Restaurant Review: Café Castro
Green means go for the chile
By: Patricia Greathouse
Published online: Friday, August 10, 2012
Appeared in: Pasateimpo
Many Santa Feans base their judgments
3 ½ chiles
2811 Cerrillos Road 505- 473-5800
Breakfast 8 a.m.-11a.m. Fridays, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturdays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays; lunch & dinner 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; closed Mondays
Takeout available, Noise level: moderate, mariachi soundtrack, Handicapped-accessible
In short order:
For home-style Northern New Mexican
food, Café Castro
fills the bill. The eatery
breaks the cliché of Cerrillos Road chain
restaurants with generous servings,
fair prices, and a cordial down-home
ambience. Owners Julia and Carlos Castro
make authentic New Mexican food
from her mother’s recipes, and they
have some of the best chile in town.
The café is unpretentious and ideal
for those who like their New Mexican
food straight up. Recommended: enchiladas,
beans, rice, and carne adovada with
a cold beer or wine margarita.
*Ratings range from 0 to 4 chiles, including half chiles.
This reflects the reviewer's experience with regard
to food and drink, atmosphere, service, and value
New Mexican restaurants on the quality of the chile.
Adhering to tradition, Julia and Carlos Castro have put
their signature red and green on the map. Their Café
Castro is a first-rate locals’ favorite with courteous and
efficient service, an attractive ambience, and great prices.
The Castros, in the restaurant business for 22 years,
have been on Cerrillos Road for the last five, where
they attract tourists and businesspeople as well as
regulars. Pride of ownership is obvious in the cheerful
colors and tidy efficiency that make the place vibrant.
It’s an unusual day when either Julia or Carlos isn’t on
hand to make sure everything is going right.
The food at Café Castro is home-style, based on
Julia’s mother’s recipes. As such, it exemplifies New
Mexican food at its best, with the flavors of corn,
beans, and chile of primary importance. It’s a what-
you-see-is-what-you-get situation; there’s no way to
cover up poor ingredients or badly made sauce.
Salsa and chips are not complementary, but Castro’s
tomato- and chile-pequín-based salsa is good enough
to pay for, so be sure to order some. One appetizer
plate (Trio Sabroso) comprises smooth guacamole,
picante salsa, and chile con queso with corn chips.
The nachos are not a catch-all. In fact, they’re
Spartan compared to the Food Channel versions laden
with jalapeños, guacamole, black olives, and beans. But
Castro’s bed of crisp corn chips topped with seasoned
ground beef or chicken, refritos, chopped tomatoes, and
melted cheese makes a tasty, generous start for four.
The appetizer quesadilla is open-faced — a flour
tortilla with soft-cooked chicken, cheese, tomatoes, and
sour cream; it makes a good snack for two. A delicious,
juicy carne adovada is the Thursday special, but all the
daily specials are available for a dollar more any day of
the week. The tender pork coated with hot chile caribe
made for great soft tacos tucked into steamed corn
tortillas. Add some refritos on the side and a little salsa
to amp up the heat, and you’re eating Mexican style.
Castro’s red chile enchilada passes with flying colors
because of the strength of the chile. Crisp chicken
tacos come with refritos, posole, and rice. At some
restaurants, the rice is gummy and too tomato-y,
the refritos are drowned in cheese, and the posole is
overseasoned. Not at Castro’s. The separate kernels
of rice have just a suggestion of tomato, and while
the refritos do come topped with a little cheese, whole
beans are available without it. The posole is stewed
with pork, and the corn flavor shines through.
The chiles rellenos have a not-too-thick, nongreasy
batter, and ours came smothered with red and green
chile sauces and cheese. The sopaipillas are also good,
a nice balance of chewy and thin.
As for that most important ingredient, chile, Castro’s
excels. The green chile is roasted and chopped. Too
many local restaurants save money by serving a
flavorless, too-picante chile in a sauce thickened with
flour. The red version of that same aberration — a thin,
spicy sauce made with who knows what — is unworthy
of our food traditions. The lusty version at Castro’s,
which is hot enough, dark, and thick, is made with
chile caribe that is soaked and then ground. Dishes
come with a choice of red or green. Some dishes, like
the chicken tacos, include salsa, too. Get all three; the
speedy servers are happy to oblige.
There’s a good selection of beers at Café Castro,
and they come supercold with a frosty glass, a
welcome treat on a scorching afternoon. A frosty,
frothy wine margarita is also a refreshing choice.
Desserts are not Castro’s forte, and most are not made
in-house. The flan is, however; it’s a light version
of the normally thick and creamy custard. There is
also a well-saturated tres leches cake. We gobbled
up a fried cream-cheese-filled chimichanga drizzled
with raspberry and chocolate sauces. A large, warm
brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream got the
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