Ode to the New Mexico Breakfast

July 15th, 2013 · 30 Comments · Posts by Andy, Travel

We went to Santa Fe last week, thinking we would enjoy some clear blue skies and some beautiful hikes and some of those 20-mile vistas you just can’t get on the East Coast. What we didn’t bargain for is that the highlight of our trip would be the breakfast table. It was like our world had suddenly flipped and — what the? — the morning meal became the thing we looked forward to. I realize a statement like this is going to make some people upset, but I think New Mexico might be — apologies to San Francisco, Austin, Portland, etc. — the Greatest Breakfast Place on Earth. (Also, relatedly, Home to the Greatest Hangover Food on Earth.) Every morning, we’d go out hard and ingest a terrifying amount of food — enough food to power us through the day and make lunch a moot point. Enough eggs and cheese to make my arteries groan. Enough green chiles to make me wonder why we don’t have green chiles every morning.  The winner of the week? A very close call, but if we had to pick, we’ll go with this griddled polenta with fresh corn, crumbled chorizo, scrambled eggs, cilantro, and red chiles, from Pasqual’s on Water Street. (The closest thing we could find to a recipe was here.) Santa Fe, we miss you already. – Andy

Always a good sign when you see Tapatio on the breakfast table. (Yellow mustard, though? That’s a real puzzler.) This was at the Tune-up Cafe on Hickox, owned, we were told, by someone from El Salvador. We ate their twice, and would have eaten there every morning if there weren’t SO DAMNED MANY GOOD BREAKFAST OPTIONS IN THIS CITY.

Tecolote (on Cerrillos Rd.) was strenuously recommended to us by a New Mexican friend and, boy, did it ever deliver. A little outside of town, almost diner-style, with a world-class slogan: Great Breakfast, No Toast. I mean, come on! That alone would have been enough. What you’re looking at here is Jenny’s breakfast burrito, topped with cheddar and green chiles, with a side of beans. Looking at this now, I am weeping. We also ordered the Carne y Huevos, which consisted of two eggs, over easy, served on pork that had been cooked for hours (days?) in red chiles — spicy and incredibly delicious.

Our second morning at Pasqual’s, we decided to try something different. I got the smoked trout on a gruyere potato pancake with two poached eggs and a side of tomatillo salsa. Jenny got the homemade granola. The kids each got papas fritas — spicy, roasted, cripsy potatoes, garnished with jack cheese, sour cream, and chives, and served with two warm tortillas and some green chiles on the side. Nobody said we ate healthy. But if this meal took a day off my life, I am good with that.

Our last breakfast, we went back to the Tune Up Cafe, which was walking distance from where we were staying. (A huge thank you to our spirit guides, Toni and David.) You can sit outside, and eat on picnic tables covered with bright, floral-printed oilcloth. Seriously could not be better. Second time, I ordered the Huevos Salvadorenos, which I’d never heard of before, and which is always a reason to give something a shot. Eggs with scallions and tomatoes, fried bananas — not plantains — with crema, a warm flour tortilla, and the creamiest refried beans in human history. Coffee and watermelon agua fresca. And we’re still standing.

P.S. Not pictured here: SO MUCH STUFF.

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30 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Elizabeth Fitzmaurice // Jul 15, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Oh gosh, you literally have my mouth watering. I lived in New Mexico when I was younger and became completely addicted to their green chiles and New Mexican cooking in general. The food (and chiles) down there are beyond compare. After I moved away and when I could afford it, I satisfied my addiction by ordering a case or two of roasted chiles for my freezer! Man, that food down there is so good.

  • 2 Leslie@MsMagpieWrites // Jul 15, 2013 at 9:12 am

    This sounds amazing. Santa Fe is at the top of my list of future travel spots. Can you tell us where you stayed and what else you did? (Although nothing else really matters when there’s food like this.)

  • 3 Jen // Jul 15, 2013 at 9:18 am

    We have a local chain of “New Mexico style” restaurants in Northern Virginia (Anita’s) that does amazing breakfast items that look like your pictures. Since I have never been to New Mexico, I always wondered if their menu is authentic. Sounds like it!

  • 4 Emily // Jul 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Good job! You did well. Don’t worry about your arteries; I am confident the green chile dissolves the cholesterol in the other ingredients. I do what Elizabeth Fitzmaurice does, and you can, too: order order frozen roasted peeled and chopped or whole green chiles every August for your freezer!!!!! Gotta go make breakfast :) I am starving after looking at your great photos!

  • 5 Elizabeth Fitzmaurice // Jul 15, 2013 at 10:45 am

    @Jen: The chiles they use have to be New Mexican to be authentic. New Mexican chiles stand alone. Maybe they are using them. I know you can find canned Hatch chiles in groceries stores fairly easily these days. Or maybe they order the fresh/frozen ones.

  • 6 Sarah // Jul 15, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I live in Denver and our breakfasts are heavy on green chili, too. My husband and I love visiting Portland and will move as soon as they start smothering everything in green chili. Still waiting.

  • 7 Lex Apostata // Jul 15, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I still remember being routinely asked “red, green, or Christmas”? when ordering something with chilies there.

  • 8 Kate // Jul 15, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I grew up in New Mexico and miss the food terribly! Whenever I go back, it seems I “eat” my way through the visit. Pasqual’s is a favortie – so glad you found it!

