As I say below, having lived in New Mexico for a number of years in a previous life has left a thirst for good green chiles of which only the New Mexico variety can quench.
My apologies for not taking photos, I was hungry and forgot. All photos courtesy of Richardson’s website.
Richardson’s Cuisine of New Mexico
Let me start by saying that I lived in Albuquerque for almost eight years so, my I am very opinionated about food that contains chile (not chili). When you live in New Mexico or even visit regularly and sample the local cuisine you become accustomed to a certain je ne sais qua about the food. It varies depending on what part of the state you are in, but most true New Mexican food features a variety of long peppers traditionally called New Mexico chile peppers.
Chile has been cultivated in New Mexico for hundreds of years primarily by the Pueblo Indians. Each region has a distinct variety with the best known to be from the Hatch Valley area of Southern New Mexico. An interesting note about New Mexico chile peppers is that the green and red are the same pepper, one being the ripe pepper (red), and each is prepared for cooking in a different manner. The green chile pepper is roasted generally in large quantities over fire as the chiles are tossed about. The chile is then placed in a bag (traditionally trash bags, doubled or tripled) and left for several hours for the chile to steam. The chiles are then ready to peel off their outer skin and chop up. The red chiles are dried where after a certain period they are ready to be ground up and used for cooking. Each of the preparations has a very distinct flavor with the green having a pungent and sweet spiciness to them, while the red has a dark earthiness to the flavor. Both can range from very mild to hotter than “h e double hockey sticks.”
Anyway, I digress, this is supposed to be about the food at Richardson’s and not a treatise on the cultivation of New Mexico chile peppers refined as by Fabian Garcia in 1894. Richardson’s is a place we have been eating at going on 20 years or so. We even ate at the original location before the great fire of 2008. In that time the food has not changed much with the exception of some menu items floating on and off the menu for whatever reason. There are a number of items that you would probably call New Mexico inspired because they would not be found in a restaurant in New Mexico. Nonetheless, when you get down to the basics the food is New Mexican through and through.
Richardson’s uses pecan as the wood for their wood fired ovens and grills as well as to (I assume) roast the chiles and smoke some of the meats. The pecan gives the neighborhood and the food a very pleasant aroma that is delightful to walk in and catch that first draft of pecan scented air. As I said earlier there was a fire in 2008 that destroyed the original at the North Eastern corner of Bethany Home Road and 16th Street. Fortunately, their other location just adjacent to them was not harmed. Dick’s Hideaway is owned by the same people and is truly hidden away. It is an experience to eat there. Trust me, you should try it. They rebuilt Richardson’s just a couple of blocks North at the corner of 16th Street and Maryland, next to Rokerij. When they rebuilt the main restaurant they duplicated the inside of the original down to the section of the bar that is not hammered copper and the unusual steps here and there. The food stayed the same, though, which is great.
Having eaten there for so many years we have tried almost all of the menu but now there are only two and a half things we regularly order. Breakfast (or brunch) is our favorite where we order the Huevos Rancheros with eggs over easy and home fired potatoes. This is the best combination of all things New Mexican. To start there are Blue corn tortillas on the bottom, a side of beans (that have a slightly smoky flavor), home fired potatoes, and two eggs swimming in green chile, covered in melted cheese, and all served with a flour tortilla. I like to have extra green chile on mine (or in the words of our friend Brendan who also lived in New Mexico, “Obscene amounts of green chile”). I am one of those people that will occasionally order food in Christmas style (both red and green chile), but that is where the half of the two and a half things comes in as we also order a side of Carne Adovada (pork, usually a pork butt, cooked for hours in red chile). The Carne Adovada at Richardson’s has a nice smoky flavor from the pecan wood it was cooked over. In fact, I have even said it is the best Carne Adovada I have ever eaten and I have eaten a lot of it in New Mexico. Put some of the Carne on the plate with the green chile and eggs and it is like nothing you can imagine.
The other item we order is the Green Chile cheeseburger. The bun is nice but you are not there for the bun, it is the chile and the meat and cheese you want. The way they serve it is a whole Hatch Chile on top of the burger. I prefer the burger to have the bun on the bottom, the meat patty (looks to be an 8 oz. patty), with green chile sauce covering the burger and then cheese melted on top. Once again it is the obscene amounts of chile. This is not a pick it up burger; it is a fork burger with fries served on the side. There is nothing better than a green chile cheeseburger done right and Richardson’s does it right. Still, you must ask for green chile sauce.
Richardson’s Cuisine of New Mexico is a great place for a satisfying taste of New Mexico without driving eight hours. Richardson’s, Rokerij, and Dick’s all offer the same menu so you have several options from which to choose. It really depends on your mood. Thank you for reminding me why I loved New Mexico.
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