Rey’s Place – Albuquerque, New Mexico (RELOCATED)

Rey’s Place Mexican Restaurant on Edith

Rey’s Place has relocated and now shares space with La Familar, the terrific Mexican restaurant owned by Michael “Rey’s” lovely bride Luz.  La Familiar is located at 1611 4th Street, N.W.  Its menu includes all the wonderful foods you’ve loved for years at Rey’s Place: gorditas, enchiladas, caldo de rez and so much more.  Whether you visit for excellent Mexican food or Michael’s mellifluous guitar and sensational singing voice, Rey’s La Familiar will soon become one of your favorite restaurants.    Call Rey’s La Familiar at 808-242-9661 for more information.

Human brains are wired so that the way we perceive the flavor of food is actually a synthesis of how it looks, tastes, smells and feels.  Four senses are actively engaged as we’re masticating, licking, sipping or sucking our food.  The one traditionally recognized method of perception apparently not crucial to enjoying the dining experience is the sense of hearing.  Until rather recently, the effect music has on the enjoyment of our food hadn’t been thoroughly studied scientifically. 

In 2011, the Journal of Culinary Science & Technology determined through a series of experiments that food tastes best when served with quiet classical music in the background.  If the music was played at a level higher than the optimal 62-67 decibels, diners enjoyed the taste of their food less.  The experiments also revealed that silence–the absence of at least some ambient sound–actually detracts from the enjoyment of eating and makes the restaurant setting uncomfortable.

The comfy, cozy confines of Rey’s Place

The skeptic in me wonders how classical music impacts people who liken “long hair music” to the sound made by mating cats while the quasi-scientist in me wants to know what the enjoyment of food would be like with rap, rock and country music playing in the background and at various decibel levels.  Ostensibly, various types of musics were used in the experiments, but readers are left to speculate their effects.  One can surmise, for example, that the rock music with a fast beat would probably increase the rate of chewing.  Rap music would probably have many of my wizened friends looking for a short rope and a tall tree.

Duke City diners need go no further than Rey’s Place at 6400 Edith Boulevard, N.E. to enjoy excellent Mexican and New Mexican food and, if your timing is good, get to listen to an impromptu jam session.  A large decorative-only blue guitar in front of the restaurant is a precursor to things to come.  There are two smaller (but functional) guitars on one corner of the dining room.  Both the staff and diners have been known to pick up those guitars and belt out a tune or two.  You can check out some of the staff’s musical stylings on Reverbnation then imagine yourself enjoying an enchilada dinner at Rey’s Place as the music plays in the background.

Salsa and chips

Rey’s Place has been serving Albuquerque since 2010, but remains a fairly well-kept secret largely because of it’s off-the-well-beaten-and-well-eaten-path.  Its location, in an industrial and warehouse area, means it will remain largely a destination restaurant albeit one very popular with savvy neighborhood blue and white collar workers.  Rey’s is open Monday through Friday from 7AM to 3PM and on Saturdays and Sundays from 8AM to 3PM.  More than most restaurants in Albuquerque, it’s a restaurant with personality–one which jams.  The heart of the restaurant is its owner Michael Sierra, an affable host who takes the time to visit with his guests to ensure they’re enjoying their dining experience.  Michael is a larger than life personality with a very high likeability quotient and a great singing voice.  Dining at Rey’s is like dining at his home.

Rey’s also has a very customer-oriented four-point mission statement: (1) We give you our best Albuquerque welcome; (2) We are attentive to your needs; (3) We advise you that every dish we serve is prepared from scratch, that it takes a little longer than most; and (4) We serve you a hot delicious New Mexican food plate that we’re proud to say, ” is hard to match.”  Rey’s recognizes that slower hand-made food is the key to the very high quality of their Mexican and New Mexican food.  Shortcuts aren’t taken in the preparation of the food.  It’s all made from scratch with no additives (and thankfully no cumin) to “stretch” the red chile.   That uncompromising attention to detail and authenticity is reflected in some of the very best red chile I’ve had this year, a pleasantly piquant a pure, earthy blend with a rich flavor.

Con queso with chips

The menu is a refreshing change of pace from the humdrum (but usually delicious)  menu you come to expect from Mexican and New Mexican restaurants in the city.  The Mexican dishes section of the menu includes such mouth-watering delicacies as lengua (tongue) a la Mexicana, barbacoa (a restaurant specialty), and gorditas, an entree Rey’s touts as a meal and a half.  The menu also features nine different types of tacos, some of which you won’t find anywhere else in town.  Four tortas (sandwiches crafted on bolillo bread), seven types of hand-held burritos, four caldos (including caldo de rez, a Gil favorite), six burgers and six different types of enchiladas are also available.  This is a menu from you’ll want to sample every item.

