Surely you’re joking. Good food in Española? Well, yes. No joke.
First visit: April 29, 2013
Next visit: soon
It all stared with “The Stand.”
If you’re looking for a casual, excellent taste of Northern New Mexico and Mexican traditional favorites and you happen to be within a fifty mile radius of Santa Fe, watch for a colorful beach umbrella logo identifying El Paragua restaurant. The logo and the food products are constantly recognized by locals as “best” in the area.
El Paragua is the outgrowth of what locals referred to as “The Stand,” which morphed into El Parasol, which is now a quick-fix taco/enchilada stand just next door to El Paragua.
The rooms are outrageously beautiful. Just inside the lobby, there is a huge tree growing up through the roof (hence the name “The Umbrella”), which is visible at the left of Paul Pacheco in the panoramic photo at the top of this review. Read the history on the restaurant’s Website.
So the place is beautiful and warming. Is the food any good?
Chips and Salsa
These are lightly fried and lightly salted delicious chips. The salsa, house-made, is a red and geen jalapeño-based concoction that borders on being really hot. This is very tasty stuff indeed, and I rank it very high on the New Mexican salsa scale.
You might get hooked.
Menudo is a traditional Mexican soup made with beef stomach (tripe) in a clear broth or with a red chili base. Usually, lime, chopped onions, and chopped cilantro are added, as well as crushed oregano and crushed red chili peppers.
Menudo is usually eaten with tortillas or other breads, such as bolillo or sopaipillas. It is often chilled and reheated, which results in a more concentrated flavor. The popularity of menudo in Mexico is such that Mexico is a major export market for stomach tripe from US and Canadian beef producer.
The version served here is just short ob being incendiary (the way I like it), and is served with Sopaipillas, which are very good.
Preparing menudo can be somewhat tricky. If the tripe is not cleaned and cooked properly, the result can vary between tough (chewy) or slimy and overdone. This tripe is the very best that I have encountered, and the whole dish is as perfect as I could expect. Paul had this dish, too, and agreed that it was superb.
Green Chile Cheeseburger
Those of you who know my tastes will remember that I will always try a Green Chile Cheeseburger (competition style, of course). But a good menudo always trumps a good GCCB. Rising to the occasion, Jane ordered the GCCB with garnish. She hates menudo.
The GCCB was very good, juicy and nicely cooked, but not good enough to make its way to my GCCB Hall of Fame. The green lacked sufficient piquancy for me. The fries were just ok.
Judy tried the chicken chalupa, which I usually shun. It looked great, and she loved the taste. Chicken was moist and tender.
Accompanied with pretty good beans and rice.
My friend and fellow gastronome, Gil Garduño, told me some years ago that the capirotada here is excellent. Both he and I suffer from the Bread Pudding Fixation Disorder (possibly genetically linked), so O was compelled to try this version.
It was great. Properly savory, and not too sweet. Wow. Second best that I have ever had.
I have been driving through Española for five years while on my way to other destinations (to me, Española is not a destination)., such as Taos and Chimayó. I wouldn’t have guessed that this place could harbor such a really good restaurant. I have been quite dissatisfied with several others here, save Angelina’s (best lamb in Northern New Mexico), which I love.
El Paragua puts Española on my dining destination map. Put it on yours, too.
What others are saying
Gil Garduño — New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite
“If small businesses are the backbone of American commerce, then the good old-fashioned lemonade stand is the spinal cord. That sagacious metaphor (for which I unfortunately cannot take credit) is an apt description for how El Paragua transcended its humble beginnings to become one of the culinary crown jewels of Northern New Mexico.
“The menu is unlike that of other New Mexican restaurants. It’s more than an eclectic mix of American, Mexican and New Mexican items and includes a surprising array of mariscos (Mexican seafood) and steak. The steak selections includes Churrasco Argentino, cooked in a green herb salsa chimichurri and served for two on a hot brazier. Steaks and fish (try the pan-fried breaded trout almondine) are grilled over a mesquite-wood fire. For less meaty fare, the lime-basted chicken with apple sauce is a delicious option.”
Gil’s Rating: 21