Alqud’s Middle East Grocery Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Middle East Grocery Restaurant on San Pedro

The St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Magdalena, New Mexico is adorned with ceramic statues, most familiar and easy to identify…at least for lifelong Catholics like me.   After Sunday Mass one September, 2010 morning, we espied a statue of a saint clutching a curious implement to his chest.  None of the parishioners we asked had any idea who the statue represented.  Father Andy Pavlak, the parish vicar, confirmed the statue depicted Saint Lawrence  of Rome and the curious device he held was a gridiron, a metal grate used for grilling meat, fish, vegetables or any combination thereof.

Father Pavlak went on to explain why Saint Lawrence clutched the gridiron.  Saint Lawrence was one of seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred during the reign of Emperor Valerian.  The manner of death he suffered was especially gruesome.  The intrepid saint was grilled on a gridiron.  As his flesh cooked, Lawrence is said to have cried out, “This side’s done.  Turn me over and have a bite.”  That probably explains why Saint Lawrence is the patron saint of comedians, butchers and roasters. He is also patron saint of several parishes throughout the Land of Enchantment.

The dining area at the San Pedro Middle East Restaurant

The dining area at the San Pedro Middle East Restaurant

I suspect Saint Lawrence might also be the patron saint of grillmasters.  If so, I sure could use his divine intercession.  Like the administrators of his death, I seem to have a problem discerning when one side is done.  Consequently one side is usually charred to the consistency of coal while the other is as rare as the raw beef fighters apply over wounds acquired in the ring.  It doesn’t matter how closely I study the collective writings of Bill and Cheryl Jamison, America’s preeminent outdoor cooking experts, my results are disastrous.  On the grill, I’m a disgrace to my gender.

Because I’ve ruined thousands of dollars of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables, my Kim would just as soon see me wave the white flag of surrender (though I’d probably drop it on the grill and only one side would burn.)  Better still, she’d rather I take her to a restaurant in which bona fide grillmasters impart the olfactory-arousing direct application of heat to produce succulent results.  Frankly, that would be my preference, too…so, perhaps my ineptitude on the grill might be a subliminal thing.  Yeah, that’s what I’ll tell myself.

Purchase an assortment of seasoned snacks such as watermelon seeds

It’s no secret that some of the very best grilled meats anywhere are prepared to perfection in Middle Eastern restaurants.  Many Middle Eastern dining establishments have mastered the enviable art of imbuing meats with the pungency of exotic spices; a distinctive aroma inherent from woods with personality; a whisper-thin crust that seals in flavor and tenderness in a pleasantly pink interior; and any number of heavily spiced, flavorful sauces, all of which seem to highlight even more of the magnificence of meat in all its grilled glory.

In Albuquerque as in many other cities, Middle Eastern restaurants seem to fall into two stratum: opulent, lavishly adorned dining rooms or time-worn cafes in bedraggled edifices.   Experience shows that spit and polish alone don’t make the restaurant. Some of the very best Middle Eastern restaurants are often found in tumbledown buildings.  Perhaps the very best of these is the San Pedro Middle East Restaurant on the southwest corner of San Pedro and Montgomery in the Northeast Heights.

Dolmes: Six piece stuffed grape leaves served tahini sauce

The San Pedro Middle East Restaurant is ensconced in a stand-alone building that frankly could be home to just about any retail business.  Much of the building is dedicated to comestibles.  Its shelves are well-stocked with Middle Eastern spices, groceries and dry goods.  Adventurous cooks will enjoy walking up and down the aisles studying all the wonderful options, perhaps inspired by the olfactory arousing aromas coming from the small kitchen at the front of the complex.  The counter separating the kitchen from the store doubles as a counter in which patrons pay for their purchases or place their to-go orders.

