The Food Network’s television cameras just love Chef Marie Yniguez who’s been showcased on not one, not two, not even three, but four of its prime-time programs. Aficionados of her cooking will tell you that in three of those programs she even upstaged Guy Fieri, the spiky-coiffed chef-glitterati. Marie is a larger-than-life personality whose irreverent sense of humor, Burque pride and charisma can’t be contained within the small screen. It’s inevitable that some network executive will someday make a movie of her life. The question is who would play her. Lady Gaga? Nah, not enough personality. Meryl Streep? Ditto and then some. Jennifer Lopez? Getting closer. The truth is, only Marie Yniguez can play Marie Yniguez.
There’s no question Marie has led a very (to put it mildly) interesting life. Her childhood in Hurley, New Mexico, a hardscrabble mining town where hard-working people owed their souls to the company store, imbued her with a work ethic which has served her well. At age ten, her family moved to Albuquerque where five years later, a formative experience at a part-time job gave her the drive to persevere and surmount criticism. A short-sighted supervisor who told her she’d never be more than a dishwasher quickly changed his tune when a co-worker didn’t show up and she was asked to work the grill. The experience proved pivotal.
The movie would have all the elements needed for Oscar consideration. It would have tragedy: shortly after she graduated from Manzano High School, Marie’s older brother committed suicide, a death she took very hard. It would have intrigue: what would Marie do when she found herself pregnant at 19? How would she overcome the Army paperwork SNAFU resulted in her being charged with being absent without leave (AWOL) and sentenced to time at Fort Knox (yes THAT Fort Knox)? How would she recover from a min-stroke at age 32? It would have romance: the love at first sight meeting of her wife Karla Arvizu. It would have comedy: Marie’s self-deprecating sense of humor is irreverent and legendary.
Most of all, it would be a feel good movie about a remarkable woman who surmounted one challenge after another. The movie would follow her exploits as she left the Army, found a job at a small cafe within the confines of the Wells Fargo building then lost that job after the stroke put her out of commission for several months. Determined to strike out on her own, she and Karla started a burrito business, preparing them at home and selling them from coolers they ferried around town in their car. In short order, they obtained a space at the South Valley Economic Development Center which offers a commercial kitchen to entrepreneurs wishing to lunch food-related businesses. Later when her daughter complained about the quality of meals at the charter school she was attending, Marie began packing a lunch. Soon, the school asked if she could provide meals for fifty students. That venture would ultimately grow to 1000 meals per day and six charter schools.
While many people wind down during the summer lull between one school year and the next, Marie and Karla instead launched a small grab-and-go operation which initially operated out of a commissary at 1609 Indian School, N.W. Dubbed Bocadillos Slow Roasted: A Sandwich Shop, it had the geriatrically advanced among us wondering just how good Bocadillos school lunches must have been (not that we’d ever want to return to school to find out). At the Indian School location, Bocadillos was open only for lunch and only Monday through Friday from 11AM to 2:30PM.
In December, 2015, Bocadillos launched a second location at the revolutionary Green Jeans Farmery, the community-oriented commercial plaza constructed entirely with repurposed shipping containers as modular, architectural building blocks. The new take-out only location meant expanded hours. It also meant having your favorite sandwiches well into the evening as well as burritos for breakfast. Alas, operating two restaurants while continuing to produce school meals took a toll on Marie’s health. In May, 2017, she stopped serving school meals. Four months later, she closed the Green Jeans location, focusing all her time and energy on the Wells Fargo space where Bocadillos had just opened. Yes, it’s the same Wells Fargo space where she had worked a decade before. How’s that for coming full circle? It might make for a great movie ending but count on Marie’s life 2.0 to provide a sequel that promises to be just as interesting.
