I may not have much respect for the national media or for politicians, but I sure do respect the elderly (unless they’re members of the media or politicians). My parents engendered among their six children, respect for our elders. None of us would ever consider addressing an elder by their first name. We would never use the pronoun “tu” (you) when speaking with someone older than us. We always use “usted,” also a Spanish term for “you,” but used in a formal manner for people we respect and always for our elders. We were raised with the type of respect for seniors that is practiced in India, Thailand, Somalia, Indonesia and other nations who venerate their elderly. Being raised in Peñasco (which is within the confines of the Picuris Pueblo reservation), we witnessed respect for seniors quite often.
Similar to the aforementioned nations, many Native American cultures across the fruited plain are exemplars in how to treat their elders. In the Lakota culture, grandfathers are viewed as “the elders of the tribe and in many ways personify the sacredness of the goodness and wisdom of the Great Spirit. Grandfathers carry the spirit of the people. Grandmothers are even more sacred because they carry the heart and soul of the people. Grandmothers carry the sacred spirit of the Mother Earth. Grandmothers give us gentleness and caring because they have also given us life.” Similar veneration is also found among the Navajo nation as well as other Native American nations.
When my Kim and I addressed the proprietors of Tio’s Kitchen, a food truck in Bernalillo, as “Tio” and “Tia” it brought a broad smile to their faces. They knew we addressed them with terms of endearment as a sign of respect, not in a sarcastic manner. It made them happy to be recognized with the esteem they deserve. If you’re thinking “this is Gil being Pollyanna again” and that “respect is earned not given,” both my Kim and I are would argue that every person has dignity and deserves to be treated kindly. It’s not Pollyanna, it’s just us having been taught well by elders we love and respect.
You can find Tio’s Kitchen on the southwest intersection of Highway 550 and Camino Del Pueblo in Bernalillo. Its next door neighbor is yet another marijuana dispensary. Tio’s Kitchen is a pristine battleship grey beauty with a limited menu. In fact, that menu is (almost in its entirety) listed just above the two windows where you place and receive your order. “Birria, Asada, Barbacoa and Angus Frescas” are the menu’s “high-level categories.” Another, more comprehensive, menu lists all items. You won’t find a compendium listing much more than the four items listed above. In the tandem operation, Tia runs the “front of the house,” greeting guests and taking orders” while Tio prepares each item to order.
During our inaugural visit, it was apparent the big draw was birria. Virtually every guest who queued up to place an order asked for the birria. When you place your order, you’ll be handed a beeper which will alert you when your order is ready. It won’t take long. Though birria pizza and birria ramen were available, my choice was quesabirria tacos (four to an order) with consomé and two very fiery salsas. Over the past couple of years, the quesabirria craze has swept across the fruited plain. These tacos are a portmanteau combining queso (cheese) and birria, a traditional Mexican stew usually made from the same beef. Basically, it’s a beef birria taco with melted cheese–a kind of cross between a taco and a quesadilla. Almost everyone orders a cup of rich, chile-tinged consomé, or beef broth, on the side to sip between bites (or to dip the tacos into). There’s only one thing that could have made these tacos better. Had the consommé been flecked with little shards of beef, it would have been top tier.
Because of her acquired aversion toward all things piquant, my Kim has never been able to enjoy birria. In that respect she’s maybe the only person (excluding vegans and vegetarians) in the metro not caught up in the birria craze. Not that she doesn’t have many options. She loves carne asada which Tio serves in the form of tacos, burritos and quesadilla. Sadly, none of her options include any type of salsa because she can no longer enjoy the heat. Her carne asada burrito did include sliced avocados. As burritos go, it lacks much personality. It’s just carne and avocados enveloped in a flour tortilla. My Kim liked it…which made it a good burrito.
Tio’s Kitchen is open every day but Sunday. If you don’t line up early you might just run out of luck. Tio’s has actually run out of food on several occasions. Find out for yourself why. It’s worth a trip to Bernalillo. Besides, in addition to good Mexican food, you’ll get to visit your Tio and Tia. They’re as nice as can be and will treat you like their sobrino or sobrina (nephew or niece).
Bernalillo, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 12 August 2023
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Quesabirria Tacos, Carne Asada Burrito