The Best Food and Drink in New Mexico for 2019
December 20, 2018
Your guide to delicious food in the Southwest
The Best Food and Drink in New Mexico
New Mexico is nicknamed “The Land of Enchantment” for its natural beauty and rich history, including its bewitchingly good food. In our second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state, we cover all the best burgers, pizza, sandwiches, Mexican food, and other staples this great state has to offer.
The best pizza in New Mexico is definitely not sitting on top of Walter White’s house, but it could be on your table should you dine at Il Vicino. Looking for the unique experience of dining in a tortilla factory? Albuquerque’s El Modelo has got you covered. Just because you’re going to have to decide between red or green chile sauces everywhere you go in New Mexico doesn’t mean you also have to debate where the best spot in town to grab lunch is — we at The Daily Meal have done that work for you.
Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We're pround to present the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our New Mexico gallery ahead.
Best Airport Restaurant: Black Mesa Coffee Company (Albuquerque International Sunport)
Exclusive to Albuquerque International Sunport, Black Mesa Coffee Company has two locations there. Known as a coffee shop with all kinds of coffee drinks, both hot and cold, they also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a distinctively Southwestern flavor. Get a Southwest breakfast panini (egg, ham, cheddar, green chile, and red pepper on jalapeño cornbread), green chile chicken soup, or one of their signature seasonal specials such as the Mediterranean turkey (turkey, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and an olive spread on ciabatta bread) or ham and yam (ham, roasted yams, lettuce, and tomato with honey Dijon sauce on a ciabatta roll).
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Wandering Horse Buffet (Scottsdale)
Located at Talking Stick Resort, Wandering Horse Buffet offers a huge variety of Italian, Asian, Mexican, Mediterranean, and American cuisines, and really has something for everybody. There’s fresh sushi, a carving station, brick oven pizza, a huge dessert spread, a $34.95 Champagne Sunday brunch, a $23.95 prime rib feast on Wednesdays, and unlimited king crab legs on Friday and Saturday nights, when the price tops out at $36.95.
Best Apple Pie: Pie Town Cafe (Pie Town)
Mark F. / Yelp
This café (formerly known as the Daily Pie Café) is famous for its New Mexican apple pie which is loaded with apples as well as pine nuts (grown in NM) and hot green chiles for a surprising hit of heat that, with the sweet, flaky crust and tart Granny Smith apples is unbelievably and intensely delicious. Also, yes, it’s really in a place called Pie Town.
Best Bar: Tiny’s Restaurant & Lounge (Santa Fe)
According to the Santa Fe Reporter, locals believe that Tiny's Restaurant and Lounge is the best karaoke spot in town. For 65 years, the family-owned establishment has stayed popular, though it has changed locations several times. It’s well known for beer (there are 34 varieties to choose from), steak, and Tex-Mex fare like Frito pie (Fritos, ground beef, red chiles, and beans garnished with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese), chile relleno (two jumbo Hatch green chiles stuffed with pepper jack cheese, dipped in house breading, and served with Spanish rice, pinto beans, and pozole, a hominy soup), and char-broiled rib-eye. Several nights a week, the old-school dining room — adorned with artwork by local artists — and patio erupt with live music, dancing, and, of course, karaoke. The bar and dining area also boast one of the Southwest's largest decanter collections.
Best Beer: La Cumbre Elevated IPA, La Cumbre Brewing Company (Albuquerque)
La Cumbre is well known for its IPAs, but none top its flagship Elevated IPA. Though it clocks in at just 7.2 percent ABV, this beer is full of pure hop flavor. It’s a classic IPA with no frills but a deep copper color and a dank, piney flavor that matches the appearance. It’s a sharp beer for people who still wish they could order an IPA and get just that.
Best Brunch: The Pantry (Santa Fe)
In business since 1948, The Pantry is one of Santa Fe’s most famous restaurants, and it’s also home to the state’s best brunch. You’ll find everything you could ever possibly want for breakfast here, as well as a bunch of traditional New Mexican specialties and a wide variety of lunch and dinner options as well. Eggs any style with bacon, ham, sausage, chorizo, or carne adovada; blue corn cinnamon cakes; thick-cut French toast; huevos rancheros; chile relleno omelette; steak, chicken fried steak, or house corned beef and eggs; chili, sandwiches, and burgers; enchiladas; brisket tacos; and house-made meatloaf are just a handful of the down-home, scratch-made offerings. This is a Southwestern brunch at its finest.
