Coronado Grill – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

The Coronado Grill in Bernalillo
The Coronado Grill in Bernalillo

In 1540 while searching for the fabled seven Cities of Gold, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado camped with his soldiers near the ancient Pueblo of Kuaua on the western banks of the Rio Grande where the city of Bernalillo exists today. Coronado never did locate the mythical Cities, finding instead a thriving agricultural village inhabited since 1300.

Only the partially reconstructed ruins of Kuaua (a Tiwa word for “evergreen”) remain today, but the “City of Coronado” still celebrates the Spanish explorer whose legacy has been somewhat tarnished by revisionist history.

The conquistador’s namesake restaurant is situated just south of the ruins in a sprawling 5,000 square foot complex sitting on three acres overlooking the Rio Grande. For ambience, you can’t beat the spectacular Rio Grande riverside vistas, especially on a crisp autumn evening when the moon is coming up over the Sandias. It’s one of the most spectacular vantage points in the entire state for luminous lunar gazing.

A rare sight: an empty Coronado Grill Restaurant
A rare sight: an empty Coronado Grill Restaurant

Weather permitting, diners can take advantage of the spectacular vistas by dining al fresco under a canopy of stars where they can breathe in New Mexico’s salubrious night air.  The exterior patio is a popular venue for parties and golfers alike.  From two tee boxes replete with synthetic turf, golfers can test their driving skills, the target a well-maintained green a couple hundred yards away just in front of the towering cottonwoods on the banks of the Rio Grande.

The name on the restaurant’s marquee “Coronado Grill” is subtitled with “New Mexican Cuisine, Steak and Seafood,” the promise of a versatile menu.  The restaurant’s interior is bright and welcoming, courtesy of large picture windows with unobstructed views of the Sandias and the cottonwoods prefacing the Rio Grande.  A hearth helps keep the main dining room warm in the winter.  The work of local artists festoons one wall.

Alas, ambience isn’t always enough as we found out when a change in ownership diminished the quality of cuisine we had previously experienced at the Coronado Grill. In 2007, the original owners returned to their restaurant and in addition to traditional New Mexican entrees crafted from family recipes and fresh seafood, they added an upstairs sushi bar called Rice N Roll.

Chips and salsa, some of the best in the region
Chips and salsa, some of the best in the region

Rice N Roll, closed by year’s end, offered a glimpse of a unique to New Mexico “east meets west” dining concept. The piquant bite of capsaicin imbued salsa and the earthy hot mustard-like heat of wasabi in one restaurant–it just made sense, especially if you were craving both New Mexican and Japanese cuisine, but not one over the other.

Today the upstairs area previously occupied by the sushi bar is home to Bernalillo’s first hookah lounge where you can choose from an assortment of shishas, tobaccos combined with fruit and molasses or honey.  The upstairs area is also a popular venue for parties.  It also hosts several local clubs and groups.

The menu is as versatile as promised on the marquee.  Appetizers include New Mexico’s ubiquitous salsa and chips as well as some unique offerings you may not expect.  One of those is a plate of sliders, three miniature burgers served with curly fries.  Another is carne adovada egg rolls, a starter we had heretofore seen only at Papa Felipe’s where this unique Southwest meets East starter is called the Botana Crispeante.

Green chile stew and a tortilla
Green chile stew and a tortilla

The lunch and dinner menu also includes a few surprises including Bosque Rainbow Trout which is pan-fried with garlic, capers, mushrooms and white wine.  Native New Mexicans who have fished the cold mountain streams generally like their trout prepared simply over a campfire, but this versatile fish with a thin crimson strip running lengthwise along its body, is a worthy canvass for what may seem to be disparate ingredients.  Rainbow trout, though very bony, has a light, pinkish (not quite salmon-like) flesh and very little “fishiness” in its flavor.  The Coronado Grill’s rendition is quite good.

Also on the lunch and dinner menu are liver, bacon & onions, an entree some people love and others disdain.  A number of sandwiches are also available including the very popular BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato).  Creativity isn’t lost on the desserts which showcase brownies imbued with the incomparable taste of green chile (more on this dessert below) and something called the Ice Cream Adobe Pie: pecan brittle with chocolate and vanilla ice cream layered between chocolate cake topped with butterscotch.

