Dining Albuquerque

Downtown Albuquerque (Courtesy of Sarah Rose)

Downtown Albuquerque (Courtesy of Sarah Rose)

As New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque also provides its most plentiful and diverse dining opportunities.  Lying in the Chihuahuan Desert near the geographical center of New Mexico, the “Duke City” is situated on a plain along the banks of the Rio Grande and at the base of the Sandia Mountains to the east.

Historically a tricultural city representing a synergy of Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures, both modern and traditional cultures coexist in a relatively easy harmony.  As a result, Albuquerque is very accepting to diversity in dining.

Less than 20 years ago “diversity” was not a term you could ascribe to the Albuquerque dining scene.  Aside from a preponderance of New Mexican and American restaurants, the only other ethnic restaurants represented in appreciable numbers were Chinese and Italian.

My friend Bill Resnik attepts to bite into the Have your Cake Dagwood sandwich

My friend Bill Resnik attepts to bite into the Have your Cake Dagwood sandwich

Burgeoning growth over the past three decades resulted in a population, which in 2002, surpassed half a million.  It also meant the introduction into our dining scene, of restaurants crossing many ethnic groups and demographics.

Bigger is not always better and with an increase in population, Albuquerque also has seen the onslaught of many nation-wide franchise restaurants, most of which dot the frontage roads visible from the city’s freeways.

Some of these interlopers have essentially driven long-established “mom and pop” restaurants out of business.  During the 18 month period starting at about January, 2003, the number of chain restaurants in the Duke City doubled, adding over 5,000 seats to an already glutted market.  At the same time, the number of new seats for restaurants not in the “chain gang” increased by just over 200.

The famous Lotaburger marquee (Photo courtesy of Sarah Rose)

Several years ago some innovative Duke City restaurateurs fought back, forming the “Albuquerque Originals”, one of sixteen chapters nationwide dedicated to promoting the independent restaurant.  Many of the city’s best restaurants belong to the Originals: Artichoke Cafe, Ambrozia, Graze, Great American Land & Cattle Company, Indigo Crow, McGrath’s, Rancher’s Club, The Range Cafe, Scarpa’s, Seasons, Yanni’s and others among them.

It baffles me as to why the local populace would prefer to eat at a copycat chain when they could dine at a wonderful original.  For a lengthier diatribe on my opinion of corporate restaurants, please read my ratings page.

Albuquerque’s mantra should be “pansa llena, corazon contento,”  a Spanish “dicho” or saying which means, “full stomach, happy heart.”  That’s because Duke City residents have over 1200 restaurants from which to choose–and choose they do–to the tune of about $1400 per diner in 1994.

In fact, New Mew Mexicans in general like to dine out.  In fiscal 2003, New Mexicans spent $1.6 billion in eating and dining establishments (considering the disgraceful amount of alcohol consumed by New Mexico residents, I’d love to see the true break-down between alcohol and food).

Other cities may have more restaurants and restaurants with much more acclaim, but Albuquerque holds its own and often surpasses the culinary culture at larger cities.

NOTE:  The awe-inspiring polychromatic photo of downtown Albuquerque is courtesy of my friend Sarah Rose, a very talented and creative artist whose lenses capture her subject matter in a unique light.


  • It also baffles me why local New Mexicans would eat at a copycat chain! I love southwest food and New Mexico has some of the finest America has to offer.

    • FGFABQ

      It’s easily explained.
      Blakes Lotaburger, a perpetual winner of NM’s Best GCCB, outsells every other chain and non-chain by a mile statewide.
      While Sparkys in Hatch, which has a GREAT GCCB, sells hundreds of burgers every week, Blakes sells thousands.
      We are a very large, very poor state and most of our residents only experience Blakes.
      They vote only what they know.

  • Sr Plata

    Vernon’s Open Door now closed where Quarters was in Cottonwood area. When will this ever end. FOG, we need to figure this out so all doesn’t close and only BK is left…


    Yo if Y’all are a Peeler to traditionally have a stash of Green Chile for the yearlong:
    Just got off the phone with Rosales Produce. The north 4th St. “roadside stand” will be opening on Monday, the 8/22/16. (Psst! For those who are Chile-masochists, it is still a bit too early to have some Lumbre…always under the counter, of course!)
    – Never been from the Heights or West Side? Easy access via Paseo! http://tinyurl.com/zvqfo8h
    – For those who wince that it’s all the way over there, consider we typically have cheaper gas, it’s an Op to wind down for an hour by enjoying the iron/fiberglass sculptures at the Unser Museum, sip some world class awarded wine at Casa Rondena’ Tasting Venue, an op to try Down & Dirty Seafood Boil, margaritas at Sadie’s, a casual and unique GCCB at Papaburgers or a Stuffed Sopaipilla of Chicharonnes con beans/onions/red on the secluded “tropical-like” patio of Casa de Benavidez after exloring a 1/2 doz antique shoppes within a mile, or dine Farm and Table next door to another vintage place which also offers scads of ephemera to be Found on 4th for your own collage creations….http://tinyurl.com/jkfn4m4 …I.e. tired of taking a bottle of wine/a wallymart bouquet to a friend’s homedinner? They’ll teach you how as well!

