Restaurant Review: Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
By: Laurel Gladden
Published online: Friday, July 06, 2012
Appeared in: Pasateimpo
At the risk of sounding like Rodgers and
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
3 Chiles chiles
555 W. Cordova Road 505-983-7929
Lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; noon-4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays;dinner 5-10 p.m. nightly; bar menu available between lunch & dinner
Takeout, Vegetarian options, Noise level: quiet to boisterous
In short order: Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
serving classic regional cuisine since 1952.
The menu offers plenty for carnivores and
vegetarians alike, and nearly everything on the
menu is (or can be) smothered in chile. There’s
a kooky, well-worn ambience to the rambling
dining rooms, and although service usually runs
like well-oiled machinery, consistency can be an
issue. A separate eight-page menu is dedicated
to margaritas, which are made with 100 percent
agave tequila and range in price from $6.50 to
$50. Recommended: green chile stew, blue corn
enchiladas, huevos rancheros, Fiesta tamale
platter, and Yes Deer and First Kiss margaritas.
*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
, how do you judge a restaurant like
Maria’s? This institution has been serving solid New
Mexican cuisine to hordes of hungry diners since
1952. In many ways, the food here is just as good as
it is in similar restaurants in town. But Maria’s New
Mexican Kitchen is a go-to for me, often as much for
the ambience — the hustling servers, the rambling
cavelike quality of the dining rooms, the dingy plaster
and well-worn wood, and the kooky pink-and-blue
neon wagon-wheel chandeliers — as anything else.
Oh, and the margaritas.
Maria’s dedicates a separate eight-page menu to
them. Each one, ranging in price from $6.50 to $50,
is made with 100 percent agave tequila, and whether
silver, reposado, or añejo is your poison, they’ve got it.
Maria’s uses no mixes or sugar and only fresh lemon
juice. Caution: these drinks are notoriously potent.
Few people I know can drink more than two.
Chips and salsa arrive unprompted not long after
you’ve taken your seat. Despite being heavily salted,
the chips have a strong, sweet corn flavor that brings to
mind breakfast cereal. Don’t let the thin, watery consistency of the deep-red salsa fool you. It packs a serious
punch. To cool things off, ask for a side of guacamole
— it’s a generous scoop — which is often chunky with
nuggets of avocado and onion.
This is classic New Mexican food. Nearly everything
on the menu is (or can be) smothered in chile, and
the dishes that aren’t, like the carne and pollo adovada
or the Galisteo Chicken, bring the heat another way.
Maria’s green chile has a bright but savory flavor and a
juicy, stewy quality. The red gets less attention, but it
shouldn’t — I enjoy its deeply roasted sweetness and
its simmering chaser of heat.
The menu offers plenty for the carnivorous. The
sticky-sweet short ribs are tender and smoky, and a dip
in red chile balances out the sometimes-cloying sauce.
Maria’s steaks aren’t the best in town, but they make
for a hefty, gratifying meal. The Garlic Butter New York
(a thick-cut New York strip basted with garlic butter
while cooking) includes fries, onion rings, a side of
chile, and an old-school salad of crisp, well-chilled ice-
berg lettuce (you have to get your “veggies” somehow,
right?). Along with tomatoes and chunks of potato, the
rich, smoky green chile stew is filled with tender pork
(chicken is also an option). You’ll find pork, and maybe
a little tripe, in the hearty, starchy-sweet posole as well.
Vegetarians have delicious options, too. The
nuttiness of the tortilla and the tang of the gooey
orange cheese make the blue-corn enchiladas crave-
worthy (for a little extra pang and crunch, ask for
onion). The huevos rancheros is a satisfying mess of a
platter, with refritos, rice, and a little jumble of iceberg
and diced tomato alongside. The kitchen apparently
has a problem cooking eggs any way other than over
easy, so if runny eggs aren’t your thing, consider
The sizzling vegetarian fajita platter is a kaleidoscope
of onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, zucchini,
and (sometimes a little too much) bell pepper. Spoon
it all — along with spicy, jalapeño-heavy pico de gallo
and creamy guacamole — into soft, handmade tortillas,
which most nights you can see being made in a back
corner of the main dining room.
Don’t order the chiles rellenos if you’re on a health-
food kick. Cheesy, greasy, battery goodness slathered
in spicy chile, they are probably the ultimate comfort
food, good for the soul if not for the arteries.
Vegetarian tamales (studded with corn and green
chile) and meaty ones (feathery pork enveloped in soft,
sweet masa) both result in deep, soulful, carbo-licious
satisfaction. Choose the half order unless you have a
hollow-leg type of appetite.
Most of the time, service at Maria’s runs like well-
oiled machinery. Some employees are friendlier than
others, but they all work their tails off. When the
dining room is full and hopeful diners are packed like
sardines in the lobby, servers really hustle, sometimes
schlepping six margaritas or dinner platters to a table
at one time. Even so, consistency can be an issue. You
might have to flag your server down, and you might
find that your entrée isn’t as hot as someone else’s.
How do you solve a problem like that, Maria’s? ?
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