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Panchito’s Restaurant & Bakery – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Panchito’s Restaurant & Bakery

“Let’s get one thing straight:
Mexican food takes a certain amount of time to cook.
If you don’t have the time, don’t cook it.
You can rush a Mexican meal, but you will pay in some way.
You can buy so-called Mexican food at too many restaurants
that say they cook Mexican food.
But the real food, the most savory food, is prepared with time and love and at home.
So, give up the illusion that you can throw Mexican food together.
Just understand that you are going to have to make and take the time.”
~
Denise Chavez, A Taco Testimony

Despite the title of her book, A Taco Testimony isn’t a celebration of the folded, hand-held treasures of diverse deliciousness enveloping meats, vegetables and condiments.  Nor is it a compilation of recipes detailing precisely how to create these homespun, rustic snacks as generations of families have enjoyed them.  At a surface level,  author Denise Chavez, a Las Cruces resident, writes about the familial and cultural experiences and dramas of growing up in Southern New Mexico.   From an allegorical perspective, the underlying message of A Taco Testimony is that if you understand a people’s food, you can understand their culture and beliefs.

So, what can be gleaned about Mexican people from the foods they prepare and enjoy?  If my Kim’s friend Luz Garcia is any indication, you’ll gain an appreciation for a hard-working, family oriented people who live life to its fullest.  Despite a stressful eight-to-five job in a challenging judicial field, Luz gets up at five o’clock every morning to make tortillas for her family.  She prepares all family meals and salsas from scratch and derives her greatest satisfaction from being surrounded by her husband and children for dinner every night.  Dinner is a family event shared at the kitchen table, not in front of the television.

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The counter where you place your order

Every once in a while you’re fortunate enough to visit a Mexican restaurant in which it’s evident that significant time, care and love have been taken in the preparation of your meal.  In fact, the only element missing from Denise Chavez’s  Taco Testimony quote is “home” though with these restaurant gems, it’s easy to imagine a cook lovingly preparing such meals for his or her family as Luz Garcia does.  One such restaurant is Panchito’s Restaurant & Bakery on Fourth Street.

Panchito’s is one of those restaurants you might drive by–perhaps on your way to another restaurant–without giving it a second thought. That is, if you notice it at all.  Fortunately my loyal readers not only notice new and interesting restaurants, they try them out then tell me about them, often with great enthusiasm.  Brecken Mallette (is there a cooler name in all of Albuquerque) was so enthusiastic after her first visit to Panchito’s, I immediately bumped several other restaurants on my list to visit it.  She raved about the tacos al pastor, huarache, carne guisada burrito and salsa bar.  Frankly she had me at tacos al pastor.

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The salsa bar

Made well tacos al pastor (which translates from Spanish to tacos in the style of the shepherd) are the quintessential Mexican taco, so good you’ll swear off ground beef tacos (which many self-respecting Mexicans would never eat).  Tacos al pastor are a perfect combination of sweet and heat, savory and tangy.  Panchito’s version of tacos al pastor showcases cubed pork which has been marinated in a red chile adobo seasoned with savory and sweet spices (we discerned cinnamon and cloves) and prepared with small pineapple cubes.   A generous amount of the pork is nestled within two freshly made corn tortillas.  It’s up to you as to whether you add onions and cilantro or maybe a salsa.  These tacos need no amelioration.  They’re superb as is.

If you do want to add a salsa to your tacos al pastor, you’ve got a lavish salsa bar replete with piquant, rich and savory options from which to choose.  From pico de gallo to a mayonnaise-based guacamole, the salsa bar is one of the Duke City’s best.  It also includes sliced limes, chopped onions, shakers of red pepper and so much more.  The salsa bar is complimentary and includes a basketful of thin, low-in-salt chips.  Most of the salsas are fairly light so they’re of the “dipping” variety, not of the “scooping” genre.

