Red or Green?
Seeking the Sizzle
El Gallo Pinto, Silver City's newest Mexican restaurant, has big plans.
by Peggy Platonos
El Gallo Pinto, Silver City's newest Mexican restaurant, opened without fanfare in late August, with only a banner to announce the event. The banner read: "OPEN… not kidding."
El Gallo Pinto owner Simon Ortiz and his wife, Sandra, stand to the left of the grill that will soon be sizzling with marinated chicken and perhaps steaks and special Longoniza sausages. Pictured to the right of the grill is Juan Martin Alvarado, who is in charge of the kitchen operation. (Photos by Peggy Platonos)
Well, the building renovation had been going on for considerably longer than a year, and people were obviously eager to see what the final result would be, because crowds materialized almost instantly. And they have continued to come.
"It's hard to find a table at lunchtime," says Silver City resident Manuel Aragon, who owns and operates Manny's Barber Shop on 14th Street. "I'm a customer to all the restaurants in town, and this is already my third time here. It's been good — very good. And the prices are very reasonable."
Breakfast dishes are served all day, along with all the other traditional Mexican favorites like burritos (with a long list of filling options), tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, chimichangas, tamales, flautas, chile colorado or verde, carne adobada, carnitas, chile rellenos and steak picado. On weekends, menudo is available, too.
El Gallo Pinto owner Simon Ortiz says of the restaurant's almost instantaneous success, "I call it a testament to hard work. I hope what we're doing will satisfy both Hispanic and non-Hispanic palates."
Ortiz credits Juan Martin Alvarado with developing tasty versions of the traditional Mexican dishes on the menu. Alvarado brings a great deal of experience to the new establishment, having served for many years as cook at the popular Sugar Shack in Bayard.
Apparently El Gallo Pinto's first customers have approved of the food, because they keep returning. And all of this early success has been taking place even before the introduction of what is expected to be the restaurant's main attraction — charbroiled marinated chicken cooked on a large grill visible to customers as they give their order at the service counter.
El Gallo Pinto is the first venture into the food business for Ortiz, who has long been a local insurance agent, and he is determined to make this restaurant something special for Silver City residents. "I wanted to create a Mexican restaurant that is colorful and unique," he says. "I love grilled chicken myself, and I can remember the first time I walked into El Pollo Loco in Los Angeles and saw their big grill right out there where customers could see it, with all those big, juicy pieces of chicken sizzling on it. It made my mouth water and my stomach rumble. I couldn't wait to order some. And that's the kind of experience I want to provide for people in Silver City."
Folks will have to wait a bit longer to enjoy that experience at El Gallo Pinto, but Ortiz hopes to fire up the grill in the not-too-distant future, in conjunction with the unveiling of a very big, very colorful sign and a formal Grand Opening.
"The grill will open up a lot of possibilities, in addition to the chicken — carne asada, steaks, maybe even high quality, flavorful Longoniza sausage made by friends from Guadalajara," Ortiz says.
By the time the Grand Opening takes place at El Gallo Pinto, customers will also be able to see a vertical grill in action there, featuring a Tijuana-style specialty known as carne al pastor. This is served taco-style in Tijuana. "Mostly you find it on push-carts along the streets there, rarely in restaurants," Ortiz explains. "It's very thin strips of marinated pork wrapped around a spit and barbequed upright. As the meat is shaved off, it falls onto a sizzling hot grill at the base of the spit, and is then transferred to a corn tortilla. Very tasty, and fun to watch."
It's basically because of this particular dish that Ortiz is applying for a wine and beer license for the restaurant. "Tacos al pastor go hand-in-hand with beer," Ortiz says, adding that he plans to feature Mexican beers when the license comes through.
In case you're curious about the name, Ortiz translates it as "the painted, or colorful, rooster" and says he chose it because "I did not want a common name and I did not want a common sign, just as I did not want a common interior environment or common food," The restaurant's logo features a vibrant, feisty-looking, very colorful rooster that is going to look striking on the eight-foot fully-lighted sign currently in the process of being created for the front of the building.
As an interesting footnote, El Gallo Pinto is also the name of a traditional Nicaraguan dish that features black beans and rice, with no chicken component whatsoever. Simon's wife, Sandra, is Nicaragua-born.
El Gallo Pinto restaurant is located at the corner of North Hudson and College Street in Silver City, and is open seven days a week. Dine-in hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. There is a drive-through window that is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
For more information about the restaurant, call (575) 597-4559
Send Mimbres freelance writer Peggy Platonos tips for restaurant reviews at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (575) 536-2997.