The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Anita’s New Mexico Style Food

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on January 24, 2010

After arriving in the D.C. area late Tuesday night, I headed to my hotel.  I got checked in, but I was hungry.  I hadn’t had any dinner, and my lunch had been pretty light.  I was very familiar with the area, having lived there for several years after college.  I thought about where I could go that was something reasonably unique to D.C., and would also provide me a tasty meal.

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Not far from the hotel there was an Anita’s.  Anita’s is a 30-year old Northern Virginia institution.  Anita opened the first restaurant after her husband, an employee of the United States Postal Service, was transferred to D.C.  They came from New Mexico, and she brought her recipes with her. 

Now, if you’ve ever been to New Mexico, you know that New Mexico chiles are more of a religion than a commodity.  They’re everywhere.  Kinda like cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, or deep dish pizza in Chicago.  New Mexico chiles are available everywhere, in every imaginable dish.  Some are spicy and some are mild, but they provide dishes with fabulous flavor, and while not literally addictive, certainly provide a sense of addiction

Despite the fact that I’ve been to New Mexico, and I love the cuisine, I only went TO an Anita’s once in the 25+ years I lived in the D.C. area.  That one time, I was working for a sign company, and we were installing a sign at the Anita’s in Fairfax City, so I popped inside for lunch.  That was in 1998.  I have also had several of their breakfast burritos, as it was a tradition in one of the offices I worked in.  I had never been to Anita’s for a dinner, though.

So there I was, at Anita’s.  It was late.  They were getting close to closing.  The waitress asked me what I’d like.  The menu was FAR more complicated than I expected.  I didn’t even really realize that it was a sit-down restaurant.  I thought it was more of a “walk-up”, fast-food-type establishment.  But no!  Definitely a sit-down, dine-in restaurant, with a carryout window.  While I decided, the waitress offered me some chips and salsa.  The chips were lackluster, but the salsa was awesome.  The fresh tomatoes were chunky, and the flavor was not-too-spicy great.

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After a cursory check of the menu, I settled on a pork burrito, served with rice and refried beans in a green chile sauce.   I was looking for something that looked “authentically” New Mexican, and that seemed like a fair choice. 

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I don’t know if it was JUST because I was hungry, or if the food was simply terrific, but it hit the spot.  The pork was perfectly done; large, tender chunks, ready to fall apart, but by no means stringy.  It was well-seasoned, too, providing subtle hints of the spices, while allowing the flavor and texture of the pork to provide the dominant appeal.  The green chile sauce was as tasty as I recall from my time in New Mexico, and coupled with refried beans, made for a wonderful side to the pork burrito. 

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I would have taken my time to enjoy the whole meal, but the restaurant was nearly empty, and they were about to close.   I didn’t want to hold anyone up any longer than necessary, so I asked for the check and a refill on my water.  I gulped down the water, paid my tab, and headed back to my hotel with a full stomach.

In hindsight, I can’t believe it took me so long to find Anita’s.  There are several (six in all, I think) in the D.C. area, and I have had some reasonably close to some of the offices I worked in.  To be fair, it’s only been since I married the Wife that my perspective on any kind of Southwestern/Latin American/South American cuisine has turned to a more positive light, but it almost seems tragic that I missed out on one of Northern Virginia’s mom-and-pop delights. 

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