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.

122 comments

  • 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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