Dine-in and carry-out options abound.  Should you decide to dine in, there are several comfortable booths and tables available.  The dining area is ensconced beneath a canopy reminiscent a large Bedouin tent, the biggest difference being that instead of Middle Eastern rugs, the canopy is made from Southwest themed rugs (Kokopeli anyone?).   The menu over the counter is abbreviated; you’ll be handed a laminated menu to take with you to your table.  From the window-side booths, your vantage point will be of busy San Pedro to your east.

Six-piece Falafel appetizer: fried garbanzo beans with herbs and spices served with a yogurt sauce

Six-piece Falafel appetizer: fried garbanzo beans with herbs and spices served with a yogurt sauce

The menu is surprisingly ambitions considering the relatively cramped quarters.  Reading from top-left, the first items to catch your eye are appetizers and small order items followed by a seven salads, only one of which you might see at any type of restaurant.  One entire page is dedicated to platters, both meat-based platters and vegetarian platters.  Platters generally include a meat or vegetarian entree with hummus or rice and one of the seven sensational salads.  Homemade fresh pita bread (which you can see being made at the kitchen) comes with several of the platters.

The last page of the menu is dedicated to sandwiches–non-vegetarian and vegetarian–and desserts.  It’s an intriguing menu, one you might expect to see at a larger Middle Eastern restaurant and not necessarily at a grocery store doubling as a restaurant.  Your hosts are brothers Muhammad and Abraham, who are as cordial and accommodating as any restaurant proprietors in the Duke City.  Both are more than happy to recommend various options and will check up on you periodically.  Trust their recommendations.

Lamb shawarma Platter served with Hummus

The appetizers section includes some de rigueur standards you’ll find at almost all Mediterranean restaurants.  The difference is that the San Pedro Middle East Restaurant prepares them better.  “Heresy,” you say.  After our inaugural visit on November 13th, we were so impressed that we had to return a week later to confirm what our taste buds were saying.  They were telling us this humble little establishment might be the very best Middle Eastern restaurant in Albuquerque.  Zomato readers seem to agree.  As of this writing (September 20, 2016), the restaurant has earned a 4.7 rating (out of 5), one of the highest in Albuquerque. Muhammad proudly points this out to new visitors.

14 November 2010:  The dolmes, a six-piece appetizer of stuffed grape leaves served with tahini sauce is one of those items at which this restaurant excels.  Decoratively plated so that the six dolmes form a pool for the tahini sauce, you can use the plastic fork to cut the dolmes into smaller, bite-sized pieces, but Muhammad will encourage you to eat your entire dinner the way it would be eaten back home in Palestine.  He would just as soon you dispense with your fork altogether.  Great advice!  The dolmes are fabulous!

Bakdunecea Salad

Unlike many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants in the Duke City, these dolmes are homemade, not from out of a can.  They have a very distinctive flavor with nary a hint of lemon.  The distinctiveness comes from a seven spice blend, one that’s just slightly different than many seven spice blends I’ve seen in Japanese and Arabic cooking.  This one is made with All Spice, Black Pepper, Cloves, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Fennel and Ginger, a blend which enlivens the vegetarian dolmes with a flavor punch that will wow your taste buds.  The dolmes are even better when dipped into the fresh, invigorating tahini sauce.

14 November 2010:  Another terrific starter is the six-piece falafel plate.  Falafel (chickpeas mashed with onions then fried to a nice crunch) are hemispherically shaped, like the top half of the Earth.  Bite into each falafel and you’ll experience the sensation of a slight crispy crunch followed by a soft, moist inside that tastes unlike any falafel I’ve ever had.  It’s the type of falafel which should be used to help broker peace in the Middle East.  They’re that good!  Seasoned with herbs and spices, they’re served with a luscious yogurt sauce which complements them wonderfully.

Housemade Fresh Pita Bread, Maybe the Best in Town

14 November 2010: For years, my local standard for Baba Ghanoug, roasted eggplant with tahini sauce, lemon juice and garlic, has been Yasmine’s Cafe, yet another terrific Palestinian-owned treasure.  If possible, the San Pedro Middle Eastern Restaurant’s version is even better.  It’s rich and creamy with a prominent garlic flavor.  In Middle Eastern fashion, you’ll want to cut up pieces of the wonderful housemade pita (still fresh and warm) and use the pita to scoop up as much Baba Ghanoug as you can fit into your mouth.  Each bite is an adventure in appreciation.

