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?"
"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.

Views: 535

Comment by Hermes_505 on January 26, 2010 at 8:09am
I'm there, today, to check out that red. Thanks Johnny Mango!
Comment by Liza Wheeler on January 26, 2010 at 9:15am
Ooh, that's the first review I've read. I'm so glad to hear you like it! I'll miss the idea of the Sunshine cafe (it's my neighborhood) but am relieved to know that a family has taken over to make it a true neighborhood cafe. I will visit soon! Thank you!
Comment by Gene on January 26, 2010 at 11:05am
I was there on their second day. Good stuff and Evelyn is a hoot. Best of all...for me....is the proximity to the laundromat next door!
Comment by Chicosanto on January 26, 2010 at 3:55pm
I was there checking it out last week (just coffee) when they opened and they were still getting organized. Very polite staff despite the fact there were at least three customers who complained (I was at the counter) about wrong orders and such, but I expect that in a week or two they'll have it together.

Oh and it's definitely a restaurant rather than a cafe, so don't expect to hang with your laptops drinking good cup of java , which is the only thing that this neighborhood desperately needs now with Sunshine gone. I'll be back for New Mexican fare soon, but I hope that Casa Azul will at some point take some time to redecorate so that at least they paint a blue wall or something to reference their namesake. The space has changed little from how Sunshine had it. Other than that I wish them luck!
Comment by LC on January 27, 2010 at 8:15am
Just went yesterday and really enjoyed it. I had the green chile stew with beef and my friend had the chile relleno plate with red chile. I had a bite and it was delicious. The green chile had a kick and good flavor. I'll be visiting there more often.
Comment by David Edwards on February 1, 2010 at 7:37pm
Chicosanto, the golden crown has great coffee, they won an award, and they have free wi-fi. If you like tea, you can also come sit at New Mexico Tea Company. I serve tea every day, and also have free wi-fi.

And I wanted to let everyone know that Cocina Azul serves NM Tea Co. tea now... They started with tea bags, but by popular demand switched to our tea about a week ago.
Comment by Chicosanto on February 19, 2010 at 10:52am
I love Golden Crown! I was just remembering a place called Gold Coast years ago. First on Rio Grande then on Mountain, miss that place!
Comment by Andrea Lin on April 5, 2010 at 10:23am
Finally made it to Cocina Azul. Fantastic sopaipillas, and I'd say #2 red chile next to Mary & Tito's. I actually like mine a little rougher around the edges (without the straining, likely).


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