Above: Vegos’s breakfast burrito and Nobody Calls Me Chicken sandwich are menu favorites. Photograph by Ungelbah Dávila-Shivers.
VEGOS IS CARVING OUT A TASTY NICHE in the New Mexico food scene—no steak knives required. Just over a year old, the Albuquerque-based pop-up takes a vegan approach to the comfort foods we crave and smothers them, Christmas style, to create dishes that don’t compromise on traditional New Mexico taste.
“I think it’s the simplicity of our food that speaks to people,” says chef Elizabeth Bibiano, who, with her husband, Jonathan, launched Vegos out of their own foodie necessity.
Like most New Mexicans, the Bibianos were raised on pork and posole. But while spending a summer in a small Alaska town two hours south of Fairbanks, the couple stumbled into a plant-based diet, going first a month, then another, without buying meat. Instead of missing something, Elizabeth discovered a hidden passion for cooking and creating unique recipes. When the couple returned to New Mexico, she enrolled in the culinary arts program at Central New Mexico Community College and earned an internship with the Street Food Institute.
“The absence of vegan New Mexican food is crazy,” says Elizabeth. “We figured there must be other people like us who are looking for those comforting New Mexico flavors.”
In May 2019, Vegos set up a stand at the weekly Rail Yards Market and regularly sold out of its vegan breakfast and steak burritos, tamales, and chicken sandwiches. This April, PETA named its steak burrito one of the 10 best plant-based burritos in the country.
Above: Vegos’s Elizabeth and Jonathan Bibiano can be found at weekly popups at the ABQ Collective. Photograph by Ungelbah Dávila-Shivers.
But if Elizabeth has an agenda, it’s simply to provide delicious, familiar food from scratch, like her traditional breakfast burritos that use a tofu scramble in place of eggs. Vegos’s red chile, the true test of any New Mexico restaurant, gets prepared the old way, with nothing but water, salt, and garlic, so the flavors of the chile can do what they do best: elevate the potatoes, give the frijoles a kick, and leave you wanting more.
The menu adapts with the seasons, so you may not find their popular jackfruit tamales until winter. But the Nobody Calls Me Chicken sandwich has already become a staple—a faux chicken breast nestled inside a concha pan dulce bun for an excellent sweet-meets-savory combo.
Created from a three-day process that involves pressing and marinating a soy-based product with more than 15 spices and sauces, Elizabeth’s chicken is a labor of love, developed after what her husband calls “a months-long chicken craze.” It’s a testament to the one ingredient that makes a dish successful: passion.
“He’d catch me staring into space and know I was thinking about (soy) chicken,” she says. “Good food is good food, no matter what the ingredients are. People will tell us they don’t even miss the eggs or the meat, and to me that’s the greatest compliment of all.”
PLANT YOURSELF HERE
Vegos’s Elizabeth Bibiano picks a few of her favorite vegan joints.
WANDERLUST VEGAN EATERY
“This is another husband-and-wife pop-up. They really focus on what I consider comfort food—the classics like biscuits ’n’ gravy and pulled BBQ jackfruit.”
ANNAPURNA'S WORLD VEGETARIAN CAFE
Santa Fe & Albuquerque
“I just adore their menu. It’s versatile and worldly, and their environment is very Zen.”
ROOT 66 VEGAN CAFE & FOOD TRUCK
Santa Fe (café); Albuquerque (food truck)
“Root 66 has done a delicious job of not only serving the Albuquerque and Santa Fe area, but hosting our local Plant Powered events.”