20 of the Best Restaurants in Albuquerque for Chile

Get your fiery food fix

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Albuquerque chile fixThis list is intended to be fluid, subject to changes based on input from others. Currently it is a combination of perennial local favorites, places to take visitors (typically with tame chile, but ambience), and a couple of solid options for green chile cheeseburgers. Several of the places included aren’t much to look at. If you didn’t know about them, you would probably drive by without stopping. Others score higher on atmosphere, often to the detriment of the chile potency.

If your favorite Albuquerque restaurant isn’t listed, please give them a shout out in the comments below. Additional details are helpful, like favorite dish.

Barelas Coffee House

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

Located at 1502 4th Street SW in downtown Albuquerque (aka the South Valley), Barelas Coffee Shop is a perennial favorite. They have been in business for over 25 years, serving traditional New Mexican comfort food. It has an old-school coffee shop ambiance, which is appropriate since the Barelas neighborhood is the oldest neighborhood in Albuquerque. Their food is authentic, affordable and the portions are large. You won’t leave hungry, though you may need a nap. Be forewarned…they are very busy on the weekends, with cramped parking.

In the wonderful world of red, green or Christmas, I prefer the red at Barelas; however, it is best to try both to decide for yourself!

A few favorites: menudo (their specialty), carne adovada, red chile, flat, cheese enchiladas, topped with an egg, posole and huevos rancheros.

  • Mon. – Fri. from 7:30 am – 3 pm
  • Sat. from 7:30 am – 2:30 pm

(505) 843-7577

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

A downtown favorite, Cecilia’s is located at the corner of 6th Street and Gold Avenue (230 6th St). The owner, Cecilia, has worked at several well-known restaurants in Albuquerque, learning from each experience and, ultimately, surpassing them all with her small, humble diner. She believes in quality, consistency and customer service, which is why it is usually Cecilia or her sister in the kitchen. Legend has it that the heat of the chile is directly correlated to Cecilia’s mood each day, like a mood ring, but with chile. Unfortunately for her mental health, the chile is optimal when Cecilia is raging.

If you are fan of chicharrones, try them here, but don’t expect fried pork skin. Cecilia’s chicharrones are stewed chunks of pork layered inside a warm tortilla with cheese and green chile sauce.

A few favorites: the Fireman Burrito, enchiladas, carne adovada and the breakfast burrito. My preference here is usually green, unless cheese enchiladas are involved. I prefer cheese enchiladas slathered in red and topped with an egg.

  • Mon. – Fri. from 7 am – 2 pm
  • Sat. & Sun. from 7 am – 3 pm

(505) 243-7070

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

The Central Grill and Coffee House is a welcome addition to the downtown food scene. They opened across from Old Town in 2014. The menu is extensive, going far beyond standard New Mexican offerings, though my addiction to the breakfast burrito has impeded trying anything else on the menu. Based on the enormous number of pancakes served each weekend, it is clear that pancakes are one of the most popular items, though I’ve never heard anyone complain about any dish at this fantastic little café. As a result, this is another place guaranteed to have a wait on the weekend; however, they do a good job handling the volume. The wait time is usually reasonable.

Two favorites: the behemoth breakfast burrito and the salted caramel sticky bun. Both options involve an internal commitment to spending more time at the gym. Worth it.

  • Mon. – Sat. from 6:30 am – 4 pm
  • Sun. from 6:30 am – 3 pm

(505) 554-1424

LUNCH & DINNER

Cervantes is an Albuquerque classic. The restaurant, located at 5801 Gibson, serves authentic New Mexican cuisine. It is a favorite among military personnel assigned to Kirtland Air Force Base. The ambiance is ‘rustic,’ which is to say heavy on the 70s kitsch. Going to Cervantes for lunch is a “rite of passage” associated with being transferred to Albuquerque.

Cervantes’ chile isn’t tamed for tourist taste buds. Nope. The red chile is often “keep your water handy, break a sweat, need a Kleenex” caliber. Good stuff! The green is milder, but very flavorful. Unlike most places, they charge for chips and salsa, which seems odd. Like most New Mexicans, I perceive chips, salsa and sopapillas as an obligatory part of the meal. Their decision to charge more for these mundane sides probably has something to do with food cost, because their menu is inexpensive.

