Restaurante Rancho De Chimayo – Chimayo, New Mexico

El Rancho de Chimayo, a northern New Mexico treasure

The humble Northern New Mexico village of Chimayo has a reputation far and wide as a place in which miracles occur. Because of the healing and restorative nature of those miracles, it has even been called the “Lourdes of America.”

During Holy Week of 1813, a devout Penitente named Bernardo Abeyta was performing his penances on a hillside when he looked up and saw a bright light emanating from the ground near the river. Abeyta ran to the spot, knelt and began digging with his bare hands toward the light’s source. Within minutes he uncovered a large and wondrous crucifix bearing the image of Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas.

El Rancho de Chimayo's front courtyard.
El Rancho de Chimayo’s front courtyard.

The crucifix was processed to the church in Santa Cruz where it was placed in a niche off the main altar, but the next morning it was gone. In fact, the crucifix disappeared three times, only to be found back in its hole.  After the third time, everyone understood that Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas wanted to remain in Chimayo. A tiny chapel was then built above the hole. The miraculous healings began almost immediately with the first recipient being a grievously afflicted Bernardo Abeyta himself.

The healings grew so numerous that the tiny chapel was replaced in 1816 by the current and much larger Santuario de Chimayo, an adobe mission on which miracles are still visited.  More than a quarter of a million people visit Chimayo annually. They bring with them their petitions for healing and many of them are granted relief from infirmities, disease and unhappiness.  The walls of the Santuario’s sacristy are adorned with discarded canes, crutches and before-and-after photographs of healings that transpired at this Holy Shrine.

The Grand Lady Herself, Florence Jaramillo

It might be a stretch to call the food at Restaurante Rancho De Chimayo miraculous, but many people will agree that it may just well be divinely inspired. The restaurant has culled a world renowned reputation for some of the very best traditional and contemporary New Mexican cuisine in a spectacular, tree-lined setting since 1965.  In fact, Restaurante Rancho de Chimayo is probably most responsible for New Mexican cuisine being recognized as a distinctive cuisine than any other restaurant in the state.

For generations  Hispanic families in Northern New Mexico served traditional New Mexican food at home, while many restaurants throughout the region served “Mexican” style food similar to what our neighbors in Arizona and Texas offered.  That meant insipid chile lacking the flavor and piquancy which has become a hallmark of New Mexican cuisine.  Rancho de Chimayo helped changed all that by showcasing just how extraordinarily flavorful  were the ordinary foods served in the family homes throughout Northern New Mexico.

Salsa and chips
Salsa and chips

In October, 1965, Arturo and Florence Jaramillo transformed the century old Jaramillo ancestral home with its white-washed walls and hand stripped vigas into El Restaurante Rancho de Chimayo.  Their goal was to provide a different type of restaurant experience, one in which diners could feel as though they’d been invited to an old Spanish home with a grand ambience and spectacular food.  Over time they expanded the restaurant to 4,000 square-feet, including a 400 square-foot kitchen which churns out deliciousness for throngs of as many as 350 patrons, the restaurant’s seating capacity.

Today cozy dining rooms and their stately fireplaces radiate warmth whether lit or not.   Religious iconography of Northern New Mexico shares wall space with colorful framed paintings, many of which depict the restaurant.   Family heirlooms  and portraits festoon some of the dining rooms. In the summer, there may be no lovelier setting that on the lush and verdant terraced patios which beckon hungry patrons to commune with beauty.  High school graduations, weddings and celebrations of all kinds are often held on the sunroom just below the terraced patios.

A combination plate Christmas style
A combination plate Christmas style

Restaurante Rancho de Chimayo employs some 75 people and is an integral part of the community. In addition to the incomparable setting and wonderful food, one of the best reasons to visit is the employees themselves. Think service that’s sassy with a smile. The waitresses are attired in traditional period dress, the only inauthentic detail sometimes being a tattoo peeking out from under a puffed sleeve.  Ask a question to which the wait staff doesn’t have an answer readily available, and they will find an answer for you.  They generally have a warm smile for you, too.