Because both the red and green chile are made from a base of chicken stock, vegetarian options are sans chile.  Vegetarian entrees include a veggie sandwich and some New Mexican entrees made without chile (akin to a New Mexico day without sunshine).

Carne Adovada Egg Rolls
Carne Adovada Egg Rolls

New Mexico state fair attendees say you can’t beat Coronado Restaurant’s salsa which earned both first place and People’s Choice awards in 2001 and 2002. The salsa is indeed good, with lots of cilantro, jalapeno and green onion to give it some heat (about medium on the piquancy scale) and flavorful bite.  It’s served with crispy red, yellow and blue corn tortilla chips.   Your first bowl of salsa is complementary but subsequent bowls will cost you $2.00.

Con queso is even more expensive at more than $6 a bowl, but it just might be worth it. Coronado’s con queso includes both red and green bell peppers as well as jalapeno.  If you’re used to the gloppy con queso made with processed cheese, you’ll love the Coronado Grill’s rendition.  It’s some of the very best con queso in New Mexico.

The aforementioned carne adovada egg rolls are not only intriguing, they’re quite good.  Four halved egg rolls are absolutely engorged with a flavorful carne adovada and cheese amalgam.  As you consider what it is you’re eating and its relative uniqueness, you’ll smile at how well the concept is executed.  These flavorful egg rolls are served with a housemade chipotle dip and enough chopped tomatoes and lettuce garnish to construct a small salad.  Ask your server for a side of the restaurant’s delicious housemade Ranch dressing and you can have that salad.  Ever the experimenter, I’m curious as to how those egg rolls would taste with a Chinese sweet and sour sauce.

Stuffed sopaipilla with red and green chile
Stuffed sopaipilla with red and green chile

In addition to a soup of the day offering, the Coronado Grill features a green chile stew which should warm both the cockles of your heart and your belly.   The tomato based green chile stew includes carrots, potatoes and other vegetables, but it might take Coronado’s advance scout teams to find more than two or three pieces of pork in the entire stew.  It’s a good green chile stew which, with more pork, might achieve rarified status as some of the very best in the area.  A thin flour tortilla is served with the green chile stew.

A “pick three of four” combination plate options give diners the opportunity to sample more than one item from the restaurant’s New Mexican fare. The options featured are a chile relleno, taco, tamale and enchilada with your choice of red or (and) green chile. Each item is well seasoned and tasty, albeit lacking in bite.  Neither the red or green chile provide much bite and for those of us who consider pain a flavor, that lack of piquancy is almost akin to lack of flavor.  I say almost because the New Mexican food at the Coronado Grill is generally satisfying and delicious even without chile that bites back.

For slightly less filling fare than the combination plate, an excellent option are the large stuffed sopaipillas. That’s what they’re called on the menu and that’s how they come served–with an emphasis on large. That comes from being overstuffed with beans and cheese and if you’re willing to pay three dollars more, your choice of beef, chicken or carne adovada.  There’s nothing quite as comforting as the first time your fork penetrates into the doughy envelope which houses pure deliciousness which waft upwards toward your eagerly awaiting nostrils.

Carne adovada plate
Carne adovada plate

As shown above, the stuffed sopaipillas are available Christmas style (red and green chile) and unlike some New Mexican restaurants, the garnish doesn’t cover the entire plate.  The puffed pillow of beloved fried bread known as the sopaipilla is believed to have been invented in Albuquerque more than two centuries ago.  Sopaipillas are a good thing made great when stuffed with New Mexican goodness.  Few restaurants serve them as well as the Coronado Grill.

As with other plates, the stuffed sopaipillas are served with your choice of two of the following: beans, papitas and calabasitas. The calabasitas, a colorful and fresh medley of squash, corn and onions are a must-have. No matter what the season, the Coronado Grill’s rendition has the taste of summer freshness.  The papitas, potatoes fried to perfection, are cut into bite-sized cubes and are crisp on the outside and soft and delicate on the inside exactly as they should be.  The pinto beans are also quite good.

