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Casa de Benavidez – Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico

Casa de Benavidez, nestled under the pines on Fourth Street

There are restaurants throughout the Duke City that have seemingly always been “there.”  They’re  as much a part of the fabric of the city as the neighborhoods they serve.  Casa de Benavidez is one of those restaurants, a familiar part of the landscape on North Fourth Street, some would say an institution.  Despite the notion of permanence, this venerable treasure has, in fact, been around only since 1984–at least under its current name.

Before there was a Casa de Benavidez, there was, just a mile or so away, a tiny little eatery with only three tables and a bustling take-out business.   There was also a dream, the shared ambition of Paul and Rita Benavidez  to serve their hometown with the food they loved and prepared so well.  At El Mexicano, a diminutive eatery they operated with their children, that dream began the transformation from monochromatic to technicolor with every one of their trademarked sopaipilla burgers sold.

One of several dining rooms at Casa de Benavidez

While the family was selling more and more sopaipilla burgers, they were also stockpiling used restaurant equipment in hope and anticipation of an expansion that would allow them to more fully realize their dreams.  Not far from their diminutive digs, Paul found a nearly 100-year-old two-story territorial style adobe home with a half-finished waterfall just south of the structure.  Quickly consummating the sale of the home, the Benavidez family moved out of their old location into the sprawling edifice in just one day.  The rest, as the proverbial “they” say, is history.

Over time, the carryout business at the back of the home became so successful that the family expanded their operation to include a full-service restaurant in the front of the house.  The restaurant was rechristened “Casa de Benavidez,” and the dream culminated with a commodious restaurant offering an expansive menu featuring traditional New Mexican and Mexican food in elegantly appointed interior dining rooms and exterior surroundings that include lush gardens, a coy pond teeming with life and strolling mariachis.

Chips and salsa at Casa de Benavidez

On the marquee, subtitled directly below the restaurant’s name, are the words “Home of the Sopaipilla Burger.”  That’s a recognition of the role played in the restaurant’s early and current successes by its unique rendition of New Mexico’s ubiquitous green chile cheeseburger.  Several other restaurants offer their own take on a sopaipilla burger, but Casa de Benavidez’s version was the very first and it remains first in the heart of its loyal patrons, some of whom order the “jumbo” sized half-pound version.

Repeat after me (to the tune of the old Big Mac jingle) — one all-beef patty, refried beans, lettuce, cheese, tomato and chile  (red, green or both) on two sopaipilla “buns.”  That’s the sopaipilla burger, still one of the most popular and celebrated items on the menu.  The sopaipillas are more dense than the puffed-up sopaipillas on which New Mexicans love honey.  They’re formidable enough not to fall apart at the moistness of other ingredients, but if the chile is ladled on a bit too generously, expect your hands to be covered in the red or green stuff.

Sopaipilla Burger at Casa Benavidez

Sopaipilla Burger at Casa Benavidez (Courtesy of Sergio Salvador)

Casa de Benavidez was one of the first restaurants we visited after moving back to Albuquerque in 1996. It didn’t surprise us when this casa was the 1996 winner of KOB TV’s “Salsa Challenge.” The salsa is about medium on the piquancy scale  and has a garlicky flavor aficionados love while the red and yellow chips are unfailingly crisp and fresh. Alas, sometimes because of overflow crowds your empty salsa dish isn’t replenished as faithfully as at other New Mexican restaurants. That’s about the only short-coming in the service which tends to be friendly and attentive.  That salsa, by the way, was named Albuquerque’s fifth best salsa by Albuquerque The Magazine from among a sampling size of 130 different restaurant salsas reviewed in the September, 2012 issue.

The menu features many New Mexican standards, but it also includes “foreign” items such as  chimichangas (Tucson) and fajitas (Texas).  Breakfast is served from 9AM to 12PM on Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday.  Lunch specials are a more economical dining option than dinners. To say Casa Benavidez is one of the more pricey New Mexican restaurants  might be an understatement.  You might experience a bit of sticker shock at seeing some items approaching the nine dollar price point–and that’s just the appetizers.  The entrees are all priced in double-figures.

Tacos at Casa Benavidez

Tacos at Casa Benavidez (Courtesy of Sergio Salvador)

Perhaps the best way to experience the restaurant’s culinary wizardry is by ordering one of the four combination plates.   Combos are served with beans, rice, very special ribs and sopaipillas.  Combination plate number one features a cheesy enchilada, a taco, a crunchy chile relleno and a tamale. Of these, the real stand-out is the crunchy chile relleno whose battered texture is unlike any other we’ve had in Albuquerque.

