Red or Green–New Mexico’s Food Scene is on Fire: May, 2021

Carne Adovada from Tomasita’s in Albuquerque

Until rather recently Albuquerque’s Lucky Boy was best known for its unique “East meets West” menu offerings of Chinese food and burgers.  All that changed for the quintessential mom and pop diner when Lucky Boy had a cameo in a Netflix flick called Army of The Dead.  As you may have surmised, the movie centered around a zombie outbreak.  It starred former professional wrestler Dave Bautista who portrayed a mercenary turned fry cook.  In that role Bautista manned the kitchen lovingly tended by Chinese proprietors Susie and Ron Yip for nearly five decades.  If you’ve never visited Lucky Boy and are wondering if its unique concept is just a novelty, it might surprise you to learn that Lucky Boy is on the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.

Forbes, a global media company, focusing on business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and lifestyle, recognizes that “New Mexico has always embodied the exotic: deep multiculturalism, the mythology of the American West (and a truckload of cinematic Westerns) and epically enormous landscapes.”   In a May 11th feature titled “Why Albuquerque, New Mexico, Is the Most Exotic American Big City” Duke City born-and-bred writer Ann Abel enumerated some of the reasons.  Not surprisingly, New Mexico’s enchanting cuisine is just one of them.   She praised the “anchor” of the Sawmill District, the “Sawmill Market, Albuquerque’s first food hall, which has 22 independent food stalls from local chefs and restaurateurs, serving everything from Gulf seafood to Vietnamese street food, and a sit-down restaurant.”  

One Last California Style Pastrami Sandwich from California Pastrami Which Closed its Doors on Friday, May 21st

Conde Naste Traveler believes “Georgia O’Keefe was on to something.”   As with “artists and adventurers, snowbirds, shoppers, and spiritualists,” she was “magnetized by the impossibly blue skies and bathtub-warm temps, the rust-colored adobe facades and chili ristras hung from door jambs.”  There’s a lot to love about New Mexico’s state capital, much of it captured in the Conde Naste feature “Where to Eat, Stay and Play in Santa Fe.”  Among the exemplars that will help visitors “experience the bounty of ingredients at a chef’s disposal” are such Santa Fe stalwarts as the Shake Foundation, Whoo’s Donuts, Jambo Cafe, Kakawa Chocolate House and a number of other restaurants the nmgastronome is long overdue in visiting.  (Thank you, Becky Mercuri)

Known as “America’s Highway” and celebrated by author John Steinbeck as the “Mother Road,” the legendary Route 66 meandered across 2,448 miles of the fruited plain, crossing three time zones and eight states as it traversed from Chicago to Los Angeles.  Atlas Obscura invites intrepid travelers to “Eat Across Route 66.”    While other restaurants on Atlas Obsura’s list might claim to be classic Americana, the only spot making this land’s original food is Albuquerque’s own Indian Pueblo Kitchen (review pending).  “At the Indian Pueblo Kitchen, chefs serve dishes that celebrate the culinary heritage of New Mexico’s Pueblo people prior to Christiopher Columbus’s arrival to the Americas in 1492. The “Pre-Contact” portion of the menu is a sumptuous feast of indigenous ingredients, including pan-seared trout with yam puree, prickly pear syrup, and fried sweet-potato strings; sumac-seared bison with pickled squash and pumpkin oil; and slow-stewed berries baked under a maple pepita-and-pecan-crumble crust.”

Green Chile Stew from the Indian Pueblo Kitchen in Albuquerque

Eskca, which derives from the Latin word “esca”, roughly translates to “food”. And that’s what Eskca purports to be all about – “finding the best restaurants in the country.”  Its website, in fact, lists the best restaurants in a number of American cities including the “2021 Best Restaurants in Albuquerque.”   Several factors were considered in the compilation including “consistently high level of food quality, consistently high level of customer service, restaurant traction with consumers, competitive landscape and quality of restaurant public relations.”  Among the ten restaurants Eksca anointed as Albuquerque’s best are: Frontier, Cocina Azul, The Grove, Backstreet Grill and Tia Betty Blues.  To Eksca’s credit, only one chain (Pappadeaux) made the list.  (Thank you, Bruce Terzes)  

Since the inception of the “Red or Green” report, my dear friend Becky Mercuri and I have compiled a list of restaurants and foods recognized each month by national media publications.  Web traffic statistics have borne out that very few people (a handful each month) click on links to those heralded restaurants.  I don’t know if it’s indifference, a lack of curiosity or perhaps a lack of recognition as to what constitutes a hyperlink, but have decided not to compile and publish these “best of” lists.  Thank you, Becky.  We tried. 

