El Pinto – Albuquerque, New Mexico

El Pinto, one of the most capacious restaurants in New Mexico

For almost any other restaurant in New Mexico (or anywhere else for that matter), 2015 would be considered a banner year, an auspicious annum, the type of year for which every restaurateur aspires.  For Albuquerque’s El Pinto, however, 2015 could be considered just another year in which praise and recognition–local and national–seem to be heaped on in abundance.  It’s probably safe to say El Pinto is the most heralded and acclaimed dining establishment in the Land of Enchantment. Terms such as “institution,” “paragon” and “iconic” have been used to describe the sprawling restaurant at the terminus of 4th Street.  El Pinto, in fact, started 2015 off by being declared New Mexico’s “most iconic restaurant.”

That distinction was accorded by Thrillist, an online presence “obsessed with everything that’s worth caring about in food, drink.”   Thrillist is unabashed about its love of El Pinto, also naming it one of the “best Mexican restaurants in America.”  2015 also saw filming begin for a potential reality show featuring the restaurant and its energetic owners, the “iconic” Thomas twins who want the reality show to “be a platform for the “authentic portrayal of the restaurant, the Albuquerque community and New Mexico’s food and culture.”  El Pinto was also in the national spotlight in September when the FYI Network aired a program called “Big Kitchens.”  In an episode entitled “Massive New Mexican,” the program noted that El Pinto’s “massive kitchen can feed up to three thousand people a night” and anointed El Pinto as “the most popular chile restaurant in America.” The program followed twin brothers John and Jim Thomas as they lead their kitchen team as they prepare three tons of food every night.

El Pinto’s verdant patio on an unseasonably warm October

El Pinto’s fame has long extended far beyond the Land of Enchantment and its credibility as a purveyor of New Mexico chile is well-established. It’s the site at which the competing teams squaring off in the New Mexico Bowl hold a chile cooking competition. It’s a wonderful venue for such events, not only because of its capacious space, but its expertise in the hospitality arena. Frankly no one does it better. El Pinto has also long been a favorite host of corporate team-building, both formal and informal. Large tables of nattily attired corporate executives entertaining their clients at El Pinto is commonplace.

El Pinto also seems to be the de facto restaurant of choice for New Mexican and Mexican food related television programming. In a 2006 Food Network program called “The Secret Life of Fiery Foods,” host Jim O’Connor noted El Pinto as “a restaurant famous for its fiery foods” as he reveled in sampling various dishes with New Mexico’s Dave DeWitt, publisher of Fiery Foods magazine and renown chile expert. More recently, in 2010 “everyman” host Bobby Bognar and a History Channel crew visited El Pinto to film an episode on Mexican food for the cable network’s Food Tech show.

The bar and lounge area

In February, 2006, The Wall Street Journal embarked on a quest for the perfect nachos.  Taking recommendations from several highly credentialed chefs and other chile cognoscenti, the Journal visited restaurants anointed by those sages and compiled an exclusive list showcasing the fifteen best nachos in America.  El Pinto’s nachos were among them.  The Journal described El Pinto’s nachos as “built like lasagna, one layer at a time, so no chip is cheeseless: first chips, then cheese (Cheddar and Monterrey Jack), until there’s a pyramid topped with sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, chicken (or beef or pork) and green chili sauce.”

Alas, no “good deed” goes unpunished.  El Pinto and its celebrated nachos became fodder for the Albuquerque Journal‘s brilliant (sadly now retired) columnist Leslie Linthicum when she compiled her hilarious “Cowchip Awards” for 2006.   The Cowchip Awards, a compilation of the foibles and foul-ups which make the news during the course of a year, tend to skew heavily toward politicians and criminals (not necessarily mutually exclusive).  El Pinto’s transgression was touting its nachos (as the menu still does as of October, 2015)  as the best in America because they were listed first among the honorees.  It turns out the nachos were listed in alphabetical order.  As Leslie noted it “pays to start with an “E.””

El Pinto's famous nachos, the best in America according to the Wall Street Journal.

El Pinto’s famous nachos, some of the very best in America according to the Wall Street Journal.

6 April 2007: Not mentioned in the Journal’s review is the sheer physical magnitude of the nachos.  The nachos are served in a platter big enough for the Thanksgiving turkey and they’re stacked mountain high: tostadas topped with Cheddar and  Monterrey Jack cheese, pinto beans, guacamole, sour cream, El Pinto’s green chile and fresh-cut jalapenos (you can also add beef, chicken or pork for a fee).  According to the menu, the nacho platter serves four, but even four Lobo football players might cry “no mas” after lustily consuming their fill.  Perhaps the only thing at El Pinto’s nearly as sizable as the nachos is the restaurant itself.

Not only is El Pinto arguably New Mexico’s most famous restaurant, it’s the body-building behemoth in a sandbox of 98-pound weaklings–easily the most commodious restaurants in New Mexico with seating for over 1,000 diners in several dining rooms as well as an expansive hacienda-style patio area for seasonal dining.  With all the ground they have to cover, rarely do the strolling mariachis ever make it to the same dining room twice an evening (especially if the tipping at one dining room is generous).  Despite its expanse, the restaurant operates with seemingly synchronized efficiency, the wait staff well practiced in serving large crowds.  Long waits are virtually non-existent.

Chips and Salsa

Nestled among centuries-old cottonwood trees, El Pinto also has one of the most attractive restaurant settings in the state.  The rambling walled garden is shaded by stately trees and trumpet vines and is adorned with roses. Murmurations of intrepid starlings take refuge among the trees but as soon as a patio table is vacated, they leave their lofty perches and scavenge for left-overs.  Once sated, they slake their thirsts out of the continuously recirculating multi-level fountains.  It’s feathered entertainment while you dine. (Just in case the environmental department reads this, we’re not talking Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds here, just a few starlings.)

The restaurant’s interior is also impressive with waterfalls cascading down impressive rockscapes, rivulets creating a relaxing cadence. The lounge and the restaurant’s garden room are akin to an oasis in the desert with lush foliage and hanging plants helping to create a relaxing verdant milieu.  Traditional trappings abound in nearly every corner and walls are adorned with beautiful art pieces.  Framed photographs of the glitterati who have dined at El Pinto can be seen on walls throughout the restaurant, in many cases glad-handing with the restaurant’s affable owners (local celebrities themselves).

