Red means “Go!” and green means “Stop!” at Mary and Tito’s Cafe, Albuquerque NM

Legendary Mary and Tito’s Cafe in Albuquerque

We’ve been taught by our parents and teachers as early as kindergarten that the color red means stop and that the color green, on the other hand, means go when on the road. Even when eating, especially when you’ve tried stuffing yourself with mountains of grilled meats in a Brazilian style churrascaria, the waitress would tell you that flipping that yoyo to its red side means stop and flipping it to the green side means go, go, go for more meats to be served up table side.

But if you’d find yourself in Mary and Tito’s Café in Albuquerque, NM, I say that this logic doesn’t work the same.

James Beard Awards’ recognition

Mary and Tito’s Café, open since 1963 with its legendary James Beard America’s classic award winning carne adovada (red-chili based Mexican pork stew), was a must stop for us in Albuquerque. So, famished after 4-hours on the I-40, the interstate that run parallel to the historic route 66, The Husband and I were glad to be seated by the window, basking in natural light, surrounded by Mary and Tito Gonzales’ family portraits and the warmth of spices and the working kitchen.

Family portraits make Mary and Tito’s Cafe feel like a home

I knew I had to order the carne adovada, upon staunch recommendation by fellow blogger Zora of Roving Gastronome and other web sources. Then the waitress threw a curve ball: “Red or green chili on top?” I hesitated and thought if I’d order green chili since that was one of the things New Mexico was known for. But then I remembered that they said order the RED carne adovada, so I said “red please”. The Husband decided to go with the carne adovada as well and went with the green chili instead, so that we could try both.

James Beard American Classic Award winner: Mary and Tito’s red carne adovada platter

After scarfing down two baskets of free nachos (we were really, really hungry!), the two heaping platters of carne adovada with refried beans and rice, both red and green, landed on the table. The redness of my order of red carne adovada just screamed “HOT!” and it scared me, while The Husband’s green chili topped carne adovada looked refreshing with chopped green chilies.

Tender pork!

We dived into our respective plates, silent after stuffing spoonful after spoonful of the carne adovada, beans and rice into our mouths. The pork did not fight against the force of my fork, each grain of meat disentangling itself as gracefully as a shoelace. The red chili sauce, rich and creamy with a very gentle spice (at least to me who enjoys the punch of heat in my food), complemented the sweet tender pork.

Green carne adovada…look at them chilies!

In the middle of my enjoying my red adovada, The Husband then screamed “ANG ANGHANG! (It’s spicy!!!)”, grabs his icy glass of water, downing half of it in one gulp. My fork reached for his green carne adovada platter to grab a mouthful for my tasting. Contrary to the impression that the green chili would bring a refreshing tartness to the pork, the intense heat from the green chilies ravaged my entire palate like an out of control forest fire. With no sour cream or cheese or yoghurt to quell the heat, I took a small spoonful of the whipped butter, meant to spread over hot fresh tortillas that come with every meal at Mary and Tito’s Café, and shoved it into my mouth, sucking every molecule of dairy in it.

Struggling with the heat, 5-glasses of icy water later, The Husband licked his green carne adovada platter clean, while I, thinking that I couldn’t finish that amount of food in one sitting, did empty the plate contents into my stomach too.

So the lesson here, boys and girls, when in Mary and Tito’s Café in Albuquerque, New Mexico, remember that you only go on green if you can take the heat.

Delirious about delicious,



Mary and Tito’s Café

2711 4th St NW

Albuquerque, NM 87107

Open Monday to Thursday, 9AM to 6PM

Friday to Sunday, 9AM to 8PM

+1 (505) 344-6266

Menu page 1 Menu page 2 Menu page 3 Menu page 4

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