at nearby Kirtland Air Force Base.
One of the reasons is that money goes a long way at Acapulco Tacos & Burritos. Some burritos sell for under two dollars with the most expensive dinner plate costing less than five dollars. The price certainly belies the quality of the product. The basis for the burritos is a moist, delicious tortilla with an enticing “just off the comal” aroma and flavor. Each tortilla is beautifully flecked with spots of char. Although there are several breakfast burritos on the menu, you can order any burrito at any time of the day. It’s a beautiful thing!
For the hungriest patrons only “El Burrote” will do. Order El Burrote with the respective tone of voice it deserves. After all, it’s earned respect. Weighing in at about one pound, El Burrote is roughly the size of a triple burrito. It’s engorged with meat, beans, rice, lettuce, tomato and red or green chile. It takes two hands to handle this beauty which is big enough to share, not that you’ll want to because it’s so good.
Aside from the absolutely beguiling aroma of tortillas being warmed on the comal, the other prevalent aroma is that of New Mexican green chile. To most New Mexicans, that aroma is intoxicating; it’s like an irresistible siren’s call. The green regular burrito is the quintessential combination of outstanding ingredients prepared exceptionally well: an aromatically invigorating green chile, cheese, beans and tender, chunky meat.
It’s a messy combination that you dare not try to eat while driving as it will make a mess of your clothing. Here’s betting you won’t follow that advice. You can always change clothes later, but you can’t always have a burrito as good as this one at its peak of flavor. Alas, the green chile’s olfactory-arousing properties are betrayed by a lack of piquancy; the chile has a nice flavor, but virtually no bite.
The first product name on the marquee is Tacos though they’re not available in the number or variety of the burritos. These tacos showcase seasoned shredded beef, shredded cheese, lettuce and chopped tomatoes on a hard-shell. The shredded beef is moist and delicious, tender tendrils of machaca-style beef. The tacos are served with salsa which is easily the most piquant offering at Acapulco.
A few years ago, Sarah Karnasiewicz who would go on to later become senior editor of Saveur magazine told me Acapulco Tacos and Burritos is a place she dreams of nightly in her chile deprived home of New York City. For me the dream is of a green chile more piquant to truly bring out the flavors of what has long been one of my favorite burrito joints in New Mexico.
Acapulco Tacos & Burritos
840 San Mateo Blvd, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 23 April 2011
# OF VISITS: 9
BEST BET: Green Regular Burrito, Chorizo Burrito, El Burrote, Tacos