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.

133 comments

  • 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…

    • FGFABQ

      SP, we live in a very complex state. One of the poorest states in the union with an ever growing food scene. It is the survival of the fittest.
      With so many good and varied types of eateries combined with the pervasive poverty there are just so many dollars to spread around. And when Blakes Lotaburger is a perennial winner of the coveted GCCB of the Year contest it easy to see why non chain establishments have a difficult time surviving.
      Like you, we all have our go to places and we miss them when the disappear from the landscape.
      I think Gil has kept some of out favorites alive beyond the life expectancy but there is no guarantee of success in the food world.
      In our 10 years living out here the quality and number of good to great restaurants has increased by leaps and bounds. That’s a very good thing. Losing a favorite is not.

      • Sr Plata

        FBFABQ, thanks so much for your reply, it’s good new know there are FOGer’s who feel the same angst as I do. It seems we need to be key folks to help lift our fair state from low on the economic list to a higher level. Not sure of the answer but perhaps we need to be much more vocal about awesome foods so those born outside of NM as well as inside can have a set of ‘Go To’ places handy in their minds. Maybe we pseudo sponsor them and let owners in on it. I see the steak chains packed, same as the Flying Star ( I always ask myself where did these people eat before the one in Corrales was built??). Maybe Gil needs a moving FOG Top Ten Restaurant List and its food category at the top of the Blog so best are always displayed at all times. I don’t know. Should FOGer’s invest in a centrally located area and open a site that has the best of local foods. Kind of like s food court? But I do know our fair city needs a real Jewish Deli that has hints of L.A. And New York. I wrote too long, let’s hear from FOGers some great suggestion to make New Mexico Eateries Great Again…

  • BOTVOLR

    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.

  • FGFABQ

    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.

    • BOTVOLR

      Yo FGFABQ,
      The latest I read, 8/6: http://tinyurl.com/zy9aqlu .
      – Not being privy to the dynamics of the “selling” of TH and not implying Maxime can’t bring something especial to “pizza”, I haven’t however been impressed with nouveau pizzas elsewhere. Whoa! has anyone had the Orsetto Gommoso Pizza?
      Indeed I empathize with Maxime in having the gumption to ‘take a Sabbatical” to hopefully return to his expertise in tweaking Italian fare. One never knows what one never knows! I only recently learned about this http://tinyurl.com/qb6uhkc (which I tried to pass on) which might bring a whole new perspective to the taste/flavor of such a simple fare as spaghetti: i.e. I do not think Swiss Spaghetti has been offered anywhere in the US! (Alas, Kassie of Joe’s PH shooed me away with a broom even suggesting such a thing!)

      • FGFABQ

        Perhaps you can explain why Swiss Spaghetti has been called an April Fools Day hoax going back to photos in the ’50s.
        Gummy Bear Pizza and Swiss Spaghetti?
        I just don’t get it.
        What does your comment have to do with Maxime and Daniella’s new venture, Eclectic?
        We all know you are of exceptional intellect, you don’t have to prove it time and time again.
        I feel like you constantly play us and I don’t know why.

