Dagmar’s Delectables Bakery & German Specialties

Dagmar’s Delectables in Rio Rancho

Until Dagmar Mondragon launched her first German restaurant in Albuquerque back in 1996, many of us knew very little about German cuisine in general and baking in particular.  The only German baker with which some of us were acquainted was the wicked witch who planned to bake Hansel and Gretel in her oven.  And the only German pastry with which we were familiar was the gingerbread house in which that witch lived.  Most of us believed German chocolate cake originated somewhere in Germany.  Heck, if it wasn’t for Hogan’s Heroes, we wouldn’t know the difference between pumpernickel and weinerschnitzel.

Having frequented every one of the German restaurants Dagmar has launched in the nearly a quarter-century in which she’s served the Duke City metropolitan area, I’ve become besotted by her baked breads, delighted by her desserts, captivated by her cooking and grown very fond of the remarkable, larger-than-life woman named Dagmar.  Her inspirational story is replete with all the elements and themes that make a great movie though if you weren’t already acquainted with Dagmar’s story, you might not believe how anyone could surmount so many challenges and remain the warm, perpetually smiling lady who greets you cheerfully when you step into her bakery. 

The Irrepressible Dagmar at home in the kitchen (Photo Courtesy of Dagmar)

While most movies center around one theme, you would be hard-pressed to pigeonhole the Dagmar Mondragon story into one central motif.   The most prominent theme would probably have to be “overcoming adversity.”  Dagmar has experienced much more adversity–both in business and in her personal life–than most of us can fathom.  Through it all, she’s remained resolute, determined, unflappable…an embodiment for the axiom “you can’t keep a good woman down” (another movie theme).

Even before launching her first restaurant, adversity tried to bar the door to Dagmar’s dreams. Armed with tremendous talent and self-confidence, but with no start-up capital, Dagmar somehow managed to secure a deposit for her first restaurant.  Alas, the San Mateo location in which she opened her start-up was broken into several times.  Dagmar then moved to a new location where she introduced Albuquerque to the German food with which she grew up.  Not long after she relocated, she suffered the first of two heart attacks she would survive before triple bypass surgery rectified the issues with her heart. Two days after surgery, she returned to her restaurant. Among her first customers were the doctors who had performed the surgery.

Amazing Brötchen and Braunschweiger

Over the next nearly two decades, Dagmar would go on to share the cuisine of her maternal homeland throughout the Duke City and Rio Rancho in four different locations. In that time, she’s overcome a litany of challenges and health issues, any of which would have broken a lesser person. Her restaurants were burgled on multiple occasions, once by a ravenous robber who devoured her pastries. She’s experienced more equipment issues than Wile E. Coyote. Sewer back-up issues at one restaurant obfuscated the enticing aromas that make dining at her restaurants an olfactory-arousing joy.

Sometime after her fourth move, Dagmar was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Despite the removal of 22 pounds of mass, she literally went straight from the hospital to her restaurant. In 2012, she launched a small eatery in Rio Rancho while continuing to operate her Albuquerque establishment. Once again, cruel fate stepped in, this time sapping her of the passion and drive she had always had for cooking and baking. The culprit this time was systemic lupus which rendered her in perpetual pain. She closed her restaurants, put everything in storage and moved in with her ailing mother.

Cherry Strudel

For five years, Dagmar worked on recovering her health. Over time, she regained the passion and vitality that had sustained her through so many challenges. She decided her most recent instantiation of Dagmar’s Delectables would reside in Rio Rancho and would focus on German pastries, particularly strudels. Dagmar’s opened its doors in July, 2019 in the 1,300-square-foot Trinity Plaza space which previously housed Gluten-Free Gourmet. It’s a smaller space than some of her previous restaurants. Though it isn’t set up as a sit-down restaurant, you can pick up daily breakfast and lunch specials as well as those incomparable pastries and breads. A small section of the space is reserved for comestibles such as German mustards and curry ketchup.