The Green Chile Queso Burger with a side of fries and ramekin of guacamole

El Pinto was launched by Hatch, New Mexico natives Jack and Consuelo Thomas in 1962 using recipes perfected by Connie’s grandmother Josephina Chavez-Griggs.   The Griggs restaurant legacy spans much of the Rio Grande corridor with family members owning or having owned and operated restaurants in El Paso and the Las Cruces area (including the world-famous La Posta de Mesilla). In 1989, twin brothers John and Jim Thomas bought El Pinto from their parents, expanding it as their customer base grew.

Today, El Pinto’s customer base includes both political dignitaries (including “Dubya,” Sarah Palin and Barack Obama) and Hollywood glitterati (including Pamela Anderson and Mel Gibson), but it’s the local patrons who remain steadfastly loyal.  Serving more than a quarter of a million diners a year, El Pinto’s kitchen is 5,000 square-feet of grills and kitchen space with a staff of a hundred preparing one ton of food a night.  When they want to impress out-of-town guests, locals invariably bring them to El Pinto and wow them with the ambiance.  Locals also know that anything more piquant than Chef Boyardee sauce is beyond the heat tolerance of most out-of-towners and El Pinto’s serves chile some locals consider “anglicized,” meaning it doesn’t pack enough heat to intimidate true New Mexicans.

Carne Asada Skillet, a brunch option

The Food Tech program highlighted the painstaking process of making and bottling salsa, showcasing El Pinto’s famous brand.  The restaurant’s salsa, while not the most piquant salsa in town, is among the Duke City’s most flavorful and best of all, it’s available at just about every grocery store in the Albuquerque area.  During ESPN Sports Center’s “50 States in 50 Days” visit to El Pinto in August, 2005, anchor extraordinaire Linda Cohn called El Pinto’s salsa “the best in the nation.” That salsa, and in fact, several items on the El Pinto menu, are held in especially high esteem by readers of Albuquerque The Magazine.  In its September, 2012 edition, Albuquerque The Magazine named the salsa at El Pinto the eighth best in Albuquerque from among 130 salsas sampled throughout the city.

In its annual “best of the city” awards issue for 2010, the magazine’s readers indicated the city’s best green chile and guacamole emanate from El Pinto.  The green chile is a “heritage crop version of an archived seed.”  El Pinto handles that chile from “farm to plate,” going through a whopping 300-400 tons of chile per year (or about 4,000 cases a day).  The guacamole is made from California-grown Haas avocados at their prime of buttery ripeness.  It’s a simple guacamole crafted with salt, fresh onion, and the restaurant’s salsa.

Green Chile Sausage Croissant

Albuquerque The Magazine readers have selected El Pinto as the Duke City’s very best New Mexican restaurant on several occasions.  In 2010, it was a runner-up in that category as were the restaurant’s chips and salsa, red chile, tacos, sopaipillas and wait staff.  Not surprisingly, El Pinto was also voted Albuquerque’s best restaurant for patio dining.  No slouch in the adult beverages department, its margaritas were also a runner-up for best of the city honors.  Lots of love was also imparted to El Pinto by readers of The Alibi during that publication’s 2010 “best of” edition.  The Alibi‘s readers gave El Pinto the nod in the categories of “best place to take out-of-town guests,” “best atmosphere,” and “best outdoor dining, but the restaurant was only bridesmaid in a few categories actually related to food.

As the feedback section for this review attests, readers of Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog seem to have a different opinion of El Pinto than the teeming masses who congregate frequently at the “peoples’ choice” restaurant.  Years have proven my readers to be a discerning lot not prone to hyperbole (mine or anyone else’s) or popular opinion.  My own opinion of El Pinto is in the camp of those discriminating dissenters who read my reviews.  Multitudinous visits over the years haven’t won me over.  Despite the festive and fun atmosphere, for me it’s all about the food and that’s where El Pinto doesn’t quite measure up to so many other New Mexican favorites.

Sopaipillas

Attribute some of that to me being a purist weaned on chile piquant enough to put whiskers on a toddler’s face.  I have tremendous respect for the meticulous attention to detail paid by El Pinto to its time-honored and traditional heritage and I marvel at the efficiency of its operation, but have been, time after time, underwhelmed by the restaurant’s culinary offerings–and it’s not just the piquancy factor.  During a recent visit, a corporate event, an otherwise potentially very good green chile was plated with boiled tomatoes that wholly detracted from the chile’s native sweetness.  The con queso was thickened by either flour or corn starch to the point that the queso and chile were secondary in the dish’s flavor profile.

1 November 2011: My favorite entree on El Pinto’s menu is the green chile queso burger.   When I order green chile cheeseburgers instead of New Mexican food at a New Mexican restaurant, it’s not necessarily an indication that the green chile cheeseburger is that good.  More than likely, it’s an indication that I’m tired of being disappointed by more conventional New Mexican entrees.  In the case of the green chile queso burger, it actually is pretty good–a charbroiled eight-ounce ground chuck patty smothered with blended queso, “hot” green chile, sweet onion pickled relish, bibbed lettuce and tomato served with a wheat or white bun.

Levante

What’s not to like about that burger? Well, if you’re prone to Felix Unger standards of cleanliness, you might not like the fact that this is a messy burger with the unctuous, oozing queso dripping  copiously onto your hands.  Otherwise, it’s quite good.  The charbroiled beef, prepared at medium-well unless otherwise requested, is excellent and the marriage of green chile and sweet onion pickled relish establishes a unique flavor profile that accentuates both the sweetness and the piquancy (slight, despite the menu’s claim that “hot” chile is used on this burger) of the chile.  This is a burger I’ll order again…and again.

Red chile ribs are considered El Pinto’s signature dish on the strength of selling more than 25,000 plates (40,000 pounds of pork) of them per year.  Five-hundred buckets of marinade per year are extracted from chile every year just for these succulent pork ribs.  The ribs are seared to impart a smoky flavor, seasoned lightly then smothered in the red chile marinade and cooked in an oven for about six hours.  Dave DeWitt calls them “the best ribs in the world!” while founding Friends of Gil (FOG) member Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos is campaigning to become their official publicist (check out his comments below).

18 October 2015: Then there’s the dessert tray which includes flan, an empanada with ice cream and other sweet tooth treats sure to please anyone.  The restaurant’s most popular dessert is a post-prandial offering called the Levante (homemade biscochitos soaked in Patron XO Cafe, Kahlua brandy and coffee layered with mascarpone cheese, a light whipped cream and topped with shaved chocolate spiked with red chile).  It’s essentially a New Mexican tiramisu.  El Pinto sells more than 10,000 Levantes per year, a number made doubly impressive considering each sweet slab serves two to four people.  My verdict–cloying, rich and in need of more emboldening chile.

