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Oct 13, 2009 04:11 PM

Upscale New Mexican Restaurant in Albuquerque--birthday dinner

Hi all,

I've read through the previous postings for ABQ, and I'm still not sure where to take my boyfriend for his 30th birthday. He will be working a conference and I'm flying in to take him to dinner on Saturday night. Neither one of us is very familiar with ABQ, but we will be staying near the university and will have a car to drive.

His favorite special event restaurant in PHX is Richardson's, so I'm hoping to find something along those lines in ABQ (delicious steaks/seafood served with a NM flair--we love the beef tenderloin and shrimp served with stacked enchiladas)

I'm hoping to find a restaurant with a nice, mid-to-upscale atmosphere with great service and bar: more adult, romantic than family friendly chain. The price range is pretty flexible: entree's in the $15-35 range.

From what I've read on the chowboard, these restaurants kept popping up and just wanted to see which would be closest to what I'm looking for or if you had any other good recs: Antiquity, Rancher's Club, Monica's El Portal, Corn Maiden, Artichoke Cafe, El Patio, Sadie's.

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  1. Although I now live and eat in Hawaii, I was raised in Albuquerque and my family owned and operated restraunts for 30 years. If you are looking for a nice place with great food and atmosphere and don't mind a short drive, I recommend either the (1) Corn Maiden at Tamaya
    or (2) Prairie Star both are at Santa Ana pueblo .
    It is about a 20 minute drive north of town and one of the best places in New Mexico. If you can get a reservation there before sundown you will have the opportunity to see the Sandia mountains light up (watermelon "sandia" color) as the sun sets. The food is excellent at both as is the service. (Corn Maiden is my 1st choice) enjoy

    1. I don't think Sadie's or El Patio constitute upscale by a long shot...

      You might also consider Gruet Steakhouse.

      3 Replies
      1. re: tatamagouche

        I thought Gruet Steakhouse closed a couple of months ago? I concur with the Corn Maiden at Tamaya, but it can be very quiet and subdued. If you're looking for fine dining in these parts, you really need to go to Santa Fe, but if that's not an option, here are a few suggestions.

        Scalo on Central Avenue at Nob Hill is pretty good most of the time, it's in the middle of the university activity and it can be quite romantic. Italian food is their fare. La Provence has good food, but it's not very upscale. The Artichoke Cafe is about the same quality and ambience as Scalo. I think there's a place called Savoy on Montgomery that's also owned by the Scalo/Nob Hill Bar & Grill People that's pretty good with a lot of activity.

        Keep in mind that whatever your idea of "fine dining" is, you need to lower your expectations a bit for Albuquerque. There are many good restaurants with great food and service, but very few I would call "fine." Call me a Boston snob, but there it is. Santa Fe is about 50 minutes north of ABQ and there are quite a few "fine" dining locations there.

        1. re: sandiasingh

          It was open in late Aug; its website is still up.

          1. re: sandiasingh

            Drove past Gruet Steakhouse last night and it was open.

            I like Scalo and Artichoke Cafe about equally overall, and have never been disappointed at either, although I also can't say I'd go out of my way for them. I'd argue Artichoke Cafe has marginally better food, whereas Scalo has a better wine list, including a really nice selection by the glass. Scalo is more purely Italian, whereas Artichoke is somewhere between New American and French/Italian.

            To sandiasingh's point about Santa Fe, I think Trattoria Nostrani and Shohko Cafe absolutely set the standard for upscale dining in the state. Nothing against any number of other decent choices in ABQ and SF, but IMO, these two are on another level entirely. To me, either one would be worth the drive.

            EDIT: I just saw you wrote that his favorite place in Phoenix is Richardson's. If that's the case, my Santa Fe recs are probably not a great match (despite being delicious). That said, you've got a half dozen places in Santa Fe that would fit the bill. I'll say Cafe Pasqual's for cozy, hearty, casually upscale, with NM accents.

        2. You have gotten some good replies for good ABQ restaurants, but most of them are not New Mexican cuisine. Which is more important, the cuisine or the ambience?

          For fine dining, that would equal east coast dining, Rancher's Club would be my best bet. Excellent steaks, top notch service and that fine dining vibe.

          I agree with Scalo, La Provence in Nob Hill and Artichoke Cafe downtown. Bien Shur at Sandia Casino was good bet, with great views at sunsets, is it still good?

          Jennifer James 101 might fit the bill too for ambience and food:


          2 Replies
          1. re: DebitNM

            Rancher's Club in ABQ for sure. I totally disagree with Cafe Pasqual's in Santa Fe as a rec for this poster. Great food but not that fine dining experience. Besides, she asked for Albuquerque.

            1. re: desert rat

              Hey, fair enough to disagree on Pasqual's; after all, that's what makes horse racing (not to mention what makes CH such a great resource).

              While Pasqual's is certainly not super-high-end, it does remind me of Phoenix' Richardson's more than any other restaurant I can think of in NM. Cozy, bustling, midscale, not overly formal, serving New American food with NM ingredients. I do think the chow at Richardson's/Rokerij is a tick better, but the playbook is similar.

              As pointed out, the request was ABQ-centric, so this may all be moot anyway.

          2. I am not sure "upscale" and New Mexican cuisine go together. The two most "upscale" are Garduños various places and El Pinto, both of whose food is uneven. Sadie's just opened a new version next to the I-40 Eubank exit but it isn't really upscale either. El Norteno has moved to a better location on Wyoming and has probably the nicest setting of the Mexican places but it is old Mexican more than New Mexican with Lengua, cabrito and Barbacoa burritos.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bleen68

              bleen68 - long time no see, since AOL travel board! {I was DGoorbin back then}

            2. By far, the best New Mexican style restaurant in the Abuquerque area is EL PINTO'S on 4th Street and near Tramway Blvd.
              It's worth driving to this place.
              EL PINTO'S has a beautiful setting. The food is great, especially they use the best home-grown green chile sauce. Incomparable.
              I highly recommend their Chile Relleno special.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Norio Hayakawa

                It was good like a million years ago, but is it really still? My understanding is it's slid pretty far downhill. Anyone else?

                1. re: tatamagouche

                  I haven't been to El Pinto for about 10 years but people I know don't like it. They have a lot of groups and business events and it is a beautiful location, but I hear the food is really not up to par.

                  1. re: sandiasingh

                    I haven't been to El Pinto in a few years. The setting is very nice, but the food is mediocre at best. You can do WAY better in lots of places.

                    Also wouldn't consider this place "upscale" even by ABQ standards.

                    1. re: DebitNM

                      Friends don't let at Garduno's.

                  2. re: tatamagouche

                    Last time I was there I saw Hilary Swank. If it's good enough for Hilary, it's good enough for me.