Holy shit! Sometimes you go to dinner at a place in 1995 and you’re blown away. And then you try it again in 2000, and although you’ve been there before, like the week before, you’re still blown away. And then you go again in 2005, and although you’ve chosen to live elsewhere, you know that the food at this place will be consistently amazingly good. Crazy but true.
Fast forward to 2010. I am now at least 18 years into my love affair with El Patio in Albuquerque on Harvard SE near the UNM campus, and I go again thinking surely that they must have been tainted in someway by progress or popularity. I go with my pal Sabrina and a whole ‘nother pile of people, including my daughter Johanna who was about 9 months old when she started going to El Patio. I tell a a few stories about dinners here – like when the waiter said the green chile was really HOT, and warned us, but Kyla and Terry wouldn’t listen and ordered green chile on their chiles rellenos and stuffed sopaipillas (respectively) and neither could eat their dinner. If they say the green is hot today, they mean the green is HOT! They’re not trying to trick the tourists into trying red. They’re just telling the truth.
We considered something other than Mexican food as we’re all going to the Fiery Foods Festival tomorrow. But I was dying to get back to El Patio. I have to tell you, the last time I was here was in 2005 – I was living in Logan, but missing Albuquerque, and Sabrina was here with her pal Trish Unger from Seattle, and Laura came along, and we all went to El patio for what I hoped would be a reasonable facsimile to Sabrina’s Las Cruces green chile days. My best pal Greg Grisham called and found out where we were, and then joined us and sat on my right and kept dipping into my green sauce and taking bites of my sopaipilla, laughing that loud Greg laugh and flirting with my girlfriends. It was the last time I saw Greg – two weeks later on August 1, he would collapse with an aneurysm at the UNM golf course and die at the age of 44, and my heart would break over losing him.
I will always associate El Patio with my last hours with Greg. He was an amazing friend. And he knew an amazing restaurant and a great cold beer when he saw one. Even now, when I’m stuck in a tough situation, I ask myself, What would Greg Say?” I’m pretty sure in this instance he’d always say, “Order the green!.”
So we all went to El Patio tonight and I expected it to be different, and possibly not as good as I remember,and I’ll be damned. It was better. It was freaking amazing. The vegetarian enchiladas were breathtaking.
The carne adovada, ordered by Dave and Bruce, was fabulous. Cory, with his Arkansas taste buds (although he’s originally a Farmington boy), had the green chile chicken enchiladas, and I had a taste, and they were, predictably, delicious. And then the waitress asked if we wanted dessert, and we had to (I swear, we were forced to. . .) order flan. My favorite desert of all time, bar none, flan.
It was delicious. And with entrees at about $8 and beer or wine at $4.95, it’s still priced for UNM students. Love it, love it, love it.
Yeah, I love El Patio. It’s quintessential New Mexico, located in a small house south of UNM. Amazing food, Not lots of atmosphere, but it is still cute and comfortable and who the hell cares when your entree is only $7.95? Be sure to take cash – they don’t take credit cards. It still sits on the very edge of the student ghetto at 142 Harvard Drive SE (505-268-4245). Get there and order extra sopaipillas before things changes. Although, it’s obviously as good today as it was in 1995. Or 2000. Or 2005. My friend Greg would say that it’s a great choice for dinner. And Greg would know. He always knew. . . .