One of the restaurant’s very best, albeit most unconventional entrees are the succulent pork short ribs: four meaty ribs on which is slathered a semi-sweet and smoky homemade sauce.  These are multi-napkin ribs, the type of which will leave a red beard on any clean-shaven face.  They’re better ribs than you’ll find at several of the Duke City’s barbecue restaurants.  That goes for the sauce, too.  You’ll find yourself dredging up excess sauce with the accompanying fries (or you can have rice).

Natillas (Courtesy of Sergio Salvador)

Natillas (Courtesy of Sergio Salvador)

On Fourth Street, facing east Casa de Benavidez is at the forefront of the Sandia Mountains.  Both seem to have an air of distinction and permanence.  Because of its longevity and community standing, the Casa de Benavidez is on the New Mexico Tourism Department’s “Culinary Treasures trail,” an initiative which honors those rare and precious family-owned-and-operated gems operating continuously since at least December 31st, 1969.  As with all the restaurants on the list, the Casa is an independent mom-and-pop restaurant which has stood the test of time to become beloved institutions in their neighborhoods and beyond.

Casa de Benavidez
8032 Fourth Street, N.W.
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM
893-3311
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 9 February 2011
# OF VISITS: 8
RATING: 18
COST: $$
BEST BET: Sopaipilla Burger, Pork Ribs, Chile Relleno, Salsa and Chips, Natillas, Sopaipilla

Casa de Benavidez on Urbanspoon

  • Virginia says:

    I’ve been eating at Casa de Benavides for years. Personally I prefer getting carry out. Significantly less expensive than the dining room. My personal favorite is their chicharone & bean burrito (red). The chicharones are nicely rendered down so that they are really crispy rather than greasy. And it seems to be one of the few places outside the South Valley where chicharones are served.

    July 10, 2010 at 11:45 PM
  • tony says:

    Good food, but rather pricey. The hostess was very rude and condesending. I probably won’t return, I would rather go to Gardunos.

    October 17, 2010 at 4:22 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Dittos Virginia!! re CdB’s fair priced take-out as well as chicharones/beans con rojo…my exception being in a ‘sopa’…LOL.

    Eeeh Tony….Indeed a tad pricey but anymore so (?) than El P especially if one is in the mood for patio dining that both of these have the very best, IMHO, i.e. not overlooking a parking lot. Tastewise, I prefer and think CdB has it over El P, altho I can endure making El P’s “1st of the Week Happy Hour” of Complimentary Tacos etc. my dining fulfillment with a Margarita once in awhile….LOL

    October 17, 2010 at 6:02 PM
  • tim says:

    I agree, kind of pricey in main dining room ..I only get carry out ,..beef tacos , combo burrito (green ), cheese enchiladas plate (red).. the red is hotter !

    weekdays in the rear carryout, they have a great deal,, Huevos Rancheros for $4.95 .. i get over easy /green .. I have found no better breakfast in north valley

    January 24, 2011 at 5:03 PM
  • Melissa Anglada says:

    I have been a fan of Casa de Benavidez for a few years now. I bartended there as well for a months. Servers rarely “love” the food from a restaurant after they’ve seen how its made, or catered every day for long periods of time and this is one restaurant that will never get old. Its a HUGE restaurant with a GREAT patio, a cozy warm feel, and is a family owned and operated joint in the north valley. I am a huge fan of their carne adovada and usually one of get my personal favorites: Huevos Grande (Carne Adovada) Xmas style, Sopa Burger, and Enchiladas. I think they have the best red chile and green chile in town! The food is great and well worth the price but it is not a restaurant most can afford to eat at regularly:( Casa de Benavidez will always have my vote! Great margaritas as well:)

    February 15, 2011 at 9:55 AM
  • Holly says:

    I love Casa de Benevidez carryout. My favorites are the chicharrone burrito with the oh-so-nicely hot green chile and the chunky beef burrito. I’m not that much of a chicken person, but my grown son is and really likes their chicken enchilada dinner and stuffed chicken sopapillas. The dining room food isn’t any priced any higher than El Pinto and is so much better.

    February 26, 2011 at 5:03 AM
  • Brant says:

    The draft beer was flat, the bartender didn’t notice. The root beer was flat, the waitress didn’t notice. The food was good but pricy, the food was hot! (That’s good) the sopapillas were the least greasiest I have ever had. The wait staff was very inexperienced and we could hear all the comments in the kitchen; “will this night ever be over!”