  • Roland

    Bob, I found the comments rather amusing. I, of course, recognized they had nothing to do with the new restaurant, but thought it was reminiscent of the feat pulled off by the late great Orson Welles years earlier only less scary.
    On a somewhat sad note, I am afraid today’s society has lost the art of laughing at itself when spoofs like this are put forth for our entertainment.
    Since this blog is for public comment, I mostly read detractors comments and slough them off as people who are trying to pull someone’s chain or someone who needs to get a life. I got a chuckle from it. Thanks for sharing.

    • FGFABQ

      I thought it was reminiscent of the last time BOTVOLR posted something about “Swiss spaghetti” ” relative to Joe’s Pasta House.


    I haven’t heard any comments re Daniella and Maxime’s latest venture, Eclectic, an “urban pizzeria” said to be opening this month on Mebaul near I40.
    The prospect of their pizzas is exciting, especially if it’s as good as the excellent fare they turned out at Torinos@ home.
    I wish them best of luck.


    #1 OMG! Despite probable, vehement protestations/denials to the contrary, I’m 87% sure, I can’t help but to think, some of Y’all within, will be ecstatic to hear of the launch of El Whopperito by Burger King this coming August 15th!!!! See here: http://tinyurl.com/h6rlnf6 “They” say “El Whopperrito is made with many of the same ingredients as the namesake cheeseburger, but with a couple of exceptions. Instead of mayonnaise and cheese, it comes “smothered” with a layer of creamy queso sauce; and instead of the same old Whopper burger patties, it comes with flame-grilled burgerbeef that’s seasoned with a blend of spices for a Tex-Mex flavor. Oh, and it comes in a tortilla instead of on a bun, of course. ”

    Whoa! No Green Chile? That’s what I said! Am looking forward to Y’alls’ Reviews! No, I haven’t seen a coupon.

    #2 Ya know, nothing goes with a good meal like some Mitote http://tinyurl.com/zxuxkye , at least here in NM…IMHO!

    Recently, i.e. the past few days, there have been articles in the ABQ Journal about Wise Pies is about to launch actually serving Wise Pies pizza in The Pit as run by Mike Baird. Elsewhere, it says that Mr. Keith Baird, Mike’s Dad, has taken over iconic Vernon’s SteakHouse from Mike Baird due to financial stuff http://tinyurl.com/zxhk6ly. As Y’all know, UNM ala the Pit, recently offered name-rights for the Pit which Wise Pies “bought” for $5 million of which they’ve only paid a couple of hundred thou toward so far http://tinyurl.com/hjgvnre. Is there cause for concern here that we might have missed a more solid, less fluid, naming rights gig….(which might positively impact UNM’s budget and thus student’s Fees) or am I way off base of the intent of what might/might not be up for discussion on the Blog?
    In terms of Full Disclosure: I did not think much of Wise Pies offerings way before the UNM PIT-schtick; I have a G-daughter starting UNM in The Fall; I’m now stuck with a prepaid chit (Whoa that UNM might end up with the same!!!) for the now closed Vernon’s Open Door.)


    Eh! ya win some, ya lose some….
    In “Open Table”‘s listing of The 100 Best Al Fresco Dining Restaurants in America 2016 http://tinyurl.com/hn3rzwb they claim Farm & Table AND Indigo Crow !!!


    Several Folks have noted taking umbrage, understandably, with different “Best of…..” surveys, especially when it comes to our GCCB. Lest you missed it, here’s your chance to change that as well as possibly help some Local ventures. The Journal reports it accepts only one use of the site http://www.abqjournal.com/readerschoice/ for an entry.
    For better or worse or if you choose not to vote, the “notoriety”/5 minutes-of-fame of others, still may generate business.


    For those of Y’all into occasional dining at home and into the Farm-to-Table Schtick:
    It’s that time of year to check out http://www.losranchosgrowersmarket.com/
    (Free tip: Wet/shake off excess and wrap Artichokes individually in saran-wrap to store in frig to keep freshness, IMHO, for a few xtra days in our dry clime!)

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