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ABQ: What do I need to know?

I'm going to be moving to Albuquerque in the next few weeks, from the Twin Cities, MN. I was hoping you guys could fill me in on the food scene. I have family in the area who will help me find stuff, but they're not really chow hounds -- their idea of going out tends to involve things like Subway.

With moving, I'm on something of a tight budget, so I'm looking for the best places to shop, particularly for Asian ingredients, and also some of the top-food-for-your-money type restaurants. I love most ethnic food, though I admit I don't have the courage to take on things like tripe. Local "must-haves" are also great to know about.

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  1. I've been gone from NM for three years now, so I'll let more up-to-date people fill you in on restaurant stuff; unless there has been a major shake-up, Talin Market is the no-contest winner for picking up Asian ingredients.

    1. From an older post of mine:

      The BEST tortilla's in ABQ are at Frontier, on Central directly across from UNM. They sell them a dozen in a bag, hot off the grill and are wonderful. Their food is also really traditional New Mexican. There won't be any farmer's markets open at this time of year, but Fruit Baskets are a good sub. While it is not NM unique, Sunflower on Alameda/RT 528 north of Cottonwood Mall has great produce {across from Hooters}, and other SW goodies.

      TaLin is excellent and has many food products from around the world, not just SW.

      505 Chile has some great salsa etc to take home, you can also eat there. 3313 Girard Blvd NE
      Albuquerque, NM 87107
      Just North of Candelaria on Girard
      (Girard is between Richmond & Vassar)
      505chile.com

      I put this together FYI. These are all places I have eaten at and consider my favorites. I have not included any national chains. I hope you can use this info. I probably missed some;
      $$ means expensive; type of food is indicated if title of restaurant isn't clear; general location given. All are in ABQ proper unless otherwise noted.

      Local chains with mulitple locations:
      Garcia's Kitchen - New Mexican
      Little Anita's - New Mexican
      Flying Star - coffee, desserts, good food; eclectic
      Dions - pizza [best chain]
      Papa Johns - pizza
      Garduno's - mexican [pretty run of the mill]
      Weck's -breakfast
      Souper Salad
      [Don't bother with seafood, chinese as these just aren't worth it here]

      Abuelita's New Mexican Kitchen [about 25 minutes north of ABQ] on the way to Santa Fe
      621 S CAMINO DEL PUEBLO
      BERNALILLO, NM
      (505)867-9988

      Al's NYPD Pizza - downtown
      (505) 766-6973
      215 Central Ave Nw

      Ambrozia Cafe $$ contemporart[Old town]
      505/242-6560
      108 Rio Grande Blvd. NW,

      Artichoke Cafe $$- eclectic, contemporary American
      (505) 243-0200
      424 Central Ave SE

      Barelas Coffee House - New Mexican Food
      (505) 843-7577
      1502 4th St SW

      Casa de benavidez New Mexican - north valley [ 20 minutes ]
      505/898-3311
      8032 4th St. NW,

      Cervantes - New Mexican Food
      (505) 262-2253
      5801 Gibson Blvd Se [near airport]

      Duran's Central Pharmacy New Mexican/SW
      [old Town; don't let name fool you]
      505/247-4141
      1815 Central Ave. NW

      El Patio New Mexican/SW [Univ area]
      505/268-4245
      142 Harvard St. NE

      El Modelo Mexican Foods
      (505) 242-1843
      1715 2nd St Sw

      El Pinto New Mexican [20 minutes north of ABQ; on way to santa Fe]
      (505) 898-1771
      10500 4th St NW

      Graze $$ contemporary [Nob Hill]
      505/268-4729
      3128 Central Ave. SE

      Gold Street Cafe - american [downtown]
      505/765-1633
      218 Gold Ave. SW

      Frontier - new mexican, across from Univ. of NM
      (505) 266-0550
      2400 Central Ave SE

      Great American Land & Cattle $$ steak
      505-292-1510
      1550 Tramway Blvd NE

      Il Vicino Wood Oven pizza - Nob hill/University area
      [also various locations]
      (505) 266-7855
      3403 Central Ave NE

      La Crepe Michelle - french, in Old Town
      (505) 242-1251
      400 San Felipe St Nw

      Los Cuates New Mexican
      (505) 255-5079
      4901 Lomas Blvd NE

      The Melting Pot - fondue; in Old Town
      (505) 843-6358
      2011 Mountain Rd Nw

      Pars - mediterranean
      (505) 345-5156
      4320 25 Way NE [near movie complex at Jefferson & I 25]

      Powdrells BBQ
      (505) 298-6766
      11301 Central Ave Ne
      and
      (505) 345-8086
      5209 4th St Nw

      Quarters - BBQ [near Airport]
      505/843-7505
      801 Yale Blvd. SE

      Ranchers Club $$
      ABQ Hilton
      505/889-8071
      1901 University Blvd. NE

      Range Cafe - new mexican and american [good]
      multiple locations
      (505) 293-2633
      4200 Wyoming Blvd Ne B2

      Robbs Ribbs BBQ
      (505) 884-7422
      3000 San Pdro Dr Ne Ste C

      Rudy's BBQ
      (505) 884-4000
      2321 Carlisle Blvd Ne

      Sadies -New Mexican
      (505) 345-5339
      6230 4th St NW

      Scalo - northern Italian $$ [Nob Hill]
      505/255-8781
      3500 Central Ave. SE

      Seasons Rotisserie & Grill $$ [Old Town]
      505/766-5100
      2031 Mountain Rd. NW,

      Yanni's - mediterranean/greek [Nob Hill/Univ area]
      (505) 268-9250
      3109 Central Ave Ne

      Zinc Wine Bar $$ contemporary [Nob Hill]
      505/254-9462
      3009 Central Ave. NE

      Rt. 66 Diner [not my favorite, but has it's fans] [west of Univ. area]
      505/247-1421
      1405 Central Ave. NE

      Enjoy!