In its annual Food & Wine issue for 2012, Albuquerque The Magazine awarded El Pinto a Hot Plate Award signifying the selection of its blue corn blueberry pancakes as one of the “most interesting, special and tasty dishes around.”  Considering the thousands of potential selections, to be singled out is quite an honor.  Alas, the blue corn blueberry pancakes are available for less than four hours a week (10:30AM to 2PM on Sunday).  If something sweet won’t sate you on a Sunday morning, the brunch menu has a number of items with a more piquant flavor profile.

18 October 2015: Among the more interesting is a green chile sausage croissant, a lightly-browned croissant served with homemade green chile sausage, fresh scrambled organic Taos eggs and spicy ghost pepper Jack cheese served with papitas.  On paper there are two potentially incendiary ingredients on this dish–the green chile sausage and the ghost pepper Jack cheese, but because the cheese is melted on the sausage, we suspect the intense heat comes from the cheese.  When it comes to Scoville units, ghost peppers have among the most potent piquancy of any pepper in the world.  Because it’s not polite to use a fire extinguisher, those of us with delicate constitutions will have to hope the slightly sweet croissant and savory scrambled eggs can quell the heat enough for us to finish this entree. 

18 October 2015:  Skillet dishes have been a de rigueur brunch offering since at least the 1970s.  El Pinto’s brunch menu offers its own take on this popular dish, a carne asada skillet plate (papitas, peppers and onions with sliced, marinated and grilled strip steak served with red or green chile and two Taos Farms all-natural free-range eggs any style) with a flour tortilla on the side. By and large, my Kim whose carnivorous inclinations far surpass mine, enjoyed the carne asada save for prominent fatty ends.  The peppers and onions are grilled nicely and the papitas border on the “almost too salty” quality that defines the best papitas.

El Pinto 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, El Pinto is an independent mom-and-pop restaurant which has stood the test of time to become beloved institutions in their neighborhoods and beyond.  In El Pinto’s case, that’s far beyond!

El Pinto
10500 4th Street, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 898-1771
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 18 October 2015
# OF VISITS: 13
RATING: 15
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Queso Burger, Nachos, Salsa & Chips, Sopaipillas, Levante

El Pinto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

52 comments

  • My children and I took my lovely wife to El Pinto today for Mother’s Day.
    We had a wonderful experience. Even though it was packed (naturally), we were seated immediately, served promptly and accurately, and the food was great. Kimber and both had the NM Eggs Benedict, my son had the kids beef burrito, and my daughter had the blue corn blueberry and walnut pancakes. All great.
    I’ve lived here most of my life, and I still don’t understand the indifference or negativity El Pinto gets. I’ve dined here between 50-100 times over my lifetime, and have never had a bad experience.

    • Saul

      After eight or nine margarita’s, El Pinto’s food is actually pretty good.

    • BOTVOLR

      Kudo’s Ryan for such an endorsement, altho the place certainly doesn’t seem to need the business! If nothing else per the varying composition of palates (I prefer Pepsi over Coke; some of us are oblivious to the smelly underarm taste of cumin and others the soapiness of cilantro due to lacking the olfactory-receptor genes, called OR6A2, that pick up on the smell of aldehyde chemicals. Aldehyde chemicals are found in both cilantro and soap.), one has to give some appreciation to El P having the best patio in town to loll on a mid-afternoon reading the Sunday Journal while sipping a good Margarita and munching chips n salsa….IMHO!
      – Lest you haven’t read my other blatherings herein: “Ya gotta have”….the half rack of Red Chile Ribs being the BBQ guru that you claim. While only one other place in town makes them as far as I know and albeit only on occasion, they appear to just slather them with red chile, whereas El P’s are BBQed, slathered, and THEN oven baked to be falling off the bone while accompanied by a baked potato and a dinner plate, sized salad garnished with avocado! While I too can complain about El P’s prices, I appreciate them raising them incrementally with the Consumer Price Index vs a jolting sticker shock increase as many places do. (Elsewise, I think we as a populace, have a bias that New Mexican and Chinese food should somehow always remain the same and as cheap. (RE their price of Margaritas: Thank goodness the Sunday Journal has drastically shrunk in size so one Margarita will cover it!)
      – BTW RE your Eggs Benedict: did you know that El P recently built a “free range” space out back for over 200 chickens for your eggs? http://tinyurl.com/hf79rza Say…per tastefulness: can you explain to me how they are putting out 25,000 16oz jars of salsa PER DAY to sell nationally? Certainly they don’t have these Folks http://tinyurl.com/mpl394b hawking them everyday?!
      “Chow!”

  • BOTVOLR

    Well, whatever…LOL….I can only lead a burro to water, but can’t make her/him drink….LOL

    Once again let me note a great (time limited) deal IMHO. Pay $15 and get $30 worth of food! For me, I highly recommend a 1/2 rack of Red Chile Ribs (con Margarita) ala https://www.elpinto.com/deals/ No one has ever pointed out a better rack!

    While I am aware of “concerns” Foggers have about the rest of the menu and per price, let me note maybe this new Chef http://tinyurl.com/jqa7sm7 may make a difference given his background experience. NO, I cannot attest to anything new and different.
    Salud!

  • BOTVOLR

    Well Gee Golly and Darn Whiz, it’s just been about a year since I last commented.

    Whoa, I can’t help but to think that with this great weather, several Folks must be getting an itch to travel and who else but National Geographics can tell us where to go and what to eat!!! In this case, right in our own back yard when scroll down http://tinyurl.com/hlkxour !!!! If ya can’t trust me and National Geographic, who can ya trust!!!! Too Funny!
    “Chow!”

    • FGFABQ

      To even think that a restaurant seating 1000 diners can produce excellent plates of food seems ludicrous. Like being the best military mess hall serving tons of SOS, the affectionate name for Chipped Beef.
      If National Geo thinks that M&T’s chile rellenos is their signature dish my guess is that no one from the publication has visited the place.
      In re-reading comments made previously it seems like unless Chef Marc Q can’t turn it around with his exceptional talents the 15 rating seems to be their upper limit. Indeed, it’s still a one trick pony served in a nice surroundings, like lipstick on a pig. Like their nachos, big and costly is big not good.
      And yes, I have eaten there.

  • Art

    Very average food at ridiculous prices. Great atmosphere but sadly the owners believe their own hype

  • Suffers from the hype

    I think El Pinto is a fine restaurant. The problem is that with all the hype (which I believe drove drove up the prices), you expect an EXCEPTIONAL restaurant. Thier lunch buffet is adequate as is their usual fare. However, at the prices they charge and with all the praise they get, adequate is not acceptable.