List New Mexico Representative Source
The Most Loved Dish in Your State Green Chile Enchiladas from The Shed  (Santa Fe) MSN
The Food Truck Everyone is Obsessed With In Your State Chef Toddzilla’s Gourmet Burgers & Mobile Cuisine (Santa Fe) MSN
Your State’s Top Barbecue Restaurant Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue (Cloudcroft) MSN
Where to Find a Good, Cheap Lunch in Every State Duran’s Central Pharmacy (Albuquerque) MSN
Your State’s Most Adorable Historic Restaurant El Farol (Santa Fe) MSN
The Best French Fries in Your State Holy Cow (Albuquerque) MSN
Best Cheap Burgers in Each State Sparky’s (Hatch) Cheapism
The Best Healthy Restaurant in Every State Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill (Santa Fe) MSN
Your State’s Best Cheeseburger Rustic on the Green (Albuquerque) MSN

April, 2021

Nutella and Banana Crepe From The Burrow Cafe in Albuquerque

Song and verse, prose and poetry…historically all have extoled the natural features that make New Mexico the Land of Enchantment.  The state’s official state song bespeaks of azure skies, deep canyons and fertile valleys, but nary a mention is made of the culinary blessings bestowed upon this enchanted land.  Husband-and-wife duo Keith Allen and Felicia Masias are recent California transplants to New Mexico who have been captivated by the dynamic cuisine of Albuquerque’s restaurants.  Under the banner of their film company Sopaipilla Productions, the couple launched a series titled “Enchanted Foods of ABQ.”  The series debuted on April 24th on YouTube and features such stalwarts as 2G’s Bistro, Crazy Bomb Cups, D.H. Lescombs Winery, Golden Crown Panaderia, Hollow Spirits, Indian Pueblo Kitchen, Kamikaze Kitchen, La Finca Bowls, Munchie Truck, Rebel Donut, Slow Roasted Bocadillos and Tako Ten.

My friend David Wagner, author of the spellbinding Rick Montoya Italian Mysteries, is a great conversationalist with a wry sense of humor.  This is how he alerted me to his new book To Die In Tuscany: “book seven in the series can finally be found in your grocer’s freezer or wherever you get your books.  This one takes Rick to Urbino, a great town off the beaten tourist track. There are some interesting food items in this one, including cheese aged in holes in the ground, but of course you’re only interested in the murder mystery.”   Rick Montoya, of course, is a UNM graduate living and working in Italy as a translator and interpreter.  Though he can’t get enough spaghetti alla gricia, Rick still pines for green chile cheeseburgers, his other favorite food.  David does a magnificent job weaving compelling characters and nail-biting sleuthing with vivid descriptions of Italian cuisine thrown in for good measure. 

Green Chile Bagels from Alicea’s NY Bagels & Subs on the left and Ruthie’s Bagels on the right (Photo Courtesy of Tom Molitor)

Despite a phalanx of fabulous chefs, media cognoscenti don’t always seem to acknowledge that New Mexico is even on the country’s culinary landscape.  That’s starting to change thanks to that new crop of chefs who are introducing revolutionary dishes exploding with flavor.  Lois Alter Mark profiled “5 Celebrity Chefs Who Are Cooking Up a Storm in New Mexico”  for AAA Magazine.  The fantastic five are Albuquerque chefs Marc Quiñones of Mas Tapas Y Vino and Marie Yniguez of Bocadillos Slow Roasted along with Chloe Winters of Adobe Rose in Artesia and Santa Fe chefs Catherine O’Brien of TerraCotta Wine Bistro and Eduardo Rodriguez of Zacalan.  (Thank you, Sarita)