20 September 2016: For me, the highlight of the salad menu–and you can’t go wrong with any of the seven choices–was always the Bakdunecea Salad (parsley with tahini and lemon juice served with olive oil).  Though no longer offered on the menu, the accommodating staff might just whip it up for you if you ask nicely.    This salad has powerful qualities, a term you might not associate with parsley.  Parsley is usually thought up as an ingredient to chop up and sprinkle on entrees needing color.  It’s sometimes thought of in a decorative sense, not for its flavor enhancing qualities.  Used correctly and in combination with other ingredients (such as tahini), it is refreshing and assertive.

Kefta Kabob with Rice

20 November 2010: Another sensational salad is the Tabbouli (lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, onion, mint, cracked Bulgar wheat, fresh lemon juice and virgin olive oil).  Growing up in Peñasco with Lebanese neighbors, I was introduced to Tabbouli, Kibbeh and Tahini long before I’d ever had Chinese food or even my first Bic Mac from McDonald’s.  The Tabbouli may be the best I’ve ever had, reminding me in some ways of what a Middle Eastern pico de gallo might taste like.  It’s got remarkable freshening qualities, like a savory and delicious breath mint.

20 September 2016: It wouldn’t be a fantastic Middle Eastern restaurant without a sensational hummus (ground chickpeas with tahini sauce, lemon juice and garlic) and that, too, is available at the San Pedro Middle East Restaurant.  You can order it on its own as an appetizer or you can order one of the several platters with which the hummus is served.  The hummus encircles the meat platters like an island of creamy, garlicky goodness.  Muhammad taught us to use pita to scoop up heaps of meat and hummus with our hands.  It’s the only way to eat them.

Shisk Kafta Platter: ground beef, onion, parsley served with hummus, salad and homemade fresh pita bread

20 September 2016: The Lamb Shawarma (marinated slices of lamb) is terrific (as if that needs to be said).  Instead of shaved lamb as you’d find on Greek gyros, the lamb is sliced into smaller than bite-sized pieces, each blessed with a grilled smokiness and penetrated with seasonings that are so distinctively Middle Eastern.  Sprigs of fragrant, roughly chopped parsley impart fresh qualities which meld with the other ingredients to fashion a fabulous flavor profile.

Not since Banbury, England in 1987 have we had better shish kabob (cubes of extra lean beef served) than we’ve had on San Pedro.   In describing the grilling expertise at Middle Eastern restaurants earlier in this essay, I must have had this shish kabob in mind.  The meat is grilled to perfection.  At medium, it has just a slight hint of pink inside while its exterior texture is nicely charred. It’s the type of grilling expertise I lack.  It’s perfect grilling.

Chicken Tawook surrounded by the best hummus in Albuquerque

13 February 2011: Another exceptional platter which showcases the grilling process and exceptional seasoning is the chicken tawook platter, marinated juicy cubes of chicken breast with garlic sauce served with hummus, salad and the homemade fresh pita bread.  The chicken is moist and tender, absolutely impregnated with flavor though not so garlicky that it will wreck your breath.  Instead, the garlic melds wondrously with a hint of grilling.

27 March 2011: The chicken shawarma, an island of small-cut chicken pieces surrounded by hummus is yet another fabulous entree.  Similar to the chicken tawook, garlic is a prominent flavor as is the wondrous fragrance of grilling.  Parsley also fits prominently into the flavor profile, imparting an invigorating herbaceous freshness, but this dish is best when scooped up with hummus and that absolutely amazing pita.  Abraham tells me he makes some 700 pieces of bread on an average day.  I’ll typically have four of them each visit and take home another half dozen.  This is the best pita in New Mexico!

