Several ominous scenarios went through my mind when Ana told me, “I’m sorry. We don’t accept credit cards.” Would I be asked to wash dishes for a couple of hours to pay for my meal? Would Ana ask me to leave my iPhone as collateral while I dashed to an automated teller machine? Worse, would I be jailed? Lest you think I’m joking, an Italian lawyer actually spent a night in a New York City jail because he didn’t have his wallet when his bill arrived. Neither the New York Police department nor the restaurant would accept his offer of leaving his iPhone as collateral or sending a bus boy with him to retrieve the wallet.
I need not have worried. Ever gracious and kind, Ana told me I could pay her the next day. She wasn’t on duty when I returned the following day, but her chef remembered me having complimented her on my meal. Still, she was both surprised and happy that I would return to pay off a debt and to leave a doubly generous tip for having inconvenienced Ana’s Kitchen. It pained me that anyone would skip out on a bill at a small cafe which exemplifies the independently owned mom-and-pop restaurant genre. It would serve such miscreants right not to ever be able to dine at such a gem.
Ana’s Kitchen is one of those restaurants about which some diners might ask the existential question “if it’s got only four reviews on Yelp, is it worth visiting.” The answer, of course, is most emphatically “yes,” soon and often. It’s certainly not a restaurant on the well-beaten, well-eaten path. Ana’s Kitchen occupies the space which previously housed Rey’s Place and before that Hot Diggity (which I believe is responsible for the electric blue guitar signage that points the way to the restaurant). The space had been vacant for quite a while before Ana’s Kitchen moved in. My discovery was somewhat serendipitous; while returning from a business meeting, I happened to glance at the long vacant space and espied a number of vehicles (mostly trucks) parked in front of what is now Ana’s Kitchen.
As for the relative scarcity of Yelp reviews, a quick analysis of the parking lot and all those trucks may have explained why. On the day of my inaugural visit, all but two of the guests were blue-collar gentlemen–guys who possess specialized skills that require daily labors much more physical than desk jockeys like me will do in a month. They perform hungry work and Ana’s Kitchen sates their hunger. They’re regulars who know their way around the menu and are happy to recommend their favorite dishes. These guys don’t need Yelp (or Gil’s Thrilling) to tell them what’s good and what’s not. Ana herself is a peripatetic presence, a whirling dervish with a ready hug for the regulars. She’s engaging and friendly.
While perusing the menu, Ana ferried over a complimentary bowl of salsa and basket of chips. As seems to be the case at many New Mexican and Mexican restaurants, the salsa may be the most piquant item on the menu. It’s a thin, somewhat watery salsa, the type of which you can’t scoop up in Gil-sized portions. It’s the type of salsa in which you have to dip your chips. The chips are thin, crispy and low in salt.
The menu features most of the familiar New Mexican and Mexican food favorites with which Duke City diners are familiar as well as burgers, sandwiches and even chicken fried steak (Sr. Plata is probably on his way there). Because the foul demon spice cumin is used on the red chile, my choice was green chile chicken enchiladas with a fried egg (over easy) on top. Three rolled enchiladas, absolutely stuffed with tender, moist, mostly white chicken arrived at my table hot to the touch. Beans, rice and a single flour tortilla were served on the side. The green chile didn’t have much bite, but it had a nice flavor and there was plenty of it.
When I returned to make good on my debt, several of the regulars who had been so friendly the previous day asked me to pull up a chair and join them. Sadly, I had to rush off to another meeting. Whether Ana’s friendliness is contagious or that’s just the convivial nature of her guests, I’ll always feel welcome at Ana’s Kitchen and I’ll always bring cash.
5918 Edith Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 21 March 2019
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Salsa and Chips, Enchiladas