Though he may not have made AAA’s hallowed list, Albuquerque Chef David Ruiz is as accomplished as any chef in the Land of Enchantment.  Recently profiled in Spiceology, a chef-owned spice company, Chef Ruiz is indefatigable, a whirling dervish of talent.  Not only did he recently open Curious Toast Cafe, the 2018 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project is  building out a new dining program at Vara Winery. The revealing interview portrays a man dedicated to his craft, a perfectionist who climbed the ladder rung-by-rung to become one of the state’s best chefs.  (Thank you Bruce Terzes)

Pho with Raw Beef From T&T Gas Mart

Across the Land of Enchantment’s 121,697-square miles, few foods are as sacrosanct as the green chile cheeseburger.  It’s so revered that the New Mexico Tourism Department even commissioned a Trail that celebrates the irresistibly delicious burger prepared incomparably at New Mexico’s restaurants, drive-ins, diners, dives, joints, cafes, roadside stands and bowling alleys.  The most recent celebrity chef to try her hand at preparing a green chile cheeseburger is the Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond. Judge for yourself whether or not her recipe is one you’d like. 

My dear friend Becky Mercuri and I share food intelligence (recipes, gossip, restaurant launches, etc.) on a daily basis.  We joke about the almost interminable “best of” list compilation from such national online presences as MSN and Cheapism, but also look upon these lists as potential introductions to restaurants and meals we may have missed.  We hope you do the same.

List New Mexico Representative Source
Best Cheap Burritos in America El Paragua (Santa Fe) Cheapism
The One Thing You Must Eat in Each State Chile MSN
The Most Fun Restaurants in Each State Santa Fe School of Cooking MSN
The Best Hidden Gem Restaurant in Every State  Bella’s Mexican Grill (Taos)
MSN
Your State’s Best Restaurant for American Classics
Nexus Brewery & Restaurant (Albuquerque)
MSN
The Coziest Small Town Restaurant in Each State
La Cueva (Taos)
MSN
The Best Seafood Restaurant in Every State Cracking Crab (Albuquerque)
 MSN
The Best Chinese Restaurant in Each State Rising Star (Albuquerque)
MSN
The Best Outdoor Restaurant in Each State El Pinto (Albuquerque)
MSN
Your State’s Most Historic Fast Food Restaurant Blake’s Lotaburger (Albuquerque)
MSN
The Craziest Pizza in Each State
Rooftop Pizzeria (Santa Fe)
MSN
The Best Chicken Entree in Every State The Pantry (Santa Fe)
MSN
America’s Historic Burger Joints Where The Recipes Never Change The Owl (San Antonio)
MSN
The Best 24-Hour Restaurant in Your State Penny’s Diner (Belen)
MSN
The One Can’t Miss Chicken & Waffle Place in Your State Frank’s Chicken & Waffles (Albuquerque)
MSN
Your State’s Best Bowl of Pasta
Joe’s Pasta House (Rio Rancho)
MSN
Your State’s Best Restaurant for Delivery Sushi Xuan Asian Grill (Albuquerque)
MSN
Your State’s Best Hole-In-The-Wall Mexican Restaurant
Perea’s New Mexican Restaurant (Albuquerque)
MSN
The Best Pasta Dish In Every State
Piccolino (Santa Fe)
MSN
Best Indian Food at Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurant in Every State
Spicy Bite (Milan)
Cheapism
The Best Tacos in Every State
Taco Fundacion (Santa Fe)
MSN
America’s Best Hole-in-the-Wall  Fried Chicken Spots
Big Daddy’s Diner (Cloudcroft)
MSN
The Best Restaurants for Outdoor Dining in Every State
Farm & Table (Albuquerque)
MSN
The Best Salad in Every State Asian chicken salad, Boba Cafe, (Las Cruces) MSN
Best Bar Food In Every State
Fire and Hops (Santa Fe)
MSN
The Best Soup Spot in Each State Jambo (Santa Fe)
Cheapism
The Best Wing Spot In Every State Forghedaboudit (Deming)
MSN
The Most Charming Historic Restaurant in Each State El Farol (Santa Fe)
MSN
The Best Prime Rib Specials in all 50 States Monte Carlo Steakhouse (Albuquerque) Cheapism
The Best Mexican Restaurant in Each State The Shed (Santa Fe) Cheapism
Your State’s Top Sports Bar Boxcar Bar and Grill (Santa Fe) MSN
The Best Bagel in Every State New York on Catrol (Santa Fe) Eat This, Not That
The Best Pizza in Every State Dion’s (Multiple Locations) and Golden Crown Panaderia (Albuquerque) Food & Wine
The Favorite Comfort Food In Each State “Chili” (SIC) Cheapism