A few favorites: sopapillas, margaritas, and anything with red chile, usually enchiladas.

  • Mon. – Sat. from 11 am – 10 pm
  • Sun. from 11 am – 9:30 pm

(505) 262-2253

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER

Cocina Azul took over the Sunshine Market building on 12th Street and Mountain in 2010 (1134 Mountain Rd NW). The atmosphere is casual and friendly. The food is classic, authentic, northern New Mexico cuisine.

A few things set Cocina Azul apart from others. They serve fideos, a toasted pasta entree with short, thin, slightly curved pasta served in a tomato sauce. They serve calabacitas, a squash based side dish (or filling in lieu of meat), with corn, onion and chile. Odd that more restaurants don’t serve it when you consider how often people in New Mexico make it at home. What else do you do with the summer slew of squash? They also serve red and green salsa, both with good flavor and a bit of kick. The brisket is outstanding and the sopapillas are excellent. The chile isn’t too hot, but it will burn unsuspecting tourists.

A few favorites: huevos rancheros (Christmas), breakfast burrito of any sort (green), salsa and posole.

Mon. – Sun. from 8 am – 8 pm

(505) 831-2500

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER

Duran’s is a long term favorite. This fantastic little café is tucked inside an old fashioned drugstore near Old Town (1815 Central Ave NW). They have been serving locals chile since 1942. They are one of the best options for red chile in Albuquerque (IMO). Their massive tortillas are made to order, which serves as the perfect side for a bowl of their delicious chile. Tourists should be warned that this is not Texas style chili. That involves tomatoes, beef and beans. This is a bowl of red or green chile with beans and seasoned ground beef. Chile is the main ingredient. It is served with one of the homemade tortillas.

Not only do they have wonderful New Mexican food, they also have a plethora of unique, fun, quirky stocking stuffer type gifts and toys, as well as a full service pharmacy. Their book selection is limited to local authors or books about New Mexico.

A few favorites: huevos rancheros (Christmas), breakfast burrito of any sort (Christmas), salsa and carne adovada.

  • Mon. – Fri. from 8:30 am – 7 pm
  • Sat. from 8:30 am – 3 pm, Sun. from 10 am – 1 pm

(505) 247-4141

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

The El Camino diner was built at 6800 4th St. by Clyde H. Tyler in 1950, which was 13 years after Route 66 was “straightened” to bypass Santa Fe. Despite redirecting traffic through Albuquerque, 4th street continued to be a heavily traveled route until the I-40 was completed. El Camino catered to those making the trek. The place retains an old school diner atmosphere. I have an affinity for fantastic diners and this is definitely the type of place I love. Friendly staff, great service, family owned restaurant, affordable, good food, with a genuine appreciation for customers and a desire to leave you sated and satisfied.

El Camino serves tasty, inexpensive, authentic New Mexican cuisine. Like Duran’s Pharmacy, they are known for outstanding red chile. The piquancy varies, but it may be too hot for people acclimating their palate. If you are a chile novice, order it on the side.

A few favorites: green chile stew, huevos rancheros (red), and the green chile cheeseburger.

  • Tues. – Fri. from 8:00 am – 3 pm
  • Sat. – Sun. from 8:00 am – 3 pm

(505) 344-0448

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER

This is New Mexico food like your abuelita used to make. Authentic, affordable and delicious. El Modelo has been making the best tamales in Albuquerque since 1929, selling them to loyal locals from their location at 1715 2nd Street. Getting there involves a tricky turn at Bridge, looping back to catch 2nd street across the street from the railroad tracks.

El Modelo is primarily a take-out place, though there are a few tables outside in an enclosed patio area for when the weather is pleasant. It is a large building. The kitchen area is like a warehouse.

The tamales are huge. One is a meal. Two is gluttony (or lunch tomorrow). Three is enough for a week. Though the masa layer is relatively thick, it is offset by the amount of delicious, red chile saturated pork (or chicken) stuffed inside.

Favorite: whereas you can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu, it is the tamales that are revered. If this is your first visit, order a tamale.

  • Mon. – Sun. from 7 am – 7 pm

(505) 242-1843

El Pinto

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER

Located in a converted home at 142 Harvard Drive near UNM, El Patio has been serving students and the Nob Hill neighborhood affordable New Mexican cuisine for decades. The front yard of the house serves as a patio, well shaded by trees. The portions are filling without being super-sized.