    I think a rating of 18 or 19 for the food is about right, but at the price point and with all the hype, the food should be a 23 or higher. Therefore, I agree with the sentiment that 15 is about right.

    I notice I tend to enjoy my experience and my food at El Pinto a lot more when someone else picks the place and especially when that someone pays :-)!

  • Michael

    It’s average with the cost of cheese enchiladas topped with a couple of eggs at 20 dollars. I’ve been there a few times for dinner, lunch and a wedding. Sometimes its better than average but really there are better places to eat without the long drive. A 15 rating is about right.

  • BOTVOLR

    Oh Pshaw Schuy and FGFABQ! A little ribbing…..Ha ha! Speaking of which, I guess I’d include Gil in that as I read through his most salutary-like and most lengthy review wherein I’m aghast it all ends with a rating of 15 (in contrast to the opinings of those “Celebs” quoted…albeit as naive as they might be on NM dishes)…Too Funny! I must confess I have not sampled many other offerings; those that I have, I’ve not found any more extraordinary than most, I find around town…e.g. see next Comment re Papa Felipe’s which has a significantly higher rating!
    Bottom line per El P’s: Reading between the lines, I hope I’m getting closer to maybe having him (and others?) meet up with me there to chew-the-bone over platters of the infamous Red Chile Ribs!!!!
    (PS RE the PBR dig: I’m thinking of a Tat: http://tinyurl.com/pbjjgey but Geesh, sans the piercings and lobe whatevers!)

  • FGFABQ

    He must be bulimic, the guy weights 108 lbs loaded with PBR.

  • Schuyler

    25,000 pounds of ribs a year? I knew Bob of the Village People liked those ribs, but that’s ridiculous.

  • BOTVOLR

    Ya know, this http://tinyurl.com/mxjpqgu (The 21 Best Mexican Restaurants in the US) is a bit dated, but it is still less than a year old and, while El P presents itself as a NEW Mexican restaurant, hope it adds some validation to what I badger Y’all about trying: The Red Chile Ribs (1/2 an order) especially on this nebulous day which no one but beer distributors know why it is celebrated…i.e. an excuse to promote beer sales between St. Paddys Day and The 4th! Viva Cinco de Mayo! Salud!

  • BOTVOLR

    Whoa…last night used one of this year’s Deals (30 bucks of offerings for 15 prepaid bucks!!!) to once again delight in a 1/2 rack of Red Chile Ribs!!! con stuffed-topped baked potato preceded by a bountiful salad ladened with (4) out-of-the-skin wedgies of avocado along with chunky Blue Cheese with a margarita on the Fiesta Patio (enclosed for the season!). The Deal is still available for a few more days!!! at http://www.elpinto.com/deals/
    – Yo…last night they were ‘shooting’ for the Twins, the owners, upcoming reality show, of recounting the restaurant’s development and their Chile Products. The Enchanting Desiree (the Selma/Frida, IMHO, doppelganger) offered me a walk-on which, per my shy nature, I declined. Besides self promotion, The Twins are reportedly also trying to promote New Mexico as a tourist destination, which obviously means they are supporting other local businesses. Say, did you know El P, a locally owned, family, small business, albeit employing about 200, has only been around for the past 52 years!!! (despite detractors) and is one of the largest New Mexican restaurants in the country? Oh & Yes, the ribs were mucho sabrosa and estaban cayendo del hueso (tasty and falling off the bone) as usual!!!
    (As an aside: Aaargh…I noted they jacked up the price by 50 cents!!!! Alas, Kudos tho, that it was aligned with the annual Consumer Price Index which I think is a more reasonable practice to do annually than “sticker shock” that other Folks are prone to do by forestalling and “making” up for “loses”. On the other hand, I find it highly offensive that the new business manager makes 18% as the lowest of 3 suggested ‘gratuities’ listed, for one’s convenience, on one’s bill .)

  • BOTVOLR

    Seriously??? Has my ‘taste’ opinions herein fallen into such disrepute I can’t “give” Y’all 15 bucks* ala (or ‘per’) a deal to try a dish (& e.g. with a margarita…) of a 1/2 (at least) rack of Red Chile Ribs I exquisitely luxuriated upon once again** last eve***?

    *Looks like only a few days left http://www.elpinto.com/deals/ I’ll even meet ya there to go Mano a Mano to hear your displeasure!!
    ** Please… see previous Comment(s) above.
    *** Whoa…I lucked out as the enchanting Desiree (aka Selma/Frida)whom I haven’t seen in months, happened by to check on my dining pleasure.

    Lo, I managed to save 3-4 ribs and some papitas for tonight which I’ll ravage with a side serving from a can of Pork n Beans along with an English muffin slathered in butter, which I’ll spice up the former with some ketchup I’ve scrounged from Lota Burger!
    Well, off to get me some more El P coupons!!!
    “Chow!”

  • BOTVOLR

    Pardon…seems like a deal I can’t pass up.
    Lo, I know peoples’ opinions of El Pinto offerings to which I agree a lot. However, no one has challenged my Opines of El Pinto’s uniquely Red Chile Ribs, i.e. not just slathered with a liquidy red chile sauce, but grilled, marinated overnight, and baked in! http://tinyurl.com/lqcvxoq EEk! where else can ya get ’em? In addition, no has taken exception to their “rooms” nor especially their patios not being premier in “ABQ” and especially the Fiesta Patio being The Best, which can currently be enjoyed enclosed in during these “untepid” months. Service? I’ve never had the opportunity to flaw their crew.
    As such, I’m clueing Y’all into a fairly decent, IMHO, offering of this Local establishment: 15 bucks gets you a 30 buck certificate…just enough for a house margarita (expensive as it is) with a plentiful 1/2 rack of Red Chile Ribs (so anyone can dis me) which includes a baked potato and a generous and varied (i.e. who includes avocado slices nowadays?) salad..there are options to the sides as well.)
    (Eh! they’re even ‘sponsoring’ a bit of The Olympics!)
    “Chow!” Go here: http://www.elpinto.com/deals/
    PS: Don’t like crowds? Maybe you may not find them, given they’re making the offer during the winter slow time? Besides, the offer is not available on weekends…LOl

  • Bob of The Village of Los Ranchos

    Reliability/Consistency feedback re 1/2 rack Red Chile Ribs con bountiful salad and potato: Despite the rest of the menu and NO discerning dissenters…A1 Plus!
    – Really!!! before the Best ABQ patio…The Fiesta Patio (on the right)…is shuttered for cool temps…Just Do It!
    For fun, see if Y’all can find the Frida/Hayak lookalike Honcha…Desire.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos

    Yo Schuyl & The Bruce: I would not be so bodacious nor presumptive to assume I could ‘turn’ Gil’s Blog. I would suggest that things were already well along as exemplified by this photo http://tinyurl.com/kg8hpmk of the venerable FLCCD of the Dog House in Gil‘s previous review which most Foodiphiles might describe as quite, at the least, exotic .
    — Lest it be overlooked, I appreciate that neither of Y’all took me to task for being a Foodie-winnabee per my being sated with only ½ a rack!
    — Regarding The Bruce’s cute but audacious attempt of linking Ms. Linda’s signature logo of ‘wows ya’ with ‘arouse’ ya. Might there be a tad bit of onomonopiea therein to suggest Gil’s erudite promulgations are having an effect on him?
    –Please note/review, it was not I who brought visions of Ms. Linda into the discussion!!! Apparently there is carryover from another review that is like a earwig for youz guys….LOL. Ooops, pardon: for those who do not know who this Mother OF 4 (!!!) is, please review here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2VYpjioz-w
    (Erratum: Linda is not exactly a Texan. She is an Okie from Musgokee who met her soulmate in Texas albeit he was born in Carlsbad and educated in Santa Fe! Source http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4TdmNXSLrs (Boy youz guyz make me work!!) All in All, I’d like to give Kudos to Ms. Linda and her soulmate for their entrepreneurial effort in bringing ’a few jobs’ to the NM economy and GNP the past 11 years.

  • Bruce Schor

    Oh, oh BOTVOLR,
    Busted, Bob, busted, especially when Schuyler drops the dime on you!
    No LB pun intended.
    I guess she really “wows ya!” and doesn’t wows rhyme with arouse??!!

  • Schuyler

    Bob of the commune of Los Ranchos

    Linda Beaver, conchas, bodacious tatas…it’s becoming increasingly clear you’re trying to turn Gil’s blog into a porn site…and not the food porn he likes

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos

    Aaargh!!! ya nailed me Bruce! LOL. This past year, met a LB look-a-like with that same ‘vivacious’ personality which got her honored by her school and Fidelity Investments as a most effective (PE) teacher. (Blush) I emailed The LB’s biz in its early days chastizing an ad having LB smash cars with a sledge, stating they were besmirching her Texas, lady-like demeanor. They agreed!

    Ambiance vs The Dish: If the only place I could get Scalo’s Filetto was at the Dog House (albeit their treasured funky ambiance is part of the ‘taste’ of their FLCCD), I’d get it at the DH, albeit on a plate with silverware would be required.

    Flavor/Taste: which you purposely(?) listed last!!!: Alas, mostwise I’ll usually leave that to the Gourmands…no need to repeat their nuanced analysis, but a lot of times I simply recognize I may be tastewise challenged to discern the difference between RoseMary and Thyme (is there a song coming on?) enmeshed or infused within a marinara, let alone some green chile amalgam. Certainly some Commentators have an “ideal” ratio of sweet/salty/bitter/sour taste buds con a sensitivity level http://tinyurl.com/lmwy33e that might be likened to a ‘genius’ IQ, which they have also nurtured of the years. Others of us putter along, maybe akin to color blindness let alone the person who puts their heart into singing but is abysmally tone deaf….LOL… who nevertheless enjoys the offbeat….didn’t like beets as a kid, find them a nice change nowadays; same goes for kapusta!!! Eh some of Y’all like to slurp down raw oysters, with some seemingly getting an erotic delight? Just cuz I was bred in New England, does nothing in terms of munching on scallops! ‘Fried’ calamari you can have, but get outta my way for a box of Fried Clams!

    Seriously, in terms of however ‘ambiance’ is stretched: while B&W TV gets the message across, having ‘color’ in tv, adds to the experience (ambiance) lest you Bruce still claim having a B&W one….well, for most of us. Indeed Bruce, given a choice of having you or the likes of Linda Beaver, (the venerable) Diann Anderson, Jessica Garate, the Lady of Appliance Liquidators etc. sitting at the next table on the patio at El Ps versus your illustrious/wizened self….ah, and no offense… it’s a no brainer!!!!

    55 gallon barrels: I beg to take issue!!!! Several years ago I learned that Sadie’s premixed their Margarita recipe in 5 gal ‘cans’/barrels’, simply to expedite their delivery. I think Sadie’s has been consistently recognized as offering one of the best (house) Margaritas in town…LOL! (In contrast and in terms of “Full Disclosure”, I had occasion to peek behind those walls of several of the mushrooming Micro-breweries around The Q which often include a faux pic of the end of a keg to be housing like 17 taps of beer on the front. Alas, tubes from each tap go to ONE actual Keg!!!)

    The Hordes of El P: While I too would avoid the hordes at El P which can seat 1K!!???, I’d tend to avoid an empty place there or elsewhere as they’re being ‘wistful'(?). Thus I’ll go on a non-weekend and early eve (confirm with Anja re the later). Besides helping to avoid a wait, it should surely give staff time to be more ‘attentive’ to my “order”. Hopefully waitstaff also recognize I’m trying to be ‘attentive’ to their pecuniary needs per being a single-serve…LOL
    Looking forward to your tasting the Red Chile Ribs and my comeuppance if need be!
    “Chow!”
    PS: Re Cruising: loved the exquisitely fine Yum Yums and ‘traditional’ service in their evening Dining Room befitting the fun of wearing a tux, albeit those cruises were a few…Whoa!!! OMG! 20ish… years ago, albeit still serving several hundred per ‘seating’ then.

    Comment re Linda & “Evil Father time”: I lament to forewarn, that you will eventually find that a blessing of maturing years is that vision softens (blurs) nature’s ‘alterations’. Beyond that and regarding LB, I’m sure she’ll find (shortly), let alone be able to afford, an Armani or Oscar de la Renta, silk scarf or two to wear cowgirl style with much aplomb & flair like the Texas Lady she be!!!! Oh my, that is giving me..uh…er….”visions & flutterings” as they say!