March, 2021

Three Scoops of Salted Caramel Gelato From M’Tucci’s Moderno in Rio Rancho

In the April, 2021 edition of New Mexico Magazine, Chef Marc Quiñones of Albuquerque’s Mas Tapas Y Vino explained how he measures success: “It’s about people and the connection. To me, that’s the ultimate level of success…” Very few chefs in the Land of Enchantment have achieved Chef Quiñones level of connection with people. It’s one of the many factors that set him apart. Alas, during the ten episodes in which he appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen program, Marc did not always connect with fellow chefs, several of which seemed to have it in for him. In cutthroat culinary competition it’s not always about who the best chef is. Often it’s about eliminating those chefs viewed as the biggest competition.

In season 14 of the Great Food Truck Race, a Food Network program hosted by Chef Tyler Florence, seven teams of brand new food truck operators embark on the culinary adventure of a lifetime. Those seven teams race across “the final frontier” of Alaska to a new town every week where they’ll face new challenges, cook incredible dishes and, as always, try to outsell the competition. Every week the least successful team is sent home. Among the seven food trucks is one named Querencia Mia operated by Duke City chefs Marie Yniguez of Bocadillos, Queneesha Meyers of Q’s Cakes and Michael Neu also of Bocadillos. Alas, the talented trio made it only through three episodes and despite selling out three times during the last episode, were eliminated far too early. That ends “must watch” programming on the Food Network on Sunday nights.

Left: Lemon Cheeseburger; Right: Brown Cow Cheesecake from Saggio’s

If you’re still looking for something to binge-watch, why not a program which showcases the Land of Enchantment in several episodes. Six time Emmy Award-nominated host Darley Newman is your guide to travel quests in which you’ll experience culture, cuisine, history and outdoor adventure in some of the world’s most spectacular travel destinations. You can watch the first 24 half hours of “Travels With Darley” on Amazon Prime and watch the most recent 13 half hours on Ovation TV’s Journy, a free app available on your phone, tablet, or smart TV device. Among Darley’s favorite vacation destinations in the entire world is Santa Fe, but she’s explored other areas within the Land of Enchantment, too. At some point, Darley’s travels will be featured on PBS so keep an eye out for more New Mexico.

Author John Steinbeck once said “People don’t take trips. Trips take people.” Thrillist compiled a list of the “Most Scenic Drives in Every US State” where trips can take people and transport them to spectacular sites and wonders under spacious skies. Thrillist’s choice for New Mexico was the El Camino Real National Scenic Byway which was described thusly: “This is certainly one of the most storied roads on this list. El Camino Real was first used by Spanish explorers in the late 16th century, but it’s also home to some pretty righteous rock formations. This road trip, though, is one worth taking for the food alone. Stop in San Antonio (not the Texas one) for a green chili cheeseburger at Owl Bar. In Santa Fe, you’re looking for the Roque’s Carnitas food truck. In Albuquerque—and you have to just trust us here—head to Duran Central Pharmacy and ask for the chili.”

