ALBUQUERQUE--Los Cuates, Mary & Tito's, Padilla's, Ortega's
I passed through Albuquerque a couple of times over the past week or so and hit an old standby and a few places that were new to me.
Los Cuates seemed to have slipped a little in comparison to my previous visits. Tamale was still very good. The refried, rice, and guacamole were pretty decent. The red chile wasn't quite up to par--less flavorful and not nearly as hot as usual. Cheese enchilada wasn't heated as much as I like. Still haven't warmed up to their salsa which reminds me more of a barbecue sauce. My wife said her chile relleno with green chile was about as good as usual, but also felt that overall Los Cuates was a bit of a letdown this time.
First time to Mary & Tito's for me. Great red chile although it could have been a little hotter. Again, the cheese enchilada(with onions, as it should be) wasn't heated quite enough, but the red chile was good enough to make me forgive the shortcoming. Tamale was pretty decent. Taco was okay. Refrieds tasted like they were extended with flour, not terrible but not great. Guacamole was poor with an odd taste that I couldn't identify the cause of. Wife rated the chile relleno as one of the better ones she's had in Albuquerque. Salsa was red in color but tasted like it had quite a bit of green chile in it. Definitely would return to Mary & Tito's.
Padilla's probably did the best job overall in spite of their red chile not being especially flavorful although it was plenty hot. Whole pintos, rice, salsa, guacamole, cheese enchilada were all very good. Tamale was also good but not quite as good as Los Cuates'. Good taco. Thumbs up on the chile relleno here, as well.
I wanted to go somewhere else I hadn't been, so I picked Ortega's out of the Yellow Pages. Got suckered by the blurb on their ad that said customers say it tastes most like what they get at home or some such. They did have good papitas. Salsa, guacamole, and sopapillas were decent. Red chile had neither heat nor flavor. Tamale was mush that fell completely apart and lacking flavor. Taco was the worst with the ground beef tasting like completely unseasoned hamburger meat, not even salt or pepper. Whole pintos weren't very flavorful either. Won't be making a return visit.
The lunch I had a Perea's last time I was in Albuquerque was better than anywhere I went this trip. I'm a red chile fan and seem to recall Perea's being some of the better I've had in Albuquerque. Thought they did a good job with most things there. I'm not crazy about Perea's salsa which was too sour for my tastes, and some of the food was a little salty(but that's nitpicking.) Definitely planning to hit Perea's again on my next trip to Albuquerque though. I had high hopes for Mary & Tito's which did come through on the red chile but wasn't really top flight with anything else. Better red chile would put Padilla's at or near the top of the heap--figure I'll give them another try next time I'm in Albuquerque.
I heard that most of the staff from Los Cuates left and that's the reason for the loss of quality. Apparently most of the staff went to a new small place called Dos Amigos on 4th next to I-40 that's very good.
Personal opinion: Los Cuates is OK, but not great. The chip sauce is darn good; it's a mole'. Rest is edible but not what it used to be.
If you're on Central Ave near Nob Hill at breakfast or lunchtime, try NewMex food at Loyola's. The Frontier (24 hour restaurant) across from UNM is also really good for NewMex and other roadfood. Monroe's also has good New Mexican.
The K&I Diner on south Broadway has the Travis, a burrito smothered with chile and fries. The full Travis is huge--try a quarter or eighth Travis unless you're really hungry. Hurricane's (a local mini-chain) has a similar burrito, the Disaster, that's also very good. Twister's (a bigger mini-chain) also has a similar burrito, but it isn't as good as the others.