Though everyone’s palate is different, the green chile is my preference at El Patio unless I’m ordering a dish that is simply better with red (e.g. cheese enchiladas). The chile is flavorful with a bit of a nip, but wouldn’t be considered “hot” by local standards. However, that isn’t the case for tourists or newcomers, as I discovered when taking friends to El Patio. They all enjoyed the food, but it made several people break a sweat.

A few favorites: blue corn chicken enchiladas (green), stuffed sopapillas (green), and carne adovada.

  • Mon. – Sat. from 8 am – 9 pm
  • Sun. from 11 am – 9 pm

(505) 268-4245

El Patron

LUNCH & DINNER

As far as local restaurant options for large parties, El Patron is second only to El Pinto in terms of size. This place is huge and it is usually busy. They opened in 2012 at 10551 Montgomery Blvd. (between Eubank and Juan Tabo), a location formerly occupied by Garduno’s. The food is reliably good, with a few inventive dishes for diners who would prefer to try something new.

The menu cites the heat of the chile, but that may be for the benefit of tourists or newcomers. It is flavorful, but without much in the way of afterburn. The patio faces the Sandias, which makes it a great place to kick back and enjoy a margarita, with New Mexico munchies and a majestic mountain view.

El Patron is more expensive than others on this list, but would be considered affordable compared to other markets.

A few favorites: combination plate, carne adovada, red chile ribs, blue corn chicken enchiladas (green) or ceviche.

  • Mon. – Thurs. from 11 am – 9 pm
  • Fri. – Sat. from 11 am – 10 pm
  • Sun. from 10 am – 9 pm

(505) 275-0223

LUNCH & DINNER

Declared New Mexico’s “most iconic restaurant” in 2015, El Pinto has the largest seating capacity in the state, occupying a sprawling adobe at 10500 4th Street (north, beyond Alameda Blvd). They need it. This is the go-to for visitors and locals entertaining guests. Currently the kitchen has the capacity to serve 3000 people/night. Even when they are busy, there is rarely a lengthy wait.

El Pinto is one of the only locally made salsas available nationally (via Kroger/Smiths). I owe them a debt of gratitude for a taste of home while living in Atlanta. Their patio is beautiful and enormous, which is a huge draw. Even when it is hectic, it doesn’t feel crowded.

Whereas their chile is not the best, and definitely not the hottest for locals looking for searing authenticity, El Pinto is a consistent hit when entertaining folks from out of town, which is why they are on this list.

A few favorites: The ambience…happy hour (chips/salsa) and margaritas.

  • Mon. – Thus. from 11 am – 9 pm
  • Fri. – Sat. from 11 am – 10 pm
  • Sun. from 10:30 am – 9 pm
Frontier red and green chile

BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER & LATE NIGHT

Located at 2400 Central Ave SE, the Frontier is a local legend and a long-time local favorite. Everyone who attends UNM is indoctrinated while getting their degree. The carne adovada burritos and western style hash browns got me through many all night study sessions. Unfortunately, the prices have gone up a good bit since I graduated and they are no longer open 24-hours, closing briefly from 1 am to 4 am. However, they are still a reliable staple for UNM, with prices that fit a student’s budget, making it a popular stop for alumni and tourists as well as alumni and visitors.

The choice of dishes featuring chile is extensive, but chile isn’t the only thing on the menu. Frontier has a large menu, with diner standards and their popular fresh squeezed orange juice and cinnamon rolls slathered in butter.

Favorite: The carne adovada burrito with western style hash browns got me through college.

  • Mon. – Sun. from 5 am – 1 am

(505) 266-0550

LUNCH & DINNER (other than Saturday & Sunday)

Hot Tamales is popular with people who live on the west side of Rio Grande. Located at 1520 Rio Rancho Blvd., the menu is limited, but everything is reliably good. The chile isn’t overly hot, which is a deficit for me, but they prepare it exquisitely, blending their red chile from pods and fire roasting their green chile. The Hot Tamale bowl is a favorite. It consists of posole topped with a tamale, cheese and red chile. The chips are not overly salty and the salsa has great flavor, though I prefer more chutzpah. The queso is also very good, which is a rarity in ABQ.