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Tacos al Pastor plate

Panchito’s Restaurant & Bakery serves both Mexican and Colombian food though it doesn’t showcase some of the uniquely Colombian dishes you’ll find at El Pollo Real Colombiana, the Duke City’s only other Colombian restaurant.  Instead, most of the menu will be familiar to diners who frequent the city’s varied Mexican eateries.  Panchito’s serves breakfast all day long with a menu which, in its entirety, lists only sixteen items.  From the counter at which you place your order, you can peer into the kitchen to watch your meal being prepared to order.  Better still, you can interact with the delightful family which owns and operates the restaurant.  To say they aim to please is a vast understatement.

You might think that with only sixteen items on the menu it would be easy to decide what you’re having.  Nothing could be further from the truth  You’ll want to order everything, especially on weekends when menudo and pollo a la Barbacoa (chicken barbecue) are added to the menu.  One thing for certain is you’ve got to order tacos al pastor, whether one or six.  They’re terrific.  You’ll also want to order one of the aguas de fruta (fruit waters).  The agua de melon is both thirst-quenching and delicious.  There are six items on the dessert menu though it’s unlikely you’ll have room for them.

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Huarache

In the 1960s, the American counterculture in its rejection of the “codifications of modernism” embraced the Mexican huarache, a traditional woven leather sandal.  Having worn a pair or two back in the day, it always amuses me to see huaraches on a menu at a Mexican restaurant.  The name fits.  Huaraches are shaped roughly like a human foot, and just as a human foot needs covering, the thick corn tortilla which serves as the base for this delicious dish needs toppings.  Indented by hand so that it has “borders” to hold its component ingredients, the Huarache Panchitos is topped with carne asada (grilled meat), beans, queso fresco, pico de gallo, nopales (cactus strips) and a savory-sour crema.  Panchito’s version of the Huarache is among the very best you’ll ever have.  Despite all the ingredients and their unique flavors, the pronounced corn flavor of the huarache still shines as do the fresh, perfectly prepared nopales.

There’s a pronounced corn flavor to the tamales, too.  Both red and green tamales are available, but red and green, in this case, doesn’t mean New Mexico’s fabled red and green chiles.  Worse, the red chile is made with cumin.  The green chile is more akin to a salsa and while it doesn’t have much bite, it does have a nice flavor.  Sprinkled generously atop the tamale is queso fresco which lends a mild, milky, fresh flavor with a sour-salty kick.  Tamales, like other dishes on the menu, are available a la carte and in your desired quantity.

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Green tamale

My friend and frequent dining companion Bill Resnik enjoyed a torta, the flatbread sandwich the Huffington Post calls “the best (expletive deleted) sandwich ever.”  At Panchitos, the torta is a crusty bolillo bread masterpiece which you can stuff with your choice of meat: carne asada, al pastor, barbecue pork, chicken or ham.  It’s then topped with lettuce, onions, avocado, mayonnaise, mustard, cream, chili (sic) or hash browns.  This overstuffed beauty is one of those run-down-your-arms-good compositions you won’t mind wearing on your beard or clothing.  Bill enjoyed his torta with al pastor. 

Panchito’s is a thoroughly enjoyable little mom-and-pop restaurant which prepares delicious meals you’d be happy and proud to serve at home to people you love.

Panchito’s
4501 Fourth Street, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 341-0977
LATEST VISIT: 22 November 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: *
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Tacos Al Pastor, Huarache, Green Tamale, Agua Fresca de Melon, Salsa Bar


View Panchito’s Restaurant & Bakery on LetsDineLocal.com »

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  • Astrid Winegar says:

    Sounds like a place my husband and I need to visit sometime soon!

    November 24, 2013 at 12:57 PM
  • Foodie Star says:

    The tacos el pastor were very flavorful, you could taste the pineapple but the overall effect was savory all the way. The salsa bar was a real treat. The green avocado salsa was my favorite and I put it on my fries. Excellent!

    November 24, 2013 at 2:35 PM
  • Brecken says:

    I am so glad that you enjoyed Panchitos! For all food lovers out there, such as myself, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm and need to spread the word.

    Since I eat at numerous restaurants frequently, I rarely become a “regular” at a particular restaurant, however, even as I write, I am resisting the urge to go to Panchitos for lunch, if only for a single taco. I am sure that I will be back many times over.