Enchiladas may be the quintessential New Mexican dish and the Coronado Grill’s version are quite good.  Order them “Christmas style” (with both red and green chile) and with a fried egg on top to get them the way most New Mexicans like them.  The enchiladas are rolled corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and your choice of beef, chicken or carne adovada.

Christmas style Enchiladas
Christmas style Enchiladas

Another popular entree is the carne adovada, cubes of pork marinated in chile. The pork is cut into bite-sized pieces and is as tender as a bird’s heart. Melted yellow and white cheeses also top Coronado’s version which blessedly is made without cumin.  As with other New Mexican entrees, portion sizes are generous.  Great carne adovada is melt-in-your-mouth tender and leaves a craving only a future visit will quell.  It’s a testament to the Coronado Grill’s carne adovada is that it’s the entree we’ve had most often when we visit this riverside restaurant.

Dessert options include something uniquely New Mexican–brownies imbued with the incomparable taste of green chile. You don’t as much taste the green chile as you feel it in the back of your throat, not that it’s particularly piquant. The brownies are served atop a bed of blackberries and sprinkled with sugar. It’s a great way to end a nice meal.

Brownies with a surprise inside.
Brownies with a surprise inside.

Had the great explorer for whom this restaurant is named visited the Coronado Grill for lunch or dinner, he might have stopped his quest right then and there. It’s a welcoming milieu with terrific views and very good New Mexican food.

Coronado Grill
870 Highway 44
Bernalillo, NM
LATEST VISIT 5 December 2009
COST: $$
BEST BET: Salsa & Chips, Con Queso, Stuffed Sopaipilla, Carne Adovada, Enchiladas, Carne Adovada Egg Rolls

18 thoughts on “Coronado Grill – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

  1. Now that’s a winner Bruce! But alas I don’t think there’s rail to Durango and I don’t think some of us Taxpayers want to go down that rabbit hole…LOL.

    To otherwise get some Kicks on Route 66, PBS featured an hour video of David Suchet preparing for his role as Poirot in Murder on the OE by taking a trip on the OE…Y’all can play it on your computer here in segments (see 2-6 on right side) to make ya drool . Otherwise, I guess the closest to your enchantment is here As a further alternative for “Lovers”, picture boarding the ignominious RailRobber downtown to arrive at 6:17 on a Friday evening in Los Lunas. What better way to unwind than by the gentle rocking of the choo choo for a half hour enjoying the lush bosque and sunset vistas while sharing sips of your especial vino spirited aboard in a couple of flasks? Upon arriving at the station, you are whisked the two blocks over to Luna Mansion to enjoy an enchanting setting for your dining delight, afterwhich you are whisked back to the station for the 7:56 train to ABQ!!! Alas, no one has come forward as yet to offer a cost effective liability coverage for such a “weekend” shuttle. “Chow”

  2. Why not retro fit one of the RailRunners ala the Orient-American Express rail cars with fine dining, fine Tequila and fine cigars, throw in some gaming and make it an overnite to say Durango.
    I’ve taken the O-A Express from Union Station Wash Dc to Chicago.
    A terrific experience with excellent food and drink.
    Bob, you’re a man of vision!
    Sign me up for the inaugural trip and I’ll pay extra to sound the train whistle.