  • Bruce Schor

    BOTVOLR,
    I would be interested in a list of priorities on which your culinary ratings are based.
    Seems it has a basis in “eye candy”, is Linda Beaver in the dining room?
    Jumps to price ……. Followed by size of portions, then flirtability by sweet young wait staff, followed by flavor and taste.
    El Pinto has always reminded me of the famous Italian eatery Momma Leone’s, beloved by those folks who believe that marinara sauce should be made in 55 gallon barrels, and bread comes in Woner Bread sized loaves.. “touristy” immediately comes to mind. Dinner there reminds me of dinners on those giant behemoths of the sea, the ocean liner capable of feeding the hungry thousands of cruisers who are only satisfied by 12 eating opportunities a day.
    I did view your photo of the red ribs and they look menacing, covered by very dangerous levels of fire hot red chili stuff.
    I do like their margaritas, I just don’t feel comfortable among hordes of people.
    It’s the difference between being on a cruise ship named The Behemoth of the Seas, currently the largest floating city in the world, and a river cruise with 90 – 100 happy folks.
    Feeding throngs of hungry folks, I believe, is a daunting task usually leading to more hits and misses than smaller eateries which can concentrate on each food request.
    By the way, Linda is in very good physical shape, but is showing a little bit of father time’s evil work.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos

    Seriously, I’d still be repeating earlier visits about El P’s Red Chile Ribs ….baby back ribs grilled, then marinated in red chile overnight, and b a k e d until tender/moist…falling off the bone. Alas, it occured to me that maybe the image that probably comes to mind for many of Y’all is ribs slathered in liquidy(?) red chile. Hope this pic http://tinyurl.com/lb9s7d7 gives a hint at the difference. Where else are they served for me to compare? Yo, Y’all are welcomed to ‘educate’ me!
    Tonight I had the dinner 1/2 rack of 7, choosing the baked potato/salad as my sides. The salad is a “f u l l” plate of ‘greens'(not iceberg) with tomatoes, two small wedges of avocado, and croutons; the potato is ‘man-size’, for under (as ‘they’ say) 20 bucks which also covers the complimentary chips n salsa and sopapillas let alone in the eye-candied best patio ambiance in the City, IMHO. My Capricornian frugality, gives it a Thumbs Up! Hope the pic may pique an interest regardless of commonly shared opinions about the rest of the menu. Well, whatever; more for me! LOL
    (While no measure of the food, e.g. I wouldn’t go to a movie simply cuz I see a flock of glitterati going in, it is nevertheless interesting to see the ever-over-growing number of such pics covering El P’s walls. (I’ve heard the term ‘spillage’ referencing something my aged mind has forgotten! As best as I recall, it was just a few pics of The George W, that started The Walls, ‘just’ awhile back.) Nevertheless, I’ve never gotten a sense of, I believe it’s Twin John, being above-it-all, lest he stops to schmooze as owners/chefs are wont to do.
    “Chow!” PS: My avian appetite, left me taking 3 ribs home. Today, I swear, while the heat was a tad more above tourist level last night, it jumped at home ‘lunch’ today! What’s with that ????? Maybe ‘Miking’ is an unknown culinary tool?

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos

    That (Greek) Siren of Red Chile Ribs:
    Alas, despite my whining in the past about the increasing price of the appetizer portion (as well as margaritas), I knew at some point I’d be lured per the ambiance of the ‘Fiesta Patio’ (ABQ’s #1) on a Spring/Summer’s mid-afternoon if nothing else but to slurp a margarita while munching chips/salsa and reading the ABQ Journal or some tome like Atlas Shrugged; The Way by Chris Hayes; etc! As such, I was seduced a few weeks ago to jump at a Groupon offer (my very first) of $30 for 15. As noted elsewhere about having to make a premature visit to CdeBs patio via their indoor patio this weekend, I did the same having to go to El P last night to even but enjoy it’s seasonally enclosed ‘patio garden room’ along with a contrasing, pinon-fed fireplace, to go for the never-before-had Full Meal Rack. As I’ve never been advised, lest I’ve missed it, of where to have better ones locally, I must challenge that these surely boost/elevate any rating of El Pinto IMHO.
    – Whoever said…was it perhaps El Pinto’s Twin owners after a few margaritas after work… let’s go out to buy and grill some ribs, let ’em marinate overnight in our red chile, with seeds!, and then bake ’em awhile? (Dang, I should’ve asked Twin John when he dropped by to check on things!) In any event, while there’s some similarity to great ‘BBQ’ Ribs, e.g. the tender meat falls off the bone vs really having to gnaw it off, I propose these are unique in their own right…Sabrosa and with heat that just about ‘masked ‘…no matter, LOL….the taste of the beans and papitas I chose as sides. (Tip: Had I not ordered the margarita, I could have included almost a couple of jars of salsa as part of the 30)
    – Happy 1st Day of Spring!)

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos

    Notwithstanding that just about all “facets” have been reviewed and commented on or upon, as the case may be, I’d still like to add this
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQf2vHD-xAE
    as a great example of the oft written-off of late, basic of Americana viz the American Dream/Pulling Ownself up by one’s Bootstraps/etc.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQf2vHD-xAE Don’t know how long it will remain active on internet links as I find the previously referred to link above, ‘Food Tech’, has ‘faded’.
    (As a side note, Victoria’s Pickle-hubby told me while visiting them at Expo, that Folks at El Pinto were helpful when they were starting up.)
    – (Eek, the ribs appetizer has gone up another .50 cents!)
    – (Say, where are you SuzieQue? Unlike many icons being Divas, you hide much akin to our…well my…. beloved Lynette d’Albakarekee!)

  • Mo

    Thanks to the Food Network, out-of-town guests always want to eat here. I went through several menu items before I found something that I actually like. My recommendation is to order the green chile stew (no longer on the menu) and a margarita or your favorite Mexican beer. Then enjoy the company and the ambience.

  • Bruce Schor

    El Pinto is the Albuquerque equivalent of the late not-so-great NYC institution Mamma Leone’s.
    Mamma Leone’s homemade (or housemade) basic tomato sauce was delivered every day in 55 gallon drums.
    El Pinto, a lovely location, but that’s it.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos

    Indeed, we must be considerate of Miss Queue as he took The Gil to task lest Gil be disrespecting Sadie for being of lesbian immigrants
    http://nmgastronome.com/?p=381 As far as he not being a real person, I’ve actually had sopadillas with him while Harry Kinney drove us around in his cab last week looking for Billy the Kid to win $10,000 !!! It’s true!!! Go here http://catchthekid.com/

    – Yo ElVal: Long time Los Cuates “won” the contract to replace Garduno’s over former (defaulting?) “winner” El Pinto at the Sunnyportal. Los Cuates is currently scheduled for opening “sometime between after the Balloon Fiesta and the end of the year.”