According to a study in the journal Emotion, the more adversity in life a person has experienced, the more compassion they tend to feel and show toward others.  The first time we visited Dagmar in her new Rio Rancho location, we were reminded why we had missed her so much–and it wasn’t solely because of her baking and cooking prowess.  In Dagmar, we’re witness to the rare type of hospitality and customer orientation that bespeaks of a beautiful heart.  Dagmar is a very kind person, the type of which makes the best of friends and neighbors.

Apple Strudel

But this isn’t a review of Dagmar’s life.  It’s a review of her bakery (though it could be said the two are inextricable).  If you’re not already acquainted with German baked goods or you believe French bakeries are the be-all and end-all, it might surprise you to learn that CNN’s Travel website contends “German bread is the best in the world.”  Having enjoyed freshly baked baguettes, buttery croissants and crusty loaves of French bread (as well as  rich, creamy gateaus; decadent eclairs and other pastries) in my travels across France, I’m more than inclined to agree.  One visit to Dagmar’s will convince you, too.

16 May 2020: While Dagmar’s pumpernickel and rye breads are fabulous, our favorite is the amazing brötchen, an incomparably wunderbar white bread roll.  Living in England, we easily came to love the simplicity of brötchen with butter and thick apricot jam, a welcome departure from the American tradition of piling on a hillside of ingredients ala Dagwood Bumstead.  We also loved the richness of brötchen with creamy French butter and sharp English Cheddar, but our favorite was brötchen with braunschweiger which wasn’t particularly easy to get in England.  Braunschweiger, a soft, creamy and spreadable liver sausage has a distinctive peppery liver-based flavor that just seems tailor-made for brötchen.  It’s only fitting that the brand Dagmar offers is Berliner, named for her birthplace.

Coconut Cream Strudel

The American comedy series Hogan’s Heroes introduced viewers to Sergeant Hans Schultz, a befuddled, obese, always lazy Luftwaffe serviceman who frequently falls asleep at his post and often chooses to look the other way, uttering one of his trademark phrases: “I see nothing,” “I hear nothing,” and “I know nothing!” One thing Schultz could never look away from was strudel, the irresistible pastry consisting of several layers of thin dough filled with a fruity or creamy deliciousness.  The American prisoners-of-war frequently used strudel to bribe Schultz into divulging information.

12 May 2020: Sergeant Schultz’s very favorite strudel was apple strudel.  It’s my favorite, too, but only the way Dagmar bakes it.  The defining characteristic of strudel dough is that it should be stretched very thin — literally almost paper-thin and transparent and there should be layer upon layer of it.  Between those layers Dagmar nestles tart, firm baking apples which are chopped and mixed with just a bit of cinnamon.  While some versions of apple strudel are drizzled with a creamy frosting or sprinkled with powdered sugar, Dagmar tops hers with large granule pearl sugar.  You can bribe me with Dagmar’s apple strudel any time.

Soiree of Strudel: Blueberry, Apricot and Cherry Chile

12 May 2020: The Republic of Texas claims strudel as one of its official state pastries, likely because of the many communities of German immigrants who settled in the hill country west of Austin and San Antonio.  My Kim loves Dagmar’s cherry strudel so much she could qualify to be a Texan.  What she loves most about it is there’s cherry in every bite–not that annoying thick, syrupy fruit filling you find in some pies, but whole, tart cherries.  Few things in life are as satisfying as cherry strudel after a cup (or six) of hot coffee on a lockdown day.

12 May 2020: In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal, Dagmar revealed she plans to offer 65 different strudel types.  In my wildest dreams I had no idea there were 65 types of strudel.  For Sergeant Schultz, that would be like strudel heaven.  Coconut cream strudel is a recent revelation and departure from the fruit-filled strudels we usually prefer.  As an aficionado of coconut cream pie, it doesn’t pain me to declare coconut cream strudel far superior, but it does pain me that it took me so long to discover it.  Another favorite find is the raspberry-lemon strudel, a luscious tart amalgam of pure decadence.  Then there’s Dagmar’s apricot strudel, a mouth-watering gem showcasing the musky tartness of apricot.