    I look forward to more new restaurants to check out, thanks solely to your blog.

    November 25, 2013 at 1:06 PM
  • Sally Moore says:

    They are closed Monday.

    November 25, 2013 at 3:42 PM
  • Joe says:

    Gil,
    I’m callin ya out on this. “Worse, the red chile is made with cumin.” Truly it is clear you don’t care for cumin. You have railed against cumin in New Mexican red. You feel it doesn’t belong. Fine. You are now reviewing a Mexican restaurant. “in this case, doesn’t mean New Mexico’s fabled red and green chiles”.
    How can you objectively review a restaurant if you are going to bash any recipe that uses cumin. You are reviewing a Mexican NOT New Mexican restaurant. Please stop the silly crusade against cumin as a seasoning. It diminishes your reviews. While it may or may not belong in New Mexico red it is a valid spice and can be used in more than Indian cooking.

    November 26, 2013 at 7:48 AM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Hello Joe

      Any negativity I’ve expressed toward cumin is low-key compared to what cooks—professional and amateur–throughout New Mexico have to say about cumin. The most common adjective many of them use to describe cumin is “sobaco” which translates from Spanish to “underarms.” It gets much more colorful after that. Cooks and diners who dislike cumin are very passionate about their dislike—and it’s not exclusive to the use of cumin in New Mexican food. Many Mexican cooks–including Luz Garcia whom I reference in my review of Panchito’s– hold a very low opinion (an understatement) of cumin and would never use it.

      Because so many people, especially lifelong New Mexicans, feel about cumin the way I do, I’ll continue to mention when cumin is used. Should I not mention it, some readers would consider it a disservice.

      Insofar as my mention of “red and green” in describing the tamales, the clarification was necessary that “red and green…doesn’t mean New Mexico’s fabled red and green chile.” In our statewide vernacular, “red and green” have come to mean red and green chile. I would hate for someone to order a green tamale expecting New Mexican green chile.

      Because so many New Mexican restaurants still label themselves “Mexican,” the demarcation between New Mexican and Mexican cuisines may be confusing to some diners. That confusion results in the expectation of one cuisine and the receiving of another, such as described in this feedback. I’ve learned over the years that I have to be clear as to what diners should expect.

      So, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on my mention of cumin.

      Gil

      November 26, 2013 at 10:10 AM
  • Edward Sung says:

    Joe, if I’m not mistaken Gil has said previously that his disdain for cumin isn’t just a purist thing — he actually doesn’t like the taste of it. (Although I believe he does enjoy Indian dishes flavored with cumin. Gil is complex.) So I think it makes sense that, if you don’t like the combination of chile pepper and a particular spice, you’re going to not like that combo whenever you encounter it, even if it may be appropriate.

    Gil’s anti-cumin crusade recently got me pondering the merits of cumin, which I previously hadn’t given much thought to. I enjoy cumin, but the fact is that it’s a pretty aggressive spice, that tends to overwhelm other flavors. It’s kinda the ketchup or BBQ sauce of spices — it will mask subtleties (or cover up defects) in whatever dish it’s in. Not that it shouldn’t be used, especially in dishes where it’s traditionally appropriate, but I have to say I’m partially onboard with Gil at least insofar as I think cumin is way overused, and often with a far too heavy hand.

    November 26, 2013 at 9:40 AM
  • Foodie Star says:

    Google “I hate cumin” and you will find that Gil is not alone. For me, cumin is almost as offensive as being around people who are long overdue for a good bath. I dislike it in Indian food and even more in Mexican food. Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, and all of the other “cuministas” on the TV food shows can kiss my smelly pits. And they would probably like it.

    Of course, that’s just my opinion.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:50 PM
  • Hannah says:

    Friends, we would all do well to take this latin maxim truly to heart:

    De gustibus non est disputandum

    Then we can get back to enjoying the crazy bounty we have here!

