We are a couple of New Yawkers touring the Southwest for the first time. We will be stopping in Santa Fe, Monument Valley, Taos, Canyon De Chelly, the Grand Canyon (El Tovar), and Albuquerque. Our friends who have preceded us on a similar jaunt did not have very encouraging things to say about the food they ate along the way. I gather that there are some great places to eat in Sante Fe, but other than that, I haven't heard anything much. I would be grateful for any specific or generalized advice about food in the area. As diehard chowhounds, ambiance isn't our first priority. Whats good to eat out there, and where do we find it?
Don't skip Albuquerque. We drove through on a road trip from Austin to family in Denver. The tamales at El Modelo are awesome. My wife's mom fondly remembers the tamales her late husband would bring from a Mexican dance hall in Nordheim, Texas 30 years ago. She took one bite of an El Modelo Tamale and said "tastes like home" - this after 8 hours in the car.
Also, the red chile with meat made me swoon. It's almost all red chiles and beef, some of which have dissolved into cream. Put the smiles on our faces after finding our first choice, M & J Sanitary Tortilla Factory, closed. Folks on this board have raved about that one as well. Bear in mind El Modelo is take-out only.
I hesitate to step up here, because there are many 'Hounds on this board with far more extensive chowing experience in these regions than I. However...since I know this will inspire others, here goes. Let me say firmly, your friends are wrong, wrong, wrong. There is excellent food to be had along the way - check further down on this board for each of the towns you cite - for Grand Canyon, also check Flagstaff, for instance. Also check the Stern's Road Food books, and remember - you never know where you'll encounter a memorable green chili cheeseburger. And some of the best tamales I ever ate were blue corn/barbecued pork sold along side of the road just outside Taos. ABQ and SF - and Flag and Taos - all have fine, fine restaurants, cafes and diners - you'll find many. Welcome to the Southwest. There's great eating here - but sometimes you have to search for it.