Sometimes, in my darker food writer moments, I wonder if Albuquerque New Mexican restaurants are in on some conspiracy to undermine the reputation of our state’s unique cuisine. It’s not a fair or accurate thought, of course, but when I think of the number of times that I’ve gone to a new cafe and sat down to a plate of soupy enchiladas smothered in bland green chile and gummy yellow cheese, I can’t help but get a little down.
This is definitely a family-run joint, with grandma Patricia cooking up a storm in the kitchen and granddaughter Sheila pulling waitress duty while simultaneously running the register. As such, there’s an easy, friendly vibe to the place; everyone seems comfortable and accustomed to their appointed roles. Go more than once and the smiles get wider each time you walk in the door.
But the thing about gambling is that sometimes, you luck out. And I’m pleased to report that Patricia’s beats the odds.
Sopapillas are both flaky and fluffy and invariably arrive steaming, just as God intended. I’ve noticed lately that a number of New Mexican joints around town seem to be sweetening their sopapilla batter, which is a pointless exercise that gives the side a far too candy-like quality once the honey goes on. So, I’m happy to note that Patricia’s keeps their batter simple and just slightly salty enough to contrast nicely with the sweet topping. I hate that I even have to mention this (seriously, what is the world coming to?), but yes, they provide real honey for the table and not some corn syrup-based abomination like some other places around town that shall remain nameless. The sopas also make good vehicles for beef and potato stuffing ($6.95), though, again, I’d recommend that you pay an extra buck and go for the carne adovada version ($7.95).
Afterwards, if you somehow have an unfilled corner of your stomach, Patricia’s offers a small cup of natillas ($2.25), that homiest of New Mexican desserts. It’s a warm and milky custard with a touch of cinnamon and balances nicely with a swallow of coffee.
It can be easy to get jaded on the New Mexican food in this town—too many places seem to cut corners in their kitchens, and the abundance of options means that a low-profile joint can get lost in the crowd. I’m happy to say, though, that the food at Patricia’s is a cut above the rest (oh, what the heck, I’ll make it two cuts) and good enough to reinspire even the most jaded Burqueño’s passion for our regional cuisine. Don’t let the location fool you; you owe it to yourself to seek it out.