alibi online

Free Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals
 
 V.18 No.50 | December 10 - 16, 2009 

Restaurant Review

Chili Express

Quirky comfort in Southeast Albuquerque

Combo plate with a taco, enchilada and relleno
Sergio Salvador salvadorphoto.com
Combo plate with a taco, enchilada and relleno

Chili Express, on the easternmost stretch of Gibson, marches to its own beat. Its spelling of “chili” seems out of place in New Mexico, and even its claim to serve “Mexican food” would be believable anywhere else but here—this is New Mexican to the core. Luckily, this same peculiar approach goes into crafting comfort food with a meticulous sensibility, not to mention the decor of one of the funkiest eateries in town.

Various objects and knickknacks crowd every inch of available space. A stuffed parrot roosts on a hanging perch above a gum ball machine. Native American fetishes hide behind a television tuned to CNN. While Christmas lights flicker, posters of divas, old advertisements and Norman Rockwell spinoffs crowd the walls. A saddle rides an interior half-wall. Statues, a sewing machine, an alarm clock, an old-fashioned meat grinder, a few sombreros and a street sign that says “Los Angeles Lakers lane” complete the busy picture. Everything is doubled by the floor-to-ceiling mirrors on the restaurant’s west side. And you could film a porno movie in the bathroom, with more mirrors, a corner sink and snazzy ’70s disco tiles.

Don’t be late, because when the salsa runs out for the day, it’s gone.

The food is inexpensive but made with care. The french fries are hand-cut and freshly fried. The green chile cheeseburger, on a braided sesame seed bun, stands as tall as in promo photographs of what some burger joints want you to think their burgers look like. The tortilla chips are fresh. The salsa bar (available to dine-in customers only) stocks a chunky, housemade pico de gallo, a smooth red salsa, a tomatillo salsa and a very hot “chapulin” salsa. Creamy and garlicky, you’d swear this green puree has mayo or sour cream in it. But it doesn’t; just serrano peppers, garlic and salt. Mixed with ketchup or any of the other salsas, the chapulin elevates a burger or fries to mythical status. But don’t be late, because when the salsa runs out for the day, it’s gone.

A smothered red chile burger and fresh-cut fries
Sergio Salvador salvadorphoto.com
A smothered red chile burger and fresh-cut fries

The menu sports the standard array of items you’d order with either red or green. The chicharrón inside a burrito steals the show like chicharrón is supposed to. The tamale is flat and dense with a sweet red inside. The relleno has great flavor, if somewhat standard.

The green chile stew is more stew-like than I’m used to around these parts, with multiple chunks of soft beef, carrots, celery, potatoes and tomato, and not a lot of roasted chile flavor. But it’s delicious.

The posole teems with juicy, falling-apart chunks of pork, and it comes in a rich red sauce whose heat delivers the perfect amount of bite. It’s a spot-on rendition of that indispensable New Mexico comfort food.

Homemade limeade (made from bottled lime juice, by the taste) provides a refreshing alternative to the usual fizzy suspects. And the free refills appear to be inexhaustible.

Chili Express strikes me as a good place for a first date—and not because of the porn-set bathroom. The decorations give plenty to talk about and the location feels out-of-the-way and anonymous, the sort of place where quirky romance blooms. And the food is good and cheap. If you’re looking to go red, green or Christmas, Chili Express will deliver.

The Alibi recommends:
• Salsa bar
• Posole
• Chicharrón burrito
• Smothered burger


Chili Express

5901 Gibson SE • 232-4454
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day
Price range: $5.95 (burger platter) to $10.95 (steak plate)
Ambience: Sleepy yet snazzy antique shop
Credit Cards: Yes
Booze: Nada
Extras: Patio seating
 
Join our mailing list for exclusive info, the week's events and free stuff!
 

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • alibi.com
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Rocksquawk Discussions
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Del.icio.us Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.
    High Mountain Hideout
    High Mountain Hideout8.31.2014