The indefatigable Florence still owns and manages the restaurant more than forty years since she helped found it. In 2006 she was one of five recipients honored by the National Restaurant Association with a lifetime achievement award previously bestowed on such culinary glitterati as Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Julia Child.  The grand lady, honored as New Mexico’s restaurateur of the year for 1987, still shows up to the restaurant and has a radiant smile for everyone.

A salad of local greens, Mandarin orange slices, goat cheese and candied pecans drizzled with a honey vinaigrette

Accolades are nothing new for Jaramillo and her fabulous restaurant. For three consecutive years, from 1999 through 2001, Restaurante Rancho de Chimayo was selected by Hispanic magazine as one of America’s top fifty Hispanic restaurants. In 1988, Nation’s Restaurant News, a respected trade publication, selected Rancho de Chimayo for inclusion into its Hall of Fame, placing it in very exclusive company.

Unlike many Northern New Mexico restaurants, Rancho De Chimayo has not “anglicized” its entrees and still serves chile that does more than decorate the plate with color; it adds that distinctive, addictive flavor all native New Mexicans crave–and cumin won’t come within a mile of this chile. Ask a waitress if the carne adovada is made with cumin and either you’ll get a blank expression reflective of the abominable spice’s lack of use throughout Northern New Mexico or you’ll get a response indicating the restaurant holds true to the authenticity of New Mexican cuisine and that means no cumin.

A tostada topped with carne adovada served with calabasitas, rice, beans, guacamole and sour cream

This restaurant also pays close attention to details and doesn’t compromise on quality. The sopaipillas accompanying your meal, for example, are served with a small bowl of honey from Bosque Farms, not the typical store-bought honey which comes in plastic bottles. The top of the bowl is covered in plastic because of the preponderance of bees in summer.  The sopaipillas are large and puffy, best eaten immediately after they arrive at your table when cutting off a corner will allow wisps of steam to escape into your happily awaiting nostrils.

Chips and salsa are, unfortunately not complementary, but they’re worth the pittance price. The salsa is thick and rich with a nice green and red chile induced bite. It’s an addictive salsa, the type of which you’ll have at least two bowlfuls. The chips are crisp, fresh and oversized. The chile con queso is rich, thick and delicious, some of the very best in New Mexico.

Tamale with red chile on the side
Tamale with red chile on the side

When the Food Network gushes over Rancho de Chimayo’s carne adovada, I think “platitudinous fluff,” but when my adovada obsessed friend Ruben tells me it’s right up there with the carne adovada at Mary & Tito’s, it’s akin to a mouse endorsing cheese.  Ruben knows his adovada, having made it his personal quest to prepare carne adovada on par with that of his favorite restaurants. His quest continues.

The carne adovada is indeed fabulous at the Rancho. Marinated, shredded pork as tender as possible is cooked in a piquant red chile caribe sauce, a marriage seemingly consecrated by divinity. The chile has its basis in chile pods, not the powdery stuff, and it’s locally grown Chimayo chile which I’ve long contended is even better than Hatch red (sacrilege, I know).

Blue Corn Tortilla Enchiladas with red and green chile

Porcine perfection for the adovada begins with boneless pork chops in which the fat is trimmed off. Still, the secret to great carne adovada is the painstaking preparation–the optimum amount of time required for the sauce to simmer to the peak of flavor and for the pork to acquire the tenderness in which tendrils peel off easily. Rancho de Chimayo has the secret down pat,  better and more authentic than just about anyone in New Mexico.

The menu is replete with an array of wonderful New Mexican favorites, all of which beckon for Chimayo red chile. The Rancho’s green chile is plenty good, but it’s the red that’s in rarified company, an exquisite chile of medium piquancy with which you’ll fall in love.

Sopaipillas with real honey
Sopaipillas with real honey

We’ve already established that the carne adovada is perhaps nonpareil, but what about the other items? Fret not. This is a plate with nothing but winners. The Combinación Picante is the best way to sample more than one of the Rancho’s treasures. This is a combination plate for the ages: carne adovada, pork tamale, rolled cheese enchilada, beans and posole served with red chile.  These are traditional Northern New Mexican favorites all available on one platter and all delicious.

