James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award Winner — 2010
Twenty-third visit: September 24, 2013
First visit: July 3, 2008
I’ll get right to the point: It just doesn’t get any better. If you have a favorite New Mexican restaurant and it isn’t Mary and Tito’s, then either
1. You haven’t been there yet, or
2. You probably think that El Pinto is good. Shame on you.
In my eight visits to M&T, I have found three best in show (Red, Carno Adovada Stuffed Sopa, and Chile Rellenos–green) and one runner-up (Huevos Rancheros–red). The Sopaipilla — stuffed with the tastiest, tenderest Carne Adovada in these here parts and deep fried to a gently crisp light brown (somewhat like an empanada), than smothered with amazing red, this creation explodes in the mouth with an unbelievable blend of tastes. I had this Sopa on my first visit and it blew me away. I had it again a few weeks after, and it blew me away again!
Visiting sister had the Chile Rellenos smothered in green, and instantly declared the chiles best in show, and the Green better than she had ever hoped for anywhere. I always listen to her — she’s older than I. The chiles were just barely (and correctly) crisp. Perfection on a plate.
When paying the bill after my fifth visit here, Jane and I noticed a letter taped to the cash register. The letter was from the James Beard Foundation congratulating Mary Gonzales and Antoinette Knight on being selected as one of the five recipients of the prestigious James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classics awards. This is a huge honor. The awards were announced in New Orleans on March 22, 2010, and the presentations, with videos and more, were made during a festive gala at the Avery Fisher Hall of the Lincoln Center in New York on May 3.
We spoke with Antoinette for some time after our meal, and to say that she and Mary (her mother) were excited would be an understatement. Mary has never been to New York, and Antoinette was anxious to show her around. We are excited for them, and offer our heartiest congratulations.
Our meal for another visit was, as usual, superb. Carne enchiladas, flat, with Red and a fried egg on top was the best version of a classic New Mexican dish that I have had. Perfectly prepared. Jane’s Chile Rellenos were fine as well, and she had them with Red on top. She now agrees with me (and many other reviewers) that their Red is legendary. I keep telling anybody who will listen to me that Mary and Tito’s is the best New Mexican Restaurant in New Mexico (and therefore, the universe). And now, the James Beard Foundation agrees with me. Mary & Tito’s can now be found on Facebook .
The James Beard Foundation
“Each year since 1998 The James Beard Foundation Awards Committee has identified small, regional restaurants, watering holes, shacks, lunch counters, and similar down-home eateries that have carved out a special place on the American culinary landscape. We anoint these restaurants with a James Beard Foundation Award designating them as one of America’s Classics.”In the spirit of James Beard, who enjoyed a paper cone of fried belly clams as much as a fine French meal, we encourage you to visit these American classics if you find yourself in their neighborhood. You are sure to find a warm welcome, and deeply satisfying food. Tell them the James Beard Foundation sent you.”
Past New Mexico winners of this award are The Shed (2002) and Pasqual’s (1999), both in Santa Fe. I think that M&T’s is better than either.
This is a family-run place. Mary is a delight, and I always stop and talk with her (we commiserate about mutual eyesight deficiencies). I have gotten to know her and the rest of the family better as I keep returning.
October 21, 2011
During our last return, Antoinette told ma about the restaurant’s appearance in the New York Times article 36 Hours in Albuquerque. Yet more fine and richly deserve accolades. Read more comments on this blog.
I again had my usual Carne Adovada Stuffed Sopiapilla (turnover, she calls it) and Jane had a plate of Carne Adovada. Both with the best red in the universe.
Mexican Wedding Cake
Antoinette makes the best Mexican Wedding Cake that you are likely to encounter anywhere. It is dense, and loaded with chopped walnuts and pineapple bits. The icing is cream cheese, and very sweet. Save room for this utterly delicious treat. You can thank me for this advice later.
There are three cooks who have a total of ninety years in Tito’s kitchen. The food is always consistent, and you will know that you are getting the best food that is prepared the way that Tito taught them. This is New Mexico Mom and Pop at its very best. If you haven’t been here, do it now. And tell Antoinette that Larry sent you.
Note: Sadly, Mary passed away in September 2013. Antoinette tells me that she will continue to run the place just as Mary did. Perfectly, that is. Rest in peace, Mary.
The best red chile in town, says a satisfied customer.
Mary & Tito’s Cafe