Chicken Shawarma

24 August 2011: Even on the rare occasion in which an item you don’t order is delivered to your table, you’ll want to try it before even thinking about sending it back.  Such was the case when my friend Ruben Hendrickson and I ordered dolmes and a strange looking dish with an even stranger name was placed before us.  As it turns out, the Foul Mudammas with Pita is an outstanding appetizer, one which will visit my table in the future. 

There’s nothing foul about this wonderful dish which is made with diced fava beans, fresh garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.  Given the same ingredients and asked to create something wonderful, there’s no way most of us could ever concoct anything nearly this good.  The humble fava hasn’t made significant inroads in the American diet, but in combination with the right condiments and spices, it’s more than palatable.  Fava beans have tremendous healthful benefits, too.

Foul Mudammas with Pita

20 September 2016: The San Pedro Middle East Restaurant is no slouch when it comes to desserts.  Trays of baklava behind a glass pastry case may elicit involuntary salivation.  Don’t hesitate to order the pistachio baklava.  This baklava is on par with the pistachio baklava at the Anatolia Doner Kebab House which means it’s the very best in New Mexico.  The salty pistachios are a perfect foil for the cloying honey, making this a dessert of complementary and contrasting flavors which go so well together.  Bite into the layers of luscious flaky phylo and you’ll be rewarded with a moist, delicious, wonderful way to finish an outstanding meal.

Pistachio Baklava

San Pedro Middle East Restaurant is reminiscent of the type of restaurant you’d find in an ethnic rich area of a large metropolitan area.  It is frequented by customers of all ethnicities, the common denominator being the recognition that this is a very special restaurant with incomparable food, terrific service and the type of grilling skills I envy.

San Pedro Middle East Restaurant
4001 San Pedro
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 888-2921
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 20 September 2016
1st VISIT:  13 November 2010
COST: $$
BEST BET: Shish Kabob Platter, Lamb Shawarma Platter, Fresh Pita Bread, Bakdunecea Salad, Garden Salad, Dolmes, Falafel, Baba Ganouj, Shisk KaftaPlatter, Beef Shawarma, Tabbouli, Chicken Shawarma, Foul Mudammas with Pita, Fatoush, Pistachio Baklava

San Pedro Mart Middle East Grocery & Alquds Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  • It is too bad that San Pedro Mart is located in such humble digs. I know a couple of people who would love their food, but will never set foot in there because of how the place looks (and the fact that it’s a convenience store). I’m assuming though that they’re doing OK since they’re chugging along. The sketchiness might actually be part of their charm.

    • The jankety ambiance is definitely part of the charm of this place, but it’s the food that keeps loyal diners coming back. As you well know from your visit to El Zarandeado’s, some of the the Duke City’s most dilapidated eateries serve pretty darned good food. I hope exterior appearances aren’t used as a criteria for deciding whether or not to visit or the chains have won for sure.

  • Wil Santi

    Would benefit immensely from having a real restaraunt or a foodie truck with a limited menu. Very nice people!

  • Hello Gil,
    Please tell me who your Lebanese neighbors in Penasco were? I am Adele Owen Balesh. Alex and Rubye were my parents. My brothers and sisters were Albert, Jr. Mary Ann…. I am the NM State Vice President for the Syrian Lebanese Southern Federation. I am trying to re-connect families from the middle eastern heritage to support this organization while forming clubs of thier own to preserve our heritage. Please write back and tell me who you are. Also, if you know of other Syrian and/or Lebanese contacts I can reach out for this purpose. The federation donates funds to st jude hospital and offers college scholarships to our youth. we have annual conventions as well. Regards

    • Hello Adele

      My last name is Garduño and I was named for my dad whom you may have had as a teacher (you graduated four years before I did). I attended St. Anthony’s with your brother Dale who had this amazing propensity for big words. Our neighbors were your brother Albert and his wonderful wife Jeanette. Albert was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. He would be so proud to see how well his children James, Julie, Albert and Michael turned out.

