Copper Canyon Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Bruce “Sr Plata” Silver Stands in Front of the Copper Canyon Cafe on Gibson

The Copper Canyon of northern Mexico–a place so huge and desolate that even today
there are still some native people who have never seen an automobile.”
~Victor Villasenor
Beyond Rain of Gold

If you’ve ever watched the classic Humphrey Bogart movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre or read Victor Villasenor’s spell-binding tome, “Rain of Gold,” you’ve got at least a passing acquaintance with Mexico’s awe-inspiring Copper Canyon. Hidden in the Northern part of Mexico lies an astonishing system of gorges comprised of six vast canyons wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon. Although copper is mined in parts of the canyon, this geological wonder is named for the bronze-like patina of the canyon walls. The magnificent Copper Canyon landscape stretches 900 miles across Mexico and has become a very popular destination for adventurers. 

Inquiries to friends and colleagues about the Duke City’s Copper Canyon Café gave me the impression it was as far distant and remote as the canyons for which it was named. My friend Bruce “Sr. Plata” Silver joked that perhaps because the Café is located in Albuquerque’s International District, diners may have surmised that a passport is needed to visit. A solid four star rating on 53 reviews, some with effusive praise, validated that Yelp reviewers have made the trek to Gibson Blvd. and most are very happy they did. We’re talking Yelpers from across the fruited plain, included Hawaii and Alaska. Shame on me and people in my circle for not having visited this Copper Canyon earlier.

Chicken Fried Steak with Green Chile

Frankly, it took a search for chicken fried steak to prompt my initial visit. As always, my friend Sr. Plata is game whenever an opportunity presents itself to have chicken fried steak, one of his very favorite foods. We encountered a packed parking lot on the early Tuesday morning of our inaugural visit—more validation that many people frequent this cafe. Copper Canyon lives in a space that was once an International House of Pancakes. It’s just east of the old Lovelace hospital on Gibson, a couple miles from the west entrance to Kirtland Air Force Base. Our server told us owner Pete Rallis has an extensive restaurant background, previously having owned the Fourth Street Café (fittingly on Fourth between Central and Copper).

Burnished copper mesas wall hangings festoon some of the café’s walls, a reminder of the natural wonder for which it is named. A display case shows off several tempting baked goods, all drool-worthy. The tinkling of spoons as they stir cream into freshly-brewed coffee is a comforting sound for those of us who don’t feel alive until our first cup or six. Copper Canyon serves Farmer Brothers coffee, a solid brand very popular in cafes and diners. Knowing our inaugural visit was for chicken fried steak, we gave the menu only a cursory perusal, but noted it offers several New Mexican dishes as well as American comfort food favorites, burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads and luscious desserts. Copper Canyon is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Chicken Fried Steak with Pepper Gravy

Chicken fried steak at Copper Canyon will sate you all day long. It’s a solid eight-ounces and at least a half-inch thick. Because chicken fried steak is never enough, the plate also includes your choice of hash browns or papitas, pancakes (three of them) or toast and two eggs prepared any way you like them. You can have your steak smothered in a country gravy flecked with pepper or a New Mexico green chile our server recommended very highly. Diversity is the spice of life. Sr. Plata had his chicken fried steak with the country gravy, pinto beans instead of potatoes and pancakes. Our server had me at “great green chile.”

Why didn’t we try Copper Canyon sooner, we lamented as we enjoyed some of the best chicken fried steak in the city. A kryptonite-colored green chile blankets the chicken fried steak.  That chile has a nice endorphin-generating heat and delicious roasted flavor.  As generous as the chile serving was, New Mexicans can never have enough.  Next time, I’ll ask for enough chile to slather over the two eggs over-easy and two slices of rye bread toast.  Only the papitas, little cubes of golden fried potatoes, would be spared.  I’ll let Sr. Plata describe his  plate on his page, Sr. Plata’s Chicken Fried Steak Trail

If that chicken fried steak and especially that green chile are any indication, Copper Canyon should be on the radar of diners throughout the Duke City.