    September 12, 2011 at 8:21 PM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    While waiting for my Stuffed Sopa con Chicharones/Beans con Rojo and onions ‘out-the-back-door’, I checked out their old poster of restaurant matchbook covers. T’was kinda like a Year End Auld Lang Syne. First off, do they even make matchbooks anymore like the distinctive shaped ‘clock’ used by High Noon? Anyone remember where Lil’s was for ‘fine dining’? I’m “seeing” entering from the westside of Winrock…maybe Japanese Kitchen replaced it? Also miss Nicole’s in the Marriot (on Louisiana) for both its fine dining Service and Entrees. (Anybody glad the more recent trend of ‘service’ where Jimmy or Mary Jo introduce themselves by sitting down on top of your lap has pretty much Petered out? BTW, please ‘call’ WaitStaff on ‘pushing’ their tip with “Do you want change?’ when you lay out a $20 for a 13 dollar tab.)

    Looks like a nonrestaurant is now going into the recent neighborhood bar-type place next to Kelly’s on Coors by Irvine. Wasn’t that originally City Lights as on the match cover when it opened ‘way out there’ by itself while offering one of the city’s first dining-with-a-view experiences?

    Tho not a matchbook on this jag, the rambling, ‘always’ a line, all-yu-can-eat fried fish or chicken by the bank of fireplaces in Cedar Crest comes to mind……Bella Vista! “Best” Bang for your Buck…LOL! Eh…ya went for ‘the fun of it’.

    Of more recent vintage and lastly, there was a place for ‘dining’ kinda in the back of the NE corner of Coors/Corrales-528. If not named Eliot’s as the sign still says on the building, what was the name? In the summer, t’was even nice…actually unique….to just amble over to sip magaritas on the patio with your ‘squeeze’ while watching wildlife in the vegetation which is now a high-end housing development, er…compound.

    BTW, Hector Pimentel strums classically on the weekend ‘in the front’ of CdB. For Newbies, he’s of the local family which is the last of the handcrafted, classic guitar makers in the world. Not many guitars, if any, are featured as a State Symbol. Got a teen with some friends interested in the guitar? Call Pimentel’s for a ‘show n tell tour’ of this rich ABQ asset http://www.pimentelguitars.com/ Ever see 60 to 70 guitarists playing at once? Jan. 7th, 11:15 am, go to Popejoy for the presentation of the ‘juried’ ensemble for guitars of the All-State Music extravaganza http://www.nmmea.com/
    After, you might try Saggio’s to be youthfully funky! http://nmgastronome.com/?p=382 LOL
    “Chow!”

    December 24, 2011 at 12:42 PM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Roberto

      You are a font of knowledge with a memory eclipsing that of the Cray computer on your desk. It’s no wonder you have a legion of groupies.

      The poster you referenced was a work of pure marketing genius–and it was created for a good cause. In 1994, a splashy poster along with a matching sweatshirt and t-shirt debuted which depicted matchbooks (almost as rare today as your graphite pencil) from restaurants throughout the Duke City. The beneficiary of the poster was the Roadrunner Food Bank which received a percentage of the proceeds of the sale. A total of 49 different restaurants participated. The back of the poster listed them all alphabetically along with their addresses, phone numbers and slogans. The posters sold for $15 and the sweatshirts for $36. I kick myself for giving mine away years ago.

      Lil’s was located at the old Amfac Hotel on Yale, S.E. Nicole’s was one of the city’s best restaurants for years back when you could get a fantastic meal at the Hyatt (remember their souffle?). You’re spot-on about the location of the City Lights which I believe was replaced by Andre West. Andre (Ditty) had a unisex term for his wait staff, calling them “waitrons.” I don’t believe he ever allowed his waitrons to violate your personal space. After years of one restaurant or another occupying that storied location, I believe a dentist (or perhaps optometrist) will soon be taking over the space.

      The Bella Vista was a local legend, an expansive eating adventure offering surprisingly good fried chicken, mountains of spaghetti and fried fish a plenty.

      If Eliot has indeed gone home, it’s news to me.

      Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

      Gil

      December 26, 2011 at 5:00 PM
  • Roland says:

    BOTVOLR, Wasn’t the Cooperage West on the corner of Coors/Corrales at one time? I seem to remember eating there a few times in the 80′s(?), maybe. Am not totally sure about this, but remember something like that…

    December 26, 2011 at 7:10 PM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Roland: Cooperage West! Yes…that tugged at my neural synapses, but couldn’t bring it into focus till I confirmed it with a real nice gal at the original on Lomas!!! Whoa, they have owned other places including Seagull St. which I now see Gil previously noted. Alas, we lamented what went down re Seagull St. ala the challenges that Locals face. (She’d responded she’d wished she had heard of Ryan’s Breakin the Chain’s efforts.) In any event, I’ve put The Cooperage on my list as a re-visit per enjoying it years ago living out that way (which sloth, admittedly, has interfered with re-visits). Besides good food, I’d like to try to go face-to-face with the gal to selfishly bug them some more to reconsider taking back the old spot that, per checking it out a few years ago, had been shuttered except for a bar. (Hey Roland, weren’t their booths a one-step-up into type? Am pretty sure I used to chuckle at there being an haute Salad Bar given I’m choosing such a place ‘to be waited on’. ’Payback’ is today how my S-i-L begrudges eating in or hitting the (overly priced, IMHO) Melting Pot for a family gathering, cuz he has to pay to cook his own food!!!)

