Dandy Burger – Española, New Mexico

Back in my halcyon youth as a multi-sport athlete at Peñasco High School (when I could consume half a million calories a meal at no detriment to my then svelte physique), Dandy Burger in beautiful downtown Española was a frequent dining destination–particularly after the then “not so mighty” Peñasco Panthers suffered a loss (and there were many of them). On the rare occasion in which we actually won a game, our coaches would “treat us” to chicken fried steak at…

El Parasol – Española, New Mexico

If you were in a hurry, driving through Española on a hot summer day in the early 1980s might have raised the diastolic level (the lower number) of your blood pressure to the level of the temperature gauge. That’s because on Sunday afternoons, Española’s main thoroughfares were the domain of the lowriders, elaborately painted late-model cars (many with intricate religious murals on the hood) whose suspension is replaced with hydraulic cylinders to allow the car to be drastically lowered when…

JoAnn’s Ranch O Casados Restaurant – Española, New Mexico

Shortly after it was announced that Mary & Tito’s was selected as a 2010 recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s “Americas Classic” award, the brilliant Albuquerque Journal columnist Leslie Linthicum wrote a gilt-edged tribute to my very favorite New Mexican restaurant.  Indicating “the red chile at Mary & Tito’s Cafe brings grown men to poetic fevers,” she quoted something I wrote in my review which she must have found to be sufficiently rhapsodic to warrant mention. For anything I write…

Angelina’s Restaurant – Espanola, New Mexico

“I get no respect.”  Comedian Rodney Dangerfield parlayed that catch-phrase into a lengthy and lucrative career.  With his uniquely self-deprecating sense of humor, Rodney invariably made himself the butt of his own brilliant one-liners: “I could tell my parents hated me.  My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.”  Despite his schtick as a perpetual loser, Dangerfield was a beloved comedic icon about whom Jim Carrey once wrote, “Rodney is, without a doubt, as funny as a carbon-based life-form…

Stop And Eat Drive In – Española, New Mexico

Stop And Eat–Although it seems this 50s style drive-in has always been at its Paseo De Oñate location, it hadn’t yet opened in 1598 when don Juan de Oñate led his expedition of Spanish colonists to the east bank of the Rio Grande near its confluence with the Chama River. That’s where they founded San Gabriel, New Mexico’s first capital at a site close to present day Española, home of the Stop And Eat restaurant. While Stop And Eat might…

Mariscos La Playa – Espanola, New Mexico

Even though it seems most women celebrate it every year in perpetuity, a woman’s 29th birthday actually occurs only once. On my mom’s umpteenth 29th birthday we wanted everything to be perfect so we took her to her favorite mariscos restaurant for a fabulous meal of Mexican seafood served impeccably. We baked her favorite cake, a rich, moist carrot cake with homemade frosting. We had the restaurant play her favorite birthday songs–Las Mananitas (a stirring rendition by Vicente Fernandez whose…

Matilda’s Restaurant – Espanola, New Mexico (CLOSED)

In Asi Es Nuevo Mexico, the official state song of New Mexico, former Lieutenant Governor Roberto Mondragon extols in a rich timbre, the incomparably beauteous flowers of The Land of Enchantment–its women. When the verse “lindas mujeras que no tiene igual” (beautiful women without equal) was written, the composer must certainly have had Matilda Guillen in mind. At 81 years young, there is no surcease to Matilda’s boundless energy. She has owned and operated her eponymous restaurant for fifty years…

El Paragua – Española, New Mexico

“If small businesses are the backbone of American commerce, then the good old-fashioned lemonade stand is the spinal cord.”  That sagacious metaphor (for which I unfortunately cannot take credit) is an apt description for how El Paragua transcended its humble beginnings to become one of the culinary crown jewels of Northern New Mexico. In 1958, the Atencio brothers, two precocious entrepreneurs growing up in the enchanting Española valley did the old-fashioned lemonade stand one better.  They built a stand in…