HG/BSK chose El Paragua, in nearby Espanola, as the farewell dinner site for visiting daughter Lesley R.. HG dines at least once a week at El Parasol Restaurant, the wondrous casual restaurant in Pojoaque. Down home cooking. Delicious. It is run by Jose and Alicia Atencio, warm and gracious hosts. Jose Atencio also owns and runs El Paragua. Another El Parasol is adjacent to the restaurant and there are other El Parasols throughout New Mexico and franchised to the Atencio family members. El Paragua is a bit upscale (but very affordable). Excellent steaks and seafood in addition to the staples of New Mexico cuisine: Enchiladas, tacos, tamales chimichangas, menudo, etc.. There are also wonderful cocktails and an extensive and modestly priced wine list. El Paragua is housed in a cluster of old buildings that once housed the Atencio family and their plumbing business. It is very evocative of New Mexico’s rich past. Gentle lighting and friendly and efficient service add to the dining experience. HG/BSK drank a pleasant Dubeouf Beaujolais-Villages (2014) priced at $21. Lesley R. opted for Tecate Beer served with a slice of lime in an icy glass. Big, robust, yummy meal. Carne adovado burrito smothered in green chile and cheese, menudo for HG, guacamole. Big sirloin steak for HG/BSK (smothered in cheese and green chile plus roasted green onions and chimichurri). Sides of charro beans, warm tortillas and sopapillas. Flan and natillas for dessert. A WOW of an experience!
It all started with a little taco stand in Espanola, NM, started by two Atencio brothers in 1958. Sheltered by an umbrella provided by their father, Luis Atencio, the two peddled their mother’s home-cooked tacos and tamales to rapidly growing audience. Business flourished and, in time, that taco stand took over the family plumbing business and expanded into the full scale restaurant, El Paragua, and six casual dining EL Parasol eateries in New Mexico (franchised to various generations of the Atencio family. All provide great, down home Northern New Mexican food (as HG has often noted, HG is addicted to El Parasol’s green chile menudo and posole).
HG and BSK dined at El Paragua last night with visiting Mike Rock and Trish Layton. Chilly night and the restaurant with its dark wooden furniture, Hispanic artifacts, photos and newspaper clippings exuded warmth and the aromas of good cooking. The group was met by smiling Jose Atencio, the proprietor and host. First, some splendid frozen margaritas in big, salt rimmed glasses. Then, Jose presented bowls of hot broth filled with pork, garbanzos, bits of red chile and ripe avocado slices as a garnish. Chill was vanquished. Dinner was menudo, carne adovado, enchiladas, charro beans, guacamole, shrimp in garlic sauce. Plus warm sopapillas with honey and elderberry jelly. Flan for dessert. Generous Jose Atencio climaxed the meal with brandy snifters of a Mexican liqueur not imported to the United States (HG believes it is called “Membrillo”). Fabulous. Jose took us on a tour of the restaurant. Much history. A favorite restaurant of the actor Anthony Quinn. Dennis Hopper, when he lived in Taos, NM, would come to El Paragua to drink and play cards with Jose’s father, Luis Atencio. Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman and many others have dined there. That’s El Paragua — a nice blend of food and history warmed by the gracious service and happy ambience created by Jose Atencio.