Best Burger: Green Chile Cheeseburger at Santa Fe Bite (Santa Fe)
Down the Old Las Vegas Highway (the original Route 66), the green chile cheeseburger served at Bobcat Bite, founded by Mitzi Panzer in 1953, was hailed as not only the zenith of green chile cheeseburgers, but perhaps one of the greatest burgers, period, in the country. A dispute between the Panzer family and John and Bonnie Eckre, who took over The Bite 13 years ago, forced the Eckres to move to a new location on Old Santa Fe Trail and adopt a new name, Santa Fe Bite, but the restaurant’s legendary ginormous burgers — 10-ounce house-ground, boneless chuck patties cooked to temperature preference and blanketed with green chiles under white American cheese on huge, ciabatta-like buns — remain. And for that we should be very thankful.
Best Burrito: Chicharrónes, El Modelo (Albuquerque)
This nearly 90-year-old restaurant, long the standard-bearer for Tex-Mex food in Albuquerque, got its start as a tortilla factory, and though the operation has expanded quite a bit since then, these tortillas are still some of the finest you’ll find anywhere, especially when rolled up into a burrito. Standouts here include the chile relleno burrito and ones filled with carne desebrada (brisket stew) and carne adovada (pork stew), but opt for the chicharrones, deep-fried chunks of pork. It’ll only set you back $4.95, and you’ll still have some room left over for a sopapilla.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Pop-Up Dumpling House (Albuquerque)
Fresh, perfect interpretations of Chinese street food is the name of the game at this dumpling house (which, despite the name, is permanent). It’s located inside the Albuquerque location of New Mexico’s largest international grocer, Talin Market, and, unfortunately for you, it’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays. A visit will be rewarded, though: Dumplings are made by hand to order (pork, USDA Choice rib-eye, lamb, shrimp, wild Coho salmon, and vegetarian dumplings are available); beef noodle soup starts with broth that’s been simmering for more than 12 hours; steamed buns are filled with slow-simmered pork belly and shredded Peking duck; and spicy pickled cucumbers and steamed eggplant make for perfect sides. This place is the real deal, and you’ll be glad you found it.
Best Chocolate Shop: Shugarman’s Little Chocolate Shop (Madrid)
Shugarman’s Little Chocolate Shop is the definition of “off the beaten path.” You won’t find a website for this 420-square-foot shop in Madrid, New Mexico, but if you visit, you’ll find an ever-rotating selection of uniquely flavored chocolates. Mixtures like dark chocolate with pink peppercorns, lavender, lemongrass, and merlot salt sound crazy, but chocolatier Harvey Shugarman makes it work.
Best Coffee Shop: Espresso Fino (Albuquerque)
A family operation, Espresso Fino specializes in locally roasted, certified organic fair trade coffee that's both delicious and affordable. You can get coffee or tea for as little as $2, and there are all types of espresso drinks for you to choose from. The pastries are baked before dawn and fresh every day, sometimes including treats like lime coconut scones and apricot almond pastries.
Best Cupcake: Smallcakes (Albuquerque)
The owners of New Mexico’s Smallcakes must have been on quite the sugar high when they came up with some of their flavors. If you think varieties like Pink Chocolate and Caramel Crunch sound good, that’s just the beginning. With flavors like Orange Creamsicle and Heavenly Heath, these cupcakes are sure to delight. Pair one with a scoop of homemade gourmet ice cream and you’re sure to get your sugar fix.
Best Dive Bar: The Matador (Santa Fe)
The Matador in Santa Fe is your standard dive bar. Walk down a narrow staircase, and you’ll find punk and metal music blaring from the speakers and a solid selection of bottled beers. Don’t let this small bar intimidate you; the bartenders and patrons are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever find in New Mexico.
Best Doughnut: Whoo’s Donuts (Santa Fe)
If you’re in Santa Fe, then head to Whoo’s Donuts and choose between our two all-time favorite flavors (which just so happen to be amalgamations of our more classic favorite flavors): the pistachio cake with white chocolate lemon ganache, or the sweet, salty, and spicy maple bacon with dark chocolate glaze and chili brown sugar.
Best Farmers Market: Farmers’ and Crafts Market of Las Cruces (Las Cruces)
The Farmers’ and Crafts Market of Las Cruces has been serving the Las Cruces community for more than 40 years. With more than 300 farmer and artisan vendors, it was voted the Nation’s Best Large Farmers Market in a poll conducted by America’s Farmland Trust in 2011. The market is open year-round every Wednesday and Saturday.