      • BOTVOLR

        FGFABQ…Per your question regarding the Spaghetti hoax: It was presented by the BBC on April Fool’s Day, ’57. Per Wikipedia (& others): “….At the time spaghetti was relatively little known in the UK, so that many Britons were unaware that it is made from wheat flour and water; a number of viewers afterwards contacted the BBC for advice on growing their own spaghetti trees…. The report was made more believable through its voice-over by respected broadcaster Richard Dimbleby….Pasta was not an everyday food in 1950s Britain, and it was known mainly from tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce and considered by many to be an exotic delicacy. An estimated eight million people watched the programme on 1 April, and hundreds phoned in the following day to question the authenticity of the story or ask for more information about spaghetti cultivation and how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC reportedly told them to “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best”.
        Decades later CNN called this broadcast “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled”.” The Museum of Hoaxes rates it #1 as well. In addition to the BBC having a highly regarded reputation for accuracy, many might consider it staid or even frumpy, all of which I believe added to the presentation being so great. I swear it was reshown here on old Allen Funt’s Candid Camera when I first saw it. When greeting tourists from Italy, I often share it which they play on their cells/tablets and find hilarious.
        What does your comment have to do with Maxime and Daniella’s new venture, Eclectic? Gummy Bear pizza? Alas, I’m being facetious and reflecting broadly in terms of what is sometimes passed off as a great, nouveau pizza where I’ve, IMHO, been “burned”. While we might never get to great things like a GCCB or Bernaise sauce unless people experiment, I, egotistically, think some pizza experiments are as ridiculous as Orsetto Gommoso Pizza. No offense is intended re Maxime’s adventure as it is not open yet.
        Sorry you have concerns that I am trying to prove my “exceptional intellect” or trying to “play” anyone. As I can’t dissuade you of that, I suggest you don’t read my blatherings; I promise, I won’t take offense. I enjoy coming across new things in the world (well to me anyway) and pass them on lest some might find them interesting as well, with there being some thread of relevance and if not, I’ve tried to note a caveat.
        I often intend humor as laughing feels good, but I realize some things might fall flat and hope Folks who find that too, will cut me some slack.
        Sorry that my intent to support your concerns for M & D’s new adventure missed the mark for you.
        Adios.

  • BOTVOLR

    #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.)

  • BOTVOLR

    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 !!!

    • FGFABQ

      What is your definition of “ya lose some” considering our small state
      Who should be on the list that missed out? How do NM eateries compete with coastal oceanfront restaurants?
      Or are dismayed that your fave one trick pony, el Pinto with their one trick red chile rack of ribs, paid for with a Journal Press pass discount didn’t make it?
      Whatever else one feels about Farm/Table their outdoor patio s beautiful and their food crushes El Pinto.
      I’m not sure the outdoor dining at Indigo Crow is that great but the food certainly is terrific.
      So instead of just supplying others with countless links and few personal opinions perhaps you can add to the discussions with your own words providing your own choices or disagreements.
      When I see the results of some of these polls in your links such as “100 best eateries under 2 bucks” I cringe. Or the usual GCCB winner Blakes Lotaburger, really?
      Gil’s thrilling is our oasis providing first person testimony exploring the virtues or minuses of local dining spots. A perfect way of finding good food from locals with good tastes.