You’ll want to start your Rey’s experience with salsa and chips.  The salsa is special, some of the very best in town.  It’s reminiscent of the salsa at Sadie’s Dining Room in terms of piquancy, viscosity and flavor.   Best of all, the plastic molcajete in which the salsa is served is nearly full when it arrives at your table.  You’ll probably run out of chips before you finish the salsa.  The chips are thin, light and crispy which is fine for this salsa because unless you’re a bona fide fire eater, it’s made for dipping more than for scooping.

Stuffed sopaipilla with beans and rice

Fundido, a Spanish term for melted or molten cheese, has been used to describe everything from the gloppy, pedestrian baseball stadium nacho cheese to richly indulgent fondue quality cheese.  Neither is a good representation of true queso fundido, the type of which is served at Rey’s Place.  Rey’s queso is an amalgam of molten cheeses and a spicy chorizo in perfect proportion to one another.  The cheese starts off hot and thick and like most queso fundido, will coagulate and harden as it cools and because the portion is rather sizable, it will cool down..  That’s when you ask the accommodating staff to reheat it for you.   It’s just as good reheated.

Seeing diners at adjacent tables all enjoying stuffed sopaipillas had a not-so-subliminal effect during my inaugural visit.  It’s no wonder this dish is so popular.  Talk about an orchestra effect on your taste buds.  The sopaipilla is engorged with ground steak, beans and a lettuce-tomato garnish then slathered with chile.  The red chile has a nice bite to it without the residual bitterness of impure chile.  It’s got endearing earthy qualities that will imprint themselves on your taste buds and memories.  The whole beans are perfectly cooked and delicious while the rice is fluffy, light and better than most Mexican-style rice. 

Caldo De Res

If you’re the type of person who likes curling up in front of the fireplace with a steamy mug of cocoa on a cold winter day, you’re probably the type of person who appreciates a good soup.  Mexicans appreciate a good soup very much, especially caldo de res, a rich beef stock brimming with rich, fork-tender bits of meat from a beef hock and vegetables (celery, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and even corn-on-the-cob) topped with cilantro.  Made well, it will cure whatever ails you more effectively than any chicken noodle soup.  Rey’s rendition of caldo de res will most assuredly cure the winter blahs or any other time blues.  It’s an excellent soup with a broth you’ll  slurp up with gusto.  The vegetables are perfectly prepared, fresh and delicious.  It’s served with rice and a small plastic cup of finely chopped green peppers and tomatoes.

While Rey’s Web site is effusive about the restaurant’s entire menu, only one item occupies a place of prominence on a wall where it shares space with framed artwork.  The poster extolling the virtues of Rey’s gorditas is both explanatory in nature and a delicious marketing tactic. Read the poster and you’ll probably order the gorditas plate.  Gorditas are basically deep-fried pockets of cornmeal or flour dough engorged with a savory mixture.  At Rey’s the corn or flour cakes are slow-cooked on the grill, sliced open and stuffed with your choice of carne asada, carne adovada, barbacoa, carne desebrada (tender, slow-cooked shredded beef), shredded chicken, carnitas and carne molida (ground steak). The carne adovada-stuffed gorditas are terrific. The combination of the corn masa cake and the red chile marinated, tender pork make for a very interesting and wholly delicious pairing.  The gorditas plate is served with rice, beans and red or green salsa.  By the way, shame on Taco Bell for that abomination they’ve tried to pass off as a gordita.

Gorditas engorged with carne adovada, beans, tomatoes and lettuce

If you prefer your carne adovada unencumbered by such trivialities as a cornmeal pocket, lettuce and tomatoes (delicious though they might be), you’re going to love Rey’s carne adovada plate.  This is carne adovada prepared the way your sainted abuelita might have made it.  The red chile marinated pork is so tender you could chew it with your gums, so good it might make you swoon.  It’s a carne adovada so good I’d introduce my friend Ruben Hendrickson to it.  Ruben, as faithful readers know, is an adovada aficionado who prepares it better than most restaurants.  Getting his seal of approval on carne adovada means it’s not only good, it’s in rarefied company.  I believe he’d place Rey’s carne adovada in that category.

