Lady Be Good
The Burrito Lady serves up primo homestyle cooking
Yes, there really is a burrito lady! Her name is Consuelo Flores and she darts like a blur, whooshing between kitchen and cash register, cooking, serving food or making change, always with an ear to ear smile. Consider yourself lucky to find your way to her little corner of the world. To me, this place has become the high altar of home cooking in Albuquerque, largely because of the hands-on nature of the business.
Too many cooks definitely aren't spoiling the broth at The Burrito Lady. For the last six years, Consuelo and her son Mayo (even when his aching back is out) have been the only cooks making the broth—and everything else, for that matter. They serve delicious Santa Rosa, N.M. homestyle cooking to a very loyal following of regulars. When I asked her what Santa Rosa-style cooking was, Consuelo told me, “It's from scratch, like at home with no shortcuts and no recipes.” The menu boasts, “If you like it hot!” and hot it is. There is no pandering to mass tastes with soulless chile.
Finding the place might be a challenge for newcomers because it's hidden away in a small strip mall with only a poorly placed sign to guide traffic. Just look for the space in the corner between the auto parts business and the pet store (the one with gigantic colorful reptiles on the roof). In warmer months, tables spill out onto the sidewalk. We're not talking patio dining here, just a chance to sit outdoors and eat or wait for your order to come up.
It wouldn't be totally accurate to call this place a café because it's essentially a take-out spot where food is served in Styrofoam containers even if you choose to eat in. Only six tiny tables crowd the 20 by 20-foot space. Décor is limited to a small sideboard that's filled with canisters, angels, display bottles of hot sauces and various knick knacks. Large windowpane philodendron and vases of silk flowers add a personal touch. It may remind you of your favorite tia's breakfast nook.
Because of limited space, many regular customers call in their orders for a quick pick-up. It's a good idea to phone in your order, because things can get pretty busy during peak lunchtime rushes; Consuelo told me she gives preference to phone orders.
Mayo and his mom know their crowd and seem to greet most of the customers by name. A quick catch-up or check-in follows, “Sorry, Sally we're out of the calabacitas today, so do you want a bean and cheese burrito instead?” A quick nod completes the ordering procedure, and a call back to the kitchen gets things moving. It all feels very small-town and friendly, not unlike Santa Rosa.
Given that this is strictly a breakfast and lunch place, the menu features both breakfast and lunch burritos. These burly bombshells are meal-sized, come in 20 different combinations of ingredients and can be served either plain (all under $3) or smothered in chile and cheese ($3.95). Burrito plates ($4.95) are also offered; they're served with fluffy Spanish rice and satisfying refried beans—which are garnished with just the right amount of melted cheese. I tried the supreme burrito, which is stuffed with potatoes, eggs, bacon, ham, carne adovada, chile and cheese. I ordered it smothered in red and green chile.
The red chile was bright scarlet, slightly fruity with a reassuring earthiness. The green chile was both earthy and sweet, with a hotter, cleaner bite. I was hard pressed to choose a favorite. Atkins dieters can order this awesome low carb treat in a bowl without the tortilla or potatoes, or customize the burrito of your dreams with available ingredients. Vegetarians are more than humored here, with an outstanding calabacitas-filled burrito, one with avocado and rice, beans with red chile, and a vegetarian burrito with potato, eggs, chile and cheese, with added beans at no extra charge.
I'm not a huge taco fan but I'm told that the grilled tacos are giving burritos a run for the money when it comes to popularity. These babies are not made with pre-fab deep-fried taco shells, but with soft corn tortillas filled and grilled until everything inside gets heated through, and the tortilla gets a slight burnishing.
Tamales are not just for the holidays around here. Tasty pork tamales with red chile are always on the menu. Enchilada plates are delicious, too. I really loved the beef enchiladas all stacked and sassy, with brow-drenching green chile.
Save room for one of two desserts, homemade as well. There is a moist chocolate cake with a hint of almond and rich gooey icing, or a chewy brownie with chunks of walnuts on top. Catering is not available, but you may order trays of enchilada casseroles for your party.
Next time you need to sate that urge for red or green, make it a holiday and head to The Burrito Lady for a little taste of “Christmas.”
The Burrito Lady; 938 Eubank NE; 271-2268; Hours: M-F 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Price Range: inexpensive; Cash only .