Acapulco–just the name evokes images of pristine sandy beaches, translucent blue waters, a comfortable climate, luxury hotels, and world-class gourmet cuisine. There are many reasons Acapulco has earned its nickname of the “Mexican Riviera,” after the famous French resort area. It’s unlikely Albuquerque’s three Acapulco Tacos & Burritos restaurant will ever be mistaken for one of Acapulco’s pricey and sometimes pretentious three- and four-star restaurants. There’s absolutely nothing pretentious about Acapulco Tacos & Burritos. To the contrary, this humble denizen of deliciousness seem to symbolize the wonderful simplicity of Mexican food in the finest and most complimentary sense of the term.
Okay, maybe the crossed palm trees and bright sun painted on the restaurant’s colorful facade might be a bit over the top, but that’s the extent of its veneer and polish. This restaurant is little more than a food stand specializing in take-out orders. Tiny picnic tables is where hungry patrons park themselves and wait for their orders to be filled.
The restaurant truly lives up to its name with an extensive menu of homemade burritos and tacos. Wood signage boasts “our famous homemade burritos built our business!” It’s a business that’s been going strong for more than a quarter century. The original restaurant location in the Southeast Heights has long been a popular dining destination for Air Force personnel stationed at nearby Kirtland Air Force Base.
One of the reasons is that money goes a long way at Acapulco Tacos & Burritos. The burritos aren’t quite as inexpensive (the quintessential cheap eats) as they were back in the day, but they won’t empty your wallet either. The price certainly belies the quality of the product. The basis for the burritos is a moist, delicious tortilla with an enticing “just off the comal” aroma and flavor. Each tortilla is beautifully flecked with spots of char. Although there are several breakfast burritos on the menu, you can order any burrito at any time of the day. It’s a beautiful thing!
For the hungriest patrons only “El Burrote” will do. Order El Burrote with the respective tone of voice it deserves. After all, it’s earned respect. Weighing in at about one pound, El Burrote is roughly the size of a triple burrito. It’s engorged with meat, beans, rice, lettuce, tomato and red or green chile. It takes two hands to handle this beauty which is big enough to share, not that you’ll want to because it’s so good.
Aside from the absolutely beguiling aroma of tortillas being warmed on the comal, the other prevalent aroma is that of New Mexican green chile. To most New Mexicans, that aroma is intoxicating; it’s like an irresistible siren’s call. The green regular burrito is a combination of good ingredients prepared exceptionally well: an aromatically invigorating green chile, cheese, beans and tender, chunky pork.
It’s a messy combination that you dare not try to eat while driving as it will make a mess of your clothing. Here’s betting you won’t follow that advice. You can always change clothes later, but you can’t always have a burrito as good as this one at its peak of flavor. Alas, the green chile’s olfactory-arousing properties are betrayed by a lack of piquancy; the chile has a nice flavor, but virtually no bite.
The first product name on the marquee is Tacos though they’re not available in the number or variety of the burritos. These tacos showcase seasoned shredded beef, shredded cheese, lettuce and chopped tomatoes on a hard-shell. The shredded beef is moist and delicious, tender tendrils of machaca-style beef. The tacos are served with salsa which is easily the most piquant offering at Acapulco.
7 August 2018: During a visit in August, 2018, my friend Captain Escalante Tuttle and I reminisced about all the times we frequented Acapulco Tacos & Burritos decades ago–he as a penny poor student at UNM and me as a perpetually broke airman stationed at Kirtland (Acapulco saved me from many chow hall meals). Our reminiscences were laced with pleasant memories of terrific meals. Alas, sometimes memories don’t sweeten through the ages just like wine. Whether those memories were faulty or our taste buds have either dulled or matured, the burritos of our memories were far better than the burritos we enjoyed in present day Albuquerque. Being fire-eating Norteños, we especially lamented the lack of bite in all but the salsa.
A few years ago, Sarah Karnasiewicz, a Duke City resident for a short time who would go on to earn a James Beard Award told me Acapulco Tacos and Burritos is a place she dreams of nightly in her chile deprived home of New York City. For me the dream is of a green chile more piquant to truly bring out the flavors of what had long been one of my favorite burrito joints in New Mexico.
Acapulco Tacos & Burritos
840 San Mateo Blvd, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 7 August 2018
# OF VISITS: 10
BEST BET: Green Regular Burrito, Chorizo Burrito, El Burrote, Tacos
10 thoughts on “Acapulco Tacos & Burritos – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
I used to live next to the San Mateo location and would ride my bike to it almost daily. The owner (before the other locations opened) would pack up his truck with breakfast burritos and deliver them to the neighborhood businesses for 2$ a pop. These were the best in town hands down for a long time. I’m not sure if the quality slid that much at the parent store, but I don’t remember the satellite locations being able to hold a candle to the original.
My regular order was a #4 and a #5, one for lunch and one for dinner. I live in Texas now and I miss it every single day.
The grande breeito with chicken and green is huge and has huge taste! Love it!
Thanks for straightening this out. If I recall correctly at one time the two existing Acapulcos were part of the same operation. And there were also two other outlets: one just south of Central on Yale, the other well north on Fourth St. But I am just guessing here. Do you know?
Yes, the one on Central near Pres Hospital and the one on San Mateo were owned by the same guy back in the day. I worked the Cental location in 75-77 and knew the whole operation. The young dishwasher eventually bought it. He was a hard working kid. So as far as I know the original was the little place on San Mateo, I don’t know about the one on Wyoming. And truthfully, don’t know who owns them now.
I happen to know the answer to this one. Yes, the ownership is different between the two locations, and yes, the location on Wyoming is the one to choose for many reasons.
I don’t think the two Acapulcos are run (owned) by the same folks, both the menu and the quality is vastly different; the one on Wyoming is much superior to the one on San Mateo. Perhaps Gil can sort this out?
I am not a big burrito fan since I find most to be big piles of stuff wrapped in a tortilla and dripping with stuff, but since arriving in Albuquerque way back in ’75 I have loved Acapulco (not the Grande), especially the Machacha, The Green Regular and the Chorizo as well as the tacos and at the San Mateo location only. I am certain that nothing like this exists anywhere near Acapulco. I don’t go by near as often as I used to-once or twice a week-but I miss it. Will be there Saturday.
I cannot wait to head down to Acapulco for Spring Break 2010. That “El Burrote” sounds delicious (don’t think I will be able to eat the whole thing, so I will share it with some friends). Do you recommend any other food spots while on Spring Break Acapulco?
Fodor’s, a well-respected travel site, lists several promising restaurants in Acapulco here.
I am glad that Gil liked Acapulco so much…these little places are really oft-overlooked and little-mentioned in ABQ, and they are indeed quite good! I really like the carne adovada at these little stands, among others.
My stand of choice is the one on Wyoming in the NE Heights, but they are all good.