      I published your email so that other Syrian and/or Lebanese readers will know about the Foundation.



      • Adele Owen Balesh

        Thank you Gil. Mr Garduno was one of my favorite teachers. I saw Mrs Garduno at Julie’s wedding-she looks great. Please keep in touch. What a small wonderful world!

  • Wil

    Just went their for lunch. Great! Have traveled all over middle east for past 20 years and these gentlmen are the authentic article! Will be going back many more times…and bringing all of my friends.

  • Nate D

    I went again to San Pedro Mart this week. I think I’m about through the entire menu now, this time the Shish Kabob humus platter was on deck and it was outstanding. The simple truth is that if you don’t eat at this restaurant, you have no idea what you’re doing and probably shouldn’t be dining out anywhere.

  • Madeline

    My husband and I tried this place on a whim a few years ago–we’ve never looked back since! Absolutely amazing and very, very consistent. We love the beef or lamb shwarma, falafal, and dolmes. Every time we go, we wish we had bigger stomachs, so we could order more! I very, very highly recommend this place.

  • Morgain

    This place is so great! The falafel, pita and hummus are some of the best I’ve had! I must have more as soon as humanly possible!

  • Jim Millington

    So many people have commented on this place that I feel obligated to keep up the unanimous vote that the second best Middle Eastern place in Albuquerque is a distant second indeed. On our second visit we took your advise and split the Shish Kabob Platter with the best hummus west of the Pecos and Fattoush salad with an order of Foul Mudammas with Pita. Fantastic! The first time I had a falafel sandwich which was no slouch either.

    I am sure there is someone on planet earth who will someday say that they were disappointed. I had to counter such an opinion.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos

    Who says ABQ ain’t Cosmopolitan? Where else do ya drive down a street named for a Catholic saint in Spanish to go to a Middle Eastern restaurant playing Barbara Streisand on the radio sitting across from a Chabad Center, just a block away from some great (California) Pastrami sandwiches on a street bearing the name of a British general?

    Aha….the Shish Kabob platter con hummus and accompanying salad is perfectly sized for my avian appetite. Indeed the offering is as previously described and I must give a Tip ‘o the Tam to the Fattoush salad which I chose….a delight.

    Definitely on the Yum-Yum list.

  • Ruben

    I thoroughly enjoyed our lunch there last week, Gil. The accidental appetizer, was a real treat. The name “foul mudammas” certainly doesn’t inspire confidence. Whether you pronounce it “fowl” as most readers would or the true pronounciation of “fool”, neither one does it justice. Add to that the fact that it’s made with fava beans, the Rodney Dangerfield of beans, and you can see why the only way you would ever sample this dish is if it was brought to your table by accident. I can attest to what you said, it was a tasty, pleasant dish which I will order next time.

    In terms of the meat dishes. I had the chicken shawarma which was good, but I’ve gotta’ tell you, after I had a sample of your beef shishkabob, I quickly realized that this was the meat dish I will order next time. It was well marinated, tender, tasty, with a hint of smokiness and a crisp exterior. Beef shiskabob is the way I’ll go next time.

    The food is different in that you’ll taste different spice combinations and textures, but that’s what makes it so good. At the time I described it as tasting a lot of “bright” mediteranean flavors and I still think that’s an apt description. I like bright.

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge of this restaurant with me, Gil. It’s a good place to go for quality food at a very reasonable price.

  • Barbara V.

    Love this restaurant. The vegetarian extravaganza platter is delicious. The hummus is the best I’ve ever tasted. The dolmas are wonderful – freshly prepared and served warm. Love the tabbouli salad and the falafel, too. Everything is first-rate.

  • I am definitely going back to this restaurant! The prices are good, the staff are friendly and accommodating. The hummus is rich and at the same time tangy; the pita bread is chewy, fluffy and thick; and the tabbouleh is perfect!

