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Mar 19, 2011 01:52 AM

What restaurants in Albuquerque are truly good and not just good for Albuquerque?

Saw the thread on Farina Pizzeria and agree with most of the comments. While it's a decent place, I think it's definitely just in the great-for-Albuquerque category. Which restaurants in the Abq area would you say are great for any city (or even any mid-sized city)?

Farina Pizzeria
510 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM

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  1. For what it's worth, although there aren't that many non-NM-style places in ABQ that are the very best of their kind I've had anywhere, I've been steadily impressed that in terms of bang for your buck, ABQ is a great town for chow. The number of ABQ places that can pull off, say, a B or B+ rendition of a cuisine when grading on a tough, chowish curve, but at much lower prices than San Fran or NYC, is really impressive.

    Places I think are truly good for anywhere:

    * The Grove - coast-style cafe, breakfast and lunch, probably the best espresso I've found anywhere in the Southwest. And I'm a total sucker for their pressed aged salami sandwich.
    * Budai - excellent Chinese and Taiwanese, with the xao long bao dumplings being a rarity in any city.
    * Banh Mi Coda - canonical renditions of banh mi, since I discovered Coda I've stopped bothering to get my fix when I'm back in Boston.
    * Giovanni's Pizza - maybe not quite as good as you'll find at a handful of spots in Brooklyn, but I think this place's NY-style pizza stacks up impressively well against most of the other pie I've had in the country.
    * [This space reserved for a full-service Vietnamese place. I haven't discovered my go-to yet, but considering there are approximately 3 billion Vietnamese restaurants around Central and Louisiana, there has to be a great one.]
    * NM-style places - take your pick, too many to name. The place I still think gets overlooked is Taco Cabana, whose NM branches (especially the two on San Mateo and Montgomery) are head and shoulders above the rest of the chain thanks to their amazing homemade small flour tortillas and vats of warm green chile.
    * And a few upscale places up in Santa Fe, weirdly all on the same little street, deserve accolades for being both national-caliber-good and well worth a periodic drive from ABQ - Shohko Cafe, Trattoria Nostrani, and arguably Shibumi Ramen, the new ramenya by the owner of Nostrani.

    Trattoria Nostrani
    304 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501

    Shohko Cafe
    321 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

    6300 San Mateo Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109

    6 Replies
    1. re: finlero

      Have you tried Desert Fish yet? I went once and think it has the potential to be a part of this list. I didn't order all that well, but other stuff looked fabulous and my sister nominates it for a place here. Would be interested in knowing what you, Erich and others think?

      1. re: ninrn

        Where is Desert Fish located - never heard of it.

        1. re: DebitNM

          Nob Hill-ish. Ninrn, everyone I know who's tried it has raved about Desert Fish. I don't care for seafood, though, so I've not gone. :-)

        2. re: finlero

          For Vietnamese, I consider Kim Long on and Pho #1, both on San Pedro, to be the tops.

          Pho #1
          414 San Pedro Dr SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108

          1. re: larrymcg

            I second the nod for Kim Long on San Pedro. For Vietnamese...

        3. What a wonderful thread topic!

          I'm sure I'll think of more, but just off the top of my head, I feel that these fit the bill:

          Mary & Tito's Cafe - world class red chile and carne adovada
          Budai - wonderful Taiwanese; delightful hostess
          Torinos - wonderful lunch; wonderful owners
          Antiquity - great service; Julia-Child-circa-'63 food
          Savoy (I like it somewhat better than Zinc and Seasons - go figure) - great service, food, drinks
          Mac's La Sierra Coffee Shop - great cheap food, great service
          India Kitchen - consistently as good as anything I ever had on Devon Ave.
          Mykonos - specials are generally outstanding, particularly when the old lady is in the kitchen
          Giovanni's - when Rosario is there, the best NY pizza I've had west of Jersey
          Dog House Drive-In - red chile footlongs
          Little Red Hamburger Hut - OCD owners make for SUPERB red/green burgers/fries
          Duran's Pharmacy - good red; delightfully sassy waitresses
          Taqueria Mexico - the food almost makes up for the attendant hassles
          Restaurante El Alex - birria - never had any as delicious as this
          El Modelo - delicious, don't tell me what's in it

          (I note that Albuquerque has some truly world-class Vietnamese, but I am completely out of touch as I don't think I've been to any of these restaurants in over five years - I used to like Huang Thao, but that was in the early '90s.)

