“For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.”
Autumn in New Mexico is indisputably chile time. The high mountain air is at its most crisp and salubrious. Foliage is adorned in a vibrant panoply of color. Magnificent cottonwoods and aspens gleam in the evening sun like the fabled cities of gold sought by Spanish explorers. Hazy smoke plumes waft upward from giant rotating drums. These irresistible smoke signals beckon hungry masses to roadside stands where flame-licked chile tumbles in steel-meshed drums. Those chiles blister then seem to hiss and spit in protest as their skins blacken, leaving their fleshy insides intact and imbued with an intoxicating aroma and addictive flavor.
Winter in New Mexico is indisputably chile time. The salient aromas of piñon burn in kiva fireplaces, perfuming a night air swathed in a canopy of stars. Glowing rows of farolitos perched on adobe-hued rooftops and sidewalks light the way for the Christ child. Glissading down precipitous mountain slopes during the day gives way to sedentary evenings in the company of friends and family. This is when the hours spent peeling freshly-roasted chile pays off. Our bounty showcases soul-warming green chile stew and enchiladas with enough heat to temper the cold air.
Spring in New Mexico is indisputably chile time. Spring is the season of reawakening and new beginnings–the blooming of fresh buds, animals leaving their dens after a long winter’s nap, farmers and gardeners planting seeds and tending to them lovingly. For generations, family farmers have risen with the sun then toiled past sunset, lovingly tending to fertile acreage which will yield the sacrosanct red and green chile so very beloved throughout the Land of Enchantment. Grown across the state for at least four centuries, chile is the one ingredient which distinguishes New Mexican cuisine from that of any other state across the fruited plain.
Summer in New Mexico is indisputably chile time. Abundant sunshine, intense heat and fecund fields irrigated by the Rio Grande and its tributaries are nature’s blessings; assertive monsoon seasons, pests and blights its banes. The distinctive pungency, sweetness, flavor, and piquancy of chile are fashioned in summer. Across the state, the freezers which once held large caches of green chile apportioned in baggies, have seen their chile stashes depleting rapidly. Autumn can’t return soon enough so we can replenish our chile supply. It’s an yearly cycle, a ritual we eagerly repeat because in New Mexico, every season is chile time.
My friend Steve from my days at Kirtland Air Force Base never invited me for lunch though we dined together frequently. He’d come into my office and in his best Ben Grimm impression would growl “It’s chile time!” For a Maryland transplant, he sure loved chile–the hotter, the better. He would have loved the Chile Time Restaurant, not only because his “it’s chile time” declaration also answered the question “where should we go for chile,” but because the kitchen staff knows what it’s doing with red and green chile. The kitchen staff, it turns out, is the one-man whirling dervish named Mick whose other restaurant, Mick’s Chile Fix is a long-time Duke City favorite.
Located in the Scottsdale Village Shopping Center in the space which previously housed the Karibu Cafe, the Chile Time Restaurant opened its doors in September, 2017. My inaugural visit two months later evoked a feeling of déjà vu upon espying Dave Sweis, a long-time server at Mick’s. I couldn’t place where I’d see him before until Mick peeked out from the kitchen to survey the Black Friday breakfast crowd. There’s comfort in knowing what to expect. What you can expect from Chile Time is hearty portions of New Mexican favorites, breakfast served any time of day and behemoth burgers.
You can also expect the salsa to be the most piquant item on the menu. The salsa and chips are right-priced. They’re complimentary, but so good you wouldn’t mind paying for them. Piquancy isn’t the salsa’s sole redeeming quality. It’s fresh, lively and delicious–the type of salsa you’ll need replenished at least once. The chips are crisp, low in salt and probably better for dipping than scooping (my preference). If, like me, you like heat with heat, enjoy a cup of coffee (or six) with the salsa. Hot coffee has the unique ability to enhance the piquancy of chile. Dave will refill your cup faithfully.
The trite phrase “have it your way” has long been associated with Burger King, but at Chile Time, “have it your way” applies to enchiladas, too. Enchiladas are made with yellow corn tortillas and your choice of seasoned ground beef, chicken or carne adovada and they’re made flat or rolled. That endearing fact means they’re made to order, not prepared en masse and waiting to be apportioned from a large casserole dish. Then there are the egg choices: one or two, over easy, over medium or over hard. The carne adovada is mild and mellow, as smooth and tender as any in Albuquerque. Tender tendrils of red chile marinated pork are smothered in melted shredded chile and layered in between corn tortillas. The enchiladas are served with refried beans and Spanish rice.
Because any time, every time and all the time are chile time, the Chile Time Restaurant promises to please discerning palates needing their chile fix.
Chile Time Restaurant
3107 Eubank Blvd, N.E., Suite 12
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 24 November 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Enchiladas, Salsa and Chips
RESTAURANT REVIEW #1006