    “Chow”

  • ElVal

    Getting back to the restaurant itself…………
    I haven’t been back to El Pinto in awhile, (pre- George W. & Laura Bushs’ visit). I was enchanted by the grounds; truly a lovely site. Perfect for weddings, quincenera’s (sp), etc. I was literally gagged by their house margarita one evening. A bartender in training, I don’t know… The drink was frozen “sea water”. Perfect slushy ice and a tasty salt ring, then a mouthful of saline. No lime juice; no tequila; no margarita mix, just slushy saline. I sent it back and was given a mediocre margarita much like what you would blend up yourself @ home with the Cuervo pre-mix. The food, eh, again mediocre. It had that very banquet-esque flavor; make all people happy all the time.
    I travel a lot. Still didn’t figure out the Sunport El Pinto arrival in 2010; Ok, now maybe not, but there still isn’t a tenant there………. Ok, still pending??
    So, yes, El Pinto is beautiful. Is it a historical landmark??? However, the family needs to invest some of their restaurant and retail profits into an experienced skipper, executive chef.

  • It’s funny, Schuyler, but I do read almost every comment on this site. If Suzie would like, I’d love to have her in the studio on Break The Chain, even if to only satisfy my own curiosity!

  • Jim Millington

    To continue my rant on a slightly different vein:
    I remember the first nachos I ever had, prepared by a friend in Dallas. They simply consisted of a tortilla chip covered with cheddar cheese and a slice of jalapeno-not fancy at all. This is as they were originally invented. As a proper appetizer a serving was 3 or 4. I loved them.
    When I left the sweat box and moved to beautiful sunny Albuquerque in ’75 nachos became a pile of chips covered with melted imitation cheese and a random splattering of jalapenos. Not as good and too filling but still satisfying. I believe that the Texas Rangers took credit for “inventing” this.
    In ’02 I made the mistake of entering a promising looking restaurant in Boston called Rock Bottom Brewery which turned out to have a less than menu and also to be a crap chain. I ordered something I have forgotten and a nachos appetizer. Out came a huge pile of crap adequate to serve a small army, say that of Bulgaria, for a week. It was horrible. I explained to the manager that no place in New Mexico or Texas would try to serve anything so awful under the revered name of “nachos.”
    Much to my horror upon my return here I found every place serving this small army portion of crap, much as the otherwise awful El Pinto.
    I have not ordered nachos anywhere in years and never will.

  • darchi

    Whats your website? I try going to the one provided, but it isn’t working and looks wrong. Can someone provide it for me please?

  • Barbara

    I just wish I’d thought of being Suzie Queue first.

    • Hi Barbara

      A number of people have told me that I’ve been “punked” (I had to look that up) and that Suzie Queue couldn’t possibly be a real person. I’ve even been told that publishing her emails diminishes the credibility of my site. Frankly, I’m always happy to hear from Suzie. She brings a light-hearted element to this site, an element that is drastically missing from the internet and from society. Compared to the comments I’ve published in which I’ve been accused of being on crack or just plain high, Suzie’s feedback is a breath of fresh air. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do.

      Gil

  • Reyes

    I wholeheartedly agree with Schuyler! Suzie lends a refreshing, real person perspective when she writes about food.

    Gill, I love ya, man, but the way Suzie writes, I don’t have to look up every other word.

  • Schuyler

    Ryan Scott, I hope you’re reading this. You have GOT TO invite Suzie Queue on Break the Chain. She is my very favorite food blogger in New Mexico!

  • Suzie Queue

    I just found out that “El Pinto” is Mexican for “the pinto”!!! Since my recent heart attach, I have to watch what I eat. I was happy to see that El Pinto had a lot of helthy dishes. My friend Dawanda and I went there to celebrate my release and had a good meal. I had a large combination plate with a taco, a tamalie, a enchillada, and a chili reyleno. They told me to order christmas, so I did and it had red and green chili. It was the best mexican I had ever eaten. There food was covered with gooye cheese and I ate every bite. There sopadillas were good and we ordered extra. Dawanda had chicken enchilladas that she said were very good. She didn’t even get sick! We had a lots of beers and the place was so big we had a hard time trying to get out of the place. The manager came out and showed us the door. Anyway, I started my own food review website – I hope you will check it out and be sure to click the advertizers ads. It is hppt//:www.suziequeueeatsabq.com.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos

    Alas, I was off to El Pinto last night to take you recent and past Naysayers to task…well at least partially as I had oft enjoyed a “half” rack of their ribs con red chili (sic) as my supper being a lite eater. Then I remembered I haven’t been in “quite” awhile cuz the price kept creeping up and now I see on the website… eeek… with shrads of lettuce they are now $13.95!!!! I’m talking about a freekin Appetizer!!!! order. No wonder I haven’t been going after they went up to 10ish “a while” back. (Whoa…time passes when you’re having fun….LOL) (Geesh !! For $6.50, I can get the same number, but bigger Baby Backs with The Works baked ‘tata, at (Eh…chill) The Outback!!! where they tolerate my request for Kids’ (Joey) Ribs….maybe cuz I get a Margarita)

    In any event, I thought I’d check El P’s Complimentary Yum Yums during Happy Hour….last night it was do-it-yourself tacos…sadly, the hamburger and shredded chicken were a tad seca. Wonder what the wings and queso are like on Fridays, which was described as hectic.

    Ya know, and not to put our “New Mexican” cuisine down, 14 bucks for e.g. Huevos is really “cheatin” the people as some say. I can only guess the Honchos are letting the ‘bean counters’ prepare them for an early retirement, IMHO. While I’ve never been to Los Cuates (except as great Siviano’s; wasn’t there a ta-doo about a safe robbery or something?), i.e. can’t comment on the food, hopefully their winning the Sunport space contract recently, despite some questionable voting, will be a blessing in terms of prices listed on their website. Hopefully we’ll find the zesty quality of food and service something to praise in introducing tourists to New Mexico or hooking folks passing through to return!

    Be all that as it may, I still give No. 1 to El Pinto in terms of Best Patio Setting for Contemplation con a margarita con chips n salsa in The Q! Hopefully, they will take heed of our esteemed comments in spite of their popularity…LOL

    By the by, 4th St., besides a half dozen plus antique shoppes on this former segment of Route 66, is replete with New Mexican Yum Yums etc. like Casa de Benavidez with its 2nd best of patios (less expensive take-out in the back!); historic El Camino; Calico Café/Vernon’s Steakhouse; Sophia’s Place; Sadie’s jovialty; Powdrell’s BBQ; long time Garcia’s; Mary n Tito’s; and, on the southside, the Barelas Coffee House ! Geesh, Y’all could spend at least 2 weekends along here!!! Looks like it might be February before we’ll add Cuba’s El Bruno, at the original Garduno’s, per having to do more than first thought.
    “Chow”

  • Organ Donor

    Any restaurant that’s determined enough can easily make a big wave by stuffing ballots (repeat voting). If you have a large enough staff helping, it gets easier. Not sayin. Just sayin.
    Actually, I can’t think of any other reason for the accolades. Consider the Alibi – half of the readers don’t even own cars. How are they even going to get to El Pinto?

