Journey To Jerusalem
Taste of the Holy Land offers Rio Rancho something new
There’s a well-known story of a couple who (allegedly) were traveling while the wife was pregnant. They rather famously gave birth in a manger after this long journey, and their child went on to do great things. I won’t go and name any names, I’m not the kind of person to name drop the famous, but the story of their journey reminded me of some things. Namely, the trip they made was to Bethlehem, only a couple hours walking distance south of Jerusalem. During the month of December, it’s a story we hear over and over again, about this trip they took and the importance of it, even though Saturnalia did come first. This is all a roundabout way of saying I have never made an important trip in my life, unless you count the one I took to visit family in Italy when I was young and unappreciative of how cool Italy was. But then, I saw in the sea of Applebee’s and Chili’s that make up Rio Rancho, a star. Something shining brightly and uniquely on that side of town, a local eatery deserving of attention, a little place called Jerusalem-Taste of the Holy Land.
Like all meaningful journeys, it starts with a need. My need was to find something new, something exciting. So, the day before Thanksgiving, I made it a goal to go eat there before the holiday, as a way to prep for the feast the following day. But, as many of you also experienced, something strange happened that day. We had an insane November snowstorm. It started out minor enough, and I assumed the talk of how big it was going to be was being blown out of proportion, so I took the risk and made the drive to Rio Rancho at the start of the storm that night. Nothing was sticking, I was going to be fine, I assured myself. That said, it was definitely a drive, as I live in the southern half of Albuquerque. Upon my arrival at the Taste of the Holy Land, I noticed things had gotten a little snowier than before, an omen of things to come.
Let’s talk food, atmosphere and all that jazz. Jerusalem-Taste of the Holy Land has a nice vibe to it overall. It’s not too busy in the decor department, giving a bit of flair, color and energy to the room, making sure you get a sense of where you are without leaving you overwhelmed by decorations. The menu is pretty sizable, with sandwiches, soups and salads, seafood, kebabs and shawarmas, some specialties, vegetarian options and of course the desserts. Even more impressive, they found some local twists on cultural dishes, like their Santa Fe Chicken Shawarma ($9.99) which was a marinated Southwestern style chicken breast that came with a chili sauce. I had to get the Shawarma Combo ($13.99) that came with beef, chicken and lamb shawarma, served on rice with hummus on the side, fresh baked pita bread and a choice of soup or salad, of which I went with the Freekeh Soup, a chicken-based soup.
The shawarma was fantastic with really good seasoning that allowed the meat to stand out on the merit of its own natural flavors, adding enhanced notes to the dish. The rice wasn’t overcooked or soggy, helping to give texture and fullness to the bites I was enjoying. The freekeh soup was a first for me, and I found it to my liking. It wasn’t too heavy or too light, and the cracked wheat was fantastic, adding a new level of deliciousness to every bite of chicken breast and broth. Cleaning the plate was made easy with the pita, which was warm, a little chewy and left me a little heartbroken when it was gone.
For dessert, I went with the Kanafeh ($3.99). Another dish I’ve never tried before, I took a risk and it paid off. A combination of sweet dough and cheese, with a stringy topping that made the dish interesting to bite into, there were nutty notes and flavors that paired with the sweetness that made this one of the most unique desserts I’ve ever tried. It was warm, gooey, crunchy and chewy, with all those pieces adding up to something I’ve never quite seen done before, in the best way.
With the meal finished, dinner paid for and my business card left to contact for questions, I headed back out to make the long journey back home, my trip to this holy land finished. That’s when I looked out the window for the first time since I had sat down. The snow was officially coming down, sticking and refusing to slow down anytime soon. I had friends in Rio Rancho that I could call and stay with, but I had dogs at home who desperately needed to roll in the snow and destroy the cleanliness of my floors, so I chose to make the trip back. Avoiding freeways, my GPS figured the drive would take 45 minutes. Going 10 miles under the speed limit, since the road was slick and visibility was about 10 feet in any direction, it would take 50 to 55 minutes. So I began my trip.
The time in the quiet of the snowfall and foggy clouded surroundings of my return journey gave me space to reflect. We all make journeys of our own, small and large. Life in itself in a singular journey, from birth to death. Some journeys are tough, others are easy, and we tend to take the easy journeys while avoiding the ones that cause us issue. Yes, for many of us Burqueños, Rio Rancho isn’t the easiest drive, but with food like Jerusalem-Taste of the Holy Land, maybe it’s the only logical journey to make.
1690 Rio Rancho Blvd. SE Ste. B
Hours: Mon-Sat: 10am-9pm Sun: 11am-7pm
Vibe: Middle Eastern eatery focused on great food
Alibi Recommends: Kanafeh, Santa Fe Chicken Shawarma, Shawarma Combo