Recent arrival to Albuquerque!
I've just moved to Albuquerque from Los Angeles, and am on the hunt for the good foods! My wife and I will be exploring on our own, and we have a few semi-foodie friends that can help us find some delicious places.
But my main hope is that you good folks on this board might have a bunch of suggestions and ideas. Please let me know about anything worth investigating in Albuquerque or the surrounding areas! I'm much obliged in advance. :)
Edit: I realize that this is a broad question, let me try to narrow it down a little. Mostly -- I realize that certain cuisines aren't going to be as prevalent here. One thing that I'd love is to find out what kinds of food are especially great here. For instance, I'm sure I could find the best sushi in town, but that's probably not what ABQ does best. I'm more interested in what cultures/cuisines are most prevalent and where to find the best examples of those things.
I promise I'm looking through the board for ideas, but I wanted to put this post here so that I could collect ideas from folks.
Hi and welcome to Albuquerque,
On the whole, I don't find the New Mexican food in Albuquerque to be as good as the NM food in Santa Fe. I know others will disagree, but it seems like the NM food here is mostly of the greasy spoon variety and kind of one-note. Of the places we have, I agree with Finlero that Mary & Tito's is the best, with Duran's as a solid second because of their excellent red chile. I also like Richard's on Menaul near Carlisle for their simple but delicious vegetarian posole and terrific unsweetened sopapillas.
Some other places that are good, but not particularly New Mexican:
Slate Street Cafe (downtown) - A nice everyday place for breakfast and lunch with a Southwestern twist and a lighter touch than most places here, -- extra good because they serve Duran's red.
Indigo Crow (Corrales) - Not everything on the menu is a winner, but there's someone thoughtful in the kitchen and some dishes are very good.
Torino's @ Home - (near I-25 & Paseo del Norte) - A more refined type of Italian food than one would expect in Albuquerque. Again, not everything's perfect, but some things are excellent.
La Crepe Michel (Old Town) - a very homey little French restaurant with reasonably priced food that's simple and well-done. I think this is a type of French restaurant that's getting harder and harder to find anywhere in the US. (Actually, La Crepe Michel itself is kind of hard to find in the maze of Old Town shops. It's not marked on the official map, but it's in the same little alley as the very cool Casita de Kaleidoscopes, which I think is marked.)
Huong Thao (East side) and Banh Mi Coda ("International District", Central & Louisiana) - in my opinion, the two best Viet Namese in town. The other places seem to make everything very sweet to accommodate their idea of Western palates. The mung bean crepe and curried gluten at Huong Thao are outstanding.
Budai - well-done Taiwanese/Chinese, maybe the best Asian in town. You'll be leaving behind much better Asian food in California, but this is the best we have and it's good.
Also second Finlero's vote on Kokoro (near Menaul & Louisiana). Authentic Mom & Pop Japanese. My sister's 1st generation Japanese assistant swears by this place and goes here once a week.
Farm & Table (Los Ranchos/far N. Valley) - Maybe the only attempt at a locavore restaurant in Albuquerque (besides Santa Fe-based Vinaigrette) that's managed to survive and even thrive. So-so for brunch, but I've heard they're great for dinner. Have also heard great things about the food at the much more expensive, but even more locavorish Los Poblanos Inn, also in the North Valley.
Have to disagree with votes for Siam Cafe. It used to be my favorite Thai in Abq, but has gone way downhill after a couple of changes in ownership and loss of veteran staff.
Vic's Daily Cafe - More for eaters and hangover sufferers than foodies, but sometimes this type of place is necessary and this is probably the best of that class -- Big, greasy, tasty, chile-laden NM breakfasts that will leave you semi-comatose and somewhat ashamed for several days.
Zacatecas Taco & Tequila Bar (Nob Hill) - hesitate to recommend this place on the heels of all the amazing tacos you've probably had in LA, but it has some of the better, more creative taqueria offerings you'll find in the area, should you get a hankering.
Non-restaurant food places:
Bosque Baking Co (downtown) and La Quiche Parisienne (northeast) for good quality hand-made breads.
