Yours truly has been gone from New Mexico for quite a while (I don’t suppose you noticed that those bylines have been different the past few weeks), and boy have I missed being here. I missed seeing the mountains to the east, I missed seeing the sun every damn day, I missed my friends and I sure as hell missed the food. Which is not to say that I didn’t have amazing food while I was in Japan (that’s right, we’re all worldly and well-traveled here at Weekly Alibi); it’s just that, well, they don’t really have green chile over there. And the portions are so small too—I felt like I had such a greedy American appetite, always ordering a second entrée. After a while, I wanted to eat something really greasy and hearty. I wanted the kimchi cheddar tots at Sister, the big-as-your-head breakfast burrito at Java Joe’s and the spinach enchiladas at El Patio. I know I’m outing myself as a creature of habit for missing such specific things, but man, I don’t care. Some things are worth going back for again and again, and even worth dreaming about from the other side of the globe. This is my totally biased, unabashed love letter to the joints I will be taking a homecoming tour of now that I’m back in town.
I often feel like Sister is the axis around which all of Albuquerque spins—but maybe it’s just my little slice of Albuquerque. Although I initially feared I wasn’t cool or tattooed enough to go in there, that feeling disappeared once I walked in and immediately ran into three different people I know. The best bands come to play there (did y’all go to that Oh Sees show on Monday?!), the food is bangin’, the weekly taco special is always worth trying, the cocktails (courtesy of the lovely Jessica O’Brien) are truly creative and the servers are all cute. What more could you ask of a bar? Oh, you want an arcade in your bar? Yeah, they’ve got that too. As mentioned above, the kimchi cheddar tots are where it’s at, especially after a couple beers. Also try the impossible burger (a vegan burger that’s upsettingly good) and the beet and goat cheese salad.
I know I said earlier that I mostly missed greasy food while I was away. But there is always that unavoidable point while traveling where you just really, really need to eat a salad. You’ve been eating out for every meal—usually richer food than you eat while at home—and your gut is begging you to take it easy. That moment is when you really want Vinaigrette’s “the beet goes on” salad with arugula and goat cheese and—you guessed it—roasted beets. Or else you want the omega or the cherry tart, both of which pack enough vitamins and antioxidants that they make you feel like your prior dietary sins are all forgiven. Try the ever-rotating shrub for a little tonic alongside. I’ve never had anything on the menu that didn’t make me feel at least marginally like a healthier, more well-rounded person, so you can’t go wrong.
I could tell myself that I go to El Patio a lot because it’s so close to my house. While the convenience definitely plays a role, it’s truly those fluffy sopaipillas, those bubbling-hot enchiladas and those golden brown chiles rellenos that keep me coming back. In warm weather, the tree-shaded patio is a beautiful spot for lunch. When it’s not so warm you can sit in the house, which is literally a house, and so cozy inside. The vegetarian enchiladas—one of my favorites—are blue corn tortillas filled with spinach and swimming in chile, accompanied by beans, papas and a sopaipilla. This was the first meal I went out for after getting back to Albuquerque. It reminded me that I belong here.
When I first moved to Albuquerque, I went to Java Joe’s almost every day to drink coffee, look for jobs on the internet and feel vaguely sorry for myself. I almost always got the breakfast burrito too, which is such a perfect meal when you’re unemployed: It’s tasty, it’s filling, it’s big enough to be two meals and it’s wicked cheap. I’m talking $4.50, my dudes. For a mountain of eggs, potato and cheese all wrapped up that can sustain you all day. Get red and green on top for just 75 cents more. Even into the employed phase of my life this continues to be one of my favorite cheap breakfast spots, and such a sweet and unpretentious place to hang out. Now that the Alibi office is neighbors with Java Joe’s, I often find myself parked there with a laptop and a burrito, just like old times.