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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Thursday, July 24, 2014

Local warming: Atrisco Café & Bar

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Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014 5:00 am

The simple, savory green chile stew at Atrisco Café & Bar is a soothing tonic on a cold day. It’s a thin yet richly flavored brown broth with tender chunks of beef and potato, speckled with stewed tomato and holding a centered swirl of chopped green chile that brings the fall harvest to mind. It’s warm on the tongue and carries that signature taste, an almost indescribable tease of chlorophyll and minerals. As you dig in, the flavors mingle, and soon the entire bowl is redolent with chile. That stew is representative of the consistently prepared comfort food (can you describe a stacked enchilada smothered in red chile and sporting a fried egg any other way?) served at Atrisco.

Atrisco’s location in the DeVargas Center rules out the opportunity to call it homey, but the place is welcoming and pleasant enough, with its center row of booths, bright hardwood floors, and long bar beneath vigas. You’ll spot regulars when you visit the place — some of them local celebrities, some of them treated like family (which they may in fact be). Owner George Gundrey traces his roots to Albuquerque and his mother’s cooking at the now-defunct Central Café at the corner of Central Avenue and Atrisco Drive. If the red chile ladled over your tamale tastes familiar, there’s good reason. Gundrey acknowledges the inspiration of aunts and uncles who have owned Tia Sophia’s, Tomasita’s, and other local establishments. Actually, Atrisco’s thick, concentrated red chile is better than some served at its “cousin restaurants.” Its cooking? Equal to the best.

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