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Sadie’s Dining Room – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sadies (photo courtesy of  Kathy

Sadies on Fourth Street (Courtesy of Kathy “Wanderer 2005″ Perea)

Albuquerque and Sadie’s Dining Room have come a long way since 1950. Then the Duke City’s population was 96,815, up 173% from 1940 and Sadie Koury, the oldest child of Lebanese immigrants, was four years away from launching her first Albuquerque restaurant on Second and Osuna in a tiny building not much bigger than the restrooms at the current restaurant.  The Duke City was much more pastoral back then and Sadie’s restaurant was but a diminutive nine-stool diner on what was then one of the city’s most busy thoroughfares, though not quite as busy as Fourth Street which in 1954, was already seventeen years removed from having been part of historic Route 66. 

Sadie opened her eponymous eatery for breakfast every morning at 5AM and served lunch late into the afternoon.  Standing room only crowds often included truckers who deviated from their Route 66 throughway and who would park their diesel rigs around the tiny edifice.  Sadie greeted her customers with a friendly “hi honey” and got to know many of her regulars and how they liked their favorite meals prepared.

A mural depicts 4th Street in the 1950s

A mural depicts 4th Street in the 1950s

In 1973 after nearly twenty years at her restaurant’s original home, Sadie and her baby sister Betty-Jo moved the restaurant next door to the Lark Bar which could accommodate 35 guests. They would remain at the Lark Bar for only two years.  In 1975, Sadie retired and left the restaurant in the very capable hands of Betty-Jo and her husband Bob Stafford who moved the restaurant again, this time to the noisy confines of the Sun Valley Bowl on Fourth Street where its reputation for humongous portions of incendiary chile-laden dishes was further cemented. The restaurant’s 120-seat capacity saw overflow crowds every night.

Sadie passed away in 1986, four years before her family opened the palatial dining establishment–complete with a comfortable lounge, a banquet room for large parties, a spacious bar and a capacious covered patio with fountains and greenery–on Fourth street that still bears her name. Since her retirement, her younger sister and brother-in-law, Betty Jo and Bob Stafford and their progeny have carried on her legacy. In 2009, Sadie’s opened a second restaurant, this one on Albuquerque’s east side. East-siders don’t have to go any further than 15 Hotel Circle, N.E., (next to the Owl Cafe) to get their Sadie’s chile fix.  A third outlet, in the Santa Ana Star Casino opened in 2012.

The grill that first made Sadie's famous

The grill that first made Sadie’s famous

Today, the Duke City flirts with a population of more than half a million and Sadie’s remains one of the city’s most popular (and certainly one of its most commodious with a seating capacity of 375 diners) New Mexican restaurants. With the addition of two other Sadie’s outlets, seating capacity is closer to 700 today.  Long waits are still typical at the Fourth Street location where a large mural taking up nearly the entire South-facing main dining-room wall depicts Sadie’s humble diner and its business neighbors, all back-dropped by the Sandias. On the roof of the diner was a large sign reading simply “Hamburgers” while signage reading “Chops” and “Steaks” flanked the restaurant’s door and sole frontage window.  In the accolade-laden shrine that is the hallway between the dining room and the restrooms are dozens of framed newspaper articles touting Sadie’s restaurant, but also holding a place of prominence is the original grill in which Sadie prepared her famous hamburgers.

Sadie’s is renown for several things, among which are: its rags to riches success story, consistently hot chile and prodigious portions. Over the years it has developed a growing and faithful following that has remained steadfast in its devotion.  Avid proponents make a good case for Sadie’s being one of the best restaurants in the state. A fellow gourmand whose opinion I value swears the triumvirate of Sadie’s in the North, the Owl Cafe in Central New Mexico and Chope’s in the state’s Southern region are the three best restaurant’s in the Land of Enchantment.

Salsa and chips at Sadie’s

Unlike so many other so-called New Mexican restaurants, Sadie’s hasn’t “dumbed down” its chile which retains a piquant flavor that makes your tongue tingle (even if you are a native New Mexican and were weaned on piquant formula). Perhaps that’s the reason so many native New Mexicans crowd Sadie’s while non-natives eager to prove their mettle or obtain an endorphin rush also list it among their favorites.

At Sadie’s, salsa is complementary and masochists like me might polish off two bowlfuls as our brows glisten (sometimes profusely) courtesy of the capsaicin rich, green chile endowed salsa (which, by the way, is bottled and sold in stores throughout New Mexico).  The salsa is the most piquant item on the menu.  Comparatively, the red and green chile are tepid. In its September, 2012 edition, Albuquerque The Magazine named the salsa at Sadie’s the sixth best in Albuquerque from among 130 salsas sampled throughout the city.

