Meticulous artisanal dishes have their place, but so do over-the-top Chris’ offerings like “The Randolph,” which turns ordinary food into a test of stamina.
along on Cerrillos Road, it’s easy to miss a tucked-away restaurant like Chris’ Café. It’s situated off a long stretch of Cerrillos that’s currently under repair. If you’re headed south and want to find Chris’, you’ll need to keep one eye on traffic and one on the left-lane exits. The turnoff you seek leads to a road that connects to the Lofts; take that, and on your left you’ll see a nondescript shopping center that contains a vaping store, a sell-us-your-gold place, a used-car dealership, rental trucks, and Chris’.
Step inside and you’ll be either charmed or dismayed, depending on how you feel about no-frills dining. Chris’ is defined by big portions, lots of choices, plenty of eggs and bacon, sauce- and cheeseheavy Northern New Mexican dishes, generous refills of coffee and iced tea, and large-diameter pancakes. Given this big-bellied spirit, the interior is surprisingly small — there’s a cramped kitchen on the left, a hostess podium in the middle of the room, and roughly 10 tables (with padded chairs) in a rectangular area to your right. Floor: beige tile. Ceiling: drop. Decor: plain, consisting primarily of scattered wall art and homespun touches like a WELCOME sign made with black metal letters.
I love places like Chris’ — I grew up going to them and still seek them out, precisely because they aren’t upscale. Meticulous artisanal dishes have their place, but so do overthe-top Chris’ offerings like “The Randolph,” which turns ordinary food into a test of stamina. “Our biggest dish?” the menu says. “A mountain of potatoes, Fritos corn chips, chile, cheese, beans, and topped with two eggs. Choice of ground beef, carne adovada, and chicken.”
On my first trip to Chris’, for lunch, I didn’t feel up to the Randolph challenge, but my eyes landed on something equally bold, labeled “Best Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas Ever … Ever.” I ordered them, and though they weren’t the best I’ve ever had, the dish was a worthy example of soothing midday comfort food. The cooks take two blue-corn tortillas and use them to sandwich chunks of oven-baked chicken and green chile. This stacked enchilada comes swimming in melted cheese and green chile sauce, and it’s accompanied by good, spicy posole, savory beans, and a tortilla.
On another visit, I had a chance to study one of Chris’ subtle strengths: its server corps. As far as I could tell from three trips, the wait staff is all women, all moving fast, exuding cheerfulness, and staying on top of customers’ needs. I tried a green chile cheeseburger — a yummy version of the New Mexico classic, with chopped green chile, pepper Jack cheese, and a smushy sesame-seed bun. While I ate, I watched two waitresses deal with a disgruntled client, an elderly woman who appeared to be overwhelmed by her food. (I couldn’t quite hear what the problem was, but it was either too spicy or too heavy or both.) They treated her like a friend or relative, offering to chuck the entire dish and return with something built to her specifications. She passed on that, but I think their genuine concern made her feel better.
Chris’ offers an extensive breakfast menu, including hotcakes, French toast, various egg and meat combos, eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine, a Benedict variation called the California Benny, seven regular omelets, and a design-your-own omelet option. On a busy Sunday morning, I got takeout breakfast for three people, ordering the California omelet, the California Benny, and a single hotcake.
Once everything was unveiled at home, the hotcake proved to be the weakest link. The California omelet seems conceptually right — the filling consists of bacon, guacamole, and Swiss cheese. The clear winner was the California Benny: two delicately poached eggs on English muffins under an A-OK hollandaise sauce, accompanied by chunky hash browns.
The takeaway is that I’ll try Chris’ again, and I think you should give it a shot. You’ll like its community feeling, and with a menu this big, it’s likely you’ll find something that’s right for you.