If you are visiting, or even passing through New Mexico it would be well worth your time to stop and sample the unique and flavorful cuisine. Some of the dishes may sound familiar, but the natives of New Mexico have developed a taste of their own that is simply incredible.
Traditional Mexican foods such as enchiladas, rellenos, and tamales benefit from the wonderful New Mexican green and red chili famous around the world. Nowhere else can you find foods with these sauces and spicy combinations. If you stop to eat New Mexican food do yourself a favor and don’t expect a taste like anything you’ve eaten anywhere else. This food experience deserves an open mind.
Be sure and ask the wait staff where you are eating the temperature of the chili if you have a preference. Depending on the crop and what they have on hand the hotness varies from day to day and often from red to green chili.
Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico. Located just northwest of the center of the state, there is a great deal of good food to be found. Depending on what you are looking for, there is a dish, and an atmosphere to suit everyone.
El Pinto Restaurant
10500 4th St NW, Albuquerque, NM
The El Pinto Restaurant is a fine dining establishment in the northwest side of Albuquerque where locals and tourists alike go out of their way to have a meal. Both President Clinton and President Bush ate there while visiting Albuquerque and it has developed a certain fame nation wide.
The El Pinto wasn’t easy for me to find the first time I went there. Found off of Alameda, the drive will take you down a curving road that is full of homes and businesses, but doesn’t seem like an area you’ll find a restaurant, and certainly not one of this size.
When you pull into its long driveway and through the arch you see what looks like a huge hacienda, a home where perhaps one of the more affluent New Mexican residents might live. Beautifully landscaped, the property offers abundant parking. The traditional adobe building is gorgeous, and lends a sense of authenticity to the dining experience that is rare in Albuquerque. The interior is fabulous, with beautifully tiled floors, traditional furnishings, and even a water fountain. The sense you have entered into some old world home is pervasive, and the choice between indoor and patio seating can be a hard one to make because both areas are so extraordinarily well decorated. Certainly if your meal depended on atmosphere alone, this place would rate five stars.
Having described the ambiance, I must say that the food and the service have never impressed me. I’ve never been to El Pinto when it wasn’t busy, and perhaps the long time it has always taken to get seated or waited on can be attributed to the crowds. Though I didn’t find the food bad, it doesn’t rate high among my favorites. Yet I have heard from some people that they love the food. The consensus seems to be split down the middle.
Those who’ve enjoyed dining at El Pinto seem to like the house specialty; carne adovado, and the chili rellenos. I personally enjoyed the chips and salsa, and the margaritas alone really can make the visit worth the drive. However, I’ve been there numerous times and have always experienced poor service, and have heard that anthem repeated time and time again from friends. The plates are not inexpensive, so be prepared to spend a little here. But you do seem to get plenty to eat for your dollar.
Bottom line is that despite my own bad experiences with food and service, I would and will visit again. The atmosphere is duplicated nowhere else, and it is the perfect spot for an outing for a late day drink and snack with friends. Certainly I would take any visitor wanting to experience New Mexican atmosphere.
1520 Lomas Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM
Found in the Downtown area of Albuquerque off of Lomas, it is easy to miss this small restaurant if you are not looking for it. The building is unassuming, and the inside is fairly plain. There is certainly a laid-back feel to this establishment. Its roots began as a small drive in, and it has a faithful following of regulars.
At peak hours Monroe’s draws large crowds, both weekdays and weekends. Yet I have never had to wait long for a table. The wait-staff are courteous and efficient, and the menu offers a wide variety of eye pleasing and mouth watering dishes that anyone can enjoy.
Known for serving 150,000 pounds of chili a year, Monroe’s has both traditional New Mexican cuisine and amazing specialties varying from day to day. The last time I ate there I had shrimp and crabmeat enchiladas with cream of green chili sauce, a dish as good as anything I have ever eaten at any restaurant.
The prices are mid-range, and the waiting time is appropriate for dishes which are not fast food.
Over all the atmosphere is nothing to rave about, but the food is definitely worth dropping in for.
2400 Central Ave Se, Albuquerque, NM
Located across from the campus of the University of New Mexico on Central Avenue, the Frontier Restaurant is a landmark to those who know Albuquerque. Teeming day and night with students and locals, it has a bustling atmosphere that never slows, and the air is always full of smells to make your stomach rumble.
The atmosphere is a laid-back seventies diner with taste of western /southwestern dÃ?Â©cor. A menu board stretches across the front of the main room, under several registers with fast paced people who take your order and give you a number. Though fancy it is not, the menu offers a little something for everyone. Fairly inexpensive, the New Mexican food here is outstanding and tastes homemade. There are also burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads, ribs, chicken, and even selections for vegetarians. The fresh squeezed orange juice is good any time of day, but is especially good with their incredible cinnamon rolls. Teas, espresso, and cappuccino are also made here, and don’t forget to take home the flour tortillas (available by the dozen) or the green chili stew, both so good you’ll never know your abuela didn’t make them this morning.
The only downside of eating here would be that it can be difficult to find a table at rush hour despite the huge number of tables, and that parking is at a premium. Parking longer than allowed in most parking areas can result in a fine, which can be frustrating.