  • JDub

    Spot-on review. El Pinto is quite a disappointment.

    The locale is great. 4 of 5 stars.

    The ambiance leaves much to be desired. I agree about the patio accommodations. The tables and chairs are not just dirty, they are grimy, filthy, sticky and just plain uncomfortable. A regular high-pressure spraydown and scrub would go a lot towards remedying that. 2 stars for the vaunted patio. 3 stars for the remainder of the restaurant, which could also use a major scrubdown and patch job.

    The food is the biggest disappointment. It seems no effort is put into making truly great New Mexican food. The chile has been toned down to the point where it really doesn’t matter. The beans are overcooked to the point of being burnt, as is just about everything else. Cumin is abusively applied in a desperate attempt to add flavor. Even the margaritas have the ‘fresh from the factory’ taste. The best part of my whole meal was the salsa. Piqant, flavorful, and chunky, it well deserves its accolades. But the chips it was served with? Greasy, and had the flavor and aroma of old grease. 2 stars.

    The current ownership believes that the locale and ambiance is enough to merit premium prices. They are sorely mistaken. If they truly want to fix everything wrong with El Pinto, they need to address the following:

    1) Clean it up. Overhaul the patio, and give those tables and chairs a serious scrubdown. Give the interior a fresh coat of paint, and clean or replace the seating and tables so that it no longer bears the stench of old grease.

    2) Get an experienced chef to supervise the kitchen; one who truly knows how great NM cuisine can be, and who is unafraid to be the ambassador to the rest of the world.

    3) Consider handcrafted margaritas with premium ingredients. Don’t use the bottled junk ever.

  • Dave

    I have to agree with Jenn about both El Pinto & the not lamented Gardunos ( Happily defunct ). The
    menue is way over priced & the food is guck. The very last time we ate there for a lunch the tab was
    something like fifty bucks for two & the carne adovada was half gristle ( Sadie’s adovada is still the best,
    the ribs too ). I have come to the conclusion that Grupon coupons are the last resort of failing
    restaurants to boost their revenue ( We have had three or four ghastly lunches on Groupon tickets ).
    Un-happily they don’t seem to change the food quality, but seem to think the semi-freebies will boost the volume of their clientele. Am not sure that the Baloon Fiesta can keep them afloat….since most of us ( Other than yr husband – who seems to have six tastebuda ) do have a good a good sense of great
    NM cooking. Half off at El Pinto for awfully bad food is pretty much what you’ll spend at Sadie’s for
    lovely ( Consistently good NM food at The Great Sadie’s ) without ANY DISCOUNT.

    attagirl jenn

  • Jenn

    Took my son to eat here last night since we had one of those website 50% off coupons to use. My husband is a big fan of their lunch buffet and goes for lunch with coworkers frequently. I don’t know that it is because of the quality of the food but more because of the quantity. I have never enjoyed the food here and only reluctantly go with my husband once a year or so. Well my opinion has not changed and if anything I definitely know I will not return. $18 for enchiladas! Honestly the best tasting thing on our plates were the pinto beans. The chile is so flavorless (even after requesting the “hot”), the rice was disgusting almost as bad as Gardunos rice. But of course it being balloon fiesta the place was packed with tourists who don’t know any better. Save your money and eat a frozen Bueno meal before eating here.

  • Anthony

    Gil, while I agree with you that the chile is very mild and the food is average to below average, I have to disagree with you on the chile ribs. I enjoy them and would recommend them. As a matter of fact, that is pretty much the only reason why go there.

  • Roberta

    We tried this out a week ago and were very disappointed. The atmosphere was nice but he service was non-existent. We waited at least 10 minutes to order and then our waiter tried to serve us with someone else’s meal. He apologized over and over, each time he came by. As for the food, we expected higher prices due to the surroundings but the food was the worst we have had in New Mexico-no flavor, no smothering of chile, just blah!
    We will not be back.

  • It is sad but true. El Pinto’s food is no longer the standard. For every dish on their menu, I can name AT LEAST three other New Mexican restaurants with better food. Across the board, two of those restaurants are surprisingly Taqueria Mexi on Lomas and the Albuquerque Tortilla Company. Neither of these places does the volume of El Pinto. But the Rancher’s Club doesn’t do the volume of McDonalds either!! During the past four years, I have watched this restaurant decline dramatically in the quality of their food and their service. Now, I just won’t go back.

  • Randy b

    Not impressed at all with this place. Save your money and go to taco bell. At least you will not be overcharged for bad food.

  • Jace

    I’m not a big fan of Mexican food, but once in awhile I get the taste for it. I went to El Pinto this past weekend and remembered why don’t like Mexican food so much. The patio is lovely except the chairs and tables need a good cleaning. I could see dried salsa and other old food items under the tables and chairs. The food is priced kinda high for what it is and was just alright tasting. I would have to say the $56 I spent for the family would have been better spent at Taco Bell.

  • Bruce

    Over the years (since 1995) Our experiences at El Pinto can best be described as inconsistent. We have had meals ranging from Excellent to Mediocre. We did have a pleasent experience recently – after a 3 year absence due to a string of dissapointing meals. I hope they keep it up. From my perspective, regardless of the time of year they are never adequately staffed.

  • Malainie

    I have to agree with the other posted comments. I love the ambience on the patio, but the food is definitely forgettable.

    I like to go there for a margarita, chips and salsa just to enjoy the patio. But only once every couple of years. My regular place to get good New Mexican is Sadie’s on 4th St.

  • My wife and I went to El Pinto a while back specifically to try the vaunted nachos, and were a little underwhelmed. Yes, the nachos are gargantuan, but otherwise completely ordinary. They’re not bad by any means — a solid “B” in my book — but if they’re truly the best in town, then in my opinion it’s more by default (or sheer tonnage) than because of anything inherently special about them.

    El Pinto in general is a place I’d happily take out-of-town visitors because of the ambiance and tourist-friendly menu, but I wouldn’t come back for the unremarkable food.

  • John L

    In the 60s El Pinto was a fine New Mexican restuarant. My significant other and I used to regularly feast on their comida corrida. More recent vists have found them vastly espanded but the food totally uninteresting and medicore. We shall not darken their door again.

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