  • 9 Katy // Jul 15, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I live in southern New Mexico, and I love seeing our state featured on your blog (which I also love!)! The food here is fantastic, and Pasqual’s is one of my very favorite spots in Santa Fe. Hope that you enjoyed your trip! Also, I wanted to let you know about a company that ships fresh, frozen green chile around the country: Biad Chili Company (www.biadchile.com). Their Heritage Reserve (which you can order whole or chopped, with or without seeds) is to die for.

  • 10 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag // Jul 15, 2013 at 1:05 pm


  • 11 Susan // Jul 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I was born in New Mexico and spent the first 4 years of my life there. I’ve been back to visit just twice, but I do believe that’s where you can find some of the best food in the country!

  • 12 Kendra // Jul 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    YES! That’s it. Just yes.

  • 13 Liz // Jul 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I’ve lived and travelled all over the West and have to agree that New Mexico-Mex is my favorite and I love all chiles!

    I typically order roasted Big Jim’s and also dried chiles from a Hatch company, but – and I don’t want to start a “comment war!” – last year a local grocer had a “pepper” day with Anaheims (Big Jim’s and many NM peppers are Anaheims) from …OMG – Washington State! They looked wonderful. I was a little skeptical but I bought and I roasted and they were very good. I was not saying to myself: “these are not NM chiles” at all.


    As someone else noted, Hatch canned are available most places. I recommend buying the whole chiles and slicing/dicing if you want them that way. For some reason the canned diced don’t taste as good as the whole chiles – Hatch brand or no.

    The NM food spices are interesting also: oregano, cinnamon. Most know cumin but adding oregano and cinnamon was new to me.

    And chile powder from NM – makes the best enchilada sauce. I can’t tell the difference using good chile powder vs dried chiles and the powder is much simpler.

    Chiles go with so much and I think are a kind of flavor enhancer.

    Glad you had a good time – looking forward to seeing other parts of the trip if you decide to post about it.

  • 14 Jessica // Jul 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I”m from Santa Fe and hereby dub this: YOUR BEST POST EVER! :) I’ve lived all over and can honestly say nowhere beats the food in NM. I’m so happy you liked it there!! xx

  • 15 Jessica // Jul 15, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    oh and : buy chile from here! http://www.newmexicanconnection.com/

    The canned Hatch stuff at the store is mehhhh.

  • 16 bentley // Jul 15, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    My father lives in SF and I’m going there next week. Tune Up is a fave!!!

  • 17 Susan // Jul 15, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    I have a picture of that exact same smoked trout dish as I ate at Pasqual’s during a visit to Santa Fe a couple of months ago. What a hoot to see my same breakfast here- it was indeed delicious. I love the food here in Portland, but I crave New Mexico cuisine constantly. Looks like a great trip!

  • 18 Annie // Jul 15, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    ::: applause! :::
    A great state all the way around, no doubt. Don’t live there but I’m a big road tripper & NM is hard to beat for astoundingly spectacular scenery, warm and quirky people, and tremendously awesome food.

    My best New Mexico food moment:
    ME: So which is hotter…the red or the green chile?
    (long pause, waitress looks thoughtful)
    WAITRESS: Lemme see who’s in the kitchen.

    PS Since you have the bug now…there’s sand surfing in the White Sands National Park in the winter. Top 10 life experiences with kids of all ages ;)

  • 19 Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks // Jul 16, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Yum! And now I’m hungry.

  • 20 Emily @ Life on Food // Jul 16, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Southwest themed breakfasts are the best. Yours look TOO good!

  • 21 MartiC // Jul 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Ahhhh….New Mexico….how I love thee.

    I still dream about the breakfast I had at Cafe Pasquals several years ago. There is a Cafe Pasqual’s cookbook.

  • 22 heidikins // Jul 16, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Last year I went to Santa Fe for the first time and absolutely fell in love. With the city, the history, the art, the FOOD! Oh my, this makes me want to go back, immediately if not sooner.


  • 23 Margo, Thrift at Home // Jul 16, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    oh, this is my kind of vacation! I LOVE trying new food. Must make this a food destination, apparently. And I much prefer savory breakfasts over sweet.

  • 24 Rachell // Jul 17, 2013 at 3:52 am

    Right then, so when can I catch a flight from London?!

  • 25 Birdy& Bambi // Jul 17, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Yummy! This looks great…glad I’m not the only one who likes real food for breakfast (my roommates are not exactly in love with my garlicy egyptian breakfasts).

    Greetings from Europe,


  • 26 Sasha // Jul 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Eggs over pork that’s [possibly] cooked for days?! Swoon.

  • 27 sara // Jul 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I grew up and went to university in NM and I can attest after much much research that NM breakfasts are indeed the most perfect hangover food EVER.

  • 28 Sarah // Jul 20, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Wow, I need all of that in my belly immediately. Adding New Mexico to the list of places I need to go.

  • 29 Sarah // Jul 22, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Tapatio is my all time favorite hot sauce and has disappeared from EVERY NY store I have visited in the past year. What’s up with that? I feel ridiculous ordering hot sauce off of amazon but I think I’m going to do just that.

  • 30 Nancy // Jul 26, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    We live in Albuquerque and love introducing visitors to our beloved New Mexico cuisine. Red and green chile make everything better!

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