A few favorites: stuffed sopapillas, tamales or green chile stew.

  • Mon. – Fri. from 11 am – 9 pm
  • Sat. from 8 am – 9 pm
  • Sun. from 8 am – 3 pm

(505) 962-0123

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER

Serving authentic New Mexican fare since 1963, Mary & Tito’s at 2711 4th St. has earned the distinction of being one of Albuquerque’s local legends. They are known, rightfully so, for their red chile and carne adovada. Even if you prefer green, you might want to make an exception when eating here.

They do not serve wimpy chile. Whereas it starts out mild, the red chile builds tempo as you consume it, with a gradual inferno building throughout the meal. For the uninitiated, this is a positive. I expect chile to be a flavorful, 4th of July fireworks meltdown in my mouth. In that regard, Mary & Tito’s delivers.

Both Mary & Tito have passed on, but their daughter and grandchildren continue the traditions that made this restaurant an Albuquerque staple. In 2010, Mary & Tito’s was the recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s “America’s Classic” award, the same honor received by Rancho de Chimayo in 2016.

A few favorites: natillas, guacamole burrito, carne adovada burrito, carne adovada omelet, carne adovada flautas

  • Mon. – Thurs. from 9 am – 6 pm
  • Fri. – Sat. from 9 am – 8 pm

(505) 344-6266

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER

When the scientists from the Manhattan Project were developing the first atomic bomb, they were stationed about 35 miles from San Antonio, New Mexico, near the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The scientists rented cabins from J.E. Miera, proprietor of Miera’s Owl Bar and Café. The scientists posed as “prospectors,” spending nights at the café for dinner and a few beers. Miera’s son, Frank Chavez, started layering the burgers with green chile, inadvertently creating what has become a New Mexico icon…the green chile cheeseburger. An Albuquerque entrepreneur purchased the franchise rights in the 80s, they not only built a notable edifice, featuring a prominent owl facade at 800 Eubank, which is a roadside novelty worthy of old school Route 66 kitsch, they also brought us one of the best green chile cheeseburgers in town.

Favorite: The menu is extensive, but with a green chile cheeseburger like this, nothing else matters.

  • Mon. – Fri. from 7 am – 10 pm
  • Fri. – Sat. – Sun. from 7 am – 11 pm

(505) 291-4900

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

It would be easy to pass by Padilla’s without realizing it is one of the best New Mexican restaurants in Albuquerque. It has been in the same unassuming strip mall at 1510 Girard (near Indian School) for over 30 years. The exterior isn’t fancy and they are not trying to impress you with the interior decorating either.

Padilla’s is all about the food and the food at this family owned restaurant is fantastic. The parking lot is packed from before lunch until they close, a testament to this establishment being well loved by multiple generations of UNM students. Padilla’s is so good that you can expect to wait briefly for a table at off times on weekdays. They don’t take reservations. They don’t accept credit cards. The menu is limited. Their hours are limited, but the food is so good that they have earned a loyal following.

A few favorites: carne adovada in any form, blue corn chicken enchiladas (green) and stuffed sopapillas.

  • Mon. – Fri. from 11 am – 7:45 pm

(505) 262-0115

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

Located at 4590 Corrales Road, Perea’s serves traditional, homemade New Mexican comfort food. For those who argue that food prepared at a restaurant can’t be homemade by definition, I’d say you haven’t been to Perea’s and you aren’t familiar with Corrales. Like many of New Mexico’s best restaurants, Perea’s is a family legacy. The Perea family has been in the village of Corrales for a long time. The restaurant is located in an old, cozy adobe home.

I’ve known the owner, John Perea, since high school. He took over the restaurant when his father passed away, but his mother still handles the cooking. It’s her culinary skill that makes this one of the best New Mexican restaurants in the area, though it isn’t well known beyond Corrales.

A few favorites: chile relleno, green chile stew, stuffed sopapilla and plain sopapillas.

  • Mon. – Sun. from 8 am – 2 pm

(505) 293-0157

BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER

The original Range Cafe opened in Bernalillo in 1992. It was destroyed by a fire three years later. The community’s loyalty and support allowed the Range to not only rebuild, but to go bigger and better. After a few years at an interim location, they secured property on the main drag.