  • Nicole (Nicky V’s) told me tonight that this is one of her favorite lunch places. She goes there whenever she is in the neighborhood. Pretty high praise from the owner of one of the most popular (and best) eateries on the West Side.

  • I ate here for the first time today. I very much enjoyed the dolmas appetizer with tahini sauce. I ordered the lamb shawarma for my entree, and it also was fantastic. I agree with you, Gil…the pita bread is the very best I’ve ever had. I ate like a king and the total with mint iced tea, tax, and tip was less than $20.
    I know I sound like a broken record…but Gil, you never lead me astray.

  • John L

    We’ve eaten at The San Pedro Market several time and have loved what we had every time. We were seduced to try Pars for their Restaurant Week special. Given the prices on their normal menu it seemed like a great deal. But overall the food at the San Pedro Market is much much better at a fraction of the price at Pars, even with their special deal for Restaurant Week.

  • Sr Plata

    SoThe Master took his 1/2 Sephardic protoge to this excellent restarant for lunch this afternoon that brought back fond memories when visiting ‘The Land’. I had the Beef Shawarma Platter that first started out with a salad of choice. The waitress suggested the Fattoush Salad as being the most popular. It was very good and refreshing with a hint of mint among the fried pita and the house special dressing; a very nice start. Then the platter, as you can see above in Gil’s picture had the marinated slices of beef in the center of the plate surrounded by Hummus. At first I thought it was a crust on the outside of the plate but it was a beautiful display of Hummus with the meat centered as if it was an island surrounded by water. I hadnt see this before and the presentation was very good! They provide 2 fresh pieces of Pita per person, all made within hours and warmed. But, to get through the entire meal, especially when sharing The Master’s Bakdunecea Salad, we deemed it that 4 pieces were the requirement. That may seem a lot but we didnt use forks or spoons but used the pita as eating utencils. We talked to one of the owners (brothers own) named Muhammad who was very nice and said he has been in the U.S. for 5 years, I am glad he picked Albuquerque. The restaurant also combines into a store for one to purchase their middle eastern products of necessities. I look forward to bringing Senorena Plata here one of these days when we trek across the river…

  • Nate D

    I tried this place out today with my buddy Tom. He had already gotten hooked on this place and been there 3-4 times. I can see why. Absolutely outstanding food. I had the lamb shawarma platter. I could eat this everyday and never get tired of it. The hummus that came with it could not be improved in any way. The two salads we had, particularly the tabbouli were very flavorful and very fresh. The pita bread is probably the best I have ever had. I look forward to returning many times over and trying the rest of the menu. If you have any interest in eating good food, you will try this place out. In addition, the owners are as nice and as accomodating as you will find at any restaurant.

  • lobo59

    Following Gil’s review, my group and I made our first trip to the Middle Eastern Restaurant earlier this week and enjoyed both the food and service immensely. Everything was tasty and fresh and prepared within minutes, if not seconds, of serving.

    The hosts, Muhammed and Abraham were warm and welcoming and gave us (and everyone) very personal and exceptional service. In some ways I felt like I had been eating in their home.

    The freshly prepared pita bread and hummus were equal to any I have ever eaten—and I have been eating Middle Eastern food (Lebanese) for 70 years. The tabbouli was also excellent, though in my judgment it could have used a little more cracked wheat. This is a quibble, however, and I would order it again (and again). We split the falafel appetizer (excellent) and had hot mint tea while we waited for our entrees.

    As for the entrees, the Chicken Tawook Platter had cubes of marinated chicken breast surrounded by the hummus. When these ingredients were combined with the pita bread and tabbouli it made a great meal. I also had a side of Fatoush salad which I enjoyed . We all liked the lamb shawarma, well described by Gil. Only the Shish Kafta Platter (ground beef over rice with onions and parsley and prepared “their way”) wandered into the ho-hum world. We thought it was okay, but under-seasoned.

  • the hand model

    Just ate here today for lunch. Hands down, the best middle eastern food I’ve eaten in ABQ.

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