School cafeteria meals have probably traumatized more youth than John Carpenter’s horror movies. Lunch menus read like fine-dining, promising nutritious, healthy and delicious cuisine. Instead, they deliver what could pass for TV dinner rejects. Reject is an apropos term here. Slop buckets are overfilled with the much feared and cursed vegetable medley (also known as succotash, emphasis on the “suck” part) and the next day with chicken a la king, featuring whatever is left over of the dreaded vegetable medley. It’s no wonder America’s youth seeks sustenance and refuge in the calorie-laden comfort of vended snacks.
Bocadillos, a locally owned and operated, full-service school lunch and catering company is working to change the image of the dreaded school cafeteria meal. In 2012, Bocadillos prepared as many as 500 meals per day for three charter school clients. In 2013, those numbers doubled to 1000 meals per day and six charter schools. Bocadillos doesn’t do things in the tried and failed methods of the past. The serve children wholesome, balanced meals to support their cognitive development and physical health. All students will likely recognize is that it tastes delicious!
Launched in 2010, Bocadillos is the brainchild of owner and chef Marie Yniguez, a creative, high-energy dynamo who apparently can’t sit still. While many people would wind down during the summer lull between one school year and the next, Marie and co-owner Karla Arvizu instead launched a small grab-and-go operation which operates out of Bocadillos commissary at 1609 Indian School, N.W. Dubbed Slow Roasted: A Sandwich Shop, it will have the geriatrically advanced among us wonder just how good Bocadillos school lunches must be (not that we’d ever want to return to school to find out).
Bocadillos is a Spanish term which translates to sandwiches while slow-roasted speaks for itself. The meats from which Slow Roasted sandwiches are constructed are indeed slow-roasted which makes them tender, moist and delicious. The menu currently showcases only five sandwiches, including the “Salad Shooter,” a vegetarian sandwich featuring grilled portabello mushrooms, roasted bell peppers and roasted tomatoes. Each sandwich comes with your choice of four sides: chipotle potato salad, macaroni salad or a small side salad with your choice of house dressing. In cold weather, soups are an optional side. Here’s to more cold weather!
The bad news for folks whose dining opportunities are limited to weekends is that Bocadillos Slow Roasted is open only for lunch and only Monday through Friday from 11AM to 2:30PM. There is good news for the rest of us, however. Guests who in previous visits had to eat in their cars or take their meals to go is that Bocadillos now offers seating. It’s only seven two-seat tables, but you’ll want to stay and take in the interaction and energy between Marie and her staff. It’s obvious they enjoy what they’re doing.
The ambiance includes a vintage Texaco gas pump, atop of which sits a bucket of fry batter from Los Pollos Hermanos, the fictional Mexican chicken restaurant on Breaking Bad. It’s a prop Chef Marie acquired from a friend. Los Pollos Hermanos television commercial touted “The finest ingredients…brought together with love and care, then slow cooked to perfection.” Among the fry batter’s ingredients listed on the prop bucket are chicken semen along with the usual chemical additives to which the American palate is subjected. I’d much rather have a Bocadillos sandwich.
One word of caution about finding Bocadillos–all you have to watch for is the Blakes Lotaburger. Bocadillos is to the immediate east of the popular burger restaurant. Go past Bocadillos and you just might end up on Menaul or 12th Street courtesy of a round-about that seems to confuse some drivers (or at least me) looking for Bocadillos. It doesn’t help that Bocadillos doesn’t resemble a restaurant in the least. It could easily be mistaken for an industrial complex.
Unmistakable, however, are the intoxicating aromas wafting from the kitchens. By the time you place your order, you might be drooling as those aromas envelop you like an olfactory-arousing cocoon. The challenge of deciding what to eat is no less daunting because the menu is limited. You’ll be hard-pressed to decide what to have. Make sure you take a friend or loved one when you visit so you can share half a sandwich a piece. Either that or order two sandwiches.
