Located in the South Valley, Barelas is unpretentious, casual; a place of, by and for the people, but don't assume this is just another local coffee shop. You may see corporate executives, high-ranking politicians and government movers and shakers sitting at the table next to you, quietly wolfing down warm tortillas along with their bowl of chili beans.
From the front, it doesn't look like one of the fancy chain restaurants, such as El Torito or Acapulco. Also, don't be put off by the bars on the windows and front door. Opened by Jim Gonzales in 1978, Barelas is a top-notch family-run restaurant. Once you're inside, the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen will only instill one thing in your mind: Let's eat!
We had the pleasure of eating there one weekday last summer and got there early enough to just beat the lunch crowd. We sat at a table near the small, open-air courtyard. You immediately are impressed by the friendly feeling and attentiveness from the staff. Our server was a woman who had worked there for many years, and we noticed that many locals (even those in expensive business suits) addressed her by her first name.
Some of the dishes for which Barelas is famous includes posole stew, menudo, steaming bowls of chili and beans, chili verde and fresh-made tortillas. (Hummm... is it chili, or chile? We'll go into this question in a future report.) We watched servers bringing out several different dishes that afternoon, and frankly we didn't see anything that didn't look absolutely appetizing.
If there is one dish, however, for which Barelas is most famous, it's huevos rancheros. We understand from our spies in the city that it is the best in the Southwest - or so they say. Alas, we can't give our own opinion on Barelas famous spicy egg dish, but next time we're in Albuquerque we plan to make it our first stop in the morning.
Barelas is open only for breakfast and lunch, and it doesn't accept reservations. Prices are very easy on the wallet, however. Hours are Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and closed on Sunday. Barelas is located at 1502 4th Street, S.W. Albuquerque, NM. Telephone: 505-843-7577. Major credit cards accepted.
Barelas Coffee House
1502 24th Street, S.W
Breakfast and Lunch