Saturday, April 17, 2010

Allsup's: A Convenient Taste of the Southwest

Driving through the desert between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, past the Indian casinos and scattered trailer parks, a neon sign stands tall against the backdrop of the wide-open sky, the southwestern sun just starting to set on the horizon. It’s an Allsup’s and it’s beckoning.

With 301 location
s throughout New Mexico and Texas, most of them attached to a gas station, Allsup’s is the nation’s 35th largest convenience store chain and is viewed as an innovator within the industry, as it was one of the first to start selling cooked food in its stores. Allsup’s distinguishes itself from its peers, the 7-11’s, Circle-K’s, and Cumbies of the world by offering up a small but addictive menu of authentic southwestern road food. Instead of cheese-filled hot dogs drying out as they rotate for hours, each and every Allsup’s serves burritos, chimichangas, and homemade tortilla burgers.

The Allsup’s “Chuck W
agon” burritos and chimichangas are the shining stars of the menu and they carry a strong cult following, with at least two unofficial Facebook pages set up where fans can exchange their tales of love and obsession. Served in a little white paper bag that bears the store’s zia logo, these pouches of meat, beans, and cheese have been a staple in the diets of locals, as well as an effective remedy to many late-night cases of the munchies, for years. Traditionally, chimichangas are simply deep fried burritos but, at Allsup’s, they’re both fried. The only difference between them here is in the filling. The “Famous Beef & Bean Burrito” is made with a red chile sauce, whereas the “Famous Beef & Bean Chimichanga” is made with New Mexican hatch green chile. Both items sport crispy tortilla shells that allow the piping-hot contents to ooze out with every bite. For just $1.50 each, you’ll have to exercise a good deal of restraint to keep yourself from going overboard on these guilty pleasures and be sure to pick up a few extra packets of the Allsup’s signature taco sauce to enhance your experience.

An Allsup’s tortilla burger consists of four basic ingredients: a grilled beef patty, melted cheddar cheese, a soft flour tortilla, and one fresh jalapeno, all folded up in an easy to eat sandwich. The jalapeno pops with a powerful heat that burns the tongue but doesn’t overwhelm the greasy simplicity of the burger. At a price of $2.37, it’s not only a step above other convenience store offerings, but also most fast food joints.

Each Allsup’s store is open 24 hours a day which is essential because most chimichanga runs seem to occur after midnight, when you never know who you’ll run into. The Allsup’s on State Highway 14, on the outskirts of Santa Fe, is usually the first stop for people being released from the New Mexico State Penitentiary, just down the road. They wait at the store, hoping to catch a ride back into town, so you can grab an ex-con with your snack for added excitement and authenticity.

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