You might think that the etymology of the name Loyola has always been tied to the quality of being loyal and faithful. Instead, the name has its genesis in a Basque term meaning “mud” and only over time did the name come to represent the honorable qualities of loyalty and faithfulness. When it comes to Loyola’s Family Restaurant on Central Avenue in Albuquerque, an association with those qualities just makes sense. Not only are Duke City diners loyal to this expansive restaurant on the eastern fringes of Nob Hill, that loyalty is reciprocated by the restaurant’s staff and ownership. A framed placard on one wall proclaims “Mi restaurante es su casa” (my restaurant is your home) and the staff will do its darnedest to make you feel that way.
Loyola’s Family Restaurant is an anachronism, a throw-back to the days when Route 66 (now Central Avenue) bisected Albuquerque, then a more intimate, close-knit city. In some ways Loyola’s is a relic because its genuinely friendly service and wholesome food truly elicits return visits and the type of patron loyalty that has all but evaporated with the onslaught of corporate chains. Loyola’s is the type of restaurant where your coffee (Farmer Brothers) is never allowed to cool down too much because faithful servers replenish it at about the time your cup is half full. That’s how attentive the wait staff is, but their secret is being attentive and personable without being intrusive and hovering.
The familial feel of Loyola’s Family Restaurant is a tradition established by founding owner Loyola Baca for whom the restaurant is named. Loyola launched her eponymous home away from home in 1990 and quickly earned a faithful following attributable as much to her buoyant, outgoing nature as to the restaurant’s menu of New Mexican and American comfort foods. When Loyola passed away just as 2010 was dawning, she left a legacy of happy, satisfied and well-fed guests.
That legacy and the homey feel she sowed continues to this day courtesy of Loyola’s daughter Sarah Baca. During a visit in 2015, I asked her what the secret to Loyala’s addictive green chile was. She answered just as her mom would have, sharing with me the secret to their chile: “love.” It’s an ingredient Loyola’s uses on all the ambitious menu’s offerings. The menu has something for everybody–from American comfort foods such as pork chops (delicious), fried chicken and roast beef to hamburgers, sandwiches, New Mexican entrees and wake-you-up breakfast offerings known by faithful throngs to be among the Duke City’s very best.
04 March 2015: Loyola’s salsa is a bona fide hot sauce with a sunset red-orange hue, a pleasant piquancy and addictive properties aplenty courtesy of the capsaicin-caused endorphin rush that salsa engenders with every bite. It’s just a bit on the salty side so you’ll be grateful that the thin, crispy chips are low salt. Your first portion of chips and salsa are gratis when you order off the New Mexican Favorites menu, but if you don’t order from that menu, it’s worth splurging.
4 February 2020: Tom’s special burrito certainly earns its sobriquet. It’s a flour tortilla engorged with roast beef, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sour cream and topped with Cheddar cheese and red or green chile (get both). It’s among the best burritos in town. Yeah, I know some of you are probably thinking “New Mexicans don’t do sour cream; that’s a Texas thing.” That was my initial impression, but I was sold after my first bite. Sour cream just may have a place in New Mexican cuisine and not just to mollify any bite the chile might have. The red chile has a New Mexico sunset red-orange hue and while not particularly piquant has a memorable taste leaving you wanting another dosage.
American breakfast favorites include a pork chop and eggs combination that appears to be among the most popular order choices. You can request the eggs any way you want them and invariably, they’re prepared just the way you order them. The pork chops are thinly cut, but meaty and delicious. Loyola’s pancake short-stack is also top tier, among the very best in the city. For my friend Sr. Plata who loves chicken fried steak almost as much as NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson loves hairspray, the challenge is whether to have the lunch version or the breakfast portion, both of which are enormous.
1 December 2015: The breakfast version of chicken fried steak includes a mound of hashed browns, two eggs and a single pancake the size of a manhole cover. The chicken fried steak is available with either brown beef-based gravy or a pork-based white gravy. Loyola’s rendition may just be the most tender in the city. It’s not just fork tender, it’s spoon tender. It’s also quite tasty. You can have the eggs any way you want them and the pancake is a golden orb that covers the plate, leaving little room for syrup.
1 December 2015: If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between flautas and taquitos, the answer is usually “very little” or “none at all.” Flautas (little flutes) and taquitos (little tacos) are often used interchangeably depending on location. According to a 1917 publication Preliminary Glossary of New Mexico Spanish, the taquito is a “Mexicanism” used in New Mexico. No matter the genesis of the term taquito, it’s a beloved dish many of us enjoy.
When offered as a daily special at Loyola’s, my friend Sr. Plata and I decided to split four taquitos as our appetizer. Despite being deep-fried to a brownish-golden hue, the chicken inside retained juiciness and flavor. In fact, the chicken was about as moist as stewed chicken. The taquitos were served with both guacamole and salsa, both of which made for excellent dipping sauces and added to our enjoyment. My taquito preference will always be for beef-based taquitos the way they’re made in Española, but these will do in a pinch.
An intriguing menu, delicious food, great service–these are the legacy of Loyola Baca and these are the things that make Loyola’s patrons loyal in return.
Loyola’s Family Restaurant
4500 Central, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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LATEST VISIT: 4 February 2020
# OF VISITS: 5
BEST BET: Tom’s Special Burrito, Pork Chops, Breakfast Burrito, Salsa and Chips, Coffee, Chicken Fried Steak, Chicken Taquitos