A garden salad with green chile ranch dressing

Portion sizes are gargantuan! Some platters would feed a developing nation or Jay Leno might joke, one endomorphic American diner. Hefting home a doggie bag won’t burn off many of the 2,000 or so calories you just consumed, but it does provide tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. Most “dinner” plates includes frijoles and papitas.  There are a couple of items no restaurant in Albuquerque does nearly as well as Sadie’s. One is papitas, little cubes of potato perfection with the taste of well-salted, square-shaped French fries. If your entree doesn’t include papitas, by all means order them on the side.

Another is any entree featuring a pounded steak patty–the likes of which Sadie herself may have hand-formed back in the 50s. The “Roberto Special” features just such a pounded steak. It is topped with enough artery-clogging melted queso to up your cholesterol 50 points, but is so sinfully delightful you can’t stop eating it.  For a mere pittance you can request a “large” Roberto special which essentially doubles the pounded steak portion.  Though this entree is generally quite good, all too often the steak is cooked at well-done.

The Roberto Special Christmas style

At many New Mexican restaurants salsa and chips are no longer complementary and it’s increasingly rare to find restaurants which also don’t charge for sopaipillas. That’s definitely not the case at Sadie’s where each meal is accompanied by several of these puffy treasures. During a 2006 Food Network episode of the Secret Life of…Southwestern Food, host Jim O’Connor spent a day at Sadie’s where he learned all about sopaipillas. He ate stuffed sopaipillas, sopaipillas with honey and sopaipillas by themselves and enjoyed every single morsel.

When he traveled to Albuquerque for a taping of the Travel Channel’s Man vs Food Nation (which aired for the first time on June 22nd, 2011) host Adam Richman was introduced to the world’s largest sopaipilla at Sadie’s–a foot wide, six and a half pound behemoth of stewed chicken, ground beef, carne adovada, papitas, pinto beans, red and green chile and Cheddar. Served on what appeared to be a pizza-sized platter, it was “sopa-perfect” according to the effusive Richman.

Blue corn tortilla enchiladas topped with a fried egg

Blue corn tortilla enchiladas topped with a fried egg

Sadie’s stuffed sopaipillas are indeed very enjoyable; they’re among the very best in town even if you’re not inclined to eat the largest sopaipilla in the world.   Sadie’s sopaipillas can be engorged with spicy beef, chicken, grilled lean ground beef or just frijoles and can be topped with green or red chile (or even better, Christmas style).

The house specialty at Sadie’s is the enchilada dinner, a platter-sized plate brimming with two soft corn tortillas rolled or stacked with Cheddar cheese and onions and served with frijoles. The enchilada dinner is as flexible as the soft corn tortillas on which it is made. That means you can have it with blue corn tortillas instead of the standard yellow corn tortillas. You can have it with boneless grilled chicken or with Billy’s spicy ground beef and if that’s not enough, you can customize your creation–maybe one ground beef enchilada and one with chicken.

Grilled pork chops, papitas and a fried egg

Grilled pork chops, papitas and a fried egg

Your customization might also extend to the chile where you can have red or green chile or preferably both (what New Mexicans call Christmas style). You can even ask for a third enchilada if you’re so inclined. By all means ask for a fried egg on top of your enchilada. It’s the way New Mexicans have had their enchiladas for generations.

Even non-chile eaters will find something to love at Sadie’s. One such option is the grilled pork chops, two bone-in chops grilled to a smoky perfection and served with papitas. These are flavorful half-inch thick chops which retain their succulent juiciness and are imbued with delicious, smoky charred edges.  The grilled pork chops are served with a dinner salad which is topped with moist, unctuous avocados.  Try it with a green chile Ranch dressing for a New Mexico kick.

A green chile cheeseburger made the way Sadie's prepared them in the 1950s--with French bread

A green chile cheeseburger made the way Sadie’s prepared them in the 1950s–with French bread

Allow me to introduce yet another contender into the highly disputed “best green chile cheeseburger” in New Mexico category. That would be Sadie’s version of the ubiquitous burger practically worshiped by local eaters.  Sadie’s burger is crafted with a six-inch, hand-formed meat orb topped with chopped green chile (or green chile sauce if you prefer), tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese. The meat is grilled and prepared to your exacting specifications and the bun is lightly toasted. It is sensational, a wonderful alternative to other entrees.  Better still, order your burger the way Sadie prepared burgers in the 1950s–on two thick slices (Texas toast-sized) of French bread.