The rolled enchiladas are layered with cheese, onions and your choice of traditional or vegetarian red or green chile served with beans.  You can customize your enchiladas with either chicken or shredded beef, blue corn tortillas and a fried egg, all for a pittance.  The shredded beef is terrific, generously apportioned tendrils of moist, delicious beef as tender as the carne adovada.  The cheese drapes over the enchiladas like an orange-yellow shroud of deliciousness.

One of the restaurant’s terrific waitresses bringing dessert to our table

The beans are whole pinto beans as good or better than we prepare at home. The posole, a dish of reconstituted lye-slaked dried white corn kernels, is similarly wonderful and includes very lean and tender pork (a specialty). This is posole the way it should be made.

Tacos are engorged with shredded beef, not ground hamburger. This makes a huge difference in the taste and quality–and it’s the authentic way they have been prepared in Northern New Mexico for generations (or at least until the Taco Bell generation introduced tacos with ground beef).  The Rancho’s tacos are some of the very best in northern New Mexico, but that can be said about so much in the menu.

El Rancho de Chimayo’s wonderful take on a strawberry shortcake

Portions are large, but that’s a good thing because you can take home for later consumption, some of the best New Mexican food in northern New Mexico.  Make sure you save room for dessert.  In the summer that means strawberry shortcake, a fabulous dessert.  Instead of the conventional shortcake, Rancho de Chimayo crafts an oval cake akin to a baking powder biscuit and places it atop several dollops of cream in an island of fresh, sweet strawberries.

On Friday, June 11th, 2008, Rancho De Chimayo suffered a devastating fire.  Though confined to the kitchen and initially expected to take just a few weeks to repair, the damage was much more extensive than thought.  It would be fourteen months until the restaurant was able to resume business.  Its grand reopening showcased a darker adobe facade, golden shreds of straw flecks glinting when visited by the sun.  Chile ristras hang on those walls, as much as sign of hospitality in New Mexico as the pineapple is in Hawaii.  The bronze sculptures of local artist Marco Oviedo inspire and invite double-takes as people walk through the courtyard to the restaurant.

Restaurante Rancho De Chimayo is a New Mexico classic, a treasured institution some say is as integral a part of the fabric of the Land of Enchantment as red chile itself.

Restaurante Rancho De Chimayo
County Road 98
Chimayo, NM

LATEST VISIT: 22 May 2010
COST: $$
BEST BET: Sopaipillas, Chile Con Queso, Enchiladas, Carne Adovada

Rancho DE Chimayo on Urbanspoon

15 thoughts on “Restaurante Rancho De Chimayo – Chimayo, New Mexico

  1. Decided to get outta town today and try someplace new for my birthday. Rancho de Chimayo won and I’m sad to say, I am sorry it did. I don’t know if it was a fluke or things have changed since the wonderful reviews I read, but it bordered on awful. It wasn’t the worst meal I’ve ever had, but undoubtedly the most expensive, worst meal! Overcooked chicken with way too little watery green chile sauce for my companion. I left more gristle from my steak on the plate than the edible parts that made it into my mouth. The guacamole was tasty except for that black hunk of avocado. The honey for the sopes had an exquisite flavor — too bad they only gave us enough for 1/2 of one sopapilla…almost. The place was doing a grand business so I probably just slipped under the radar. I have enjoyed so much great New Mexican food in this city and state that I was embarrassed as I watched the tourists make their way in to dine.

  2. Monday was my first visit to Chimayo. Hard to believe since I was born, raised and have lived in NM all my life. After a visit to the Sanctuario, we went to the RdC for a late lunch. My wife had the chicken tacos (pronounced excellent), our friend (native of Wisconsin) opted for the Fajita salad (also excellent). I had the 3 enchilada platter with red, cheese, onions and egg over easy. Truly it does rate with one of the best reds I have had.

