Rancho de Chimayo | Authentic New Mexico | Romantic Dining

Review by: Michael Stern

New Mexico Shangri-La

In the early 1970s Jane and I pondered the feasibility of a guide to restaurants that serve great regional food around America. Our first dinner at Rancho de Chimayo was strong persuasion to proceed. We knew we had found authentic New Mexico fare at its finest. And we loved that the setting provides a magic aura. Candlelit tables spread out across a stepped patio outdoors, strolling guitarists strum, and the air smells of sagebrush and native cooking.

Uniquely New Mexico

New Mexico prides itself on having a cuisine unlike anywhere else. Yes, many places around the country boast of signature dishes. They range from Florida’s Key lime pie to Minnesota’s whitefish and from Buffalo’s beef on weck to Tucson’s Sonoran hot dog. But New Mexico does everything differently. And it serves food that is unique. Here, you partake of a cuisine that is not Mexican; it is not Texan; it is not Spanish; and it is not Southwestern. It is, to some degree, a taste of all of them.

New Mexicans seldom sit down for a “bowl of chili.” But chile (spelled with an e at the end to signify we’re talking about the pod) plays a vital role in most of the state’s signature dishes. Taste that fact in carne adovada, a Rancho de Chimayo specialty of pork marinated in chile puree and sizzled until it glistens red. The marinade turns it tender. Posole (hominy corn) and Spanish rice balance the pepper heat.

For something less incendiary, consider sopaipillas rellenos. For this, the kitchen stuffs the triangular fried dough pockets with beef, beans, tomatoes, and Spanish rice. It then tops them with red or green chile sauce. Rancho de Chimayo’s green chile stew provides authentic New Mexico flavor. Roadfood’s Buffetbuster (who took the pictures accompanying this review) calls it “The Gold Standard.”

A Road Trip To Remember

The drive to the village of Chimayo through the foothills of the Sangre de Christo mountains in the cool of an autumn evening is a Roadfood trip to remember. Chile ristras (wreaths) decorate adobe homes and late-day light makes sagebrush shimmer.

What To Eat

Carne Adovada

Pork Tamales, Christmas

Green Chile Stew


Burrell Tortilla



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