As much as Ruben loves carne adovada, he doesn’t wax eloquently about his love for it on a thematic blog as does a Duke City blogger so passionate about her culinary passion that she launched a blog to celebrate the best huevos rancheros in New Mexico.  Her Huevos Addiction blog is a terrific read with her review of Rey’s huevos rancheros inspiring me to try her favorite dish.  Rey’s huevos rancheros are simplicity itself–corn tortillas on the bottom, fried eggs on top and the whole thing slathered with chile (red and green for me).  The huevos are served with sides of beans and papitas (some of the best in town).  Simplicity does not mean plain or boring, not as long as you’ve got Rey’s red chile (described on Huevos Addiction as “for those who have said their prayers.”)  

Huevos Rancheros with papitas and beans

One item which rarely warrants more than a mention on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog are tacos.  It perplexes me as to why diners would ever order a taco plate.  Tacos are among the least expensive items to make, tend to be overstuffed with lettuce and tomatoes and are rarely worth writing about.  I could write a book about Grandma Gloria’s tacos.  At three tacos per order, you won’t go away hungry because an order also includes beans and rice.

So what makes these tacos so unique?  It starts with a fried corn tortilla that’s obviously not out-of-the-box.  The tortillas are lightly fried with char marks which seem to indicate some time on a comal.  The tacos are engorged not with shredded or ground beef, but with a well-seasoned hamburger patty.  That’s a first for me.  The de rigueur lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese are there, too, and while some restaurants serve a side of house salsa for their tacos, Rey’s provides a ramekin of chile pequin salsa made from a 112-year-old family recipe.  You’ll want to spoon it on generously or maybe even dip your tacos into this unique salsa.

Grandma Gloria’s Tacos

Many diners, no matter how sophisticated they might consider themselves to be, have an aversion to eating tongue (lengua in Spanish).  Contrary to some opinion, the texture of lengua is not akin to shoe leather nor is it comparable to menudo.  At Rey’s, the lengua is sliced into small cubes and is prepared with onions and green chile.  If you didn’t know what you just ate, you might think you had roast beef, albeit a very moist and delicious roast beef.  The lengua isn’t tough, sinewy or chewy in the least.  It’s the type of tongue action you can brag about to your mom. 

Rey’s burger menu includes one whose name is sure to appeal to the macho among us.  It’s the “Man Size” burger, a full pound of beef on lightly toasted sourdough.  The burger is served with lettuce, onions and a white-yellow cheese blend.  Of course you’re going to want to garnish it with Rey’s terrific green chile.  The sourdough is a surprisingly good canvas for the moist beef patty and garnishes.  The burger is served with a nice amount of fries.

Rey’s Place features home-cooked Mexican and New Mexican food prepared with love and served by a cheerful staff who wants nothing more than for you to enjoy your dining experience.  It’s ambitious goal is to be the best New Mexican food restaurant in Albuquerque.  It may well get there.  The question is whether it will receive honors and accolades before and more often for its music as for its food.

Rey’s Place
6004 Edith Blvd NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 18 January 2013
1st VISIT:  16 October 2012
COST: $$
BEST BET: Salsa and Chips, Stuffed Sopaipilla, Queso Fundido, Calde de Rez, Gorditas, Carne Adovada Plate, Huevos Rancheros, Grandma Gloria Tacos, Lengua, Man Size Burger

Rey's Place Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

28 thoughts on “Rey’s Place – Albuquerque, New Mexico (RELOCATED)

  1. Michael “Rey” here. I wanted to let you and your followers know that Rey’s place Mexican Restaurant is now located inside of the La familiar Restaurant at 1611 4th street NW. Please call 808-242-9661 for any information regarding Rey’s place.

    Thank you,

    Michael “Rey”

  2. The wife and I tried Rey’s Place this past weekend. After reading all the great things people had to say about it, I figured it was time. I was a little worried that all the hype would leave me with too high of expectations.

    Glad to say the hype is well deserved. I had the huevos rancheros (with red, I’m not a christmas style kind of guy). The dish was absolutely wonderful. The hightlight for me was definitely the papitas. If anyone knows of a better papita in town, let me know, because I’ve not come across them.

    The wife had the green chile chicken enchiladas…well, honestly she had about 2/3 of a plate and I had 1/3 – what she could not finish. Pretty darn good, but honestly I was still thinking of those papitas while eating the enchiladas.

    “Rey” and the waitress who attended us were very friendly and welcoming. Even got to hear some tunes as they were not too busy at the time.