    While waiting for the ladies to return from the gift shop, I learned from the waiter that the red chile used for the Carne Adovada is Chimayo red and the red for other dishes is from Hatch. Apparently, Chimayo does not produce enough red to supply RdC for all of their needs, but at least they keep it in the state. Thought I would share that with you. Buy NM chile; keep our farmers in business! They need us and we need them.

  3. Really appreciate the affirmation update as I, somewhat blindly (blush) per no recent visit, ‘suggest’ RdC to tourists after a visit to El Santuario and shoppes of weavers when folks hustle up past ABQ to Fanta Se. Notwithstanding is the backview over the valley on the way to Truchas and Redford’s Milagro Bean Field War using the hi road to Taos through Penasco. (Psst, for Y’all who are (mid-week)campers, keep this under your sombrero: after munching here check out Santa Barbara Campground just beyond Penasco by coming via Espanola/Dixon instead. On the way home, Y’all can hit in the enchnated Embudo.)

      1. Yo Ruben:
        Appreciate and glad to see you Commenting!….Point taken per the infernal (or is it eternal?) ado RE the one upsmanship between ABQ and “there”, e.g. “You say Faralitos, I say Luminarias”

        It’s akin to
        You like potato and I like potahto
        You like tomato and I like tomahto
        Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.
        Let’s call the whole thing off
        But oh, if we call the whole thing off
        Then we must part
        And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart!

        Seriously, I don’t make these things up! Check it out:
        Please don’t get me wrong! While I may tease…it is fun lovingly (well I hope it is so taken) as I’m constantly sending tourists to shoppes e.g. and restaurants despite being sidetracked by such references as .
        I even try to add a little “mystere” as a hook to visit by having Folks read The Spy’s Guide to Santa Fe and Albuquerque by E B Hall e.g. beforehand (or while sitting on the balcony of The Thunderbird overlooking The Plaza while enjoying a Margarita with Chips n Salsa) and extoll them to ignore Anthony Bourdain given this “outing” by our “Dicky”
        Elsewise, some Folks apparently tried to capitalize on the Fanta Se schtick per its expecsive art/food/ambiance, that it might indeed be referred to as a Fantazmic place by trying to get this off the ground!….

  4. Rancho! One of my favorite restaurants in New Mexico, and not because I’m related to half the staff and patrons! They do it right, and it’s especially great on date night.

  5. Gil…..I betcha my carne adovada is the best you’ve ever had…I hail from Las Vegas, NM and my family from just north of Mora, NM. My grandma and dad made sure all the women could cook these favorites( Green chile, carne adovada, and I make a killer pork tamale)…they told me I wouldn’t get a husband if i didn’t (LOL!) How about a throwdown???? (No…I don’t own a restaurant, but it’d be fun to have a little contest, huh….?) Love your website….Great for foodies like me…

    1. Hi Leandra

      I would love to try your carne adovada, but would have to concede to you on a carne adovada throwdown. I stopped trying to make carne adovada when I discovered the carne adovada at Mary & Tito’s in Albuquerque. New Mexico Magazine named it the best in the state during its annual “best eats” issue published in June. It’s mouth-watering!

      I hope your Mora area relatives taught you how to make capulin jelly. No one in the world makes better chokecherry jelly than the good folks in Mora.



    2. Just read the article and comments about the carne adovada at Rancho de Chimayo. Leandra, I think that’s a great concept – a carne adovada throwdown. Bobby Flay would have nothing on you when it comes to that dish.

      The only thing I would add to the carne adovada quest is that I ate some excellent adovada at a Hatch restaurant on a recent visit. The red chile was picked locally and it was pretty incredible stuff. I brought home some of the Hatch grown red chile pods and I succeeded in making the tastiest carne adovada I’ve ever made. I feel like I finally succeeded in my quest to make a really good carne adovada. The secret to making a good red chile? Great ingredients. That’s 90% of the secret to doing it well.

      Gil, I will propose a Hatch valley road trip later this summer. Hopefully your busy schedule allows you to take a few hours off to make a trek down there.

