Thanks, three ami­gos!

Pasatiempo - - Restaurant Review - Pa­tri­cia Greathouse

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.

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