In a 2002 column Jason Sheehan, one of the best in a succession of outstanding Alibi restaurant critics assembled a dream menu of the best foods he had ever eaten, a “desert-island top ten” from which he’d choose if ever asked the question, “If you could eat only one thing every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?” His top ten list included the phenomenal red chile breakfast burritos from Milton’s Family Restaurant in Albuquerque. As a restaurant critic I’d flatter myself disingenuously if I compared myself to Sheehan, but at least in terms of our mutually high opinion of Milton’s breakfast burritos, we’re completely simpatico.
I first discovered those tortilla encased treasures when stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in the late 1970s.
Milton’s burritos are simplicity itself–grilled tortillas enwrapping eggs and potatoes then smothered in some of the best, most earthy red chile (or alternatively, a savory, fruity green chile that’s just as wonderful) as any served anywhere in New Mexico. Make sure to order these burritos “Christmas style” so you can have both red and green chile.
These breakfast burritos (pictured at left) are a truly mellifluous marriage of great ingredients prepared uniquely well and crowned with a chile that’s not adulterated and which has just the right amount of heat. They’re number thirteen on the breakfast menu, but even if you suffer from triskaidekaphobia, this will be your lucky number. These burritos include a lettuce and tomato garnish which I save for last and have them as a salad with any remaining chile as a piquant salad dressing.
If the melding of eggs, potatoes and chile just won’t quell your carnal urges for meat, Milton’s also has breakfast burritos with a spicy Mexican chorizo or with bacon. They, too, are absolutely delicious. The breakfast burritos are served with pinto beans and the aforementioned lettuce and tomato garnish.
There was a time the Duke City had two Milton’s Family Restaurants, both of which were founded by Milton Tzouvaras. The one in closest proximity to Kirtland opened in the mid-1970s, but changed hands and names several times and today exists as Roper’s. It is no longer owned by the Tzouvaras family. The sole Milton’s is on the fringes of Albuquerque’s downtown area. The sidewalk on the restaurant’s northeast corner is inscribed with Milton’s name and the date in which it was opened (4-19-1988). This Milton’s is situated on the building which housed what is reputed to be Albuquerque’s very first Denny’s way back in 1964.
Milton’s Family Restaurant remains in the Tzouvaras family with the eldest son Issa ensuring the continuity and consistency that has made it my very favorite family restaurant in the city, albeit a restaurant from whose windows dining patrons can watch some of the city’s most down-in-their luck citizens walk by. Milton himself has spent most of the past twenty years in Greece.
What makes this anachronism the best? Milton’s is truly a throw-back; it is absolutely unpretentious, not bowing to nouveau trends in bathetic (yes, it’s spelled with a b; look it up) ambiance or the latest in haute cuisine. It relies on hearty portions of delicious, albeit unsophisticated cuisine at reasonable prices as its primary draw.
While many restaurants may lay claim to one menu item that distinguishes itself as truly memorable, Milton’s lays claim to several. Aside from serving the very best breakfast burrito in town, Milton’s makes some of the very best pancakes (and variations such as pigs in a blanket) I’ve ever had. The pancakes are fluffy buttermilk orbs plucked out of the griddle at the right instant. A dollop of butter, some syrup and you’re in carbohydrate heaven. Who needs fruit or chocolate garnished pancakes when the simplicity of plain buttermilk is so good?
On occasion Milton’s showcases the family heritage with Greek specials such as the Greek breakfast, two eggs any style, gyro lamb, cheddar and goat cheeses, Pepperonici, Kalamata olives and your choice of pita bread or toast. The gods of Mount Olympus would have bypassed ambrosia for a plate of this delicious breakfast.
Milton’s breakfast is incomparable, a restaurant my late Chicago born and bred father-in-law (whose opinion I value even more than Jason Sheehan’s) said served the very best breakfast he had ever had.
Not just a breakfast joint, Milton’s serves some of the best comfort food favorites for lunch and dinner: meatloaf, roast beef, barbecue and even liver and onions.
In the dark thriller The Flock, filmed in the Albuquerque area, Milton’s was the favorite restaurant of the protagonist played by Richard Gere. I’ll bet he loved the breakfast burrito and pancakes, too.
Milton’s Family Restaurant
725 Central, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 22 June 2008
# OF VISITS: 12
BEST BET: Breakfast Burrito, Pancakes, Huevos Rancheros