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food worth stopping for along I-40

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family going thru nm on I-40 sick fo fast food joints HELP!!!!!

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  1. Mary & Tito's Cafe, a James Beard American Classic Award winner, is about a block off I-40 in Albuquerque (exit 6th, go N to Menaul, right to 4th, it's on the west side of street about 150 yards from Menaul) - they have good red chile and carne adovada.

    We generally try to time our arrival into Gallup so that we can have a meal at the El Rancho dining room - have enjoyed the food there for years. It waxes and wanes, but it's good lately.

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    Mary's & Tito's Cafe
    2711 4th St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87107

    1. Normally, I would never tell you to get off at Gallup, but if you do . . . Try Jerry's Cafe 406 W Coal Ave, Gallup, NM 87301, (505) 722-6775. Read about them on Yelp. Try the Mexican Chicken with sopapillas. Closes at like 7 or 8, though.

      There's also a pretty good place called Alicia's Burrito Express, 1120 E Historic Hwy 66
      Gallup, NM 87301. It's hidden in the back of a Shop & Save and closes at 5 PM. This is a follow your nose place.

      Beware of New Mexican food in general. They use red/green chili as an excuse not to marinate the meat, and most don't hand make their tortillas. There was a discussion between two East Coasters (from Pittsburgh and New York, respectively) where both vowed they could get better Mexican food back East.

      4 Replies
      1. re: schwaiguy

        "Beware of New Mexican food in general. They use red/green chili as an excuse not to marinate the meat, and most don't hand make their tortillas."

        That's an interesting criticism, along the lines of, "The problem with pancakes is, in the first place, they should be waffles." :-) People should certainly eat the food that pleases them - I'm not enamored of seafood myself - but warning people off an entire category of food because of personal dislike of the style ("Don't eat seafood - it tastes fishy!") appears to be sort of antithetical to the whole Chowhound mission.

        1. re: Erich

          Right on Erich. Like everywhere else, New Mexico has certain foods that kind of "brand" us, ala KC BBQ ribs, New Orleans Cajan, Minnesota hot dish, etc. In NM it's red and green chile. You don't have to like it, but most people love it. Guess schwaiguy doesn't.

          1. re: DAnnieNM

            Bravo Eric! New Mexican food is not Mexican, just like Tex-Mex or Californis Mexican is not Mexican food either. Go to to Pittsburg and ask for Chrismtmas or a sopsipilla and see what happens.
            I feel sorry for you that you missed the whole point of New Mexican food; it's all about the chile.
            Between Gallup and Albuquerque, is Grants, host of The Boarded Storefront Festival, there are 2 good and one very good local restaurants. Kiva, right at the Milan exit has good basic New Mexican fare. On old 66 is El Ranchero w/ great menudo, lengua tacos and goodenchiladas. Our favorite is Nana's Cafe (aka as The Uranium Cafe) on old 66, opposite a park in Grants. The red chile enchiladas (w/ a fried egg on top) is excellent and the green chile Navajo tacos are good and spicy too. Beware if you order a bowl of red chile and that is exactly what it is, ask for beans to be added. I have not had better chile or sopaippilas in Albuquerque.

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            El Ranchero Cafe
            619 W US Highway 66, Milan, NM 87021

        2. re: schwaiguy

          Beware of New Mexican food in general. They use red/green chili as an excuse not to marinate the meat, and most don't hand make their tortillas. There was a discussion between two East Coasters (from Pittsburgh and New York, respectively) where both vowed they could get better Mexican food back East.

          There is your first mistake - the food we love here is NEW MEXICAN, not Mexican. And maybe you can get better Mexican in Pittsburgh [I doubt it] and New York [maybe] but you sure can't get better NEW Mexican. A world of difference.

        3. If I am wrong about New Mexican cuisine, please let me know the names of the restaurants in Gallup, NM which marinate their meat and hand-make their tortillas to order, as I'd love to partake. I stopped partaking rather quickly due to the number of times I've shelled out good money for food I felt I could make better at home for a fraction of the price. But, again, this is completely subjective--I personally don't have a taste for New Mexican. When I moved here, out of my own ignorance, I had pipe dreams of Baja cuisine. These dreams were crushed rather quickly.

          I'm not warning anyone off an entire category of food. In fact, I joined this site specifically to tell someone unfamiliar with my town where the best restaurants were. (I wanted to give back, as I've found out about most the restaurants I enjoy on the internet.) If he has never eaten authentic Southwestern, he may be in for a few surprises. Notice, I mentioned the conversation between the two East Coasters but drew no conclusions from it.

          If anything, I find the use of red & green peppers here to be similar to the food in Korea, where they add kochu to every dish. I find it doesn't do much for variety, but again this is totally subjective.

          And, admittedly, I probably could have worded that paragraph much better.

          2 Replies
          1. re: schwaiguy

            "If I am wrong about New Mexican cuisine, please let me know the names of the restaurants in Gallup, NM which marinate their meat and hand-make their tortillas to order, as I'd love to partake."

            I think you're missing the point - like fish tacos and black beans, marinated meat is not a feature of NM-style cooking. :-) Welcome to Chowhound, though!

            1. re: Erich

              Exactly. It's one thing to say "New Mexican food is not to my taste." It's another to criticize it because it's not what you want. It's like going to a Thai restaurant and saying you can get better Chinese food elsewhere.

          2. Borrego, if you haven't already passed by us, maybe stop in at some farmer's markets on your trip. There are markets running four or five days a week here. The one in downtown Albuquerque, for example, has locally made cheeses, burritos and tamales, amazing bread made by a French master baker, pure butter-crust pies, great jams, and everything you need to make a big, fresh salad. I think farmers'/growers' markets in general, are an interesting and affordable way to eat a little more healthily while you're on the road, and to learn a bit more about the food culture of the places you're passing through.

            And while I agree with Erich on the New Mex/Mex issue, I do firmly believe all pancakes should be waffles.