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

    November 27, 2013 at 9:41 AM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Alas, one of these days I’m going to have to flush out the taste/smell of Cumin as, for the present, I can dine ala Ignorance is Bliss…LOL
    - On the other hand, I’d suggest to anti-Cuminites that there are some folks who have an apparent propensity toward maschalagnia. In addition, some mental health professionals might want to examine Y’all for possible Gralmitophobia.

    (Given Gil’s sesquipedalian bent, I’m surprised he didn’t jump all over that …LOL)
    ——-
    Re Rachael Ray etc.: I turned on my TV for noise the other day as I sat down at the computer and, as I’ve espied her in the past, I had to ask myself about her ‘new’ decollete and sleeveless ‘look’. Is the latter a show of bravado against taste-testing having an effect on her e.g. biceps? Be that as it may, I couldn’t help but sense my mouth watering about some of her creations which led to envisioning an avant-garde, actual restaurant whose menu is an ever changing collage of what’s been on several of these type of shows during a given week which some might equate to being gustatorial porn!!!!!
    ——-
    The new Winterscape header on the opening page: Great Work! of, I believe, it’s the Boomer of Lilly Digital.
    ——
    To the many of you who so generously share your bounty voluntarily throughout the year as well as your Comments herein…
    http://tinyurl.com/p48e6ed

    November 27, 2013 at 11:18 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    BOTVOLR,
    First the Beav, and now another fixation on Rachel Rae???
    Rachel Rae has single handedly taken cooking from an art form to simple minded food preparation.
    Oh my, look she is able carry all the ingredients of a simple meal an entire 4 feet from her “fridge” to her stove top, thereby saving the viewer some 20 to 30 seconds of prep time. Amazing.
    Chop her hands off and we can shut her mouth, yummo!
    I picture Julia Child spinning in her grave while you’re salivating over her bare arms.
    Rachel Rae is the anti-Julia of the food network, a symtom of Americas very short attention and penchant for wanting things wrapped up in sitcom time.
    I’m just saying………

    November 29, 2013 at 8:56 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    BOTVOLR,
    How does one go from cumin to armpit fetishes to fear of armpits to Rachel Rae without first stopping for some kind of therapy?
    What’s going on inside that cranium?
    This is a food blog not a stopping off point on your way to the asylum. You’ve managed to make me nervous.
    I’m just saying…….
    And by the way I like a pinch of cumin, but not as a deodorant.

    December 1, 2013 at 7:58 PM
  • Gloria says:

    What! No “Bob, you ignorant slut” comment from you, Bruce. You strike me as a bully. No matter what Bob writes, you’re there to tear him down. I enjoy Bob’s witty comments and suggestions very much. You should be half as civil.

    December 2, 2013 at 10:36 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Gloria, thanks for your advice.
    I’ll keep it in mind the next time Bob brings up armpit fetishes in a food blog.
    Or the next time Bob, my wife and I have dinner.
    Want to join us for some spirited conversation?

    December 2, 2013 at 11:37 AM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Alas La Gloria, Thank you for your dear defense (BLUSH!!) against that
    B r u t e Schor!!!! Alas, knowing he is from New Yahk encourages me to be understanding/compassionate regarding his being challenged when it comes to civility, albeit he besmirches the character of 98.3% of the folks from there! Alas over-the-years herein, we have become somewhat like Sisyphus http://tinyurl.com/kkpxn3p; we have become banished to this ongoing, mano a mano, schtick. All in all, it is comforting to know that Y’all see me, i.e. it reinforces my perception, that I am The Wittier!!! His one saving Grace, is he was able to marry well and sometimes has some cogent comments about places like Torino’s, Blade’s, and supports the RoadRunner Food Bank. AGAIN La Gloria, Thanks so very much!!! That made my day!!!

    December 2, 2013 at 11:58 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    BOTVOLR,
    Per your remarks, I am in agreement with everything you posted except for you being the wittier.
    But, big but, my beloved, named after a great aunt, is Grayce.
    Brute, huh?
    I think I like it.
    “ignorant slut” never.
    I will try civility, but no guarantees.
    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.
    You too, Gloria……
    I’m just saying….

    December 2, 2013 at 3:01 PM

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