Joe S. Sausage (Rio Grande & Candelaria) A small workshop/storefront that's worth a visit, if only to talk to Joe, a former chemist and passionate artisanal sausage maker. All kinds of cool flavors like lamb harissa and pinon green chile.
The bakery at Tully's Italian Deli (I think it's called Saratori) is one of the few places in the state to get real cannoli, filled to order.
Pro's Ranch Market (SW) - A large Mexican grocery store with a huge hot and cold deli selection of authentic Mexican dishes served cafeteria style. Helps a lot if you can speak at least some Spanish or if you go with someone who can.
Bombay Spice - (Central just west of Louisiana) a very well-stocked South Asian grocery, that also carries some cookware. If you like Indian food, you'll have to cook it yourself because there really isn't a single very good Indian restaurant in the state. This is the place to get the ingredients.
And, last but not least, I think the best of Albuquerque food culture is well-represented at the Saturday Downtown Grower's Market in Robinson Park. It's not nearly as big as the markets in other cities, but it's friendly and has a nice selection of local specialty foods, produce, and fresh chiles (roasted to order in the late Summer and Fall). Try to get there by 8:00 or 8:30 AM because things sell out.
Albuquerque doesn't really have the economy or population to support the amazing restaurants and food producers you'll find in other mid-sized cities like Portland, Pittsburgh or Austin, let alone the vast food possibilities of places like LA or NYC, but once you adjust your expectations a bit and locate your key spots, it can be a really pleasant place to live and eat. Hope you have a great time here.
Right on about Vietmanese restaurants! When we moved here in '92, I think there were about 3 or 4. Now I'm told there are 40! My favorites are Cafe Da Lat, Cafe Tran, Pho #1 and Pho Linh, but there are another half dozen that I frequent.
Really good pizza at Farina's. Trombino's will not knock your socks off, but it serves amazingly consistent basic Italian dishes, as well as excellent pizza. Really great neighborhood bar feeling also.
I realize Pappadeaux is a chain, but has incredibly fresh seafood, and also a nice bar atmosphere.
For NM food, I really like Casa Benavides.
I think NM-style Mexican and (weirdly?) Vietnamese are ABQ's two best strengths. For the former I like Mary & Tito's, for the latter I like Huong Thao for pho, Viet Taste for noodle bowls, and Banh Mi Coda for banh mi.
Other random places worth checking out:
* The Grove for Intelligentsia Coffee, tasty baked goods, and phenomenal sandwiches.
* Vinaigrette for delicious, if overpriced, locavore salads.
* Siam Cafe for solid Thai.
* Scalo for decent house-made pastas and a reasonable wine list.
* KoKoRo for surprisingly ok no-frills Japanese.
* Giovanni's for really solid NY-style pizza, extra good with green chile. Venezia's is decent too.
* Frontier/Golden Pride for killin' breakfast burritos on homemade tortillas. The locally-owned Taco Cabana locations on Montgomery and San Mateo also do homemade tortillas and NM fare, they're way better than the rest of the chain.
* Marble, La Cumbre, and Il Vicino canteen all have excellent local beer, La Cumbre is probably my favorite of the three.
* Ezra's Place for surprisingly refined food (think asparagus and shaved parmiggiano with a fried egg on top) served in a bowling alley.
I live up in Santa Fe, there are some great finds up here too, but I'll keep this post confined to ABQ for now.
"...and (weirdly?) Vietnamese..."
I was told that in the late '60's and early '70's a few unscrupulous "international developers" sold land here to a number of Vietnamese families desperate to get out of their ravaged country. They were told they could grow rice here! When they arrived, having spent their life savings on fake farm land, shady visa services and travel, they didn't have any way of leaving, and ended up taking menial jobs and settling here. Over time they started little auto repair shops and restaurants catering to soldiers near KAFB who'd developed a taste for Southeast Asian food, had kids, brought over relatives. Hence our cool little unexpected Vietnamese community in the NM high desert.