Tuesday, April 17, 2012

El Farolito - El Rito, NM

Off of US Highway 84 about 12 miles down NM554 is a charming little place – emphasis on little – called El Farolito.  It’s on the right, and don’t blink as you drive through El Rito because you’ll miss it. Park where you can, and enter this little hole in the wall place, with room enough for only six tables.  It boasts of being the four time Chili Champion of the Santa Fe Chili Championship and displays the ribbons to prove it.
Andrea, our waitress and daughter-in-law to the owners, greeted us as we entered, delivered menus and had our drink order before we were seated. The menu was much more extensive than one would imagine. Rob ordered #4 Combination Plate with a beef enchilada, taco, rice and beans, and two sopapillas. I ordered the Chili Relleno which also comes with rice and beans and two sopapillas. Andrea informed me that it is the best Chili Relleno anywhere.  We mentioned to Andrea that we were from South Texas and were familiar with the cuisine. Having once had some amazing Chile Relleno in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I doubted her, but reserved judgement . As we each ordered, we got the classic question: “Red, green or Christmas?”  Now, for those who don’t know,” Red” and “Green” are your sauce choices with “Christmas” being some of each. We both went with “Christmas.”
Our plates arrived shortly and we were told that they were very hot. We did not need to be told, as the refried beans were still bubbling when Andrea set my plate in front of me.  After blowing excessively on the food gracing our forks, and trying to keep the molten cheese from sliding off, we had our first bites. All doubts evaporated with the steam from our plates. Rob exclaimed that the bite he’d just taken was of the “best enchilada he’d ever eaten.” I thought he might be exaggerating a bit so I reached out my fork and tried a bite. No exaggeration. The beef was so flavorful, but not greasy, cheddar cheese dripping off of the fork and the sauces – wow!.  My Chili Relleno was stuffed with just enough white cheese and topped with cheddar. So good! It truly was the best I’d had, hands down. But let’s not forget the rest of the meal. The rice had just enough tomato with a hint of smokiness and the beans were creamy and covered in cheese. The star of the meal, though, may have been the sopapillas. So soft and pillowy with just a little crunch as you bite into them. Of course, we filled them with honey – really great honey – and ate them along with our meal sopping up the sauce from our plates. Oh, yes, the sauces! The green, made from, well, green chilies, is thin with chunks of pork. It makes you wait a tick before the heat fills your mouth. It’s not a lot of heat, just enough to make you notice. The red is thicker, vegetarian and hits you in the back of the throat to get your attention. Delicious!
As we were about halfway through our meals, a couple of gentlemen were leaving and ask where in South Texas we were from. As we chatted, they bragged on all of the food served at El Farolito. According to them the best burgers were also found there, and the tamales were amazing. As one who makes tamales, I had to know just how amazing, so I asked Andrea to bring me one “green.” I was almost through my meal when it arrived covered in cheese and green sauce. I slipped the edge of my fork through the masa and found that the filling was not as I expected. It was not ground up with various fillers, but filled with shredded pork, seasoned to perfection. The masa, only a thin encasement, melted in my mouth. I think I may be moving soon!
If ever you find yourself in New Mexico, in or northwest of Santa Fe (about an hour drive), make it a point to find El Farolito. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside is some of the best cuisine we’ve ever had, and this is just the first meal we’ve had on our New Mexico vacation. I may be ruined for any other Southwest or Mexican food restaurant.

1 comment:

  1. Ate here in the Summer of 1988..best food on our whole trip! This is exactly as I remember it...Your Blog confirms that the place is a culinary time capsule!!!