Visit the Bocadillos website and you’ll be invited to live “the Sandwich Dream in Beautiful Albuquerque New Mexico!” where “Slow Roasted is the Heart of Chef Marie Yniguez!” If you dream of sumptuous sandwiches, the type of which might forever ruin other sandwiches for you, Bocadillos should be the site of your next sandwich soiree. Be forewarned. The Wells Fargo space is the very definition of Lilliputian meaning “small or miniature.” There’s not much space and seating is limited. Take-out business is booming though because the sandwiches are so irresistible, some diners literally attack them before their egress from the complex.
Bocadillos is a Spanish term which translates to “sandwiches” while slow-roasted speaks for itself. The meats from which Bocaillos’ sandwiches are constructed are indeed slow-roasted which makes them tender, moist and delicious. The menu currently showcases nine “hot sammies” and four “cold sammies” with four sides available for a pittance. Also on the sandwich menu is a New Mexico green chile cheeseburger Marie entered in the 2018 Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown which I had the privilege and pleasure to judge. Though the burger didn’t win, it sure wowed the judges (this one in particular). There’s a breakfast “sammie” on the breakfast (8AM – 10:45AM) menu.
29 July 2013: The chef’s choice…the sandwich of which Marie is most proud is the Duke City Ruben (slow-roasted corned beef, housemade kraut, chipotle 1000 Island dressing finished off with melted Asadero cheese on lite rye). Quite simply, it may be the very best Reuben sandwich in Albuquerque. My friend Sarita certainly thinks so. The Duke City Ruben is the embodiment of the slow-roasting process, taking no less than twelve hours to achieve its tender texture and moistness throughout as well as a sweet caramelization on the surface of each tendril of the corned beef. The housemade sauerkraut doesn’t have the lip-pursing qualities of some sauerkraut, but that’s a good thing. It’s made with a red cabbage tinged with the distinctive flavor of caraway seeds. The Chipotle-Thousand Island dressing, also made on the premises, is fabulous, too.
One of the consequences of splitting a sandwich with a friend is that one of you will have to share half of a superior sandwich. That was the case the first time I had the Ruben which I split with my friend Paul Lilly. I’d give Paul my right arm, but I’m not sure I’d ever give him half a Duke City Ruben again. It’s too good to share. Rarely will you consider the sandwich he ordered (a Philly cheesesteak sandwich) a “Miss Congeniality” of sandwiches, but Bocadillos’ Ruben is just that much better than just about any other sandwich. Place it on a line-up of the Duke City’s best sandwiches and it might rise to the top. It’s on my list.
10 July 2019: In its annual “Hot Plate Awards” edition for 2019, Albuquerque the Magazine bestowed a well-deserved award to Bocadillos for its “hot hybrid sandwich.” “It takes precision, quality and a certain unique flair to earn a Hot Plate Award” and the Cuban Named Ruben has “shown all those traits, and then some.” The Cuban named Ruben is described on the menu as “two greats in one!! Slow-roasted corned beef and pork, bacon, red onion, housemade kraut, sweet chile sauce, chipotle Thousand-Island dressing finished off with melted Asadero and Muenster cheese.”
This sandwich isn’t just taking ingredients from two unique entities and putting them together between two slices of toasted light rye. It’s about a meshing of personalities, a melding of deliciousness…two great sandwiches that taste great together. This isn’t about being able to discern where one sandwich starts and the other ends, but about appreciating the qualities that make each one a superb enjoyment experience. if the elements of one sandwich outshine the others, it would probably be the corned beef, kraut and chipotle Thousand Island dressing (in other words, the Ruben), but the Cuban’s bacon and sweet chile sauce shine, too.
That aforementioned “Miss Congeniality,” the 5-0-Philly is pretty terrific in its own right. Constructed with slow-roasted beef, Swiss cheese, New Mexico green chile, green and red bell peppers, mushrooms and onions, it’s a coalescence of ingredients and flavors that will delight you. There is so much going on, however, that the green chile doesn’t express itself quite as much as this New Mexico native would have liked. What does stand out is the slow roasted beef, as tender, moist and delicious as possible.
