Cities for food-lovers are now popping up everywhere; San Francisco, L.A., and New York don’t have a lock on that title anymore. In the southwest corner of America, Albuquerque, New Mexico is blazing a trail of its own on the culinary scene.
From hot and spicy New Mexican cuisine to upscale dining, here are some of Albuquerque’s most popular dining hotspots:
Corn Maiden at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa
For a fine dining experience, make a reservation at the Corn Maiden on the grounds of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort. This location takes a little time to find via a serpentine on-property road but it is worth the effort.
The restaurant was a 2014 James Beard invitee, and chef Eric Stumpf creates updated Southwestern cuisine using fresh, locally sourced ingredients from their own on-site garden and bee farm.
The ambiance is small and cozy, and you can choose to sit at the counter to watch the orchestration of how the food is prepared, plated, and served.
For a starter, try their signature buffalo carpaccio with grilled focaccia, heirloom tomatoes and organic greens.
Their top-selling entrée is the New Mexico filet mignon ($49) made with black truffle, Parmigiano-Reggiano frites, and grilled heirloom tomatoes. The restaurant sources their beef from a local rancher and the result is a flavorful, tender steak that rivals any you might find for twice the price.
The Cube BBQ
Located right on the old Route 66, now Central Ave., The Cube has an interior shaped just like, you guessed it, a cube. It’s nothing fancy décor-wise, but upon entering, the first thing that hits you is a fog of fragrant smoke wafting off the meat cooking in the ovens.
Owner Manny Aka acquired his barbecue expertise at a young age from his grandfather while growing up in the South. After trying all of the available barbecue in Albuquerque, Manny felt he could offer something different and opened his own place in 2009.
In that short time, he’s already caught the attention of the Food Network, who featured his smoked meats on one of their shows. Manny’s secret to success is his passion for real food using high quality meats and making everything from scratch. Organic veggies (try his collards), hand cut fries, and fresh baked bread are just some of the sides offered. This is Southern cooking at its finest, and the meat and side dishes are killer.
Most first-timers to El Pinto don’t expect such a massive restaurant. The parking lot is huge, and the entire complex covers 12 acres! Run by two brothers, their dishes are based on recipes passed down from their grandmother.
While you’re there, be sure to try their chile con queso, made with a creamy blend of cheeses and chopped green chiles. For dessert, their levante is a Mexican-style tiramisu made with homemade biscochitos soaked in Patrón XO Cafe, Kahlúa, and brandy and layered with mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, and shaved chocolate.
La Merienda at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm
La Merienda is located on the grounds of Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. The restaurant started off small, and during the summer, all of the doors and windows open up for a fresh air dining experience.
Since the restaurant owns their own gardens, about 90% of their foods are locally sourced and served in their dining room, which resembles a ranch or farm space. They feature farm to table cuisine and many a die-hard food-lovers have found their way to this tasteful restaurant.
Some of the samplings you should try include their roasted beet salad with fresh greens and fried lentils as well as their Monticello feature plate. The latter is beautifully presented with caramelized mushrooms, sweet potato napoleon, roasted garlic, and 17-year aged balsamic vinegar.
Pueblo Harvest Café
Located at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and owned by the 19 pueblos of New Mexico, Pueblo Harvest combines traditional recipes of the past fused with contemporary tastes.
The restaurant started out asking their chefs what their grandmothers cooked. Then, they created dishes that were both flavorful and based on old world New Mexico recipes. Their traditional pueblo oven bread infused with green chiles is one such dish. The Santa Ana enchilada is another entrée that is based on a 100-year old recipe.
One of their top selling items and a must try is their blue corn crusted onion rings served with green chile ranch dressing and homemade salsa. This one item, delicious and addictive, may be enough to bring you back to Albuquerque for a return visit.
Sadie’s of New Mexico
Started in 1965 as a 9-seat diner, Sadie’s has grown to 4 locations in Albuquerque. The family-style restaurant serves New Mexican cuisine featuring big portions with many dishes using variations of the famed Anaheim pepper. V.P. of operations, Jim Garcia, could arguably be called The Chile King, attesting to his love of all types of peppers. “We go through 60 tons of chiles per year,” he explains. “Our salsa is in 11,000 grocery stores nationwide.”
The most popular dish at Sadie’s is their chicken enchilada made with blue corn tortillas. You can order that with sour cream, con queso, guacamole and, of course, red or green chiles. According to Garcia, ordering it with a fried egg on top will create a flavor sensation that will keep you coming back for more.
Albuquerque has one of the most culturally diverse populations in the country, and this is reflected in the variety of food establishments that dot the landscape. We have just scratched the foodie surface, so go discover for yourself what all the buzz is about in New Mexico’s largest city.