I’m heading to Albuquerque in a few weeks for the coffee & chocolate festival. I’ll have a couple of extra days and a car, but no idea what to do or eat! I love chiles and pork and can take the heat. Recommendations, please!
No Santa Fe?
Looks like an hour drive so if Santa Fe has something amazing I might check it out.
I’m flying into ABQ on a Wednesday, Friday is festival set up and I’ll be in my booth all day Saturday & Sunday so I really only have two days of fun/exploring time.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Albuquerque, but I remember a great meal at Seasons in Old Town. There is also a Mexican place in a historic building in Old Town that had great “Christmas” enchiladas (using both the red and green sauces). We also took the gondola to the top of Sandia Peak and had dinner at the restaurant on top. The food was less exciting than the trip and views, but it was not bad. A bear moseyed up to the window we were seated beside during the meal!
I’m going to have to add anyplace only reached by an aerial tram to my list of places I wouldn’t travel for food. Especially if it’s not great. I’d rather make the drive to Santa Fe!
ABQ recs just below, but quickly a note on Santa Fe: I live in Santa Fe, and while I think the city has generally earned its reputation as a worthy dining destination, frankly I think it’s fairly overrated at the high end. Most of my favorite spots are several price points down from the restaurants that get written up most often. I also find that the concept of upscale Southwestern food was something of an over-hyped oddity of the 80s and 90s, and the marquee places that hew to this playbook are some of the most tired ripoffs in the state. With all that said, here’s a quick-hit list I put together late last year: Inaugural Santa Fe thread: my current high rotation
As far as Albuquerque, the things it does off-the-charts well are New Mexican food (duh), which is really a regional Mexican style from back when this area was still part of Mexico, Vietnamese due to a large immigrant population, and craft beer, because…well, not sure why, but I think it’s one of the most underrated beer towns in the country. My quick picks for these and a few more:
New Mex - most the best spots close before dinner. Perennial favorites are Mary & Titos, Barela’s, Padilla’s. Frontier, a fast food institution by UNM, is open nearly 24/7 and does fantastic breakfast burritos on house-made tortillas. All of these are dry; if you want a great margarita to go with this, Santa Fe is probably worth considering, I’d suggest La Choza or the Shed.
Vietnamese - Banh Mi Coda for very good banh mi and spring rolls, Huong Thao for homestyle.
Craft beer - I think Marble and La Cumbre make the best beers in the state, each has a tap room. Marble has fun food trucks outside whose food they let you bring into the taproom. Duel up in Santa Fe is fun for Belgian style beers.
And some other excellent, very good value food that’s perhaps not quite on par with the best a big, coastal city might have to offer :
- Budai - real-deal Chinese and Taiwanese including xao long bao, ask for the secret menu.
- Giovanni’s - real NY-style pizza, be sure to get it topped with green chile, NM’s signature ingredient.
- Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria - pretty darn authentic wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, again I recommend with green chile; they’ll walk your pizza over to the Santa Fe Brewing tap room next door.
- The Grove - a coast-style cafe serving very good breakfast and lunch, plus Intelligentsia coffee. Bonus cachet for being a filming location for Breaking Bad.
To add a little counterpoint to Lambowner above, while some of the food around Old Town is perhaps better than it deserves to be, it’s still the main tourist area in the city, so I think you can do better if you cast a wider net. Agree that the views from the top of the tram are stunning but the food isn’t.
Thanks, those sound great. I love Vietnamese food too and am happy slumming it for good tacos.
Ok, not in ABQ or Santa Fe, but adjacent: Rancho de Chimayo was always a favorite. Plus, it’s very beautiful. Is it still as good as it used to be?
Rancho de Chimayo is still excellent, in fact they just won a 2016 America’s Classics award from the James Beard Foundation: http://www.ranchodechimayo.com/news-reviews/
Between the great food, the beautiful drive (45 minutes north of Santa Fe), and the neighboring Santuario de Chimayo (important Catholic holy site with a slightly bizarre amalgam of Catholic and much older local religions) make it a mainstay day trip on which we take nearly all of our out of town guests.
Yep and a good excuse to re-read the New Mexico Trilogy.
I’ve spent weekends at the Inn. Wonderful!
I’m waiting to depart ABQ, so I thought I’d share a few notes.
Sadies on 4th - really loved the spicy salsa and fresh crispy tortilla chips. I had a combo with a tamale and a braised pork rib, the rib was meltingly tender. Good flavors but an old-school gut bomb in terms of all the cheese melted over everything.
Monica’s el Portal - lunch before going to the museum. Nice fluffy flour tortilla on the burrito, but the carne adovada was rather dry and under-seasoned.
Mary & Tito’s - another lunch, good beans in the burrito but otherwise not very special.
2000 Vietnam - had a combo bun for dinner with an assortment of really delicious meats. I would have liked more vegetables and herbs but otherwise was happy.
Karibu Cafe - weird disconnect with the manager, but really good jerk chicken wings and pretty good chicken curry. Lentils were bland.
Artichoke Cafe - finally someplace with a freaking salad on the menu! I know nothing grows in the desert, but still Ceasar salad was well executed, duck breast on farrotto with orange-cassis coulis was a highlight of the trip. Out of my frozen dessert trio the rosemary brown butter ice cream was my favorite, the red chile caramel ice cream was disappointing, and the passion fruit sorbet was too intense to eat, tasted like the pastry chef had poured a jar of Perfect Puree passion fruit concentrate into the ice cream machine.
El modelo - grabbed a few bites on the way out. Red chile chicken tamale was another highlight, but the carnitas in a brown paper bag were dry and disappointing. I guess carnitas aren’t really a NM thing, it’s all about the adovada?
And the Chocolate and Coffee fest, where I was all weekend - huge event, tons of attendees but sales did not live up to other large chocolate events I’ve been to. My booth was next to Ohori Coffee, who kept me awake yesterday with their nice strong pour-over. I was kind of surprised that there were so few higher-end chocolatiers (maybe four or five of us?) but I guess it is just a different market from Seattle. I don’t know if I’ll come out again next year, but it was a good excuse to get out of the rain and have a mini spring break.
Thanks for following up! Next time you’re in ABQ or Santa Fe and craving a salad, check out Vinaigrette, a “salad bistro”. It’s expensive, but you do get something for your money, with most of the greens grown at the owner’s farm just north of Santa Fe and delicious homemade dressings.