Chef Marie Yniguez of Bocadillos sandwich shop is spreading the gospel of New Mexican cuisine far and wide.
In the past few years, she’s taken home first place in Food Network’s “Chopped” and earned the rare distinction of not one but two appearances on the network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Most recently, she starred on “The Great Food Truck Race,” where her sopaipilla s’mores, green chile stew and posole wowed customers and host Tyler Florence.
It’s been a remarkable, unlikely journey for Yniguez, who started out in the commercial kitchen at Albuquerque’s South Valley Economic Development Center. She parlayed that experience into Bocadillos, a breakfast and lunch takeout concept based on slow-roasted meats. Her first appearance on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” jump-started that business, and now Yniguez and her wife and business partner, Karla Arvizu, oversee a flourishing operation based in the lobby of the Wells Fargo Bank building.
The building, a 16-story modernist block on the south side of Lomas between Second and Third NW, is such an unusual setting for a restaurant that when entering the parking lot, you briefly think that your cellphone has led you astray. And then, you drive around to the west side of the building, facing Third, and notice people sitting in their cars chowing down on sandwiches and you know you’re in the right place.
I walked in there during a recent weekday lunch hour to find almost a dozen people standing against the wall waiting for their food to come out. Several more stood in a second line at the counter to either order or pick up their food. Occasionally, bank customers entered and weaved their way through the crowd. A couple of young people staffed the cramped kitchen. There was no sign of Yniguez.
My food was ready less than 15 minutes after I placed the order online through Selflane. It was a beautiful day, and I had hoped to eat outside, but Bocadillos is strictly a grab-and-go operation. There’s no seating inside, no benches or tables outside and no parks within easy walking distance, which explains the people eating in their cars.
A breakfast menu featuring reasonably priced burritos is available from 7 to 10:30 in the morning. I’ve heard good things about it, but I was there for the sandwiches and the slow-roasted meats. And they did not disappoint.
The Big Dipper ($12.50) is Bocadillos’ spin on – or should I say, improvement on – the classic French dip. The shredded beef clamped inside a fresh baguette was flawless and picked up savory notes and heat from the red and green chile, caramelized onions and pepper jack cheese. The ingredients were well balanced, and the generous side of au jus was beefy, salty, spicy and chock full of onions, like a good French onion soup.
The Club ($11), a combination of roasted, shredded turkey, thick slices of bacon and avocado served between thick, grilled slices of white bread, also takes a classic sandwich and elevates it. The shredded turkey was superior in flavor and texture to even the best Thanksgiving leftovers. I found myself thinking about it for days afterward.
The Cubano ($8.50), another variation of a classic, replaces the usual sliced ham and pork tenderloin with a mound of succulent, slow-cooked pork wrapped in a sweet chili sauce. It’s served open-faced in a baguette. The pork was terrific, and the bacon and Muenster cheese, a mild-flavored American variety that melts well, helped temper the sweetness of the sauce and housemade pickles.
Bocadillos lone burger, the GC ($9.75), is an inch-thick patty piled with red and green chile and cooked to medium. The chile gave off more of a tingle than a burn, one that was balanced by the tangy, sweet housemade honey mustard sauce. Like the sandwiches, the burger had a good balance of ingredients. Unfortunately, the trip home took a toll on it, leaving about half of the bottom bun soggy.
Drinks are limited to canned sodas and bottled water, and I did not see any desserts on the menu. Nothing is listed as gluten-free, but you can order the fillings without bread.
Chef Yniguez has proved her mettle on the national stage. Thankfully, her home remains in Albuquerque.