          Please understand that these I've listed have different things that make them great - at least some of the food is solidly very good at all of them though I'm not claiming that it all is (e.g., I have never ordered a burger at Dog House and anyone who expects a world-class steak at Mac's deserves what he gets), but the service and environment definitely vary. I unhesitatingly bring people from all over (including food snobs from the Big City) to these places and have never been let down.

          Again, my compliments on a superb thread idea! While I believe it fairly cries out for a companion negative topic, such would probably be too divisive.

          India Kitchen Restaurant
          6910 Montgomery Blvd NE Ste D, Albuquerque, NM 87109

          Mac's La Sierra Coffee Shop
          6217 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM 87105

          Little Red Hamburger Hut
          Albuquerque, Albuquerque, NM 87104

          6300 San Mateo Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109

          11 Replies
          1. re: Erich

            I just want to note that I did NOT copy finlero's list or even see it until just now - he posted before me, but I was working on my post for quite a while.

            That said, I think it's interesting that we had similar thoughts about the Vietnamese.

              1. re: finlero

                Casa Vieja

                Nobody has mentioned Jennifer James yet--i've never been but it seems to get a lot of praise.

                Casa Vieja
                4541 Corrales RD, Corrales, NM 87048

                1. re: jjdot

                  Just one hound's opinion, but I personally think Jennifer James 101 epitomizes 'good for ABQ' but not 'truly good'. The ingredients are fresh and high quality, the recipes are modern, the technique is solid, (the prices are high), but in a national arena, this place is totally missing the wow factor.

                  I'm pleased it exists in ABQ, I hope NM gets tons more places with similar culinary playbooks, but I think JJ101 is really lucky it doesn't have stiffer local competition.

                  Jennifer James 101
                  4615 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110

                  1. re: finlero

                    What a coincidence, I was just going to ask what you all think of Jennifer James 101 and Casa Vieja, and here are jjdot and finlero's posts. I've never been to JJ101, but was not wowed by Graze.

                    Two I think I would add to the good-for-anywhere list:

                    Huong Thao, which Erich mentions, and, though it's not quite a restaurant, La Crepe Parisienne. Their croissants and breads like the multi-grain ciabatta are amazing and could probably hold their own in NYC, if not Paris.

                    Casa Vieja
                    4541 Corrales RD, Corrales, NM 87048

                    Jennifer James 101
                    4615 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110

                    1. re: ninrn

                      BTW, James Beard finalists for best chef SW were announced this a.m. - JJ didn't make the cut. WTG on making the semifinalists, tho.

                    2. re: finlero

                      Yeah, I did Jennifer James once, the tapas place--one excellent dish, two that were ok but not great. Disappointing.

              2. re: Erich

                Glad to see El Modelo finally showing up on a Chowhound post. In three visits to ALB over the years, the only recommendation I could draw out of friends and locals was Sadie's. I kept thinking that I must be missing something, but a third visit this past week confirmed that this is merely average NM Mex (though the chips and salsa are very good). Yesterday, I found El Modelo and my faith in ALB New Mex Mex was restored. The place is a bit of a dive in the sort of area where they film the underside of ALB in Breaking Bad, but it's far from unsafe. "Seating" is picnic tables outside and plastic combo spoon/forks. Only open until 7PM, but delicious, real and cheap. 50 or so patrons, only three of us Anglos. What more need I say?

                1. re: bruce3404

                  It's more Mexican than New Mexican, though.

