Santiago’s New Mexican Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico
In Act II, Scene II of Romeo and Juliet, the immortal soliloquy “what’s in a name” is uttered for the first time. In business, the power of a name in branding a company is everything. A name can either attract or repel customers. Ralph Liftshitz, for example, didn’t think his birth name had enough panache to succeed in business so he changed his name to Ralph Lauren. Today, the Ralph Lauren brand is synonymous with providing quality products and creating vibrant lifestyles.
The power of a name in branding a restaurant can make all the difference in the world, especially in ascribing the quality of authenticity. A Middle Eastern restaurant named “Bob’s Kebabs” would certainly not fare as well as a similar restaurant named “Anatolia Doner Kebab House.” Similarly “Jim’s New Mexican Grill” would probably not be perceived as as authentic as “Santiago’s New Mexican Grill.”
Perhaps understanding the perception that authenticity is ascribed to names, Jim Madrid chose to brand his restaurant “Santiago’s New Mexican Grill” instead of “Jim’s…” Santiago, by the way, is a Spanish name which translates in English to James or Jim, hence Jim Madrid is actually using his given name and not making one up so he can hawk New Mexican food. In any regard, Santiago’s New Mexican Grill has been serving the Duke City for more than a quarter of a century.
Initially branded as “Santiago’s Tacos,” the venerable family-owned-and-operated restaurant changed its name in 2004 when it moved into a converted computer store. Santiago’s New Mexican Grill is a more apt descriptor for Jim “Santiago” Madrid’s 40-seat eatery. Open only for breakfast and lunch (Monday through Saturday from 7AM through 2:30PM), Santiago’s offers a fairly comprehensive menu that includes one of the city’s best green chile cheeseburgers as well as the tacos that earned the restaurant its reputation. A number of “take and bake” casserole dishes are a popular option.
Breakfast is served all day and features several plates and a phalanx of breakfast burritos. The lunch menu is available starting at 10:30. When you place your order, you’ll undoubtedly notice several stacked cans of Spam on the counter. As noted on this blog, Spam, the versatile precooked meat product has not really caught on in menus at Duke City restaurants. At Santiago’s, Spam is available on a breakfast burrito and on huevos rancheros. Lunch plates are served with your choice of a flour tortilla or sopaipilla. Lunch burritos can be ordered as hand-held or smothered with your choice of red or green chile.
10 January 2020: Burgers are a popular choice at Santiago’s where seven different burger choices are available (fourteen if you order them with double meat). Burgers are served with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, mustard and mayo unless you request otherwise. In New Mexico, the green chile cheeseburger is sacrosanct and Santiago’s version doesn’t take a backseat to many. It’s an excellent burger, one recommended to me by my friend Bill Resnik.
If it’s been a while since you’ve had a burger you have to hold with two hands, this one will do the trick. It’s a tall and thick burger, but you can’t attribute its height to the mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions that come standard on each burger. The beef patty is hand-formed and thick. It protrudes beyond the lightly toasted bun and is about four inches tall should you order a double meat burger. It’s prepared at somewhere between medium-well and well done. There’s a generous amount of chopped green chile, too. Though it’s not especially piquant, it has a great flavor.
1 November 2014: Across the Land of Enchantment, no visit to a New Mexican restaurant would be complete without our beloved salsa and chips which, contrary to the clickbait site Mental Floss is New Mexico’s favorite condiment. By far! Santiago’s salsa and chips are memorable. Two types of salsa are delivered with each order, one a green chile-based salsa with a little bit of bite. The other is based on red chile though it leans toward an “orangish” hue (perhaps a little cream is added). It’s not especially piquant either, but has a very interesting, very good flavor. The chips are made on the premises. They resemble elongated Fritos corn chips without the salt. They’re crisp and delicious with just enough width to be used as “scoop” mechanisms for the salsa.
1 November 2014: The Santiago’s legacy was largely built on tacos so it stands to reason that the restaurant’s tacos would be quite good. They are! Served on homemade shells served crispy, the tacos are engorged with ground beef, lettuce, shredded cheese, small chunks of potato and a drizzle of the red chile-based salsa. The ground beef is well seasoned and not refried as some restaurants have the audacity to do. Salsa, though not necessary, gives the tacos the kick you don’t quite get from the little bit of chile. The shredded cheese doesn’t appear to be the standard out-of-a-bag Cheddar, but longhorn Cheddar which is a higher quality, more delicious cheese. Santiago’s tacos are in the “overstuffed” category, full of the great fillings that make for great tacos.
1 November 2014: Though you may have your heart set and your mouth watering in anticipation of your favorite Santiago’s entree, when you get to the window where you place your order you’ll invariably be tempted to order the day’s special. Such was the case when my friend Bill and I visited on a cool November day. The day’s special was a beef and bean burrito topped with melted shredded cheese, two dollops of guacamole, onions and the chile of your choice. Few things in life are as satisfying as a simple beef and bean burrito, but the addition of guacamole elevates everything it touches. Neither the red or the green chile are especially piquant, but they do the job well. That job, of course, is to impart the unique flavors that loudly proclaim “this is New Mexico.”
By any other name, Santiago’s New Mexican Grill would still be a popular family favorite.
Santiago’s New Mexican Grill
1911 Eubank, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 10 January 2020
1st VISIT: 30 September 2014
# OF VISITS: 3
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Tacos, Burritos, Chips and Salsa