I love New Mexican-style food. My in-laws live in Albuquerque. Every time we visit them I gorge myself on green chile. It is very difficult to find anything similar around here. The closest I have found -- both in style and distance -- is Cristina's in Crete, located in the former Wanek's building. Every time I go there I try to talk them into opening a location right near my house, but no dice so far.
When I heard that La Paloma offers New Mexican style green chile on some of its menu items I got pretty excited. For one thing, located at 139th and O Street, La Paloma is closer than Cristina's. And the possibility of having two New Mexico-style options was pretty intriguing.
My father and I visited La Paloma on Saturday evening. The restaurant sits in a strip mall on the north side of O Street between Lincoln and Eagle. Not quite as alluring as its former 8th Street location in the Haymarket, but it'll do. We walked in to find a pleasant, single-room atmosphere. The register is near the door; the small bar, server prep area, and kitchen window are near the back; booths line the wall and tables fill up the space in the middle.
We were warmly greeted and, upon being seated, were told about the night's special: a fajita-like dish featuring fire-grilled pork loin for $11.99. The rest of the menu was smaller than what you will find at a lot of Mexican restaurants, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Why stuff the menu when you can focus on what you're good at? Especially when a couple of those items feature New Mexican-style green chile!
Like almost every local Mexican restaurant, La Paloma offers diners a complimentary basket of chips and salsa. The salsa was a well-blended red, with just enough kick to keep a spice hound like me from being bored. The chips ... what can I say about the chips? They were awesome. I haven't had chips like La Paloma's anywhere else in town. They were served warm and fresh, and they were thick and flaky, almost cracker-like in some ways. I had to pace myself lest I fill up on chips before my meal came. Two big thumbs-up on the chips, though I do have a suggestion. They could be offered with honey in addition to the salsa. I think they would work very well with honey.
My father ordered the special, and it didn't disappoint. The pork loin was served with sauteed onions, jalapenos, and tomatoes, all of which my dad wrapped up in the tortillas served with the dish. He practically licked his plate clean.
I went with the Rio Rancho burrito ($8.99), a meat and bean burrito topped with New Mexico-style green chile and cheese. I'll be honest, I was a bit disappointed. The green chile was New Mexico-style, as advertised, so that's good. But it wasn't nearly as spicy as I like my chile, and it was overwhelmed by the heavy, non-New Mexico-ish contents of the burrito. The style of chile used at La Paloma would be excellent on a breakfast burrito (i.e. eggs, potatoes, black beans, chorizo), however. Don't get me wrong. That the meal didn't live up to my unfairly inflated expectations doesn't mean it wasn't good; it was. It just means La Paloma won't be able to compete with Cristina's on my green chile list.
In the end, I left with a strong desire to return. And not just to try more of the menu items. The restaurant gave off a very warm and friendly vibe. I want to support that. If you haven't already OD'd on Lincoln's myriad Mexican-style restaurants, take a short drive east on O Street and give La Paloma a try.