For years Albuquerque’s cruiser culture has made Central Avenue a favorite destination for showing off souped-up cars and causing windows to rattle and eardrums to throb from the pounding bass in audio systems that reverberate as loud as a thunderclap over your head. My friend Carlos who understands urban subcultures more than most tells me cruising Central Avenue isn’t solely about seeing and being seen. It’s about fried chicken, more specifically Golden Pride, Barbecue, Chicken and Ribs (Golden Pride for short). Central Avenue has a Golden Pride location on the Duke City’s far west (a couple blocks east of Coors) and one on the far east side (just west of Eubank). It’s about 12 miles as the crow flies from the east side Golden Pride to its sibling on the west, but it could take you a good half hour (longer in rush hour) to drive that distance. That’s a lot of good cruising.
A third location on Juan Tabo may be off the cruiser’s beaten path, but it’s close to family neighborhoods which flock to this poultry palace when in the mood for fried fowl. Still another location, on Lomas just east of University, is an institution for UNM students, faculty and staff. Students appreciate the free high-speed wireless internet connectivity and even more, they appreciate the restaurant’s low prices. It’s a departure from the college student food pyramid which typically ranges from vending machine offerings to Red Bull, coffee, sodas and ramen noodles galore.
Owned by Larry and Dorothy Rainosek, the good folks who bring us the Frontier Restaurant, Golden Pride offers both fried and BBQ chicken. It also offers the Frontier’s famous sweet rolls, as good a reason for getting up in the morning as there is. Golden Pride has been serving Albuquerque since 1973 and carries other Frontier items: green chile stew, tortillas, carne adovada and posole, for example.
Just how popular is this restaurant? According to an Albuquerque Business Journal article published in 2003, Golden Pride has grown at an average of 20 percent per year. The four restaurants go through 35 tons of green chile and seven tons of red chile powder each month. Sure, that article was published more than a decade ago, but if traffic is any indication, there certainly appears to be no surcease in sight to the popularity of the Golden Pride brand.
That same article reports that more than fifty percent of Golden Pride’s daily meals are served before 11AM and that its patrons consume about 160,000 burritos each and every month. These are staggering numbers, but they don’t completely spell out just what makes this restaurant so very popular. I surmise Golden Pride’s popularity is based in part on convenience (four strategically placed locations), value (reasonable cost for hardy portions) and quality (many items are quite good). These aren’t unknown secrets to success; they’re the hallmark of most restaurants which stand the test of time.
The Golden Pride concept is based on Gil’s Fried Chicken, owned and operated by Larry Rainosek’s brother Gil, in San Marcos, Texas. The name must be reflective of the golden coating on every piece of fried chicken served at the restaurant. The fried chicken is somewhat thickly coated but doesn’t have the “run down your arms greasiness” of Church’s or other chain purveyors of poultry. It’s a juicy chicken (and quite good) once you get past that coating (which I surmise seals in the juices).
The BBQ chicken definitely has a pronounced smoky taste (even though you won’t find a smoker on the premises) and is even better than the fried chicken. Moist and delicious, the BBQ chicken is offered with a thin, tangy and just ever so slightly piquant barbecue sauce which while wholly unnecessary, but quite good. White meat pieces include chicken legs and thighs which most restaurants prefer to breasts because breasts tend to be rather on the dry side. Both the fried chicken and the BBQ chicken are available in quantities of two, three, four ten, sixteen or twenty pieces. Value meal options include your choice of two sides and even if you opt for chicken only, you still get the restaurant’s yeasty rolls.
Several sides, ranging from passable to very good are available. You can actually taste the cabbage and carrots on the coleslaw at Golden Pride. It’s a coleslaw that isn’t drowning in salad cream as you might find at KFC. Mashed potatoes, on the other hand, are so thick, they’re difficult to pry away from the spoon–a pity considering the chicken gravy is actually quite good (albeit a tad salty). The green beans with bacon are my Kim’s favorites. She must really like them because she doesn’t share them with me.
If a restaurant serves 160,000 burritos a month, it’s got to be doing something right. In a poll conducted several years ago by the now defunct Duke City Fix, readers raved about the #9, the restaurant’s best seller. The #9 is crafted with bacon, cheese, egg, hash browns and green chile–a combination that just might make anyone a morning person. The #9 is indeed an excellent burrito. My brother, an architectural engineer at Sandia, tells me that breakfast runs yield more orders of the #9 than any other burrito. For folks on the run, it’s got another thing going for it–it’s as portable as a burger (but better, by far, than most).
The carne adovada adovada burrito is engorged with plenty of shredded pork marinated in Golden Pride’s chile. While the pork is tender and the chile is pleasantly piquant, there’s a pronounced bitter aftertaste I surmise to be resultant from a surfeit of oregano. It’s not an endearing quality for an otherwise very good burrito. Of all chile impregnated dishes, carne adovada generally has the most mild, never acerbic flavor.
My opinion of the Frontier-Golden Pride carne adovada isn’t universally shared. Author Michael Stern who co-wrote the definitive 500 Things To Eat Before It’s Too Late listed the Frontier Restaurant’s (ergo, Golden Pride’s) carne adovada as the third best carne adovada in America. Calling it “the great bargain carne adovada–no less delicious for its $1.99 price–is a burrito at the Frontier in Albuquerque,” which he described as having “just enough chile-infused meat intense enough to turn the tortilla that wraps it the color of sunset.”
31 January 2020: Tacos are available in either a fried hard corn shell or a soft flour tortilla. The soft flour tortilla based tacos are about as large as Golden Pride’s burritos. My favorite is engorged with ground beef, green chile, cheese, lettuce and tomato–pretty much the standard taco. As for the hard-shelled tacos, you can’t go wrong with the chicken tacos. The chicken is moist and shredded. A popular shared option is the taco 6-pack, six hard-shelled tacos engorged with a seasoned beef, lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese. The seasoned beef has less kick than even the most mild Sloppy Joe sandwich. Packaged salsa, an anemic and rather piteous blend, is provided so you can add your own heat. In a city in which increasingly creative and outstanding tacos are easy to find, there’s little reason to settle for these.
Whether or not Albuquerque’s cruiser culture frequents Central Avenue because of Golden Pride Chicken is irrelevant. Golden Pride is beloved by the cruiser in all of us who want good food at value prices.
Golden Pride Chicken
1830 Lomas, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 31 January 2020
# OF VISITS: 10
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Chicken Gravy, BBQ Chicken Value Meal, Fried Chicken Value Meal, #9 Breakfast Burrito, Green Chile Stew, Green Beans with Bacon, Sweet Rolls