  6. Went to Chimayo and Truchas today and ate at the Rancho. Leona’s was closed.
    Brought visitors from Phoenix who eat at Los Dos Molinas. (ug) Everyone’s meal was very good. I had the enchilatas. The only problem is that it didn’t have Mary and Tito’s red and green chile sauce on it. It was good but there’s something about Mary’s red sauce. LOL.

    The sopaipillas were excellent. Soft and hot with real honey. Our waitress gave us some more too. I was excited. The wife got the carne asada steak. She loved it.
    Friends got Shrimp blue corn enchiladas which she loved and stuffed sopaipilla with shredded beef which was just good.

    The red and green sauces were just OK. Very mild. Could use some heat. The chips were hot and fresh and the salsa was excellent.

  7. What I like about Restaurante Rancho de Chimayo is the total experience; by that I mean I have consistently found it to have an appealing combination food, ambiance, service and cost. This is a restaurant that can satisfy for a family outing, romantic meal or business lunch.

    On our most recent noon visit we were provided with a menu that included both lunch and dinner items, and both are served all day. This works great, as for example, I had the carne adovada off the lunch menu. The dinner menu also has carne adovada, but it is a larger platter of food.

    On this visit everything worked: the food was delicious, the ambiance was lovely and relaxing, the service was attentive and courteous and the price was quite reasonable. The chips and salsa (fresh and piquant) were excellent. My wife said her stuffed sopaipilla was delicious, though she had to order a side of green chile to make up for the sparse amount that came with her meal. My carne adovada (smothered) ranks among the best I have ever had. The accompanying posole was also very good, especially when ladled with red chile. Only the Spanish rice was rather pedestrian.

    A visit to Rancho de Chimayo has the added advantage of the ability to take a quick trip up the road the Sanctuario, to Leona’s Restaurant, to pick up some great tamales and red chile to take home.

  8. Yo, Mitch.

    I returned two days ago to the magic place I visited in 1975 while on an extended camping trip in the Santa Fe forests and Bandelier National Monument with the lovely who was soon to become my bride. Didn’t know what New Mexican Cuisine was then. Had my first sopaipilla then (“What’s this?” I asked.), and have spent thirty-five years searching fruitlessly for one as good. I rediscovered it two days ago at Rancho De Chimayo. To me, there is no better in New Mexico, and therefore, the universe. Triangular pillows of perfection.

    Gil and Ruben — The Carne Adovada is the very best north of La Bajada, and is the equal of that at M&T. Too bad it’s farther away from Corrales.

  9. I agree with previous reviewer that my recent experience involved some disappointment with seating. I had remembered a magical evening outside and wanted to share the same with my family. Despite empty tables, we were inside. Still, the food was geat–and it was a wonderful place to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. She thought the sopaipillas were the best we had in New Mexico!

  10. Wow, great blast from the past. I visited Chimayo in 1979, even have pictures of Rancho de Chimayo that look exactly the same as yours. So very cool to see so little has changed. And had my fist sopapilla there as well as a blanket woven there. Cost me all of $5 back then, and it still hangs on my wall.

  11. Eating at Rancho de Chimayo is about fond memories from my childhood and not really the food – that was when the only thing I would eat on vacation was grilled cheese or bean burrito. My family would stop on Sunday afternoon after spending a week or two at Ghost Ranch – it was tradition. I did loved those bean burritos but my daddy would give us each a little money so that we could buy a special trinket at the gift store up the hill, and he would sing every song with the musicians – how he knew the words was a great mystery to me!

    Today my tastes have expanded, thankfully, and I have visited Chimayo a few times as an adult to try other things on the menu. I took my husband for the first time this weekend and although memories were wonderful, things certainly have changed. Everything is enclosed now, seating more people during the colder months, I suppose. I was disappointed to be treated with disdain when requesting a certain dining room – we arrived early evening and the dining rooms were basically empty and stayed that way throughout our meal. I was further disappointed with the chile con queso, which seemed to be velvetta with chile. However, I was pleased with my vegetarian combination plate and thought their take on the meatless tamale was outstanding. My husband had a regular combination plate and said everything was very good. I will continue to visit Rancho de Chimayo even if it just for sentimental reasons and memories of my daddy.

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