Sadie’s Dining Room
6230 Fourth Street, N.W.
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site

(505) 345-5339
LATEST VISIT: 3 September 2012
# OF VISITS: 17
RATING: 17
COST: $$
BEST BET: Roberto Special, Enchiladas, Salsa, Stuffed Sopaipillas, Papitas, Green Chile Cheeseburger

Sadie's on Fourth on Urbanspoon

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Ay yi yi….Gil must have been so overcome with making his way through that gastronomic adventure that he probably dropped off into a siesta thereby forgetting to include a reference to Sadie’s great Margaritas which are a must for some of us Gringos if we are to handle munching chips ‘n salsa which you can also enjoy in the cozy and popular cantina.

    =):-)

    (Sorry, best I could do for a sombrero.)

    September 23, 2008 at 10:32 PM
  • Christina says:

    Great review! I agree that Sadie’s has some of the best New Mexican food I’ve ever had. Roberto’s Special, which you mentioned, is one of our favorites, but I am also very fond of the chile rellenos at Sadie’s. The chiles are very flavorful, and they’re always fried to perfection — crisp but not overcooked. If you’re visiting Albuquerque, don’t miss Sadie’s– but definitely be prepared for some spicy food. ;-)

    October 7, 2008 at 11:58 AM
  • Carne Adobada Ribs!!! says:

    You have to try the carne adobada ribs…they taste great and will bite back!

    July 11, 2009 at 12:26 PM
  • Neen says:

    I have to be honest with you. I have never thought much of Sadie’s. When they were in the old bowling alley, their food was smothered in jalapeno sauces, and very greasy. Since they’ve moved to their new location, they are extremely popular, but again, I don’t think much of their food. It’s a big meal and sorry, but they are about at the same level as Garduno’s for me. For real New Mexican food that’s tasty, I prefer Mary and Tito’s, or El Modelo. Sadie’s is a trendy star, but Gil, the food is just so-so. Though I have to agree on the margaritas, very nice.

    January 21, 2010 at 8:42 AM
  • Tbone and A bomb says:

    Sadies has consistently disappointed me since I moved to Albuquerque 11 years ago. Your reflection can easily be seen in every grease filled pate. This is not New Mexican food and should only be frequented if you have a cardiac death wish. Cheap food made cheaply. I have given Sadies a dozen opportunities to change my mind but alas I am convinced. The salsa and margaritas are excellent, I wish I could say the same for anything else on the menu. Try Mary and Titos, Monicas, Durans and Barelas for better options…or just make the 45 minute drive to Santa Fe where its hard to find a bad restaurant.

    January 31, 2010 at 4:37 PM
  • Foodie Star says:

    I’ve been eating at Sadies infrequently since they were at the bowling alley. I always thought of Sadies as a nice place to feed visitors some decent food. However, my last two visits to Sadies were disappointing (East-side and 4th street locations.)

    The best part of both meals was their outstanding Salsa. I should have just eaten Salsa and Chips – I would have left happy. On the East side, I ordered the Sloppy Jose – something I have ordered and enjoyed on numerous occasions. This time, it was clear that the ground beef (called “Billy’s beef”) was seasoned heavily with cumin which, like you, I do not believe belongs in New Mexican food. I don’t remember them using cumin in the “Billy’s Beef” before and just figured it was probably the way the cook at the East-side location made it.

    I was wrong. About a month later, I visited the 4th street location and had tacos – with “Billy’s beef”. The cumin was so thick, it tasted like it had bad BO. Unbathed stinky taxi driver in 120 degree heat without air conditioning bad BO! It was inedible, just like the Sloppy Jose had been a month later.

    If you like cumin, I am happy for you but the uniquely New Mexican food flavor I grew up with did not have it and I hate to see it infiltrating some of the restarants in this area just because it is popular on the Food Network.

    I give Sadies one finger up.

    Foodie Star

    February 4, 2010 at 4:52 PM
  • joe says:

    I have been to Sadie’s twice 1st time was so so. This time was the last. I ordered a two item combo plate.
    A Cheese enchilada and a chili relleno for $12 with a side of sour cream. The plate arrived after some time.
    A huge plate filled 4/5 with beans and potatoes. The cheese enchilada was cold just grated cheese, not even melted. I ate the bland and soggy relleno then moved to the better option of the sopapilla. Disappointment on this front as well. The honey had no flavor so i asked the wait person about it. Turns out Sadie’s “cant afford real honey”. They say “it costs too much” so they use colored high fructose corn syrup. Numerous places I go manage to “afford” real honey. Two thumbs down to you Sadies.

