Albuquerque’s cruiser culture which for years has made Central Avenue their desired driving destination has one choice for chicken on the Duke City’s far west and one on the far east side. It’s Golden Pride, Barbecue, Chicken and Ribs, with one location near Coors on the west side and one near Eubank on the east. It’s about 12 miles as the crow flies from the east side Golden Pride to its sibling on the west, but it’ll take you a good half hour (longer in rush hour) to drive that distance.
A third location on Juan Tabo may be off the cruiser’s beaten path, but it’s close to family neighborhoods which flock to this poultry palace when in the mood for fried fowl. Still another location, on Lomas just east of University, is an institution for UNM students and employees of the UNM Medical Center. Students appreciate the free high-speed wireless internet connectivity and even more, they appreciate the restaurant’s low prices. It’s a departure from the college student food pyramid which typically ranges from vending machine offerings to Red Bull, coffee, sodas and ramen noodles galore.
Owned by Larry and Dorothy Rainosek, the good folks who bring us the Frontier Restaurant, Golden Pride offers both fried and smoked chicken. It also offers the Frontier’s famous Frontier Rolls, as good a reason for getting up in the morning as there is.Golden Pride has been serving Albuquerque since 1973 and carries other Frontier items: green chile stew, tortillas, carne adovada and posole, for example.
Just how popular is this restaurant? According to an Albuquerque Business Journal article published in 2003, Golden Pride has grown at an average of 20 percent per year. The four restaurants go through 35 tons of green chile and seven tons of red chile powder each month.
That same article claims that more than fifty percent of Golden Pride’s daily meals are served before 11AM and that its patrons consume about 160,000 burritos each and every month. These are staggering numbers, but they don’t completely spell out just what makes this restaurant so very popular. I surmise Golden Pride’s popularity is based in part on convenience (four strategically placed locations), value (reasonable cost for hardy portions) and quality (some items are quite good). These aren’t unknown secrets to success; they’re the hallmark of most restaurants which stand the test of time.
The Golden Pride concept is based on Gil’s Fried Chicken, owned and operated by Larry Rainosek’s brother Gil, in San Marcos, Texas. The name must be reflective of the golden coating on every piece of fried chicken served at the restaurant.
The fried chicken is somewhat thickly coated but doesn’t have the “run down your arms greasiness” of Church’s. It’s a juicy chicken (and quite good) once you get past that coating (which I surmise seals in the juices). The smoked chicken definitely has a pronounced smoky taste and is even better than the fried chicken.
Moist and delicious, the smoked chicken is offered with a thin, tangy and just ever so slightly piquant barbecue sauce which is wholly unnecessary, but quite good. White meat pieces include chicken legs and thighs which most restaurants prefer to breasts because breasts tend to be rather on the dry side.
Several sides, ranging from good to passable (but all better than offered by the ubiquitous corporate chains), are available. You can actually taste the cabbage and carrots on the coleslaw at Golden Pride as they’re not drowning in salad cream as you might find at KFC. Mashed potatoes, on the other hand, are so thick, they’re difficult to pry away from the spoon–a pity considering the chicken gravy is actually quite good. The spicy beans would be good if they didn’t need desalinization.
If a restaurant serves 160,000 burritos a month, it’s got to be doing something right. Duke City Fix readers have an idea what that might be and rave about the #9, the restaurant’s best seller. The #9 is crafted with bacon, cheese, egg, hash browns and green chile–a combination that just might make anyone a morning person. The #9 is indeed an excellent burrito. My brother, an architectural engineer at Sandia, tells me that breakfast runs yield more orders of the #9 than any other burrito. For folks on the run, it’s got another thing going for it–it’s as portable as a burger (but better, by far, than most).
The carne adovada adovada burrito is engorged with plenty of shredded pork marinated in Golden Pride’s chile. While the pork is tender and the chile is pleasantly piquant, there’s a pronounced bitter aftertaste to that chile that seems to emanate from the chile itself and not some seasoning. It’s not an endearing quality for an otherwise very good burrito.
Tacos are available in either a fried hard corn shell or a soft flour tortilla. The soft flour tortilla based tacos are about as large as Golden Pride’s burritos. My favorite is engorged with ground beef, green chile, cheese, lettuce and tomato–pretty much the standard taco. As for the hard-shelled tacos, you can’t go wrong with the chicken tacos. The chicken is moist and shredded.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Golden Pride’s green chile stew is quite good–and it’s got a piquant bite, too. Its flavor is familiar, no doubt from sharing a recipe with the green chile stew at the Frontier Restaurant.
Golden Pride Chicken
5231 Central, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 30 January 2015
# OF VISITS: 7
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Chicken Gravy, Smoked Chicken, #9 Breakfast Burrito, Green Chile Stew