12th & Mountain NW--It is hard not to have noticed the interest in this corner location ever since the announced closing of the Sunshine Cafe over a month ago. The discussion here on the DCF has generated 59 replies! Now Cocina Azul has opened in the same spot. MaryAnn and I stopped by for lunch last Sunday.
It was sort of an accidental visit: we were hungry and there it was. The building still has those wonderful windows that look out onto 12th & Mountain. We sat in the sun.
They have a pretty full menu, offering breakfast fare, half-pound burgers, and of course Platos De Nuevo Mexico. The first thing I noticed were the reasonable prices of everything. Let me give you some examples:
• Breakfast burrito - two eggs, papas, beans, cheese, and red or green chile (smothered) - $4.95
• Adrian's half-pound "bacon cheddar burger" - $6.95
• Big bowl of green chile chicken soup & 2 sopapillas - $4.95
• Beef Burrito plate (one burrito) - $6.95... (2 burritos) - $7.95
MaryAnn ordered a bowl of green chile chicken soup and I got the one beef burrito plate.
MaryAnn's bowl was huge. She got two full meals for $4.95. She loved the soup. For one thing it was not thick and shiny like so many other restaurants serve. For another, it was just plain delicious.
My beef burrito with red chile was also large. Although I finished the burrito, I had to pour much of the beans and rice into MaryAnn's soup 'to-go' container. If I had ordered the 2 burrito plate I also would have had two full meals.
Both dishes were very tasty, but the chile deserves special mention. Like most New Mexicans I love both red and green chile. Their green chile was very, very good. But their red...oh my god...it was truly outstanding. It tasted extremely fresh and bright. So I asked about it:, "Do you make your red chile from powder or pods?"
was the reply. You can tell the difference.
It was then that I decided to get out my camera and notebook. I hadn't gone to Cocina Azul with the intention of writing about it, I decided to write about it after eating there...and that is why there are no pictures of the food. It was already gone.
Cocina Azul is owned by Frank and Evelyn Barela. They were both there working. When I asked to take their
picture they gathered their grandkids Calista, Avery, and Emma around them for the photo. It seemed like the entire family was involved. I think it was Calista that had brought us our menus.
Then Frank took me into the kitchen to show me the secret of his red chile. He brought out an incredibly large $1200 blender. After soaking the pods he puts them in the blender until smooth. But Frank hates those little pieces of chile skin that blending leaves intact. So he forces the blended mixture through a big strainer. This is the same that many families used to do with a pestle and tin food mill.
Anyway, this is a family that knows their chile and New Mexico cuisine. If that is something you might want, check it out. You will leave with that most New Mexican of feelings: Una panza llena y un corazon contento