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 parked and raised back up for travel.
Española etiquette dictated that no one, not even the law, interfered with the low-and-slow (sounds like barbecue) pace these sparkling cars set as they hugged the pavement on both lanes for the entire length and breadth of the city limits. The lowered late-model cars with their custom paint jobs, tiny steering wheels and chrome wheels were in no hurry; attracting attention was a major aim of lowriding. As a result, it might take an hour or more to drive through Española. Because of its tradition of highlighting the cars as part of local culture and the high number of lowriders per capita, the city earned the sobriquet of the “lowrider capital of the world.”
Although the Sunday parade of “bajitos” cruising Espanola’s streets isn’t quite as prevalent as it once was, no one in the world appreciates fine cars as much as the good folks in Española. Many of those fine cars still drive slowly as they congregate at essential city landmarks such as El Parasol, a “taco stand” adjacent to the world-famous El Paragua restaurant. They drive slowly in hopes that a parking spot will soon be vacated and they can take its place under the towering alamos next to the restaurant. Once the car is parked, it’s but a short walk to El Parasol where patrons queue up sometimes ten deep or more for excellent New Mexican cuisine.
El Parasol (the umbrella) doesn’t just handle El Paragua’s diner overflow. It’s become a dining destination in its own right. El Parasol became so successful in Española that two other El Parasol restaurants have since been launched, one in Pojoaque and one in Santa Fe. Similar to its elder brethren, the Pojoaque restaurant has a menu posted on its exterior wall. It also has a pick-up window, but there is no intercom in which to place a take-out order. All actual ordering and pick-up is done inside the restaurant.
With apologies to Sugar’s BBQ & Burgers and El Farolito, El Parasol just might serve up the best green chile cheeseburger in Rio Arriba county and with the addition of the Pojoaque and Santa Fe restaurants, one of the very best in Santa Fe county. The ingredients–lettuce, tomato, pickle, mustard and green chile–may seem pretty standard, but when crafted in either the tiny wooden hut in Española or the more conventional stucco restaurant in Pojoaque, those burgers meld into an explosion of taste. The green chile zings with piquant flavor, the hand-formed beef patty is thick and juicy (even better if you order a double-meat green chile cheeseburger) and the entire creation is piled high–just the way New Mexicans love it. Burgerphiles even have the option of a burger dressed with guacamole, bacon and green chile–three great tastes that taste even better together. This is a two-fisted burger, but not always a multi-napkin affair because the beef patty is usually fairly well done.
El Parasol is also renowned for its quesadillas, tacos, burritos, tamales and even arroz con pollo (a rice and chicken soup) and menudo. This is all Norteño food, the type of which Northern New Mexicans of my generation grew up with. You can’t discuss the cuisine of the state’s northern half without mentioning chicharonnes burrito. El Parasol’s which features bite-sized crackling pork that seems tailor-made for the restaurant’s savory green chile and its fruity-piquant bite.
If tacos are more your style and you also crave variety, the Ana Maria Combinacion plate comes with a crisp shelled shredded-chicken taco, a crisp shelled shredded-beef taco and a soft sirloin taco with guacamole. The scintillating four-time James Beard award-winning author and New Mexico gem Cheryl Alters Jamison loves the chicken-guacamole tacos. When she recommends something, you can take it to the bank. These are some of the very best tacos you’ll find anywhere. The chicken is moist and delicious while the guacamole is creamy and rich. It’s a marriage made inside a crisp fried taco shell.
While an umbrella may shield you from the hot sun or a rare New Mexico downpour, El Parasol will shield you from dreary food. It is an Española treasure every bit as alluring as the lowrider culture.
603 Santa Cruz Road
Española, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 21 October 2012
# OF VISITS: 5
BEST BET: Beef Taco, Chicharon Burrito, Green Chile Cheeseburger, Tamale, Chicken-Guacamole Taco
14 thoughts on “El Parasol – Española, New Mexico”
To the Pingback Ride to Taos:Alas, your pic #2 of the Rio Grande immediately brought to mind Avelina’s World by Edward Gonzales, the seventh pic down in the left column, here: https://tinyurl.com/3fme7mpd Across (or acrost or acrossed as some might say) in the column on the far right is another FAV, El Circulo de Vida which has a list of Dichos-Folk Wisdom included.- GR8 to read you added some Green! My Fav, which I call Huevos Los Ranchos, has a base of a quick-fried, corn tortilla which has a healthy schmear of refried beans (Rosarita’s will do) upon which you lay an over-medium (firm white/runny yolk) fried egg. Top the egg with grated cheddar/velveeta and full-roasted-flavor Green Chile with (1/2×1/2″) cubettes of sauted beef which is topped with a handful of diced white onion, topped with a handful of diced or smushed tomato, topped with shredded lettuce, topped with another quick-fried corn tortilla. It almost goes without saying, serve with a steak knife, an icy-cold PBR, and several, lightly buttered saltine crackers! Buen Provecho!
– Lastly, pardon for saying, but that there is some Mujer Bonito who I presume is getting ready to saddle up her bike!
El Parasol (usually the one in Pojoaque) is our go-to place to stop…especially now that Angelina’s has shuttered its doors…:-(…
Tacos are great, as is the GCCB (before someone complains…that’s green chile cheeseburger). I’ve recently discovered their huevos rancheros! They are awesome! I don’t usually do red and green, but I do with these. They are just so good, and really hit the spot when traveling! Only served until 3:00 or something like that.
As an update to this review, it should be noted El Parasol has locations in Los Alamos, and Okay’owingue (sp?) next to the Okay Casino as well now.
At El Parasol IT’S the tacos. Chicken or beef both the best in NM. The hot sauce is the best, too. You also need to mention, the taco shells are homemade not from a box.
One of our first lunch dates with my wonderful husband was at El Parasol. We met so many of his friends there, by chance. It is a small place with a large passion for delicious tacos. Bueno, Gil!
Veggie tacos with guacamole. I try to limit myself to once a week. Sometimes very hard to do, cause the next day I’m still thinking about how good they were. Mmmm.
Even people who don’t like tacos love the greasy chicken tacos here. If I had to chose one favorite thing to eat, it would be chicken tacos with avacado @ El Parasol. They used to yell names out the window, but now they have a number and p.a. system.
El Parasol also has amazing veggie tacos! They’re so good, even meat-lovers love them. With cauliflower, carrots and potatoes, they are seriously worth eating.
It would be great to have your menu posted
I work in Los Alamos periodically and always look forward to stopping at El Parasol there for a Chicharonnes burrito. My most recent visit I tried the tacos, which were great!
This place has great food. I go by all the time and never disappointed
These chicken tacos are so good you have to stop to get one on your way to Northern NM. Obvious favorite with the locals.