Wurst Brotchen with German Potato Salad

12 May 2020: While Dagmar’s doesn’t serve a full dine-in menu as at some of her previous restaurants, she does offer small breakfast and lunch options so good you’ll rue ever having settled for fast food alternatives.  Best of all, she prepares them before your very eyes.  The canvas for some of her delectable lunches is the aforementioned brötchen we love…and few things go as well on brötchen as a good wurst.  In Germany, it’s said that “wurst comes to wurst,” an idiom regarding the popularity of sausages.  Dagmar’s bratwurst brötchen is superb, a thick sausage scored diagonally to allow excess fat to escape.  Spread a little of the medium-spiced mustard on the brötchen and you’ll enjoy a sandwich which should rival the hotdog in your estimation.

12 May 2020:  Another superb lunch option is the schnitzel brötchen, another exemplar of deliciousness crafted on the versatile German bread roll.  The schnitzel is thinly cut, a pounded and lightly seasoned pork tenderloin with a golden-hued breading.  As with the bratwurst brötchen, the schnitzel extends beyond the brötchen.  German mustard lends a little assertiveness to this sandwich.  Both brötchen lunch offerings were accompanied by the very best German potato salad we’ve ever had.  German potato salad is wholly unlike the mayonnaise-based potato salad popular across the fruited plain.  It’s warm and tangy courtesy of vinegar specked with bacon.

Schnitzel Brotchen with German Potato Salad

Dagmar’s story has all the elements needed for Oscar consideration, but she’s far from finished. She has guests to win over and feed, friends to make and strudel to bake.

Dagmar’s Delectables Bakery & German Specialties
2704 Southern Blvd, S.E.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
(505) 891-7995.
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 16 May 2020
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 24
COST: $$
BEST BET: Apple Strudel, Cherry Strudel, Brotchen, Coconut Cream Strudel, Braunschweiger, Wurst Brotchen, Schnitzel Brotchen, German Potato Salad, Apricot Strudel, Raspberry-Lemon Strudel, Curry Ketchup
REVIEW #1159

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, more than 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,200 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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9 Comments on “Dagmar’s Delectables Bakery & German Specialties”

  1. Per Gil’s recommendation, I had this delicious coconut cream strudel! I wanted the closest thing to custard filled layered in pastry dough. Is there schnitzel made with chicken and not pork? Might make for a good picnic lunch during these COVID times…

  2. Indeed, a shoppe on the diminutive, non-commodious side (always wanted to find use for that word, “capacious”, but this was not it! Anyway, there are displays of YumYums including bread; refrigerated stuff like potato salad, liver sausage; and old-world china, with some seats for food-prep waiting.
    Had the Schnitzel sandwich yesterday. Alas, would prefer that instead of the one large and one smaller piece, that the big one, which indeed overlaps the bun, just be in a larger bun and maybe with a tad of a sauce. Would I redo? Yes and especially for Dagmar’s version of the potato salad. While typically I’d favor my Mom’s mayo, however this was spiced up was quite enticing for a change of pace…wonder if it holds up better at summer picnics. In any event (and as per my avian-like appetite, I enjoyed my leftover schnitzel just a few hours later as my supper, albeit in bread.
    Also got me a blueberry strudel! If I were European, I might say a tad ‘dear’ IMHO, but…this was no ordinary Pop Tart. First of all, it is a beautiful looking creation. Anticipating the innards might be a bit “cloying”, I began with just a half. Biting through the flaky shell, I was pleasantly surprised the flavorfulness of the blueberry was predominant with but a hint of sweetness.
    ~ My biggest regret? I missed the Lady of the Bakery who was out running some errands. In terms of full disclosure, I must admit that I had a childhood memory of a tv show of the ’50s where a guy named Jerry Lester fostered the acting career of a gal he named Dagmar, e.g.  https://tinyurl.com/y8tcru9d, who is reported to have been one of the first major female stars of television and who Liberace reportedly said gave him his first break. (For those who aren’t of an age to remember the fashion-setting Polack, here’s a memory https://tinyurl.com/k2s4n23.)
    Of import: If I heard the mask-wearing waitguy correctly, they may be doing away with the landline and using Dagmar’s cell number: 615-5651 for contacting.  For the time being, they are doing 10-2. I found the easiest way to find the site was looking for the complex https://tinyurl.com/ydd8rb2m  which is a tad west of Golf Course Rd. on the south side of Southern.Guten Appetit!