The chef’s choice…the sandwich of which Marie is most proud is the Duke City Ruben. Quite simply, it may be the very best Reuben sandwich in Albuquerque. It’s the embodiment of the slow roasting process, taking no less than twelve hours to achieve its tender texture and moistness throughout as well as a sweet caramelization on the surface of each tendril of the corned beef. The housemade sauerkraut doesn’t have the lip-pursing qualities of some sauerkraut. It’s made with a red cabbage tinged with the distinctive flavor of caraway seeds. The Thousand Island dressing, also made on the premises, is terrific, too.
One of the consequences of splitting a sandwich with a friend is that one of you will have to share half of a superior sandwich. That was the case with the Ruben I split with my friend Paul Lilly. Rarely will you consider the sandwich he ordered (a Philly cheesesteak sandwich) a “Miss Congeniality” of sandwiches, but Bocadillos’ Ruben is just that much better than just about any other sandwich. Place it on a line-up of the Duke City’s best sandwiches and it might rise to the top. It’s on my list.
That “Miss Congeniality,” the 5-0-Philly is pretty terrific in its own right. Constructed with slow-roasted beef, Swiss cheese, New Mexico green chile, green and red bell peppers, mushrooms and onions, it’s a coalescence of ingredients and flavors that will delight you. There is so much going on, however, that the green chile doesn’t express itself quite as much as this New Mexico native would have liked. What does stand out is the slow roasted beef, as tender, moist and delicious as possible.
One-track minded men with their minds in the gutter might do a double-take when they see T n A on the sandwich menu. T n A in this case stands for “turkey and avocado,” but this sandwich is so much more. In fact, just about every other turkey sandwich in town is a true turkey compared to this one. The T n A’s listed ingredients are slow-roasted turkey, avocado, green chile apple chutney, lettuce, tomato and Muenster cheese, but this sandwich isn’t about ingredients. It’s about the process of putting it together.
The process starts with real turkey, not a ubiquitous Boar’s Head offering. First, a dry rub of relatively simple ingredients (crushed peppers, garlic, salt, etc.) is lovingly applied followed by a smear of a housemade honey mustard. The turkey then goes into the oven for twelve hours at low temperature (250 degrees). When extricated, the turkey pulls apart easily. At this point, almost every restaurant would serve, but not so at Bocadillos which nestles a generous amount of this amazing turkey between a hoagie bun, tops it with a magically reduced green chile-apple chutney, heirloom tomatoes and ripe avocados. It’s eight-ounces of absolute deliciousness, turkey being all it can be. The green-chile apple chutney is sweet and tangy but has a bit of fire which will sneak up on you.
As a young student, I disliked cold weather intensely because it meant summer vacation was over and school was back in session. As a seasoned citizen, I’m looking forward to cold weather because it means Bocadillos is serving soup. Having served for six years as a judge at the Roadrunner Food Bank’s SouperBowl fund-raising event, I’m well acquainted with Bocadillos soup. Its Southwest chicken corn chowder earned the Critics’ Choice award in 2013. In the 2014 soup soiree, Bocadillos green chile chicken corn chowder earned third place in the Peoples’ Choice category. Better than both of these is a smoked sweet potato-chipotle soup reminiscent of the phenomenal soups prepared in Santa Fe’s Jambo. It’s one of the very best soups this veteran soup judge has enjoyed.
It’s highly likely Bocadillos will likely earn quite a few “best of” and “peoples’ choice” awards over the years. Within months after launching its grab-and-go operation, no less than Food Network glitterati Guy Fieri and the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives crew came calling. Fieri’s September, 2013 visit caused quite a stir and when the episode showcasing Bocadillos aired on Monday, October 28, 2013, viewers all over the country found out about the small unconventional restaurant which serves one of the world’s best Ruben sandwiches. Even more remarkable is that the best Ruben in Albuquerque may not even be the best sandwich on the Bocadillos menu.
Bocadillos Slow Roasted: A Sandwich Shop
1609 Indian School Road, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 29 January 2014
1st VISIT: 29 July 2013
# OF VISITS: 2
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Duke City Ruben, 5-0-Philly, T n A, Macaroni Salad, Roasted Sweet Potato Chipotle Soup, Green Chile Chicken Corn Chowder