  3. Aha…I got a nibble! Alas, I never got into cigars. Hmm….good ideas….could a couple of cars on the RailRobber for Tequila tasting and slots alleviate the burden on us taxpayers?
    You can see the “shell” (for sale) for the Rio Grande Yatch Club on your way to the Sunport via Yale at Alamo. Seagull Street (at Academy-’86-’03) was like a quaint Maine cottage covered with cobble or river stones with a faux seaside (an actual water feature with a fishing boat in it) off the back deck/patio that had been misplopped down here by a wayward tornado! Apparently monies to update were drying up at the time and CVS pharmacy showed $$$ to raze it and build its place which itself never used, with Ace hardware giving that building a try, and then some home furnishings folks that have now left it empty. I’m still mourning, if nothing else, the loss of the out-of-place eye candy. The Far West was between Central NW & I-40 half way up 9 Mile hill (98th? Unser?). It was actually a dance/lounge place featuring the hot New Mexican Bands of the era…maybe Al Hurricane himself, owned it? Anyway, the view was to die for. Christy Mae’s was an offshoot of its everyday-man’s ‘diner’ on San Pedro NE. It was a “victorian” looking place (inside n out) over by the I-25 Frontage Rd and Osuna(?) which succumbed to (internal stife?) morphing into an adult entertainment place of others. Alas, while on this jag, let’s give a tip of the sombrero to the decaying Territorial House, a bit north of Casa Vieja, that even Johnny Tapia couldn’t revive in the face of the Coors Chains just a couple of miles south. Aha, Maria Teresa’s is nevermore.
    Well, Gracias to Paul’s & Monte Carlo’s at one level and particularly Antiquity’s for hanging in there!! No offense Jennifer!

  4. Mr. Bob,
    The only things you left off your ambitious wish (bucket) list was a cigar room and slot machines.
    And there is more than enough room at the Coronado for both.
    I have only been in the LOE for a short (5) years so I can’t commiserate with all of your list of late great eateries but there is always room for good and great eateries.

  5. Yo Bruce,

    I don’t know how to badger youz gourmand guyz/galz more…to coalesce…
    than I have for your retirement supplements, well possibly need-be replacements to Social Security!!! than to buy up, get lease-rights to, some of these gems!!! Who didn’t savor the ambiance of the shuttered Yacht Club on Yale; geesh, I didn’t even get to go into The Falls on 528; is there a remnant of Al’s Far West Club off of Nine Mile Hill with its splendiferous view of the twinkling Q; and what could be a more romantic setting than a candle lit patio or dining room of the Coronado Grille looking out over the valle? (Alas, I was gone at the time, but how did we lose the (faux?) niceties like Seagull Street; was it the Roxy on Montgomery; and whatever Christy Mae’s (off San Mateo) was called?) When ya open in the future, Y’all could proffer an ecletic …exclusive…menu of only 6 to 9 classics: a Filet (Petite and Grande) with Bernaise; a Wellington; a Prime Rib (ala the house of Lawry’s); a lobster or tail; an actual Dungeness crab; an Especial Chimichanga and Enchilada (both con “X’s” green or Mary/Tito’s Red); an eccentricity or something-or-other from some made in USofA city (e.g. Haluski for Kelly O’s in Pittsburg ; a ?; a ?; + a Chef’s “creation” of the week! A small dance floor at each joynt featuring, on alternate Fridays and Saturdays, Mexican and Big Band sounds (interspersed with up n coming local comedians/magicians/tap dancers/singers/etc) for after dinner desserts and beverages till later in the eve! Oh well I dream…civililty/charm/savoir faire/romance and the snooty Maitre D’, Andrea, are DEAD. But! I will dream on nevertheless!

  6. Coronado Grill has closed.
    A lovely patio, spotty food and service.
    Hopefully someone will recognize the location and open a restaurant that attracts patrons with location, food and service.
    One can only hope.

  7. Wondering if Mark Paz is still GM/part-owner??? Wish there were more current blogs on how the restaurant/grill is these days… still good?

  8. About Mark, Mgr. /owner of Coronado Grill ???….I’ll get replies/messages back faster through the “raba……..” e-mail address. Thanks again! Joy

  9. Wondering if Mark Paz is still there, as GM, part-owner? I heard thru the “grapevine” that he took it over a few years back .We knew each other well when I was waitressing in Okla. City many years ago…used to feed him alot! I went on into Mgmt., too, as well as Consulting /Training staff, etc. Coming down there for a visit and wanted to go to/check out The Coronado Grill for eats and to see what he’s done with it. Anyone know? Still good on the taste buds??? Been many years since last there… Thanks! Joy

  10. Beautiful surroundings. Food mediocre. Service slow. Waitstaff not professionally dressed. Cobwebs. Not cheap for quality of food. Did not get my coffee refilled after 1 1/2 hours in restaurant.

