For those visiting Albuquerque, one of the best ways to explore the city is through the palate. Home to traditional New Mexican cuisine as well as a mix of quirky, rustic and high-end dining, your tongue will enjoy a range of experiences. To help you plan your trip, here is a self-guided culinary tour of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Native Lodge is home to the Spirit Winds Cafe, which serves a mix of traditional American and New Mexican dishes as well as lighter fare like oatmeal, granola parfaits and a pineapple mint breakfast smoothie. Dishes are prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients, with the American Traditions section of the menu including items like eggs, French toast and pancakes, and the New Mexican Traditions section featuring hearty meals like the Pueblo Breakfast Taco, traditional fry bread topped with hash browns, eggs, bacon or sausage and house-made red and/or green chile sauce, and a Nativo Breakfast Bowl filled with scrambled eggs, hash browns, red chile beef chorizo and melted cheddar. Interestingly, the property is part of Heritage Hotels & Resorts, an independently-owned hotel company based in New Mexico focused on showcasing authentic Southwestern United States culture. Take a walk around the property to see Native American artifacts, totem poles, Navajo rugs, murals and even smoke some hookah in the outdoor teepee.
Another traditional breakfast option is the Harvest Cafe & Bakery. Before dining, opt for one of their experiences, like a bread-baking class, tamale-making demonstration or lectures on the Native diet. While the menu showcases a number of delicious Native-influenced dishes, some top picks include traditional fry bread, green chile stew, atole (blue cornmeal porridge), and Chackewe con Huevos, which features atole topped with eggs, cheddar, tomatoes, carne adovada and your choice of green and/or red chile.
No visit to Albuquerque would be complete without visiting The Candy Lady, one of the quirkiest sweet experiences you’ll ever have. The owner, Debbie Ball, created the candy crystal meth rock candy made for the hit show Breaking Bad, which she sells in the store (she’ll only sell it to you if you’ve seen the show). Additionally, the store specializes in chile-infused sweets, erotic lollipops, hand-made chocolates, dipped fruits and an expansive selection of over 20 varieties of fudge.
For a retro lunch, the 66 Diner is located on Central Avenue – the former Route 66. Inside the streamline-style building, patrons are taken back to 1950 through costumed staff, Elvis posters, 50s rock music and a menu focused on burgers and shakes. Pair your meal – with some menu highlights including the hot meatloaf sandwich, tuna melt, chicken fried steak and a green chile cheeseburger – with a thick malt. Almost any sweet-themed flavor you can imagine is available, for example, S'mores, Banana Cream Pie, Mud Pie, Black Forest and PB&J.
If it’s the weekend, opt for a Bike-In Coffee experience at Old Town Farm (Saturdays and Sundays, 8am to 2pm). During this time, bikers are encouraged to ride over to the farm for a delicious and healthy farm-to-fork lunch made with produce from their onsite garden, as well as to sip rejuvenating coffee while mingling with new friends. Tip: Bikes can be rented from The BikeSmith starting at $35 for the day.
You don’t need to cross the pond to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea experience. In Albuquerque, the St. James Tea Room offers the chance to return to a time when grace, civility and beauty were of utmost important when dining. Victorian decor, classical music and an impressive selection of fine teas set the mood, while a three-tiered tray of decadent finger foods fills your stomach. Some items you may find include Mr. Darcy’s cheddar scones with clotted cream; Toy Soldiers’ twice-baked potato with truffle oil; and Ore’s olive tapenade on pumpernickel. Throughout you’ll enjoy three different teas, with your server letting you know how much sugar and milk – if any – is best to add. Note: Menus change monthly to offer new themes, like Lord of the Rings, The Nutcracker and Pride and Prejudice.
New Mexico is the only state with an official question – red or green? – which refers to what color chile you want with your meal. Home to chile farms, chile tours, chile festivals and chile-infused foods, you’ll have no problem finding a restaurant to satiate your chile craving. That being said, there are certain venues that do it better than others. One must-visit is El Pinto which serves up traditional New Mexican cuisine like chile rellenos, chile-stuffed sopapillas and chile con carne enchiladas, with chiles fresh roasted and peeled onsite to maintain quality. Another top restaurant to get your chile fix is Sadie’s of New Mexico, an over 50-year-old tradition known for using fresh ingredients, family recipes and extra spicy salsas. We recommend ordering their carne adovada, made with lean pork cubes marinated in red chile and slowly baked, or their house enchiladas featuring spicy ground beef or shredded chicken gowned in your choice of red or green chile.
(Spicy foods aren't just found in New Mexico - consider one of these destinations to set your tongue on fire.)
If you’re looking to experience Albuquerque nightlife, Garduno’s of Mexico Restaurant & Cantina has an impressive margarita menu, with some flavors including coconut, pink cactus, blood orange, cucumber and green chile. Like the food, drinks are made with fresh ingredients sourced locally when possible.
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Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey. You can also connect with Jessica directly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, or follow her epicurean adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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