                2. re: Erich

                  Hey Erich, inspired by your comments, I took my parents to Savoy for lunch yesterday and it was great. Good food, good bread, nice atmosphere, and, most surprisingly, priced about the same as Flying Star at lunchtime. I had dinner there shortly after it opened and it was fine, but somehow I never went back. Thanks for the reminder.

                  1. re: ninrn

                    Just saw this post - glad to hear it! We really blew it with friends this past weekend and did NOT leave a restaurant-that-will-not-be-named in favor of Savoy. (When it became apparent that things were awry, we thought about abandoning the first restaurant and heading to Savoy. Alas, we did not. We still had fun with our friends, but we would have had a nicer meal at Savoy.)

                3. don't know if they're still there, but I was taken to Zinc for a business dinner a few years ago. I'd have been delighted to have been served that meal in any city.

                  1. I agree with The Grove, Bahn Mi Coda, Torino's, El Modelo and Giovanni's being great. I am not a fan of Budai ...
                    Hm, what can I think to add...we really love Prairie Star but it is in Bernalillo. The Guave Tree Cafe is amazing. We also frequent Brasserie La Provence and I am always impressed with the food. I wish I had more to add but I am happy that things have changed since we moved here 9 years ago, there seems to be more quality and competition out there =)

                    Prairie Star Restaurant
                    288 Prairie Star Rd, Santa Ana Pueblo, NM 87004

                    Brasserie La Provence
                    3001 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106

                    6300 San Mateo Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: tracyH

                      Not familiar with Guava Tree Cafe - where is it and what do they serve? Thanks.
                      {BTW - my last meal will be the truffle fries from La Provence ! :o) }

                      1. re: DebitNM

                        They serve Latin American food - my favorite thing on the menu is the Cubano, but everything is good =)

                    2. So much good food in Albuquerque....For starters...New Mexico, classic.
                      Duran's - either location absolute favorite, for the moment, Los Compadres
                      Mexican - I would say Tacos Mexico on Lomas, I always smell like onions, lime, and cilantro after I leave so go only when you have no where to go after. ....don't forget to try our little pupuseria down on bridge.
                      Ok, Vietnamese - Our ultimate favorite is Vietnamese 2000 hands down.....seriously delicious.
                      Pizza - Still love me some Il Vicino and I really enjoy Mario's, their pizza and traditional pasta, and Saggio's, pretty much everything there is super tasty.
                      Mediterranean/Persian - Sahara on Central seriously good

                      Sushi - everyone has their favorite, I don't know I still love Shogun always.
                      Let's see what else, chinese - I really like ko palace at lunch only, not dinner, I don't know I think the dinner prices just do not substantiate it when you can get great combos at lunch.
                      Greek - I love Gyros and Yanni's, both have different atmospheres and prices ranges from the other.
                      Surpisingly good I thought was Jinja, really enjoyed it. Is that a local restaurant? I don't know just assumed it was for some reason.
                      I would have to agree with the Grove, love the proscuitto, asparagus, yummy bread and cheese and poached eggs dish....extra proscuitto please.
                      I think that people really look down on the food in Albuquerque but I always crave it when I am away, we have an amazing non-pretentious culture here, people who work hard and eat hard! All types of food are really amazing here not just our chile alone....hope you guys agree too.

                      Il Vicino
                      321 W San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                      107 Cornell Dr SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106

                      Los Compadres Restaurant
                      424 Isleta Blvd SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105

                      510 N Guadalupe St Ste P, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: pinoncashew

                        Thanks, pinoncashew, what's good at Los Compadres?

                        Los Compadres Restaurant
                        424 Isleta Blvd SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105

                        1. re: ninrn

                          Their red and green is equally tasty and not overly spicy, I'd say it's perfect. I love their enchiladas with red, their chile rellenos are delicious, like you would have in mom's kitchen, and their steak and eggs is served la plancha style it is yummy too with eggs over medium, a great breakfast or lunch place......service is well enough to get me the great food....but I'm not blogging about service in this post so I'll just focus on the food...hope you like it, let us know..