Thanks, three amigos!
Aldana’s Restaurant is a family affair. The brothers — Jose, Alejandro, and David — worked in Santa Fe restaurants for years, dreaming of some day opening their own place. The landlord of the Los Arcos building on Cerrillos Road offered them the old Guadalajara Grill location because he knew they were thinking of opening a restaurant. He divided the large space with another business to ensure that the Aldanas would be able to afford the lease. The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, and the whole family — kids included — shows up to help out. Jose’s wife, Laura, says that everyone, including the grandparents, have helped them stay afloat financially during these hard times. Because they own all of their equipment, they feel certain they can weather the economic storm.
The family is originally from Mexico City but has lived in Santa Fe for a very long time. They have chosen to serve New Mexican and Mexican food along with what is often called “American food.” Two of the brothers have worked in New Mexican restaurants, but Jose has worked at the Kettle, the Flying Tortilla, and the Pantry, so he has a background preparing food such as fried chicken, liver and onions, meatloaf, pork chops, and steak, all of which show up on the dinner menu alongside fajitas, flautas,
pollo al carbon, and carne asada. The sheer number of items on the menu is amazing. The owners offer a range of breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices that might seem impossible to balance. However, they claim to make everything in-house.
One of my favorite guilty pleasures is Frito pie, so on a lunch visit, we had to try the Aldana’s version. Served in a large soup bowl and garnished with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and onions, it’s a good rendition. The red chile is picante, and there’s plenty of ground beef and the right ratio of Fritos. The adovada burrito, stuffed full of tender red-chile marinated pork, came with the standard side of refried or whole pinto beans and rice. The rice and beans Aldana’s serves aren’t my favorite style; the beans have Spanish paprika in them, and the rice is wet and tomato-sauce rich.
We ordered the combination plate with green chile, which was also picante. A chile relleno, enchilada, tamale, and tostada are included on the plate along with the sides. They offer a choice of filling for the tostada, and we chose chicken tinga — chopped meat with chipotle chiles. The tostada is topped with guacamole and sour cream.
Pork taco meat seasoned with paprika and lemon pepper is served on soft corn tortillas, and there are three tacos to a plate, with a side of salsa. The shrimp quesadilla, toasted golden on the outside and full of creamy melted cheese and fat, juicy shrimp, is delicious. It also comes with guacamole salsa. It’s a dish I would go back for in a Mexico City minute. In fact, shrimp shows up regularly on the menu, differentiating Aldana’s from many other New Mexican places.
A breakfast and lunch buffet offers a deal for those who either want to try a little of everything or are very hungry. The selection incudes menudo, green chile stew, posole, fried and baked chicken, huge barbecued beef ribs, nopalitos (prickly pear pads) in chile verde, French toast with bright-red cherry sauce, pancakes, enchilada casserole, rice, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, and mixed tropical fruit. This is not a complete list. I wasn’t interested in the meatloaf and mashed potatoes or the chicken, and I steered away from anything that didn’t look appetizing to me, as any buffet patron would. I tried all the New Mexican and Mexican specialities, and they are all good; I especially liked the posole. My single complaint with the food is that all the soup and stew dishes are too salty for my taste — and I like salt.
For dessert, Aldana’s offers flan and a cake, although they were out of the cake on the days we ate lunch there, and we were too full to try the flan. For us, that’s unusual. Did I mention that Aldana’s serves good-sized portions?
Diners don’t go to Aldana’s Restaurant for the ambience. It’s a family restaurant with eclectic décor. But the price, the service, and the good, honest food make up for the atmosphere a great deal. Add a friendly family with an earnest desire to please, and it creates a warmth, regardless of what’s on the walls.