Best Food Truck: Cheesy Street (Albuquerque)
With a name like “Cheesy Street” you can expect some serious Instagram-worthy cheese-pulls. One Yelp reviewer calls it the “best grilled cheese ever,” and we have no reason not to believe them. The menu has the classic “Yo Mama’s” version made with slices of American cheese (which can be served with a side of homemade tomato and basil soup), as well as some more creative renditions like the “Almosty Cristo” (Swiss and Gruyere cheese, ham, raspberry jam, brown mustard and a dusting of powdered sugar); the “Jalapeño Popper” (cream cheese, freshly roasted jalapeños, bacon, and cheddar cheese); and the Pizza Grilled Cheese (homemade tomato sauce, crispy pepperoni, and mozzarella. For dessert, they’ve created a ridiculously indulgent churro bread pudding. Yes, please.
Best Fried Chicken: Nexus Brewery (Albuquerque)
This ABQ microbrewery serves what it calls New Mexican soul food, with menu standouts including red and green chile nachos, Cajun chicken chicharrones, red chile barbecue pulled pork, and now-famous chicken and waffles. The chicken here has a delightfully craggy crust and a super-flavorful coating that yields to tender meat, and its served atop a freshly-made Belgian waffle.
Best Grocery Store: La Montañita Co-op
La Montanita Co-op/Yelp
For the title of Best Market in New Mexico, we zeroed in the city of Albuquerque to see what it had to offer. One review said of La Montañita Co-op, “Very nice place and every organic grocery I want I can find it here. Handicap parking and access, bike parking and very centric.”
Best Hot Dog: Urban Hotdog Company (Albuquerque)
The massive menu at this popular restaurant offers a hot dog for all tastes: sausage options include an all-beef dog, a turkey frank, grilled tofu, a Guinness-soaked bratwurst, spicy Italian sausage, Polish sausage, bacon- or potato-wrapped dog, and an organic dog from Niman Ranch; and toppings range from green chile to avocado salsa to goat cheese to chile con queso. Must-trys include the Havana (pork sausage split, grilled, and filled with Swiss cheese and ham, topped with raspberry jam and mustard); the Caprese (split bratwurst topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, balsamic reduction, olive oil, and fresh pepper); and Rising Sun (wasabi mayo, teriyaki sauce, shredded daikon and carrot, pickled ginger, and seaweed).
Best Hotel Restaurant: The Anasazi Restaurant (Santa Fe)
Anasazi Restaurant & Bar/Yelp
The luxurious Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi is home to Santa Fe’s most upscale eatery, The Anasazi Restaurant. Chef Edgar Beas sources much of his menu from 13 different local farms, and the end result is a quintessential New Mexican dining experience, especially once you factor in its rustic and romantic dining room decorated with light wood and adobe. The menu is constantly changing, but sample menu items include duck breast with smoked corn pudding, summer squash, and husk cherry; pork belly with Anasazi bean, huitlacoche, wilted chard, and pork jus; and dry-aged prime strip loin, local mushrooms, kohlrabi, onion marmalade, and fingerling potato.
Best Ice Cream Stand: La Lecheria (Santa Fe)
La Lecheria is the separate ice cream business of Santa Fe chef Joel Coleman of Fire & Hops fame. Coleman uses traditional flavors from New Mexico such as red and green chiles in his seasonal ice cream offerings that are loved by locals and visitors alike.
Best Indian Restaurant: Paper Dosa (Santa Fe)
Helmed by South Indian chef Paulraj Karuppasamy, Paper Dosa started out as a pop-up before settling down as a full-service, dine-in restaurant in 2015. Start your meal with dahi vada, Chennai chicken, or kale and onion pakora (fresh kale, red onions, and jalapeños in a spiced rice flour batter that’s flash fried and then served with an eggplant chutney). Their dosas come in amazing varieties; try the masala dosa flavored with white truffle oil or the green chile dosa, filled with three cheeses and New Mexican green chile.
Best Mexican Restaurant: El Modelo (Albuquerque)
Back in 1929, Carmen Garcia began using one of the three rooms of her house as a tortilla factory; she would wake up and make them herself starting at 2 a.m. so that she could sell them for breakfast. She added tamales, then expanded the business with her son in 1945, helping to turn it into the institution it is today. Now owned by Virginia Chittim, El Modelo still makes rave-worthy tortillas and tamales, along with enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, and sopapillas — many of these featuring New Mexico’s signature red and green chiles.