29 January 2014: One-track minded men with their minds in the gutter might do a double-take when they see T n A on the sandwich menu. T n A in this case stands for “turkey and avocado,” but this sandwich is so much more. In fact, just about every other turkey sandwich in town is a true turkey compared to this one. The T n A’s listed ingredients are slow-roasted turkey, avocado, green chile apple chutney, lettuce, tomato and Muenster cheese, but this sandwich isn’t about ingredients. It’s about the process of putting them all together.
The process starts with real turkey, not a ubiquitous Boar’s Head offering. First, a dry rub of relatively simple ingredients (crushed peppers, garlic, salt, etc.) is lovingly applied followed by a smear of a housemade honey mustard. The turkey then goes into the oven for twelve hours at low temperature (250 degrees). When extricated, the turkey pulls apart easily. At this point, almost every restaurant would serve it, but not so at Bocadillos which nestles a generous amount of this amazing turkey between a hoagie bun, tops it with a magically reduced green chile-apple chutney, heirloom tomatoes and ripe avocados. It’s eight-ounces of absolute deliciousness, turkey being all it can be. The green-chile apple chutney is sweet and tangy but has a bit of fire which will sneak up on you. In its “Best Sandwich In Every U.S. State” feature, Far & Wide named the T n A the best sandwich in the Land of Enchantment.
17 February 2015: Not that very long ago you could use the adjective “unique” to describe any non-standard preparation of the ubiquitous Cubano sandwich, but nowadays it seems every sandwich shop has its own unique take on this popular sandwich. In time, only Cubanos prepared in time-honored, traditional ways will be unique. That said, Bocadillos take on the Cubano is vastly different (unique) from any other I’ve had. First, it’s made on a sub roll and not on a pressed panini. Secondly, the slow-roasted pork is accompanied by bacon instead of ham (like substituting a BMW for a Ford Pinto). Thirdly, it’s made with homemade sweet pickles, not the dill variety. It’s also made with Muenster cheese and sweet chile sauce. Aside from the tender tendrils of pork and smoky ham, the star of this sandwich is the pickles which seem hardly more than freshly canned, crispy cucumbers with a sweet pickling sauce that elevate them to a sublime level.
25 February 2016: It’s only natural that there would be one sandwich on the Bocadillos menu I wouldn’t esteem as highly as the others, a fifth place sandwich out of five so to speak. That sandwich is the 505-Filthy (slow-roasted chicken, green chile, bacon, Asadero cheese, chopotle mayo, lettuce and tomato). Elsewhere it would probably be the best sandwich on the menu, but at Bocadillos, it’s the one sandwich which wouldn’t be on my sandwich rotation if I believed in such a prosaic notion. The “Filthy” is constructed with unfailingly fresh ingredients that go well together. That slow-roasted chicken is moist, tender and delicious. There’s nothing wrong with this sandwich. It’s just not (in my honest opinion) as wonderful as others on the menu. Of course, that was just my opinion. In June, 2016, the “Filthy” was named one of the “50 best sandwiches in America” by BigSeven Travel. BigSeven noted “All of the meat here is so full and flavour and tender that you won’t want to eat a sandwich anywhere else.”
As a young student, I disliked cold weather intensely because it meant summer vacation was over and school was back in session. As a more seasoned citizen, I look forward to cold weather because it means comforting, soul-warming soup. Having served for six years as a judge at the Roadrunner Food Bank’s SouperBowl fund-raising event, I was more than well acquainted with soup from Bocadillos…which tragically are no longer available. In 2013, Bocadillos earned the Critics Choice Award for its Southwest chicken corn chowder. In the 2014 soup soiree, Bocadillos green chile chicken corn chowder earned third place in the Peoples’ Choice category. In the 2015 SouperBowl, Bocadillos earned third place for its New Mexico Clam Chowder. Better than both of these is a smoked sweet potato-chipotle soup reminiscent of the phenomenal soups prepared in Santa Fe’s Jambo. It’s one of the very best soups this veteran soup judge has enjoyed.