  3. It’s no wonder that folks are so happy to see Dagmar back in business. I must say that her strudels look more enticing than nearly any strudel I ever encountered in Germany – and to be perfectly honest, I rarely turned my back on one even if it appeared somewhat mediocre. Dagmar surely has a light hand with pastry and her creativity is boundless – that coconut cream strudel is pure genius. I wonder if she’ll be making any of the savory vegetable-based strudels or meat strudels (AKA fleischstrudel).

    I took a look at Dagmar’s on face book and noted that she is also now offering what she calls German almond horns or mandelhornchen, a delectable marzipan cookie dipped in chocolate. For anyone who loves almond, this is a treat not to be missed.

  4. I must try Dagmar’s German potato salad and would be curious to find out her recipe and preferred potato selection. It may be unmannerly of me to say but I have always fancied the German version to the eggy mayonnaise style version commonly found in restaurants and delis.

    My own version at home features a rainbow medley of fingerling potatoes, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, mustard, chopped green onion and tidbits of pan-heated Guanciale (that’s cured hog jowl to you vegan bloggers) that is liberally sprinkled throughout with a reckless amount of salt.

    1. Tom, your version of German potato salad sounds good and so does Dagmar’s. Having spent considerable time in Germany, I found that “German potato salad” depends a lot upon the region and certainly on the cook. Like “American potato salad” prepared with mayo, there are countless variations and in Northern Germany, they are apt to use mayo. I found this blog reference which goes into great detail: https://germangirlinamerica.com/german-style-potato-salad-recipes/

      1. Becky, thanks for the link to this great German recipe blog. Funny, blogger says, “German Potato Salad is clearly regional. Northern Germans tend to use Mayonnaise, while Southern Germans stand by Vinegar. I have only been to southern German (mainly Bavaria) several times and I must have assimilated the southern vinegar preference because that’s how I do it.

        It would be interesting to research if the preferred German potato salad recipe in America (which I think is Mayo based) was influenced by immigrants that largely came from northern Germany rather than southern. You got any idea?

        This book looks interesting if one is ready to commit to German cuisine in his or her home:

        https://www.amazon.com/German-Meals-Omas-Traditional-Dishes/dp/1624146236

        117 ratings since publishing in 2018 with mostly five stars.

        1. Tom, I do believe that immigrants from Northern Germany are responsible for the introduction of “American potato salad” but the story is a bit more complicated. From most accounts, it was the French who originally “invented” mayonnaise, for which recipes began to appear in French cookbooks in the 18th century (although some researchers point out that a similar preparation was known in Spain around the same time). By the early 1800s, recipes for mayo appeared in both English and German cookbooks which would have accounted for its introduction and popularity in Northern Germany.

          It seems to me that mayonnaise, and by extension, potato salad made with mayo, was especially popularized in the United States by the Hellman’s company. Of note is the fact that Richard Hellman and his family were from Vetschau in Northern Germany. In the early 1900s, they opened a deli on Columbus Avenue in NYC from which they sold salads made with his wife’s mayonnaise. Hellman went on to produce and sell mayo commercially. The ready availability of mayo, versus the need to make it from scratch, meant that it was increasingly used in home meal preparation and it increased the appeal of the potato salad served in the homes of immigrants from Northern Germany. This very detailed history of Hellman ‘s, written by the eminent food history scholar Andy Smith, supports this premise:

          https://andrewfsmith.com/wp-content/themes/wooden-mannequin/pdf/Hellmann's%20Mayonnaise%20Article.pdf

  5. Oh my, how I have missed her and her food! This is fabulous. I will definitely make the drive up the mesa for this!

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