So I spent a decent amount of my childhood in Texas, and I didn’t know that New Mexico had its own style of Mexican food until just a few years ago. It’s kind of a crime that it’s not more widely known, because it’s seriously, seriously delicious.
Disclaimer: I have never been to New Mexico. Well, I think my family drove through the northwest corner of it once on a road trip, but that hardly counts. Niles’s parents live in Arizona, though, and introduced me to New Mexican food when we were on a trip there once. Having had plenty of Mexican-American cuisine in Texas, Chicago, California, New York, and lots of other places, I wasn’t really prepared for how different New Mexican food is. I’ve been told that it borrows heavily from Navajo and Mescalero tribes, I’ve been told that it’s closest to the style of food cooked in Mexico – it’s hard to untangle what’s true and what’s been written by tourist boards, but beyond what I’ve drawn above, here are my impressions of it: New Mexican cuisine is more rustic and earthy. There’s a lot more smoking of things, and grilling on mesquite and cedar planks. There’s usually (counterintuitively, but I’m not arguing) seafood. And of course there’s the ever-present New Mexican Chile – which I’ll get into in more detail in a later comic – chosen for its balance of flavor and heat, instead of peppers like habanero, which are pretty much just there to kick your ass.
There are actually a few New Mexican restaurants here in Chicago. Last night we went to Masa Azul, here in Logan Square. It was outstanding, but it’s more of a modern, fusion-y take on New Mexican food. I’m told that there’s one in Ukrainian Village that’s more traditional and also cheaper, but its name escapes me at the moment, and it’s actually kind of difficult to google “New Mexican Restaurant” and get what you’re looking for, instead of just new restaurants that are Mexican.