Defining Northern New Mexico
Sabroso is a lively little word with more than one use. Like many Spanish words, it’s a workhorse, a multitasker. Depending on how sabroso is used, it can mean something as simple as "tasty" or something more specific, like "salty." As a restaurant name, it’s pretty straightforward: Good food.
Margaritas are a good place to start. Whether the restaurant is Mexican, New Mexican or, as in this case, Northern New Mexican, they're always on the menu. Being open for only a month, Sabroso’s was still working out its tequila selection when I stopped in. The resident mixologist quickly made up for lost time by agreeing to forego the sweet and sour mix for real lime juice. The result was divinely tangy with a little more orange than I expected, and spanking good.
Avocados are such a gorgeous fruit. Oily, creamy and rich, they add texture and flavor to any dish they adorn. Sabroso’s manages to elevate the "alligator pear" to rather lofty heights by grilling and stuffing it with moist, shredded pork. Seared and salted, the mild green flesh is transformed from produce to mock foie gras. The outside took on a slight crispness while the center became soft and melty. Paired with pico de gallo and tortilla chips, this appetizer makes straight-up guacamole look like child’s play.
Tacos de camarón made a stong impression. Grilled blue corn tortillas cupped marinated shrimp and warm pico de gallo, cheese and lettuce. The marinade imparted a bold saltiness that picked up the brininess of the shrimp. The tacos were enormous—with three to a plate, it was a tempting challenge to finish every bit.
Sabroso’s manages to elevate the "alligator pear" to rather lofty heights by grilling and stuffing it with moist, shredded pork. Seared and salted, avocado’s mild green flesh is transformed from produce to mock foie gras.
Blue corn tortillas made another appearance, this time doused in red chile. But the beef enchiladas were uneven. Ground beef was a regrettable choice for a filling that left the whole dish soft, almost mushy. The red chile, on the hand, was just plain good. The deeply colored sauce delivered more than just heat: It was intensely flavorful, almost all of the taste deriving from roasted chile.
All of Sabroso’s plates come with the choice of two sides. I recommend skipping the rice and beans. On my visits, the rice was soggy, the beans bland—and there are better sides to try. The calabacitas were tender and sweet; the sautéed spinach was unexpected; and the posole was the best dish of hominy I’d had in some time. There's also grilled cabbage, which I didn't get to. The portions were substantial—the posole took up half my plate.
Sabroso’s had been open for a short while on my visits, so some of the servers were green. But they were instantly apologetic when mistakes happened and quick to make amends. Despite being a little rough around the edges, I couldn’t help but find Sabroso’s sweet. Pictures of the owners’ hometown of Mora hang on the walls. Sitting down to spotless tablecloths and endless chips and salsa, and being met with friendly service at every turn, the staff and owners made an admirable effort to make me feel welcome. It’s obvious they take pride in their restaurant. Nicer than many mom-and-pop shops, Sabroso’s is sabroso—in every sense of the word.
The Alibi recommends:
• Grilled avocado appetizer
• Tacos de camarón
• Red chile-cheese enchiladas
• A tangy Margarita
Sabroso’s, 5210 San Mateo NE, 830-6934. Hours: Mon-Sat 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Price range: $6.99 (green chile stew) to $12.99 ( tacos de camaron diablo ). Ambience: mom and pop’s pride and joy. Credit cards, booze, large parties.