Double Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich with Salted Caramel Ice Cream; Right: Two Scoops of Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Rude Boy Cookies

MSN was very busy during the month of March, putting together numerous clickbait articles purporting to tell us where and what to eat across the fruited plain. Rather than taking umbrage that out-of-staters don’t really know where to eat in New Mexico, I look upon these lists as potential introductions to restaurants and meals I’ve missed. Thank you to Becky Mercuri and Sarita for helping put the list below together.

List New Mexico Representative Source
Best Restaurant Serving Restaurant Classics Nexus Brewery & Restaurant (Albuquerque) MSN
Your State’s Best Chinese Restaurant Rising Star (Albuquerque) MSN
Your State’s Best Under the Radar Steakhouse Bull Ring (Santa Fe) MSN
The 70 Best Sandwiches in America Bocadillos (Albuquerque) Travioso
Unique Comfort Foods From Every State Chicos MSN
The Food People Hate Most in Each State Chicken Nuggets MSN
Your State’s Top Pizza Joint Richie B’s (Albuquerque) MSN
Best Burger & Fries In Your State Buckhorn Tavern (San Antonio) MSN
Every State’s Top Hotdog Joint Urban Hotdog (Albuquerque) MSN
The Best 24-Hour Restaurant in Every State Penny’s Diner (Belen) MSN
Your State’s Most Charming Small Town Restaurant La Cueva (Taos) MSN
Holy Smokes! Bucket List Barbecue in Each State Mad Jack’s (Cloudcroft) MSN
The Bucket List Restaurant in Every State Geronimo (Santa Fe) MSN
The Best Cheap Pasta Joints Across America Saggio’s (Albuquerque) MSN
Best Hole-In-The-Wall Mexican Restaurant Perea’s New Mexican (Albuquerque) MSN
Your State’s Best Pie Cornerstone Bakery (Ruidoso) MSN
Chicken Wing Game-Changers in Every State AJ’s Wings (Portales) MSN
Your State’s Most Charming Roadside Diner Frontier Restaurant (Albuquerque) MSN
Your State’s Best Truck Stop Eats Russel’s Route 66 Diner (Glenrio) MSN
The Best Ice Cream Shop in Every State I Scream Ice Cream (Albuquerque) MSN
The One Can’t Miss Restaurant in Every State Santa Fe Bite MSN
The Best Food City in Every State Albuquerque MSN
Top Seafood Restaurant in Every State Poki Poki Cevicheria (Albuquerque) MSN
Beautiful Italian Joints in Every State M’Tucci’s Italian (Albuquerque) MSN
America’s Best Hole in the Wall Burger Joint Burger Boy (Cedar Crest) MSN

February, 2021

Quart of Motzo Ball Soup from Ruthie’s Bagels

In 2019, Gustavo Arellano, features writer at the Los Angeles Times and author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered Americas took a “palate-scorching Mexican hamburger- and adovada-fueled road trip up I-25 from Las Cruces” to Denver for Eater.  In a feature entitled The Great American Chile Highway, Arellano sampled endorphin rush-generating cuisine at 21 eateries in the Land of Enchantment and another 18 in Colorado, eating chile 38 different ways.  His controversial conclusion is that Pueblo’s mirasol chile is superior to the more highly touted chile from Hatch.  During a recent visit to Pueblo, he reinforced that stance when interviewed by the Pueblo Chieftain, not only proclaiming Pueblo chile superior, but giving a similar nod to Pueblo’s “thick, salty, irregularly shaped beauty” of a tortilla.

Rising to the defense of his preferred piquant pepper, Arellano proclaimed he won’t stand for “Hatch picking on Pueblo.”  “New Mexico needs to allow Pueblo to have its moment in the sun because it is its faraway cousin. They are related,” he told The Chieftain.  “So for new Mexico to keep trashing Pueblo over its chile – it’s like that bully in the family, the older cousin that keeps making fun of its younger cousin. So as someone who has no family in this debate, I will not stand for that.”  To date New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham hasn’t publicly commented or banished Arellano from the state’s enchanted borders.