  11. We had been wanting to experience the Coronado Grill for some time. Finally went and had mixed feelings. The decor and view were lovely and clean. Our server was great. The potatoes were delicious, the green chili HOT. The tamale was not good, the chili relleno was ok. The big disappointment was the drink special. The $3.00 margarita on the rocks was just a cheap mix that was so salty it was hard to drink (And we used straws). A real thrill was the music on the patio. A guitar duo named Johnson and Romero. Sitting on the patio with the lovely scenery, listening to their beautiful music, really took me to a different place. We will try this restaurant again because it did have so many pluses.

  12. My friends and I hadn’t been to Coronado for over a year and wanted to have some margaritas and appetizers. Well, we first used the restroom –neither of the 2 dispensers had soap. I judge the cleanliness of a restaurant by the restrooms–if no soap–ugh–I can imagine the kitchen area. I told the older woman at the reception area and she shrugged it of by saying the dispensers leaked. Then I asked about the cooks and she said they have a dispenser in the kitchen. Right! She had a terrible, lazy attitude so we left never to return. She made no attempt to say she would put soap in the bathroom. They could have used a bar of soap or the individual soap bottle dispensers used at other restaurants. A disgusting place.They obviously don’t care about attracting customers. We went to the Range and enjoyed appetizers and drinks in a very nice atmosphere in their bar.

  13. I WILL NEVER EAT HERE AGAIN!!!! My neighbors and my family eat out every Friday night and we are always looking for some place new, to our misfortune we found this place last night. The waitress we were told (after things started going wrong) was new, while that might have contributed to the whole ordeal I believe that the kitchen staff needs to be retrained as well. After waiting a little too long for our drink orders and then again upon receiving our drinks and placing our orders we waited about 20mins for our food. Upon receiving my order (pulled pork sandwich) my request for no onions and no pickles was obviously not written down by the waitress. On my neighbors order the “green Chile” on the side request was not written down either. Since I am extremely allergic to onions I was put off but figured I would scrape away the onions and pickles and move on, but the waitresses attitude was such that I sent the whole plate back and did not eat. My neighbor waited 45min to have her plate fixed and even then is was so-so. They even tried to reserve her original wrong plate before she got her fixed meal. As I have managed small restaurants in my past I am usually willing to give a place another chance, but in this case while the gentleman that took over for our waitress was very nice and tried very hard to make things right, I WILL NEVER GO HERE AGAIN!!!! As a result my drive from Albuquerque to Bernalillo was a waste of time and gas!!!!

  14. Just ate here tonight. The salsa is awesome. Service was great. The staff is very attentive. The food was so-so. My husband had the carne adovada burrito and I had the chile rellenos. Both came with only scant amounts of green chile. When my husband asked for extra they charged us 2 dollars for a very tiny serving. Our question was why go there when you can get similar offerings with much better quality and only pay a little more at The Range Cafe.

  15. We eat here regularly. Huevos Rancheros, carne adovada, and chile rellenos are always great. And they have some of the most flavorful red chile in NM.

  16. Colorado transplants who haven’t had the opportunity to eat here yet – but looking forward to it. Tried to make reservations, but the # you provided is wrong. It’s 867-3939, not 878.

  17. We eat hre regularly and always order the chile rellenos…I think they are the best in NM…even tho they are not “hot”. My Puerto Rican friend who always says “nothing spicy” loves them…and she is the pickiest eater I know….and I agree…the salsa is awesome…Thanks for all the info. I have tried many places based on your reviews..


  18. Flew into Albuquerque and drove from there to Durango. Landed at lunch, so we stopped at Bernalillo to eat. Coronado Grill had a blackboard menu that had two Huevos Rancheros for $4.00. After confirming that the menu was not written in error, We ordered two Huevos Rancheros and had a delightful lunch. They were delicious. They reminded me of all the New Mexican cuisine that I had enjoyed visiting the state for the last 25 years. Viva Coronado Grill.

    Bob and Michaele Southard

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