      • BOTVOLR

        Again, Ya Win some, ya lose some.
        (Ooops! Before I again offend FGFABQ: Alas previously, I was so presumptive to presume that readers would be “in the know” of what I meant by “Ya lose some”: e.g. or i.e. being #1 for Pedestrian deaths in the US; being #4 as the most dangerous state in the US; the worst in the nation for childhood poverty; the #1 State with highest teen pregnancy rates; poor college and high school graduation rates while tops in High School dropout rates; being #2 per capita for the most opioid ODs nationally; do I even need to get into DUIs? yada yada. Ergo, for brevity, I did not spell it out. Alas I presumed, given I may not be known for often dinging places or try to do so gently, I presumed Folks would “get” that the reference was being positive when I attempted to highlight/tout the national recognition Farm and Table and Indigo Crow received being amongst top “al fresco places”, nationally!
        As I tried to imply, I was offering Kudos to those places OBVIOUSLY in the desert for making a “list”. I had no reservations about them. If I’d recently been to Sandiago’s to sample their food, I might have opined that their ‘al fresco’ dining setting, IMHO, could also match many on that list in terms of view.
        In this email, I’m trying to give Giovannis a bit of a “spotlight” per a “list” Gil seems to hold well overall…. http://tinyurl.com/hr7ehhx . Alas, I’ve never been there to comment on its offerings. I’m trusting Gil’s and Commenters notes. Indeed, I now must wonder to go to see if it beats Saggio’s El Milano that no one herein has ventured to try and therefore comment on. Kinda like my one-trick-pony, that FGFABQ maligns…The Red Chile Ribs of El Pinto which have received national recognition…that he nor anyone has challenged me with a better choice in the City. BTW FGFABQ, Press Pass never applied! In the past, and their Ribs being well worth paying the full price otherwise, they’ve generously offered a 1/2 price pre-buy deal….per profits from their otherwise pricey offerings. BTW, currently, Scalo’s is no longer part of Journal Rewards, but I continue to enjoy and comment on their Filettos. Yo, ya gotta keep up on things…lest I’m doing it for ya! (Sorry that my trying to cobble together a few shekels in savings for some inheritance to my Kid’s/G-kids always seems to offend you!)
        Speaking of Commenting and that I should Comment on the food besides noting some things Folks might find of interest: Per trying to overlook it was a glitch, I held off (at least herein) commenting on your beloved Farm and Table. Originally in Gil’s blog, I ‘extolled’ the tastiness of the Filet I had and tried to mince words about it being small for the price http://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=15644#comments that others have noted as well. RE an experience a couple of weeks ago: If ya can’t send out an excellent “To Go” (even it is only ‘going’ for 5 minutes!), perhaps don’t offer anything at all: 26 bucks (for two) of their Breakfast Biscuit Sandwiches, each squished in a cardboard box!: “Farm eggs”: Duh….I challenge anyone to taste a difference with the eggs I buy at WallyMart and then scramble, which I presume came from “a Farm”, and then put in a non-descript ‘bun’; “Bacon” (crispy?): mine miked are better; “Tucumcari Cheddar”: give me a break and pre-shredded cheese from “Wisconsin”; and the “Farm Fries”? must be made by one really old farmer or “chef” not on Viagra!
        In addition about commenting on “food”: if you, FGFABG, review all your Comments throughout Gil’s Blog, most of them are bashing….no longer playfully razzing me….and have nothing to do with food! Apparently my comments somehow cause you discomfort. I can only imagine what might happen if you were to go to your healthcare provider. E.g. A Scenario:
        FGFABQ: Yo “doc”, I get this terrible discomfort/pain when I do this!!! What can I do?
        HealthCare Provider: Stop hitting yourself in the head with a hammer!!! (i.e. stop reading BOTVOLR’s Comments!)
        As such, I tried to take the healthcare provider’s advice by stopping Commenting. Alas, FGFABQ came back by offering to “bury the hatchet” if I’d come to the FOG at the IPCC. I did and I offered to even shake his hand. Little did I realize, he, like Lucy http://tinyurl.com/jnuz98o, were going to bury the hatchet again and again…in my back. Razzing is one thing; being snarky is another.
        Several years ago, I immediately desisted when FGFABQ took umbrage with a light-hearted, political jab I tried to sneak in a Comment. I have no problem with you disagreeing…politely…with my assessment of a venue nor its offerings, but otherwise, I think you do a disservice to Gil’s Blog with your attacks on me. I.e. there is enough hostility going on in the current campaigns to turn people off whereby Folks may avoid listening/reading hostility and thus possibly miss being exposed to “worthwhile” info…i.e. in this Blog. As such, I feel that a Newbie checking out Gil’s Blog, let alone Regulars herein, become disenchanted seeing FGFABQ/BOTVOLR, FGFABQ/BOTVOLR, FGFABQ/BOTVOLR going back and forth in the “Your Feedback” section and they quit following the Blog. To avoid that and if this will help to get you off my butt like an unwanted boil: OK…I am thin skinned…it comes with aging. I do not like being Bullied. You WIN. You are The Champ at being Snide! Oh…Oh…re your recent comment of “I’m sure you’ve looked up your new derogatory term (Meschugener) before using it. So thanks for that.” Indeed I did…http://www.dictionary.com/browse/meshugana and found no mention of it being derogatory. Oh, I didn’t take it that way when my Jewish friends would… good naturedly… razz me with it in the past. But, as you apparently misinterpreted it, I APOLOGIZE and for similarly, if need be, using “Gumba” http://tinyurl.com/jemejdu and even tho, per an altered spelling, some Folks offer it is least of all derogatory e.g. http://tinyurl.com/z8kstj9 and ESPECIALLY from this Goomba http://tinyurl.com/hbgrb2f contrary to your taking offense! Such an apology is much akin to when I tried to apologize to Shawne, but you continued to harp about my tactlessness with even another Comment after that!
        Alas, the main point of that Comment was to chide readers to Comment….given Gil notes his visits are but a brief snapshot in time and he touts other people’s opinions are of equal import, as well as to recruit New Readers. Hers was the only Comment for Le Troquet at the time in 2 months, despite it had also been open for several months!!!! The whole schtick…inane as it might have seemed Bubba….and if I explained it, that would have taken the “whatever” out of it….was for us to meet up at Le Troquet (and then maybe elsewhere)…separate from your reference of it being a “date”. The May and December element, was to be part of the schtick!!!! It was to try to move things along in terms of readership and comment wise! Separate from the romantic tease in the following, didn’t you ever see the dozen or so Taster’s Choice commercials that went on…OMG….from ’87- ’93 like a soap opera???? http://tinyurl.com/z7brfep Geesh, they used to even advertise when the next such “advertisement” was to be on and ended with 30 million viewers for the last one???? Lo that readers herein might have become enraptured to check Gil’s Blog more often as well as enlist friends to check out how Shawne and I “got along” as might be evidenced in our “individual reporting” of our impressions of different venues and offerings!!!! But that is all for naught as you’ve possibly scared her off. Ok, maybe I could have scripted my Comment better, but couldn’t you have been a bit more reflective? And…Lest I be critiqued that we might not always have “gotten along”, I’m reminded of one episode of the series http://tinyurl.com/z86gsgp
        Bottom line: given the amount of comments that are generated on Trip Advisor/Yelp/Zomato/etc. and while recognizing they reach a national population base and given the number of Folks who’ve put their “life savings” on the line in NM/ABQ in trying to satisfy our palates (even tho they may be lacking/naive as to running a business), I…egotistically if you must….hope my Comments contributed to Gil’s Blog reaching more of ABQ’s spending population.