Pork Rinds from Ms. Gennie’s House of Chicken

The tourism slogan “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” may have elements of truth, but not when it comes to the 19th season of Hell’s Kitchen, the popular culinary competition where eighteen chefs from around the country are put through rigorous culinary challenges that involve high stakes rewards and punishments.  In every episode the chefs do their very best to impress tyrannical chef Gordon Ramsay, the fiery Scotsman whose belittling and critical ways have been known to make chefs cry.  Albuquerque’s Marc Quinones, executive chef at Mas Tapas Y Vino, has now withstood the rigors of Hell’s Kitchen as well as Ramsay’s berating polemics for eight episodes.  Though New Mexicans are rooting for him, deep down we fear he’ll win the competition and leave Albuquerque to helm the Hell’s Kitchen in Reno.

Famadillo.com, the self-professed “family magazine for tips, travel and tidbits” spent a week in Santa Fe and “learned it can be quite a culinary paradise.”  During that week, the authors visited a number of the City Different’s many restaurants and published a list of the “top eleven restaurants in Santa Fe.”   The list included tried and true favorites such as Geronimo, The Pantry, Cowgirl Cafe, Tune Up Cafe and The Plaza Cafe and not surprisingly even restaurants your wandering gastronome has yet to visit.  Among those are Palacio Cafe, Verde, Paloma and Radish and Rye. 

Slice of Blueberry Pie from Pastian Bakery

Bon Apetit “Trader Joe’s Kicks Off 2021 With Hell in a Jar” showcases a number of new products including “the hottest, spiciest product it’s ever sold.”  Among the new products are Hatch Chile Chicken Wraps which the article’s author described as: “Pop one of these hexagons into the oven and your lunch can be a crispy, somewhat dry flour tortilla containing a few tender bites of almost spicy chicken, black beans, and goo sauce. On a walk after this lunch, my partner proclaimed, “My burps taste like gas station.” Which is high praise, depending on what circles you run in. (Never-ending circles.)”  (Thank you, Becky Mercuri)

You know things are getting back to normal when scores of websites are publishing a plethora of “clickbait” articles purporting to tell readers where they should dine in their respective states.  Some sites rely on Google or Yelp data to provide some level of empirical credibility.   Others seem to pull names from the air or they celebrate “the same usual suspects.”  In any case, here are February’s “best” according to national online sites:

January, 2021

Enchiladas from Nena’s Food in Albuquerque

Eighteen competitors vying for a quarter of a million dollar salary as head chef of Gordon Ramsay’s spectacular Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.  That’s what’s on tap on Season 19 of Hell’s Kitchen, Fox’s longest-running competition show.  Among the contestants is Albuquerque’s own Marc Quiñones, executive chef at Mas Tapas Y Vino on 2nd Street.  Chef Quiñones was profiled recently in a revealing profile on mashed.com.  Though he’s a prolific distance runner, the passionate chef has never run away from any challenge.  Not even from Gordon Ramsay’s raged-filled rants.  Not even from cut-throat competition where it’s every chef for themselves.  Watching Chef Quiñones assert himself as a leader in the kitchen will give you an even greater sense of appreciation for the two-time best chef in the city.  Don’t miss an episode of Hell’s Kitchen which airs Thursday nights at 7PM on Fox.

Diners from throughout the Southwest (including me) dream about the dishes they’ve enjoyed at Forghedaboudit Southwest Italian in Las Cruces.  Fittingly, it’s in the dreams of über chef Bob Yacone that many of those dishes are conceptualized. “They (dishes) come to me in my sleep and I bring it to the kitchen,” Bob says. “…It’s knowing what’s too little and what’s too much.”  The revelation that the talented chef can make dreams come true was just one nugget of information shared by The Deming Highlight in an article titled “Forghedaboudit Southwestern Italian draws critic’s choice in Las Cruces, NM.” The article also revealed that the Yacones are planning to franchise the local business and call it Forghedaboudit Express.