    February 15, 2010 at 9:04 PM
  • Not Real New Mexican Food says:

    The worst New Mexican food in New Mexico. Everything looks like slop with extra grease on top. Save yourself the heart attack and try someplace like Monica’s, or go to Santa Fe and try The Shed.

    May 1, 2010 at 9:32 PM
  • Suzie Queue says:

    Dear Gil,

    I have become a fan and expert in real Mexican food since I have lived in Texas, Arizona, California, AND Albuquerque. I think this restaurant is the best mexican food in the world. I am used to eating beans in the can and there beans are fresh and gas free. Unlike you, I love cumin and they use lots of it – the secret ingredient to authentic mexicans. There sopadillas are not as good as the ones I had in Colorado with powdered sugar instead of honey, but I like them anyway. I like there rillenos – definitely not whitey mexican food!

    I was offended by your reference to the “descent of lesbian immigrants”. In case you haven’t heard, we need to be respective of all religious orientations including sexual, color and otherwise! Your reference has not business in a food column.

    Other than that your a good writer most of the time.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:10 AM
  • Nate D says:

    Suzie? Are you for real? There really are no words. Gil didn’t say “lesbian”, he said Lebanese…as in from Lebanon. I have to say Sadies is pretty good for what it is, but definitely not the best mexican food in the world. I also have a hard time believing you are an expert in real Mexican food. You certainly are not an expert in reading comprehension, spelling, grammar, or common sense.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:49 AM
  • Barbara says:

    That has to be a joke. “Real” Mexican food would be food from Mexico, no?

    sopadillas?
    whitey mexican food?
    there rillenos?

    The Lebanese/lesbian thing made me laugh out loud and inhale coke ( the cola kind ) up my nose a little.

    May 21, 2010 at 2:41 PM
  • Natalie says:

    I go to sadie’s for the salsa and papitas, love that the salsa is actually hot! A side of papitas with green chile and cheese is $5 and I have left overs for days!

    May 27, 2010 at 12:08 PM
  • Norma Campbell says:

    Love the adovada But I think you are in error I lived in Albuq in 1970-1976 and Sadies was in the 4th NW Street Bowl then . Coming back this October will hit Saides first and the Quarter on Yale also Blakes on Wyoming/Copper area for Green Chili Cheesburger

    September 5, 2010 at 10:09 AM
  • Gerald says:

    If the food is so bad, why do some of these people keep going back?

    September 8, 2010 at 5:39 PM
  • Rick says:

    We visited Sadie’s last year after hearing lots of rave reviews so perhaps our expectations were set too high….after waiting literallly 2 hours to be seated we were extremely disappointed in the food. Chips and salsa were OK, but the dining room was messy with food crumbs all over the floor and the chips/salsa bar was a disaster. Food was mediocre, we’ll never go there again especially since there are plenty of other places in ABQ that are far better.

    November 4, 2010 at 4:29 PM
  • Holly says:

    Sadie’s is my son’s favorite salsa. When he was in the service, I always had to include a few jars in the Care packages. Aside from the salsa as far as the restaurant goes, I’m not a big fan. I find the food too heavy. Sadie’s is ok but definitely not a fave and we may go there once or twice a year when we’re too lazy to drive elsewhere since it’s only a couple of blocks from home. I haven’t ordered the chile rellenos since I learned from a friend who waitered there that they’re not homemade but come frozen in bags and are just dropped in the deep fryer. All of the Mexican restaurants that I’ve liked with good food in the North Valley always seem to close. I really liked Adelita’s that was where the Mario’s Pizza now is and Carolina’s in the shopping center at 4th and Osuna didn’t last very long at all. Years ago, there used to be a more authentic Mexican restaurant across from the fast food joints on 4th that also closed too soon. It’s funny how mediocre places like Sadie’s and Garcia’s Kitchen seem to last forever while places with much better food fall by the wayside.