    Will definitely be back – even though it is a trek for us.

    They may want to think about making a papitas plate, because I would eat a whole plate of those with some ground beef and green chile with some tortilla…mmmmm.

  3. We are truly sorry about not being open this past Sunday. I offer no excuse. However, I feel compelled to give the truth. We are a 3 person operation. If someone falls ill we can still operate. If 2 fall ill we have no choice but to close for the day. We do not wish our customers to fall ill because me, or my staff chose to work anyway during their illness. This is the cold & flu season,and we truly hope that you and yours was not effected by this time of year.
    Good news!! Everyone is well again, and we foresee no problems in the immediate future operation of Rey’s place. We do plan to stay open until 7 pm in the evening in the near future.
    Once again, we offer no excuse. Only the truth. We pray you give us another chance to show you that Gil Garduno is not wrong about what he wrote about our dishes.


    Michael “Rey”

  4. After reading the superlative comments here, trekked across town last Sunday to try Rey’s Place. However, in spite of the sign at the door which clearly indicated OPEN 8-3, even on Sunday, we found the place closed, without explanation, at about 11 or 11:30. Quite a disappointent.

  5. What an amazing experience I had at Reys! I also ate with Gil, Ryan Scott, Bill, Joe, and Foodie at Rey’s. Not only was the meal wonderful, but having the opportunity to hear Michael play the guitar really made the lunch an unforgettable experience. As Foodie mentioned, Michael is every bit bigger than life, he cooks wonderful food and is very musically talented. We were treated to his song “Frame by Frame” that I can deeply relate to with having 5 daughters. I had the chicken enchilada plate, and the enchiladas “Christmas Style” were some of the best I’ve had, very flavorful, and just the perfect softness for my taste. This was my first time going, but will most certainly not be the last. I definitely plan to return soon. I would not have found such a wonderful place if it was not for Gil! Thank you for all your hard work on the blog and making everyone’s dining experiences so unique. You not only lead us to gems like Rey’s, but you enrich all of us in more than food alone, but quality of life! Thank you.

  6. Mr Foodie and Friends, Sorry I was not able to join! I read the above and began feeling the regret of not joining (but had to deal with frozen pipes at home). Hope to join you all soon and experience the experience you felt that went way beyond eating for survival but brought a true human moment to you and family & friends.

  7. All I can say is WOW! Had a great lunch with Gil, Boomer, Ryan Scott, and my friend Joe at Rey’s. It was more than a meal, but an experience I will not soon forget. I had the lengua and a taco. The lengua was just as Gil described. It was like eating the most tender and flavorful morsels of beef you can imagine. Michael is every bit bigger than life as Gil describes. We were treated to his song “Frame by Frame” that made me think of the memories I am building with my Granddaughter. The taco was superb – stuffed with flavorful fluffy ground beef mixture. One of the best tacos I’ve eaten.
    I plan to return soon. I could see it easily as a weekly lunch destination.

    1. Thank you very much for the wonderful words Mr. Foodie. We very happy to have served, and entertained you & your friends. Gil, you too. I’ve said it before, “it’s all about the food.”
      Thank you for sharing my song Frame by Frame. Which, by the way, we will start recording today.
      FYI Hopefull this fine internet radio station will be spinning “Frame by Frame” this spring. It’s an independant radio station. So it is dependant on donations (which I have already made) to stay in operation. Please find it in your heart’s (Gill’s thrills and fills fans) to consider donating to this fine program.
      Again, thank you all for making Rey’s place Mexican Restaurant a success thus far.

      God bless.

  8. Our first visit was yesterday for breakfast – will definitely return. Great food, service and a warm welcome from Rey!

  9. While in Albuquerque on a trip from Colorado to Phoenix, I met a friend for lunch at Rey’s Place. Wow..what a treat! We each had a fantastic meal. I thoroughly enjoyed my gordita plate and she said she’s never had better stuffed sopapillas anywhere! Though quite full, we even managed to demolish Rey’s heavenly Mexican Donut for dessert. Can’t say enough about the awesome service… spot on and so welcoming! Can’t wait for my next Albuquerque trip and another chance to visit Rey’s Place. Thanks so much for your terrific blog…it’s led me to so many wonderful dining experiences!

