During this trip to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, I was curious to learn the difference between Mexican and New Mexican food. When I looked at menus from self-branded New Mexican venues, the fare looked exactly the same as local Mexican fare.
Turns out, they are mostly the same except for one thing – the chili. The chiles they use are local. There is a green version, the New Mexican Hatch chile and a red version which is made from a local red chile whose name I forget. So now when you are faced with the question every New Mexican restaurant will ask you – ‘Red, Green or Christmas?’, you’ll know they are asking what kind of chile do you want slathered over your meal.
I tried 5 New Mexican restaurants, in each case going ‘Christmas’ so I could try their versions of the red and green chile, Mary and Tito’s was the hands-down winner.
Almost all the New Mexican restaurants in Albuquerque are come as you are, very casual and typically packed with families. Mary and Titos is no different in that respect. North of the busier sections of town, its an old house, converted, nestled between buildings in what seemed an industrial section of town. Its odd on the approach but once you pass through the big wooden doors, you’ll swear you’re in someone’s home.
So many choices but I was focused on the chili. I ordered up the pork carnitas plate with ‘Christmas chili’. Plates here come with rice and beans; you can choose from re-fried or black beans. When the plate arrived, there was so much chile atop the carnitas I couldn’t see the carnitas. When I excavated and isolated the carnitas from the chili they were excellent solo; moist and smoky, falling apart in my mouth without chewing. The chili here is made fresh daily, both the red and green adding substantial flavour to the rest of the plate. The chili at Mary and Tito’s was the only version I tried not having salty overtones, which was good considering the inherent saltiness of the roasted pork underneath.
As for which chili I liked the best, tough call. Both were ‘amusingly warm’ but with very different flavours; the green tasting more mellow, herbal and fire roasted, the red was a little more feisty and had a vinegar bite.
I never made it to the rice nor beans so I can’t comment on either.
You’re not in a hurry when you walk through the doors and there are so many interesting things on the wall that the 15-30 minute wait will fly by. Other than that, the servers here are incredibly knowledgeable about the history of Mary and Tito’s, if you can catch them between darting in and out of the kitchen with a seemingly endless parade of plates.
Almost every item carries a single digit price tag so its definitely one of the stronger value plays in town considering the quality.
If you find yourself hungry in Albuquerque, definitely make Mary and Tito’s a stop. Muscle past the odd, industrial location and the scores of Harley’s parked outside, its truly a good New Mexican food experience. Afterwards you can drive a little further down the road to see the Breaking Bad filming location where Heisenberg whipped up his Blue Meth.
Lunch: September 2015
Mary and Tito’s | 2711 4th St. NW | ABQ 87107