    February 26, 2011 at 6:34 AM
  • Michael says:

    I’ve been eating at Sadie’s for years but I could do without the potatoes and usually order all beans. I ate there two weeks ago and naturally my first bite off the plate was beans, I am a beanologist. To my surprise, I had to spit out a spoon size piece of white plastic. I told the server and she got me a new order and comped my meal. Other than that the meal was good as were the meals of my dinner companions. I like the salsa for flavor but find it a little watery. My only other complaint is the guacamole, for the price they charge you should get a bowl full instead of a cup thats mostly shredded iceberg lettuce. I’ll be back and I’ll order the beans, less the white plastic.

    April 15, 2011 at 8:34 PM
  • Molly says:

    Their carne has the most essential attribute of good carne, namely, no matter how big the pieces are, you never need a knife because the meat is tender. And how can you go wrong with their chips and salsa?? This is a strange thing to say about a Mexican food restaurant, but Sadie’s makes, hands down, the best grilled cheese sandwiches. If you go very often (As I did, because a co-worker was OBSESSED with Sadie’s), you will get burned out and you will want to try other non-New Mexican menu items. Don’t get the ham & cheese; I’ve always found the meat to be grisly. Do have them add bacon to the regular grilled cheese, though. YUM!!! Suzie, could you enlighten the rest of us on what “sopadillas” are? Is that a special food the *lesbian* immigrants brought with them to this country?? And I guess homonyms were most challenging for you in school (As I’m sure most other things were), weren’t they, Suzie Dear??

    April 21, 2011 at 8:24 PM
  • martin says:

    There was an estate sale on Saturday so we ate brunch at Sadies which was 2 blocks away. Both of us had huevos rancheros. The wife really like it. I, who LOVES Mary and Titos, though it was just ok. Their red and green chile sauce just doesn’t match up to M+Ts therefore it tainted everything. They use a tomato base for both the red and green chile sauce. I do not like that. I did like the papitas. One of the few restaurants that serve them. Seemed like the HR, papitas and beans all tasted the same. It’s a good place to take tourists. Salsa and chips good.

    June 26, 2011 at 3:59 PM
  • PAT says:

    I recently picked up a local newsstand paper ” Prime Time Monthly in Santa Fe,NM and there was a simple advertisement to win a $50 gift certificate for Sadie’s restaurant. My son-in-law loves to eat at Sadies and I thought I would try to get him a cerificate…..but try as I might I have been unable to get into the web site to enter for a chance to win the certificate. Is that an error or false advertisement?

    November 24, 2012 at 9:15 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    -Yo Pat: try this link http://tinyurl.com/c7vdqv5 Note your entry has to be in by the 30th this Nov.’12.
    Good Luck!

    November 25, 2012 at 11:17 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    If there was another way, I would’ve sent Y’all an alert: Every couple of months I go to Sadie’s for her Chile Relleno con Green despite being tempered by the ‘alternate views’ herein. I get the relleno A La Carte. Tonight, and while the batter was admittedly a bit too much and it was its usual overly submerged self in the mix of lettuce/tomato/xtra onions as requested and green chile with speckles of hamburger, that “goop” was ‘to die for’ in terms of just perfect ‘heat’, but especially the richness of the green-chile-taste…Mucho Grande Sabrosa!!!! ‘Heat’, IMHO, is only the second measure.
    I don’t think one could find any in The State to match, let alone outshine it! I don’t do “doggie-bags”, but I slopped the goop up into a box tonight and after already using 2 sopas (excellent BTW) as well! My regret? I left a half saucer of Sadie’s great salsa which I usually finished up for dessert with her best-wise house Magarita!!!! How embarrassing!!! Oh, Oh…maybe cuz there were 3 holiday gatherings on the ‘indoor patio’ filling it up, or despite that?, I had great service by three of the wait staff too…way ta go!!! Psst, if I’ve tempted ya, don’t try the weekends…it’s always swamped for some reason when I drive by!

    November 26, 2012 at 9:02 PM
  • JohnL says:

    Haven’t to Sadie’s for over a year. Decided to give them a try when they opened in the old Gardunos on Academy, just a few blocks from home. My significant other and I both ordered the luncheon combo plate. We should have stopped after the salsa and chips which were very good. Flavorful and piquant salsa. The taco was on the greasy side and served on top of the combo plate so it soaked up the chili sauce and tended to fall apart. It was tasty enough but no better than those we’ve had elsewhere. The chili in the rellenos was quite good but there was altogether too much batter and it was hard to tell that their was green chili sauce on them. The chicken enchilada was OK but unremarkable. Everything was buried under mounds of cheese making it difficult to tell what was what. To their credit they avoided Spanish rice but the papitas were again just so so.

    June 23, 2013 at 9:30 PM

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