Friday, January 23, 2009

From 9 Seats to 375

If you Google “Sadie’s + Albuquerque,” you’ll find a number of restaurant review web sites like,, or Yahoo that contain “man on the street” reviews of Sadie’s Cocinita (and Lounge). The reviewers fall into two opposing camps, those who don’t know what the fuss is and those who think it is the best New Mexican restaurant in town. While we are nearer the latter camp, I’m still not ready to bestow my “Best of Albuquerque” award. That will come at the end of our stay.

Still, having eaten at Sadie’s during both of our trips to the city, we rank Sadie’s as one of our favorites. We pulled up to the massive parking lot the other noon and found only one spot for the Monster Mobile. After deft manipulation of the steering wheel and the assistance of the security officer patrolling the lot, Chuck managed to get us parked.

Parking was a lot easier in the 1950's when Sadie Koury opened her nine-seat diner. Today, a large mural taking up nearly the entire south-facing main dining room wall depicts Sadie’s humble diner and its business neighbors, all back-dropped by the Sandia Mountains.

On the roof of the diner was a large sign reading simply “Hamburgers” while signage reading “Chops” and “Steaks” flanked the restaurant’s door and sole frontage window. The nearby sign read "5 Burgers $1.00"

Sadie passed away in 1986, four years before her family opened the present palatial, 375-seat dining establishment.

We entered Sadie's knowing that we’d have to wait for a table. Given the restaurant's popularity waiting to be seated is the norm.

Also norms are hot salsas, chili sauces, and giant portions of food. We glanced at the full menu but quickly studied the lunch special card standing in the center of the table. Listed were their small plates: the Small Combo Plate (Chili Relleno, taco, and enchilada), the Small Chili Relleno Plate, the Small Burrito Plate, the Small Taco Plate, and the Small Huevos Ranchero Plate.

Chuck chose the Small Burrito Plate – if you can call a burrito that is twelve to fourteen inches long and stuffed with a seasoned beef mixture "small"--and asked for green chili sauce.

I ordered the Small Combo Plate with green chili on the Chili Relleno and red on the enchilada. While we waited, we snacked on the “complimentary” basket of tortilla chips with a dish of red salsa. In a word, the salsa was HOT. It was a cooked style that was lighter on the cilantro than I like with a profusion of jalapeño seeds visible. I drank three glasses of iced tea just with the snacks.

In my last blog, I mentioned that the meat filling for most tacos, enchiladas, and meat burritos is not very seasoned. My beef enchilada filling recipe, which comes from The Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook, calls for ground beef, two teaspoons minced onion, water, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Nothing more. I mention this because the beef filling in Chuck’s burrito, my taco, and my enchilada was seasoned with some unknown but tasty spice. Each also had small pieces of potato mixed in with the beef mixture.

Both of our lunches came with beans that were more whole than mashed and papitas--quarter-inch cubes of fried potato that were covered with green chili sauce (Chuck’s dish) and with red chili sauce (mine). The burrito, enchilada, and chili relleno were all outstanding. The taco--well let’s face it; a taco is a taco is a taco. This was improved by a generous application of the HOT salsa. Being a connoisseur of the chili relleno, Sadie’s is one of the best ever. The medium-–in size and not heat--chili was stuffed with a mild white cheese, lightly battered, and fried crisp.

Now they call these small plates. As you see from the photos, small may not be the best descriptor. We took home enough food to more than adequately feed us for supper.

While I like Sadie’s, I do have three complaints. First, neither my chili relleno nor Chuck’s burrito came with enough green chili sauce. Second, beans and potatoes both with New Mexican are too much. I would rather have had the chance to order rice instead of the potatoes, but Sadie’s doesn’t offer rice as an option. Third, the sopapillas didn’t have enough of the “poof” that I want.

So we give Sadie’s a 4.0 on our 5.0 Addie scale and would certainly return.

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