New Mexico: Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe

Fire pit

Our road trip luck help. After a fantastic meal at Root Down in Denver we visited the Garden of the Gods erosion garden then headed down to New Mexico to visit Taos Pueblo and finally we rolled into Orlando’s New Mexican Cafe. We knew we had finally reached the sun because the “waiting area” was a fire pit in the front yard. Sitting in front of a house painted all the colours under the rainbow, looking at dried chilies hanging from all the beams and listening to the logs crackle I *almost* didn’t care that we had to wait for a table but it had been a full day so I was glad enough when our name was called.

They don’t have a booze liquor license but you wouldn’t know it. To start I had a sangria and Matt had a margarita – made with agave wine instead of tequila.  Agave wine is still made with blue agave, like tequila is, but during the process, the main product goes  to tequila and leftover, the “honey water” is used for wine. So the taste is similar  but the alcohol content is much lower. Anyways, it was awesome and we devoured an entire bowl of tri-coloured chips with homemade salsa and guacamole before we really noticed. It was so good!

I was reasonably knowledgeable about difference between Mexican and Tex Mex before this trip but I wasn’t certain how NEW Mexican cuisine fit into it all. According to Wikipedia, New Mexican dishes are based on chile, beans and corn and specifically the red or green New Mexican chile. They are the same chile in different phases of ripeness – green are young and red are more mature. The deep red strings of chiles hanging from the beams are even further along this continuum but in spite of seeing them on houses and shops all over town, it’s the green piquant green chile that appears most on menus. Blue corn is another signature ingredient, and we had that too.


The menu is full of amazing looking carne and tacos and we could have feasted for days. But we both zeroed in on “los Colores” – one each of red, green and blue corn tortilla enchiladas stuffed with chicken, beef, and bean/cheese/chile caribe (similar to jalapeño) then topped with red and green sauce. It was kind of a sample plate and I think it was a pretty good cross-section of the flavours they have to offer. You can see from the photo above that it also comes with beans and posole (hominy stew). The flavours blend together a bit but are intense and tasty but the perfect contrast to the drab desert landscape outside. Sitting in a room with walls painted green, purple, yellow, pink and anything but white with a fire burning outside it felt like just the thing.


Orlando’s is at 1114 Don Juan Valdez Lane in Taos, New Mexico.



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