It’s highly likely Bocadillos will continue to earn quite a few “best of” and “peoples’ choice” awards over the years. Within months after launching its grab-and-go operation, no less than Food Network glitterati Guy Fieri and the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives crew came calling. Fieri’s September, 2013 visit caused quite a stir and when the episode showcasing Bocadillos aired on Monday, October 28, 2013, viewers all over the country found out about the small unconventional restaurant which serves one of the world’s best Ruben sandwiches. Even more remarkable is that the best Ruben in Albuquerque may not even be the best sandwich on the Bocadillos menu.
Marie proved to be far more than a sandwich chef when the Food Network asked her back, this time as a competing chef on Chopped. In an episode which first aired on February 28th, 2017 Marie competed against three other chefs in a episode entitled “Raw Deal” which required that each chef create an appetizer from a deconstructed sushi burger which she converted to a tuna and pork taco with logan berries and wasabi pico de gallo, followed in the entree round by a grilled buffalo steak with porcini mushroom hash. Her dessert, a butter-braised polenta cake with bechamel ganache, proved to be the difference-maker, earning her the title of Chopped Champion.
In 2019, she and her equally personable daughter Ryan Duran competed on the Diners, Drive-Ins Meets Dives Grocery Games Family Tournament, a three-round elimination tournament for $30,000. Marie and Ryan surmounted a series of cooking challenges, ultimately making it to the semi-finals. In a surf and turf competition, Marie and Ryan wowed the judges with a perfectly prepared filet and fried shrimp combination, but their ghee beurre blanc wasn’t quite as highly esteemed. Throughout the competition, Marie and Ryan represented the 505 with style and grace, making all of us very proud.
On July 8th, 2019, the Food Network aired an episode of the “Bite Club” which pitted three of the Duke City’s best chefs: Kenny Wang of O Ramen, Marie Yniguez of Bocadillos Slow Roasted and Nabil Young of Safari Grill–against each other in a culinary competition to determine who would become hometown champ. Though she didn’t win the first round, Marie prevailed in the finale, preparing a grandmother-inspired take on an Hoja Santa scramble with chile-chorizo refried beans. As always, she cooked from the heart, earning the respect and admiration of distinguished judges Jennifer James and Mark Kiffin and host Tyler Florence alike.
All of Marie’s Food Network conquests have made us eager for some motion picture executive to begin production on the Marie Yniguez Story. Her sandwiches make us eager for every return trip to Bocadillos.
Bocadillos Slow Roasted: A Sandwich Shop
200 Lomas Blvd., N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 10 July 2019
1st VISIT: 29 July 2013
# OF VISITS: 5
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Duke City Ruben, 5-0-Philly, T n A, Macaroni Salad, Roasted Sweet Potato Chipotle Soup, Green Chile Chicken Corn Chowder, Cubano, 505-Filthy, Cuban Named Ruben
School cafeteria meals have probably traumatized more youth than John Carpenter’s horror movies. Lunch menus read like fine-dining, promising nutritious, healthy and delicious cuisine. Instead, they deliver what could pass for TV dinner rejects. Reject is an apropos term here. Slop buckets are overfilled with the much feared and cursed vegetable medley (also known as succotash, emphasis on the “suck” part) and the next day with chicken a la king, featuring whatever is left over of the dreaded vegetable medley. It’s no wonder America’s youth seeks sustenance and refuge in the calorie-laden comfort of vended snacks.
Bocadillos, a locally owned and operated, full-service school lunch and catering company is working to change the image of the dreaded school cafeteria meal. In 2012, Bocadillos prepared as many as 500 meals per day for three charter school clients. In 2013, those numbers doubled to 1000 meals per day and six charter schools. Bocadillos doesn’t do things in the tried and failed methods of the past. The serve children wholesome, balanced meals to support their cognitive development and physical health. All students will likely recognize is that it tastes delicious!