  10. My culinary companion Becket and I visited Rey’s Place today. I opted for the carne adovada gorditas and Becket ordered the lengua tacos. I am not usually a carne adovada fan but I agree with Kim, this is the best in town. Becket’s plate was spotless in minutes and he raved about the dish. Both being musicians it was a small world moment when Rey shared that he remembered seeing Becket perform at Molly’s back in the day. I couldn’t finish my generous portion and so we left with a to-go box, two take out menus and plans for Becket to return with his bass to jam with Rey. You can count on the fact that I will have my husband Chris (who couldn’t make it today)and kids in tow. One of my son Paco’s favorite meals is a bean and cheese burrito and I can guarantee that he will flip when he tastes Rey’s unbelievable whole pintos. Living in Los Ranchos we are thrilled to have what is unfortunately a rarity out here, an authentic go-to Mexican/New Mexican gem.
    As for the to-go box, thanks to my uncle it didn’t last but a minute. He left my home with both that and a menu. Rey will be meeting him very soon!

  11. Wow, very cool! I really enjoyed this post and will definitely be checking them out. Maybe we’ll check it out on a Sunday after church. The Mexican food descriptions have my mouth watering, (my family is from Guadalajara), and I LOVE tacos de lengua. My hubby plays for Los Primos, so maybe he can pick up the guitar and play a tune or two while there! I hope they have enough room for us though, we’re a family of 8. Thanks so much for this review Gil!

    1. Hello Susana

      You should definitely visit Rey’s Place. Coincidentally we were there last Sunday after church ourselves. Rey’s can certainly accommodate your family of eight if it’s not too crowded. Maybe your husband can even perform a duet with Michael “Rey” Sierra.

      Congratulations on your terrific blog. What a wonderful resource it is for wedding planning!


  12. Stopped by today for some take-out and ordered a gordita plate, one with chicharron and other with hamburger. Everything was fresh and made to order. The chicharrons were cooked perfectly. Also had a relleno plate. Loved the rellenos too. Great find – will definitely be returning.

  13. I just wanted to comment on the carne adovada, as being the best in town. The tacos were just delicious. Everyone should go and try Rey’s Place.

  14. I’d like to take this moment to personally thank you all for your wonderful comments about Rey’s place. Especially you, Gil. You’ve helped Rey’s place more than you know. Or, maybe you do. Either way, I’m absolutely speechless. Wow! “That’s a first.”
    We’ve gone through some bumpy roads, and God knows there’s more. It’s people like all of you that help us little guys stay afloat in this very tough business.
    My staff and I will do our very best to make each and every customer feel like their the only one’s in the room.
    Homecooked food isn’t a thing of the past, it’s really is the key to what Rey’s place is all about. I’d like everyone to know, taste and feel the difference between fast-food and and sloooooow cooked meals prepared with care. You deserve that.
    Again, thank you all,


  15. Gil,

    Rey’s Place looks like a great find. In fact I may have to start my own blog after visiting it. It’s on my very short list of places to dine in the next 1-2 weeks. I’ll be back here soon with comments about it.

    My biggest problem is trying to settle on one thing to eat – everything looks fabulous.

  16. Finally made it over there today, Gil. Although I live here in the North Valley, I didn’t find this gem on my own. Thanks for the write up and intoducing us to Rey’s Place. We let Rey pick lunch for us, and besides the Gorditas, which were fabulous, the rest of the food was more traditionally New Mexican. Very tasty though…and I can’t wait to go back for carnitas! I have a weakness for carnitas. And some morning when we don’t have to cook breakfast at the b&b, I want Rey to cook for us. What a treat that will be.

  17. Gil, I’m so glad that you reviewed Rey’s Place. I agree that the food is worth a drive. I’d be willing to drive across town if I wasn’t lucky enough to have this gem in my neighborhood. I’m planning to work my way through the menu, but so far, I’ve enjoyed the chilaquiles, the huevos rancheros, and the rellenos. The red and green are equally good.

  18. Had a wonderful lunch here today because of the review by Gil. Great service. Salsa is so good, that could have been my lunch but the huevos were very good. We’ll be back….

  19. Gil…thank you so much for the boost you’ve given Rey’s place. I can’t thank you enough for your efforts. Your actions are truly led by the hand of God.
    Much thanks,

    Rey’s place.
    p.s. I’ll be sending a “First” copy of every mastered original song as they become available to me. It’s not much, but at the present time, its the best way I can do to return the favor.

    1. Thank you, Michael

      Absolutely no thanks are necessary. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my meals at your delightful restaurant and have had a great time listening to your music. You’ve got a great voice and the lyrics to your songs are inspired. So is your menu. I hope many Duke City diners learn for themselves how good home-cooked Mexican food can be.


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