    Alas Gil, am not a Cray apparently; maybe am my Commodore VIC20 with its tape recorder for its memory bank. I can’t recall ever going past the Rio Grande Yatch Club to get to “a” Lil’s in the AMFAC/ABQ Grand(?)/Wyndham/Sheraton altho an obit I found confirms your phenom recall. I did however run across a guy at Winrock Management who IDed my memory from his days as a cop, as Diamond Jim’s (prior to Japanese Kitchen’s initial location). Aha, guess I had my ancient wires crossed with the décor of Diamond Lil’s of Sam’s Town on Boulder Hgwy in Las Vegas.

    Never had the souffle at your Hyatt’s Nicole’s. A desk clerk at the Louisiana Marriott did affirm MY….LOL…Nicole’s being at that Marriott however, as well as it being known as Herbs and Roses.

    Indeed, sounds like the poster was a nice fundraising venture on behalf of the Roadrunner Food Bank which I missed per being in Vegas at the time. That recalls that some company used to make caricature maps of cities highlighting ‘hot’ spots in towns. Speaking of which, didn’t someone come out with a ABQ trivia board game in the past?
    “Chow!”

    December 29, 2011 at 11:18 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    OMG…Our Enchanted evening times can be so tempting! Ergo, I chose the tropical-like setting of CdB s patio tonight with its mini-ponds…being tied for the tops of patios hereabouts as it is IMHO…instead of my usual out-the-back-door Chicharonnes/Beans Stuffed Sopaipilla con Roja. My food/magaritas/service were as expected, but indeed, Gil s recently noted use of points elsewhere for experiential factors needs a point or so here. Even if you sit inside by the patio window, its a treat for a Village of Los Ranchos offering. “Chow!”

    May 28, 2012 at 7:24 PM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Reliability: Recent teases of Spring-like weather (well sin los vientos del diablo) have brought itches for dining on a great patio and as such, this past cloudy Saturday I hankered for at least CdB’s “indoor” one and my stuffed sopapilla con crispy chicharones/beans/red…albeit more per the rice/beans on the side versus “out the back door”. Even without the full lushness of spring/summer, the waterfalls beckon. Just sitting sipping a Margarita and being enchanted wondering what the dance of the various fish is all about is well worth the price…a mental massage session if you will…with a meal to boot and Hector Pimental continues. Speaking of The Dance, I had not betrayed The Lobos as I was DVRing the game…Woof, Woof, Woof. “Chow!”

    March 18, 2013 at 12:16 PM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    OMG…just had my Chicharones con beans con red chile as a stuffed Sopapilla, which for ten(?) years has been consistently Great “out the back door at CdeB’s per “Chichas” size and crispiness!
    Tonight, I added some of those Vidalia onions I noted I picked up at Joe’s Pasta that I diced. I wanna tell ya Folks of what Y’all are missing.
    Ya say ya hate onions per tears they bring? Try this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1FfZiiK-I4
    “Chow!”

    May 13, 2013 at 8:27 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Daughter and I met up after an annual cemetery remembrance visit in ABQ. Stopped at CdB’s for lunch with Christy serving…EEEk I’ve known her now for 10 years since she worked out-the-back door and she is “fill-in-the-blank” as ever…i.e. where do you find such WaitStaff!!!!???. CdB is soooo lucky that many Primo places in town haven’t stolen her away!!!!
    Sat again (albeit indoors) by the lush ponding area. Changed gears and had the Breakfast Burrito con chicharones with Red!!! While I’m typically prone to Green in most instances, THAT is sooo GOOD RED!!! Daughter had “my” Stuffed Sopa con Chicharrones. Hint! Whoa…just found out- If you don’t want your SO, Espousa, M-i-L blabbin away, that is whatcha get them!
    Having Familia or need a place for workmates to gather in the Christmas or Holiday Spirit? Drop in to just check it out as a possibility as well!

    December 4, 2013 at 5:59 PM

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