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Aug 5, 1998 03:15 PM

Albuquerque -- my comments

  • j

I recently returned from the annual trip my wife and I
make there to run a music workshop. I always eat well
when we are there and would like to share a bit.

The Monte Vista Fire House is a very good restaurant
serving what I like to refer to as "television
cooking". That is cooking such as is done by the chefs
on the cooking programs on TV. Good tasting and very
attractively prepared. The prices are higher than last
year, but still somewhat cheaper than in Philadelphia,
for comparable food.

The Scalo Italian restaurant in the Nob Hill section
serves some of the best Italian food that I have had
outside of Italy. I guess you could call it northern.
Again, the taste is excellent and it is beautifully
presented. Pastas run under $10. One visit I had
there most expensive special of the evening, a grilled
tuna on a bed of soft polenta, with grilled asparagus
and a blueberry compote. I know that the dish sounds
like a collection of all sorts of trendy things, but it
was a treat. It cost only $17.95, and was worth every

Someplace entirely different is "El Bandito" on Central
Avenue (Route 66), just west of Girard. It is a simple
Mexican place -- simple, cheap, good and authentic.
The style of cooking is that of Mexico City. They have
wonderful beverages -- horchata and aguas frescas.
They latter are made with water, sugar and fresh fruit.
The flavors include sandia (watermelon), melon,
strawberry and alfalfa(!).

I ate at a few Vietnamese places, including Cali
Noodle, Vietnam and one whose name I have misplaced.
The last (without a name) was the best. In fact it was
much better than I am used to in Philadelphia.

Of course, one can't forget the Frontier. A unique ABQ
institution. You have to visit there at least once.
It is at the corner of Central and Stanford, right
across from UNM. Open 24 hours. Truly where the elite
meet to eat.

A large dinner we gave in connection with the workshop
at the Quarters on Yale was disappointing. Their BBQ
just didn't seem up to par. Much better BBQ is to be
found at Rudy's, on Carlisle, just north of I-40.

Why not let us know what your favorites are.

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  1. Before I add my 2 cents in, let me get this out of the
    way. Lest I be accused once again of flaming or
    launching a personal attack, that is not my intention.

    I am restricting my comments to Monte Vista Firehouse,
    because that's the only place I ate at in Albuquerque.
    The manager of the inn I stayed at said it was one of
    the top restaurants in town. NO WAY !!!

    My experience was very different from Mr. Bank's. The
    place looked great, and the presentation of the food
    was attractive. However, the food was extremely
    mediocre. Nothing was very memorable. If this is
    supposed to be one of the top places in town, then I
    really don't have much hope for the others. One would
    probably have a better meal at some of the little
    Mexican places he mentioned in the post.

    To top it all off, the service was pretty inept.
    After clearing off the appetizer plates and
    silverware, the table was not reset. They plunked
    down the main courses, walked off so quickly and
    never noticed we have no eating utensils. It took 10
    minutes and 3 requests to get silverware !

    Restaurants in Santa Fe are clearly much superior to
    ones in Albuquerque.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Gary Cheong

      I am sorry that you didn't like the Fire House. I have
      always enjoyed my meals there. I realize that it is no
      comfort to say that the restaurant was having an off
      evening. In such a case, they should allow the
      customer to pay with "off money", whatever that might

      I suggest you give ABQ another try if you get the
      chance. Indeed, except for Scalo, I do suggest the
      more inexpensive places, such as the various Vietnamese
      and BBQ places. And of course, try to get to El
      Bandito. It's really a fine place. The low price gets
      you pretty minimal ambience, and there is no service
      (you give your order and they call out your number),
      but the food is quite good.

      1. re: Jerry Bank

        I have a feeling that the inexpensive places you
        mentioned is the way to go.

        Have you eaten in Santa Fe ? There is a Chile & Wine
        Festival going on near the end of Sept. (not sure what
        dates are). If I make it there, I'll have to explore
        Albuquerque more.

        1. re: Gary Cheong

          I don't get up to Santa Fe. The one time I was there I
          found it a bit too artsy-craftsy for my taste. I much
          prefer ABQ.

          1. re: Jerry Bank

            I don't go there for the art.

            1. re: Gary Cheong


              I am visiting Albuqueque and surrounding areas in
              April. I would appreciate suggestions for Mexican,
              BBQ, Korean, etc. restaurants and any other helpful
              hints. Thanks,


              1. re: Decider

                Hi Decider -- sorry, can't help you there. Was in
                Albuquerque only one night and was not impressed at
                all by the fancy Monte Vista Firehouse (see this
                thread further up). You are in the right direction
                going for the little Mexican places. Maybe someone
                else will have specific suggestions for you.

                1. re: Gary Cheong

                  Hi Gary,

                  Thanks anyway. Did you have any good meals in Sante
                  Fe or Taos? In Albuqueque I had a great barbecue meal
                  at a restaurant where the seating was family style. I
                  don't remember the name but I will find it in April
                  when I go down there.


                  1. re: Gary Cheong

                    I get into Albuquerque every year or two and always go to a place called El Norteno on Zuni in the SE corner. Small family run place, excellent Mexican.

                  2. re: Decider

                    In Albuquerque, northwest of and within a couple miles
                    of the airport.

                    Sopapillas & rellenos.
                    M&J Restaurant
                    403 2nd Street SW
                    Eat in. It's making a comeback, in case you hear

                    El Modelo Mexican Foods
                    1715 2nd Street SW
                    Take out, but a few tables under an overhang outside.

                    1. re: Bob

                      Thanks Bob. I'm going to try them. Any suggestions
                      for Santa Fe and Taos?


          2. re: Gary Cheong

            Like yourself, I don't mean to flame, but saying that restaurants in Santa Fe are clearly superior to those in Albuquerque after you've admitted that you've only been to one restaurant in Albuquerque (and the one restaurant in town that locals know is incredibly lame and for tourists and trendies only) makes it difficult for some of the rest of us to trust the validity of that statement.

          3. My husband and I just spent the weekend in Albuquerque guided by some posts here on Chowhound. First night we ate at Slate Street which is within walking distance of downtown/convention center. The place is lovely and we had excellent service. We chose to go with a selection of small plates - including portobella mushroom fires with a spicy ketchup (our favorite), calamari (ok), stuffed fried olives (really good but salty!), and a selection of bruschetta (very nicely done). We went back the next morning to the same place for brunch and I have to say the fruit pancakes were absolutely amazing. If you order them a la carte you can avoid the daunting task of eating five. Our second dinner was a Jennifer James 101 and we loved this meal as well. I had quail with foie gras, greens, over pecan pie and it was probably the most sinful meal I've ever had. My husband had the lamb couscous and while he was a bit surprised that the lamb was served stew style (large, very tender chunks) he thought it was well executed. We finished with a poached pear and coffee. The restaurant is very small - around 30 seats total - so reservations are important. The waitstaff was very attentive and knowledgeable, and the ambiance was great (a bit more intimate than Slate St.) If you're looking for a fun bar or coffee at three in the afternoon when everywhere else downtown has closed (!) try the Blackbird Buvette on Central -- very inexpensive drinks, a fun atmosphere, and an outdoor patio not dominated by dancing 20-year olds.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jwernimo

              This thread was started over 10 years ago and until the last post was 7 years ago. Much of the info here is outdated and places mentioned are no longer around. There's lot more recent thread on ABQ restaurants on here.