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