      Debi

      2 Replies
      1. re: DebitNM

        Wow. Thank you so much. I'll be pulling out my street map and making a plan.

        1. re: DebitNM

          I second that suggestion regarding the Frontier and its tortillas. Whenever my friend drives through ABQ, she always brings 4-6 dozen or so back for us. In fact, I am eating some with breakfast right now.

        2. The best place for Asian ingredients is Talin Market at Central & Louisiana. It truly is a Disneyland of Asian shopping with aisles dedicated to different countries: Thai, Korean, Japanese, Indian.... They have it all. Plus excellent fresh fish (probably half the sushi restaurants in the Q get from here), all sorts of frozen treats and even fresh cooked food to eat there or to go.

          For eats, go to http://www.nmgastronome.com/ (Gil's Thrillin Web Site) for excellent reviews of every kind of fare. Especially good sushi reviews.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ljrnm

            Wow. That's a lot of reviews. I think I'm looking forward to trying as many of them as my budget will allow.

          2. You'll need to learn first about the difference between Mexican food and New Mexican food. I know, I know, there are different regional variations of the former, but you are probably most familiar with the tex-mex version (something like what you'd get, I think, on Concord Street in St. Paul), whose green sauce is made primarily with tomatillos and some other spices and chile, and whose red sauce is made primarily with tomatoes (when salsa) or, when used for cooking, with some red chili powder, perhaps something like a commercial chili powder. With New Mexican sauces, the green is made primarily with fresh (or frozen or canned) green chiles (not tomatillos), and the red sauce is made with the powder of dried red chiles, not the commercially mixed powder ala McCormicks, etc. Also, there is a concoction here called carne adovada, which is pork which has been stewed in a sauce made of the red stuff. Sadie's & Mary & Tito's (both on 4th street, though quite a distance from one another) are often thought to be some of the top purveyors of this stuff, as is Rancho de Chamayo, a great but cheap restaurant north of Santa Fe, in the town of Chamayo. Other ABQ folks have their favorites. For pretty good Mexican, try El Norteno, on Zuni just east of San Pedro, and also try Taco Tote on 40-hundred something Central. There are quite a few others, some really modest places, primarily take-out: El Modelo on 2nd (hard to find, but keep driving), and Taco Lady (or something like that), I think on Eubank. Also, El Sabor de Juarez on Gibson.

            Besides Talin, on Central & Louisiana, which others have mentioned, there is a huge repository of Asian stuff, newly opened on Gibson, called "99-B", or something like this. They even have live frogs there, undressed chickens, etc. There is also a Korean place called Ari Rang, I think, on Eubank, small dining area and small but good grocery outlet. There are only a few Korean places, but probably 10 or so Vietnamese places in town, some of them quite exceptional and generally cheap. I happen to like Saigon on San Mateo (not to be confused with Pho Saigon--have not been there), also May Cafe on Louisiana (across from Talin) and also Trang Cafe (across parking lot from Talin).

            Good Chinese is kind of marginal here; Ming Palace on Eubank is one of the best; ABC on Menaul has pretty genuine offerings, but is kind of dingy. Some people like the dim sum offerings at Amerasia, but I went once and found them pretty inauthentic and, pardon me for saying so, homely; dim sum at Ming Palace, I thought, was better, but this not saying much compared to large city stuff. There are quite a few Thai places in town, and Orchid on Central used to be highly thought of, but I think they've slipped badly in the last few years; the staff there just does not seem to give much of a darn. Try some other Thai places first.

            Forget about getting anything like Chicago style pizza (and for that matter, Chicago style hot-dogs--there are some who claim they do a Chicago dog, but they are mere pretenders, and extortionate rip off artists at that--but you can get, believe it or not, some decent approximations of New York style pizza: AK Fratelli's, up on Southern just inside of Rio Rancho, Sal-E-Boy's also up around Rio Rancho, Southern, I think west of Unser, and (lastly) Venizia's, one branch in ABQ, the other in Rio Rancho, quite a bit more pricey than the others.

            Finally, check this out:
            http://www.nmgastronome.com/

            Enjoy.

            2 Replies
            1. re: baltodog

              Chow's Asian Bistro has acceptable Chinese food; they are in Cottonwood Mall on westside; on Juan Tabo on the eastside and in Santa Fe.

              As a former NYer -- Venezia is the closest to NY pizza around and I don't think there prices are all that bad. They make a great Chicken Parm sandwich [hero, grinder, sub, wedge are all terms used]. They have the original location on Rio Rancho Blvd and Sara Rd, there is one on San Mateo just south of Montgomery and one on Juan Tabo. I just looked them up and they have a few locations in AZ too!

              Not nearly as good, but lots of locations and lots of fans is Dion's Pizza. A thicker, somewhat doughy crust with decent sauce and cheese. Also good cold sandwiches [ see above definition] and great salads. Try their raspberry dressing or greek.

              Happy eating in ABQ

              1. re: baltodog

                I make my own pizza, so finding the right "style" of pizza isn't too much of a concern.

                Wow, live frogs? Okay, I'm not that brave.

              2. Places close really, really early. Or maybe they just conspired to do that when I visited.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                  How early is early? I rarely eat later than seven, even when dining out.

                  1. re: Terrieltr

                    It was going on 9 p.m. and I was left with no alternative but to grab burritos at the Frontier, the all-night place. It could have been bad luck or sunspot activity or something, but that's my lasting memory of the Albuquerque dining scene. (Not that the Frontier was so bad ...)