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: Travis on a Silver Platter, Grandma Warner's K & I Diner (Albuquerque)
K & I Diner is famed for its Travis burrito — particularly the Travis on a Silver Platter. This 8-pound burrito is made with three flour tortillas and stuffed with beef, beans, and delicious red chile sauce. Covered in cheese and a gigantic pile of french fries, if you manage to finish it by yourself in an hour, you can have it for free.
Best Pancakes: Central Grill and Coffee House (Albuquerque)
This low-key coffee shop is a great place to drop into for a satisfying breakfast or lunch, and we suggest you resist the urge to try the (excellent) banana French toast and biscuits and gravy and head straight for the buttermilk pancakes, which are fluffy, buttery, and served with real maple syrup. You can also try the “Crazy Good” pancakes, which adds blueberries or apples along with melted brie cheese to the mix.
Best Pasta Dish: Lasagna Alla Bolognese, Osteria D’Assisi (Santa Fe)
This simple, no-frills osteria looks like it’s been imported directly from Italy, and so does the menu. Chef-owner Lino Pertusini and executive chef Christian Pontiggia both hail from Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, and they’re turning out spot-on versions of Italian classics. A good lasagna is hard not to love, and you’ll definitely fall in love with theirs, made with house-made pasta, meat ragout, marinara sauce, béchamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Best Pizza: Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza (Albuquerque)
Il Vicino has nine locations in the region and has been going strong in Albuquerque (the original location) since 1992. Pizzas here are baked hot and fast in a wood-fired oven, made with fresh, high-quality ingredients, and are inspired by chef Tom White’s trips to Italy. You can build your own pizza using creative ingredients such as balsamic onions, green chile, capicola, white anchovies, Portobello mushrooms, and fiery shrimp, or choose from a gourmet selection including Motorino (Alfredo sauce, spinach, artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes, balsamic onions, and pesto); Prosciutto e Rucola (prosciutto, San Marzano tomato sauce, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, arugula, cherry tomatoes); and Tartufo (truffle mushroom cream, mozzarella, Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, and chopped parsley).
Best Sandwich: Albuquerque Turkey, Relish (Albuquerque)
Relish is an indispensable Albuquerque sandwich shop, crafting gourmet sandwiches to order with high-quality ingredients (like organic greens, house-made mozzarella, and bread from nearby Le Paris Bakery), and plenty of care. Stop by for lunch and try the hot Albuquerque Turkey, made with Boar’s Head honey roast turkey, havarti, tomatoes, chipotle mayo, and green chile (this is New Mexico, after all) on toasted sourdough. This should be the New Mexico State Sandwich.
Best Soup: Green Chile Stew, The Shed (Santa Fe)
Going strong since 1960, The Shed is one of Santa Fe’s most renowned restaurants, and quite possibly the best place in the state to get your fix of dishes prepared with New Mexico’s famed Hatch chiles. While the posole is also spectacular, the green chile stew is the one to order; made with roasted chiles, potatoes, and chunks of lean pork, it’s everything that’s great about New Mexican cuisine in a bowl.
Best Steakhouse: The Bull Ring (Santa Fe)
This comfortable and low-key steakhouse, in business since 1971, is nothing short of a Santa Fe landmark and a carnivore’s dream. Nestled in the courtyard of an unassuming downtown office building, the restaurant prides itself in serving only corn-fed USDA Prime beef, hand-cut on the premises daily. Make sure you start with some onion rings and a cup of their green chile stew (as one does in Santa Fe), then move onto a fillet, rib-eye, New York strip, prime rib, porterhouse, or El Matador (a sirloin strip served with green chile, sautéed mushrooms, and onion straws). You really can’t go wrong.
Best Taco: Chicken With Green Chile at The Shed (Santa Fe)
Santa Fe loves the green chiles from Hatch, down in the southern part of New Mexico, due to their nearly supernatural ability to pair perfectly with just about any type of food you can think of. At The Shed, in business since 1953, the chiles are grown especially for the restaurant and brought in fresh daily, then processed on site. One of the best applications of this spicy green sauce that you’ll find in the city is on the restaurant’s taco plate: two fresh blue corn tortillas with baked chicken topped with green chile, Cheddar, onion, lettuce, and tomato. The chicken is perfectly cooked, but the chile is the real star of the show (as is the stellar posole that comes with it). For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.