Real Mexican Food
First visit: March 17, 2012
Delicias Café serves Mexican food modeled after the cuisine of Chihuahua. It is not New Mexican food, and stands out as a good example of the food that you can expect from the nearest Mexican state just to our south. You will not find elegant food at Delicias, but you will find hearty stuff at a price that borders on ridiculously low. So dig in.
Delicias (Spanish for Delights) is a city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua and serves as the seat of the municipality of the same name. It is located southeast of the state capital, Chihuahua. Delicias was declared an official municipality of the state of Chihuahua on January 7, 1935. Delicias is small industrial city and a major agricultural center located in the Conchos River Valley. The city had a 2005 census population of 108,807 (municipality: 127,211). It was founded on 30 April 1933, making it Mexico’s youngest city. The municipality of Delicias is one of the smallest in the state.The population od the Metro area is 127,211.
Here are three characteristics of this state’s cuisine:
- Expert beef preparation associated with its arid-inland ranching
- Much processed food and articles made of wheat flour instead of cornmeal because of its proximity to the USA
- Mennonite settlements responsible for good cheese
- T-bone and Sirloin — no explanation needed
- Cabrito al pastor — roasted goat
- Burritas — wheat-flour tortillas wrapped around various fillings such as machaca (macerated dried beef), ham and cheese
- Sopaipilla — to the masa used for making tortillas a bit of baking powder is added. The tortilla is then made, cut into four parts, and fried. This can be eaten with the meal or it can be smothered in “brown-sugar molasses” (melaza de piloncillo) and served as a dessert
- Menonita or Chihuahua — cheese traditionally produced by the Mennonites
- Asadero — mainly in Villa Ahumada, a cheese traditionally eaten with Chihuahua’s exceptionally large, thin, wheat-flour tortillas
Here’s what we found:
Chips and Salsa
We were offered a complimentary serving of chips and salsa as soon as we sat down. The chips were somewhat thin, but did their job. Tasted fine. The salsa was a fresh tasting, nicely spiced tomato based concoction with chopped jalapeños for heat. The salsa was a bit too mild for me (a confirmed asbestos mouth), and could use more heat, but it was suitable for trepidatious gringos. Tasted very good.
In the absence of agus fresce, horchata is a good choice. This version was just fine. Get out of the iced tea habit. Drink Mexican.
Caldo de Res (Mexican Beef Soup)
This is usually an extremely hearty and satisfying soup. Soup is included with most entrées. This bowl contained beef broth, large chunks of vegetables, and a few chunks of beef. Good taste, if a tad salty. Don’t forget to squeeze the lime slice for that slight hint of acidity.
This is a soup that you should make at home for those chilly evenings. Try this recipe for size. Make a double batch.
Mole Poblano: on Shredded Chicken Breast
A great mole poblano is hard to find in these here parts. The version at Delicias is good, but certainly not great. I found the mole to be somewhat fruity tasting, a bit thin, and too chocolaty. It’s as if it was made with Hershey’s chocolate syrup instead of quality Mexican chocolate. And too much of it, whatever it was.
I really prefer this mole served atop whole chicken pieces (breast, thigh, and drumstick that have stewed in the sauce until tender and falling off the bone. I think that using shredded chicken breast falls short of being desirable. Your choice, though.
Asado Delicias: Three Chile Red Sauce
This is the meal that will keep bringing me back here. Most New Mexicans rave about Carne Adovada, and rightfully so. Made correctly, it is a spectacular dish, and one that I use as a benchmark for rating New Mexican restaurants. Asado Delicias is a close relative with one fundamental difference: there are three different red chiles as well as spices in this dish while Adovada has but one —the new Mexico red chile. The marinated pork can be braised or baked to a falling-apart texture.
Delicias red is earthy, smoky, highly complex, and fantastically delicious. I suspect that the smokiness comes from chipotle chiles, bit the restaurant staff didn’t know what varieties the chiles are. I will make it a high priority task to find out — I want to duplicate this dish in my own cocina.
Here is a very good (I think) recipe.
All entrées are served with refritos and Mexican rice. Both sides are notably good. The beans have a nice lardy mouth feel.
Flan with Cajeta
Flan is ubiquitous in New Mexico (and Mexico). You have surely had it many times in the Duke City. In its simplest form. it is flavored custard cooked in a cup with sugar that has been carefully caramelized. This is the foundation of that at Delicias, but it is served with generous ladling of a cajeta (caramel sauce) and topped with dollops of whipped cream and a cherry. The cajeta tastes like it came from a jar and is overpowering. Much too sweet. This messes with the character of the delicate flan in a way that is, to me, superfluous. What a shame — keep it simple. This should be a delicate dessert that doesn’t threaten a diabetic coma.
We have here some ups and downs. The food is basically good, but (with the exception of the Asado) slightly flawed. I will, of course, be back to try other delightful sounding dishes. The pastel de tres leches looks marvelous (yeah, I’ll go out of my way for tres leches).
I need to repeat that the Asado Delicias is spectacular. At $7.85 including the soup, this is surely one of Albuquerque’s best bargains.
What others are saying
Gil Garduño — New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite
“When my compadre Rico Martinez craves “real Mexican food,” he heads to Delicias Cafe which he considers “better than any Mexican restaurant I’ve tried in Albuquerque.” Rico has become Delicias unofficial publicist, waxing poetic about his new favorite on Urbanspoon and telling everyone he knows about it. I wish he had told me sooner. Delicias is every bit as good as he said, maybe better. Best of all, it’s got that real south-of-the-border authenticity aficionados like Rico and me crave.
“That authenticity is confirmed by my friend and fellow blogger Steve Coleman of Steve’s Gastronomic Home Page. Steve is an authority on Mexican food, having traveled extensively throughout our southern neighbor. For years he also chronicled his visits to Mexican restaurants in El Paso on his very well written blog. He knows what he’s talking about so when he says “one thing I like about Delicias is its ability to reproduce the same kind of experience that could be found by walking into any restaurant at random in Cuidad Juarez or other cities in the state of Chihuahua, you can take it to the bank.”
Rico Martinez — Friend of the Sybarite
“The BEST Mexican food I’ve found in the North ABQ area
“We love real Mexican food (not New Mexican), and often drive to other parts of Albuquerque to get our fix. So I was very curious to discover a REAL Mexican restaurant just a block from my office. And I was thrilled to try it and discover it’s BETTER than any Mexican restaurant I’ve tried in Albuquerque.
“When I started eating at Delicia’s just a couple of months ago, the restaurant was usually empty. I knew that would change, and sure enough, word is getting out about this place. I’m telling everyone about this place that serves incredible Mexican food in huge portions with great, low prices AND has a great atmosphere and excellent wait staff. What’s not to like about that?”