Carbonara From Forghedaboudit Southwest Italian in Las Cruces

If you’re not already tuning in to Sunny 101.3FM’s Hungry Hump Days on Wednesday mornings at 6AM, you’re missing out on compelling interviews with some of the metropolitan area’s most interesting and talented “food” personalities.  We don’t just interview restaurateurs and chefs.  We’ve interviewed Sonya Warwick, communications director for the Roadrunner Food Bank; Howie Kaibel, the charismatic community manager for Yelp; and blogger Alonna Smith of My Indian Stove, for example.  We’ve parlayed with Chef Israel Rivera of The Shop, winner of Albuquerque The Magazine’s best chef award for 2020; George Griego of the Central Grill and Coffee House, the New Mexico Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Neighbor of the Year for 2021 and several other people who kept Albuquerque well-fed and happy.  

On the television series 30 Rock, geeky third-wave feminist Liz Lemon theorized I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”  Sounds good to me.   In a feature titled “The Best Sandwich in Every State,” Food & Wine reminds New Mexicans that the best sandwich in the Land of Enchantment comes from Bocadillos Slow Roasted in Albuquerque.  That sandwich is called the Duke City Ruben, described as “one of the most popular offerings at the city’s favorite sandwich shop, starts from scratch with slow-cooked corned beef, topped with housemade sauerkraut and a chipotle-infused dressing, which brings a nice heat to the situation.”   (Thank you, Sarita)

Sausage & Pepperoni Pizza from M’Tucci’s Moderno in Rio Rancho

Cheapism, a site which argues you can live well irrespective of your income and claims there is no such thing as being too frugal agrees with Food & Wine that Bocadillos Slow Roasted proffers the best sandwich in the Land of Enchantment.  Cheapism differs, however, on just which sandwich that is.  In a feature titled “The definitive list of America’s best sandwiches,” Cheapism names the 505 Filthy as New Mexico’s very best sandwich.  The rationale: “We aren’t big fans of the school of thought that says “Guy Fieri ate here on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,’ so it’s great,” but Guy got this one right. Building all its dishes off of slow-roasted meats, Slow Roasted Bocadillos fills its area-code masterpiece with chicken breast, bacon, green chile, house-made chipotle mayo, lettuce, and tomato. Finished off with melted asadero cheese, it’s a mess made with love.”

Created for the sole purpose of “helping you make the right food choice every time,” Eat This, Not That! compiled a list celebrating “the best grilled cheese in every state.”  New Mexico’s best grilled cheese comes from Albuquerque’s The Grove Cafe & Market in the fashionable East Downtown district.  Here’s what Eat This, Not That! had to say: “The menu at this eatery, which is located on the trendy EDo (East Downtown) neighborhood, revolves around organic ingredients from local farms, with an emphasis specifically on sustainable agriculture. But what makes The Grove truly shine, according to Yelp reviewers, is its grilled cheeses. You have two options at lunchtime, both on pressed sourdough: The Three-Cheese (which boasts white cheddar, Havarti, and aged provolone) and the Grilled Cheese ‘N Greens (with ricotta, gruyere, braised kale, roasted tomatoes, and pickled fennel.) When the weather permits, savor your sandwich out on the covered patio.” (Thank you, Becky Mercuri)  

BBQ Pork Buns from Heaven Dragon in Rio Rancho

Late Show comedian Jay Leno defined “KFC” as “Keep Fooling Customers.”  Obviously he wasn’t a big fan of the Colonel’s eleven herbs and spices.  He knows you can find much better chicken at holes-in-the-wall eateries throughout the fruited plain.  Cheapism put together its list of “America’s best hole in the wall fried chicken spots.”  Suffice to say, KFC didn’t make the list.  Not even close. Instead, Cheapism crowed about such fried chicken joints as Big Daddy’s Diner in Cloudcroft, New Mexico: “Located in the Lincoln National Forest near a camping and resort area, Big Daddy’s Diner gets a lot of tourists and visitors. They all get to enjoy country cooking in a restaurant that feels like a home inside, with lots of knick-knacks and photos on the walls. The fried chicken is called Henny Penny here, and it’s got a lightly colored coating that’s flecked with spices and served alongside wedge “taters.”