        Oh Oh! Almost lastly FGFABQ: I think your comment of “And to compare Vicki Yada Yada Yada Carr to Edith Piaf is like comparing Brittany Spears to Renee Fleming or Ella Fitzgerald.” was utterly snotty, let alone disrespectful . First of all, I wasn’t comparing Carr’s version. It came unconsciously to mind during sleep. I followed that up with (despite your finding including links abhorrent) links to several songs of Ms. Piaf and apparently you “missed”/didn’t fathom the implication within “No way the offerings at Le Troquet are going to disappoint!”, that Piaf’s music in the background would certainly serve to maximize the food/ambiance/service of Le Troquet. Oh, and by the way, after you consider this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikki_Carr review of how Carr has been respected, what are you implying by “Yada Yada Yada”? Seems a bit on the unPC side, IMHO…especially being in New Mexico! While she went by Vikki Carr, she often was Up-Front letting audiences know in public or TV appearances…..she was not ashamed of…her Mexican/Hispanic roots….especially in an era when Cesar Chavez was shocking Anglos by urging a Boycott of Lettuce and Grapes from the region where most of the US got them, while he was working legally (born in AZ) as a farm worker in California, but protesting the long hours working in the sun with limited water, toilets, breaks for low wages in the (desolate?) fields of central California.
        Lastly, I know it is “small” of me, but, upon reflection, I see why I’ve been avoiding going to a previous, periodic FAV of mine, per your FAV being Blade’s Bistro in Placitas.
        OMG…lastly lastly….consider increasing salads, prunes etc as I’m thinking you might be roughage challenged which might contribute to your crappy comments! “Just sayin.”

      • Foodie Star

        Jeez Bob! You shouldn’t be so succinct. I feel like you left out some important details and references (and sub-references, and sub-sub-references.) Remember, language is free and that means you can use as much of it as you want. The simplest detail can change the whole message, so I suggest you include all of them so you’re not misunderstood.

        Seriously, have a great day!

      • FGFABQ

        Apparently forgotten are my complicity in the Kennedy assassination, the 2008 financial meltdown, the disappearance of Judge Crater and the Jimmy Hoffa case, an the Lindbergh kidnapping.
        Guilty as charged.
        I’ll be ordering the red chile crow at El Pinto.
        Ya win some, ya lose some.
        How was the food?

  • BOTVOLR

    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.
    Thanks

  • BOTVOLR

    Caveat:
    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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