Copper Canyon Cafe
5455 Gibson Blvd.,  S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 266-6318
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 21 August 2018
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chicken Fried Steak with Green Chile, Chicken Fried Steak with Pepper Gravy
REVIEW #1059

Copper Canyon Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

6 thoughts on “Copper Canyon Cafe – Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. Has anyone been here lately? I used to be a regular, but things went to heck when the Cabrona virus hit. (I trust you don’t mind my appropriating your term, Gil; it really is a perfect description.) If Pete is still the proprietor cooking up the same long standing recipes, it’s back and it’s good! I’m working up the courage to go find out for myself.

    1. Happy to report that it is still Pete’s place, and the food is pretty much the same — good, imho, simple and satisfying. New hours 7 – 3 every day. Still have the weekly specials, like fish and chips on Fridays. They have early bird specials now also, but this bird didn’t read much after the word “early.” Today’s visit: biscuits and gravy, eggs, hash browns, bacon, mushroom and green chile omelet (4 egg.) All hot and tasty, although the green chilies were pronounced not as piquant as hoped for. I recognized one of the chefs who used to dish up some pretty fair heuvos rancheros. Wait staff Michelle and Melissa survived the Cabrona virus days and they are two of the friendliest and best in the city. I’ll be back!

    2. I love that you’re using the term “Cabrona virus” but unfortunately can’t take credit for it. Howie “the Duke of the Duke City” Kaibel, the former community manager for Yelp, coined that term early in the virus’s rampage.

      1. Thank you, Howie Kaibel! I saw a t-shirt for sale on line that used that phrase also, but it was accompanied by the Corona beer logo. There are so many words and at the same time no words to describe what we’ve all been through these last few years.

  2. With such a glowing review, how could I resist ordering for carry out? Hard to believe we’re talking about the same restaurant.

    The hash browns were rectangular which means they came out of the freezer, not made fresh. A little too crisp on the outside and not at all crisp on the inside.

    I ordered some “red chile” on the side. Tasted like what passes for chile on a fifth grader’s frito pie. No real heat or depth of flavor.

    I do like a good chicken fried steak, so sometime I’ll try that and see if I have better luck. But I was not impressed on my first visit.

  3. Yes, Sensei, this is a hidden gem of a restaurant that is locally owned, crowded at 10am on a weekday and has marvelous food! How do we get one of these on the Westside, I guess we won’t and will have to go from Rio Rancho/Corrales to Copper St to have delicious food that is ‘Really Good’. I tend to like breakfast but out waitress who was extremely nice and talkative described their Green Chile Cheeseburger and it made me want to eat more (alas back to low carb). Back to Breakfast, this was one of the best Chicken Fried Steaks in the Land of Enchantment, it was close to a 1 in the Quality/Quantity Plata ratio and that is pretty darn Good! As Gil explain, it was very large, many restaurants I have been to have kept me hungry when I left but not at Copper Canyon! And sooooo Crispy, hmmmmmm! A white gravy, no pork, very Happy so it passed that test. I ordered the green chile on the side but as you see in the Pics above, Sensei had it right on his Steak, I first wanted to taste it first with Gravy [GREAT] then I added some green chile (which had a delicious bite, a bit hot without burning my tongue but was one of the best green chiles found at a restaurant) [GREATER]. My eggs were cooked perfect Over Medium. I tried some pancake with sugar free syrup, my compromise on keeping the carbs down but you know how that goes, would have been better with real syrup. They tasted like they had vanilla in them, I think they could remove it. If I had to make 1 suggestion for them, come up with a better richer cup of coffee, it could have given the Copper Canyon a perfect 10. But, I came for the Chicken Fried Steak and I and Sensei were surprisingly well Please! Hermano De Sr Plata would like this Restaurant…

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