Columnist and author Gustavo Arellano quips “The Taco Bell taco is dead. Long live the taco.”  Increasingly as the taste buds of diners across the fruited plain are awakened to the diversity and deliciousness of tacos, they’re no longer headed for the border for their Tuesday taco fix.  They’re finding much better alternatives across the fruited plain.   Using Yelp data, Eat This, Not That! identified the “most mouth-watering tacos in every state.”  It goes without saying that Taco Bell didn’t make the list.  Yelp data revealed that New Mexico’s best taco comes from Albuquerque’s Tako Ten.  In its previous instantiation as Dia De Los Takos, this extremely popular taqueria earned many similar honors.

Pecan Pie from Rudy’s

Author and pastor Andy Stanley posits “If you’re the only hot dog stand in town, your hot dogs don’t have to be good.”  Fortunately hot dog stands across the Land of Enchantment don’t have that problem.  Not only are Duke City dogs delicious, they’re brimming with creative toppings–everything but the kitchen sink and ketchup.  MSN Lifestyle compiled a list of “every state’s best hot dog joint.” New Mexico’s most enchanting hot dog comes from Albuquerque’s Urban Hotdog Company.  Here’s what MSN Lifestyle had to say: “Serving some of America’s most creative hot dogs the Urban Hotdog Company has a menu long enough to please everyone. Potato-wrapped sausage, Polish sausage, Guinness-soaked bratwurst – they’ve got it all. Don’t forget to order the superb fried onion strings with chipotle mayo to go with your dog.” (Thank you, Becky Mercuri)

It’s becoming increasingly rare to find a burger you can classify as a “cheap eat”–at least from a cost perspective.  Just about gone are the days when you can enjoy a burger for less than five dollars.  Leave it to Cheapism to tell you “where to find a cheap delicious burger in every state.”  Within the Land of Enchantment’s sacred borders, you can find a cheap delicious burger at Sparky’s in Hatch: “There’s no better place to try a green chile cheeseburger ($10.99, but that includes one side order and a drink) than at Sparky’s Burgers in Hatch, the town that provides the namesake to the famed New Mexican chile. The colorful art deco restaurant has also become a major roadside destination for its exceptional wood-fired barbecue dishes.” (Thank you, Becky Mercuri)

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, more than 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,200 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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8 Comments on “Red or Green–New Mexico’s Food Scene is on Fire: May, 2021”

  1. Well – I’d say that Ree Drummond’s green chile cheeseburger must be “Oklahoma style” because it sure doesn’t resemble the best of the best when it comes to anything served in New Mexico. The closest she got was the correct spelling of “chile”. No sooner had I gotten past her use of poblano or Anaheim versus New Mexico green chiles than I spied cumin in the list of ingredients. That was a deal breaker, essentially rivaling the “Texas Queen of Cumin” Lisa Fain.

  2. ~ Alas, indeed Kudos to Becky and Sarita for their List of Besties in New Mexico. Unfortunately, they overlooked, for those who celebrate Easter (as it be just around the corner), where NM supposedly stands in terms of the Best Non-Religious FAV Treats of the day—>    
    ~ Elsewise, pardon while I take a moment for Newbies…as well Oldies who may have missed it…https://tinyurl.com/kp5hunvm [Please view B4 reading further.]
    ~ Here’s a bit ‘of the rest of the story‘ behind one of the best (IMHO) Foodie April Fool’s Day (i.e. today!) pranks. There is nothing like a British accent to add a bit of credulity to anything! My personal recollection is “being taken in” when Allen Funt replayed it on Candid Camera “under the cover of being real”, i.e. pranking us viewers.
    “Chow!”

    1. Thank you, Sarita. You did tell me earlier in the month about Food and Wine having recognized Whoo’s Donuts. By the way, do you remember when Kramer claimed he saw Joe DiMaggio in Dinky Donuts?

      1. Haha, I love when he’s smacking the table and going “Woot, woot”. Classic Kramer moment.

  3. Hi, Gil,

    I started going to Bocadillo‘s when they were still in the garage off 12th St. I can’t imagine how I discovered it, if not from one of your blogs.

    You were remiss in not mentioning the most famous three dragons of recent times. They belonged to Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones: Her babies.

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