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 8AM 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. 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 is increasingly being incorporated into the menu at several 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.
Burgers are a popular choice at Santiago’s where six different burger choices are available (twelve 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 “filler” ingredients such as lettuce and tomato. The beef patty is thick and it protrudes beyond the bun. There’s a generous amount of chopped green chile, too. It’s not especially piquant, but it has a great flavor.
The Santiago’s legacy was 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 and shredded cheese. The ground beef is well seasoned and not refried as some restaurants have the audacity to do. Salsa, though not necessary, gives the tacos a bit of a kick.
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
LATEST VISIT: 30 September 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Tacos