I was sitting in the booth with my sister laughing, as we always do when we’re together. Then we saw the local character walk by…Don is his name, and he is very lean with very leathery skin. And you get to see a lot of his skin because he wears only a loin cloth and tennis shoes. We barely gave him a glance because we were accustomed to seeing him around. What else we were talking about, I’m not sure. I was busy savoring my breakfast burrito. We were at the Frontier Restaurant, a kitschy -some might say tacky- place that is an Albuquerque institution. It occupies nearly an entire city block and spreads out over four dining rooms. You line up and wait for the blinking light to indicate an open window at the order counter. They have amazing breakfast burritos. My favorite. Bar none. Pillowy-soft flour tortillas cradling scrambled eggs, the best hash browns in the state, cheese, and green chile providing just the right amount of 'hot'. But what really makes them mind-bogglingly yummy is ordering them smothered in green chile stew. Such spicy goodness is rarely to be had. With the saucy green chile dripping on my chin I devoured my burrito, commenting on how long it had been since I’d had something this piccante and how sooo very good it tasted to me. I laughed as I told her that what Italians call spicy and what I call spicy are two vastly different things. The taste lingered in my mouth.
And then I woke up.
This constitutes the first real food craving I’ve had since I landed in Italy nearly nine months ago. Not too shabby. I previously wrote about expats who have regular shipments of the foodstuffs they just can’t do without. I’m not feeling that kind of yearning at all. Instead, what my subconscious remembered was one very specific dish. I literally tasted it in my mouth when I awoke from the dream.
But I won’t be wasting my time trying to recreate the craved taste, for though it sounds so simple it actually cannot be replicated anywhere else on the planet. So I will instead simply tell you, dear reader, that should you find yourself in Albuquerque, the Frontier should be on your Must Eat list. Why, you ask?
1. The food. Just don’t come here expecting healthy fare. Au contraire. This is what we refer to as “good slime-ball”. (If you’re vegetarian, your options will mostly consist of hash browns, garden salad and a veggie burrito.) Besides the dream-worthy breakfast burrito, I recommend the Frontier Burrito (the description of beef and beans doesn’t really do it justice); the Huevos Rancheros (order it “Christmas style” to get a taste of both the green and red chile); the green chile cheeseburger (trust me); and the soft tacos (one each- chicken, beef and veggie). Thus concludes my knowledge of the menu. I never ventured away from my favorites. And don’t forget the sweet roll. It’s famous. It’s doused in melted butter. It’s good.
2. People watching. Because it is situated across from the large campus of the University of New Mexico (everyone's a Lobo, woofwoofwoof) and the food is cheap, it attracts a huge variety of clientele and provides for good gandering. Everybody who’s anybody and every nobody comes here – in short, the whole spectrum of humanity mixes it up together in the sprawling joint. I spent a good deal of time here as a student. The large booths allow space to spread out the books and I found I could study better here than in the library. And I could nurse a cup of rich coffee (in more recent years brewed from Red Rocks Roasters); good stuff. It may be down-home, but they have really good coffee.
3. John Wayne. Not that I’m a fan, much to Bryan’s dismay (though I did like him in that one episode of Lucy). The film icon has a presence in every room so take a tour to find all the portraits of The Duke. My personal favorite is the likeness done entirely from nails. Very innovative.
4. Open 24 hours. For when you just gotta have it.
Now you’re in know. And don’t forget your commemorative tee shirt.
copyright 2007 Valerie Schneider