These day the Range is more popular than ever, with several additional locations in Albuquerque. The food is well executed comfort food (with and without chile). They are one of my favorite spots for breakfast, with excellent, albeit massive, breakfast burritos and fantastic huevos rancheros. Their pastry case is drool inducing, but that’s a topic for a different post.

Favorite: the “Range Roundup,” which involves a homemade biscuit topped with crumbled bacon and sausage, two eggs any way you want them, chile, white cheddar, with homes fries and pinto beans on the side.

  • Sun. – Thurs. from 7 am – 9 pm
  • Fri. – Sat. from 7 am – 10 pm

(505) 867-1700

LUNCH & DINNER

Originally located on Osuna and 2nd St., Sadie’s Dining Room was a tiny diner with nine stools when it opened in 1954. Sadie Koury, and her sister, Betty-Joe, moved to a location that could accommodate 35 guests in 1973. That location was short-lived, because a surge in business forced them to move into a larger location by the late 1970s, when they moved into the Sun Valley Bowl on 4th St. During the many years at that location, their popularity continued to grow, requiring another move in 1990 to their current location on 4th Street.

Unlike many local purveyors of New Mexican cuisine, Sadie’s doesn’t tone down their chile or salsa. They are well known for the potency of their peppers and for their enormous portions. They make their own salsa, which is also available at numerous retailers statewide.

A few favorites: Roberto Special, stuffed sopaipillas, green chile cheeseburger.

  • Mon. – Thurs. from 11 am – 10 pm

(505) 293-0157

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

Hailing from Chimayo, Tia Betty Blue is classic northern New Mexican cuisine with an infusion of fun, flair and inventiveness. The décor leans towards hipster cool and they offer a discount to anyone with a visible tattoo on Fridays.

The chile selection accommodates a variety of dietary restrictions, with red, green, vegetarian red, vegetarian green and gluten-free chopped green available. Regardless of which you choose, the chile has some kick and they serve generous portions. Side dishes include traditional favorites like calabacitas and posole, though they have several signature items that put a creative spin on classics, like a variation on a frito pie involving tamales slathered in red chile, cheese and fritos.

Favorites? Recommending a dish is impossible, because I haven’t ordered the same thing more than twice. I’ve never been disappointed. Out of the 20 suggestions provided in ABQ, there are a few that inspire effusive praise. This is one of them.

  • Mon. – Fri. from 7 am – 2 pm
  • Sat. – Sun. from 8 am – 2 pm

(505) 268-1955

Need Chile?

If you live in an area where chile isn’t commonly served, you can order outstanding frozen green or red chile from the Hatch Chile Store. They have mild to hot varieties available. Each package is 1 pound, which is approximately 2 cups. Check out our selection of recipes for ideas.

The Hatch Chile Store

19 COMMENTS

  1. I just found one the other day which originated in Belen. Rutillo’s at 1605 Eubank, NE. That’s probably the best chili relleno I’ve ever had at a restaurant.
    It’s hard to see because it’s in the inside corner of the strip center. You just have to get in that parking lot. Head north. Delicious.

  2. I was thinking – are there any bad places? I haven’t been to one the time I lived there or during my visits. Maybe I’m just lucky.

  3. Albuquerque is a city that I love most. I have spent so many years on of my childhood there.
    Thanks for your amazing travel guide on Albuquerque.
    The photos were really attractive.

  4. Don Juan’s in Socorro has the best green chile filling I’ve ever tried. It’s best in a stuffed sopapilla or burrito. Their adovada filling is also awesome. The food is so good there because there are several generations of New Mexico mothers cooking in the kitchen.

    • I will stop by. Eventually I will get the chile fix pages done for the rest of the state. The next one will probably be Las Cruces, then I will start with regional, e.g. NE, NW, SE, SW to capture places in smaller communities where there are not a ton of restaurants.

  5. The Frontier! Some of the best Carne Adovada in New Mexico. Green Chile with smoky, roasted, hot green chile flavor, and an awesome late-night Chile Cheeseburger ! They have to make this list.

    • There are a couple of edits coming up very soon. I am keeping the list at 20, but there are 2-3 being replaced and 4-5 under consideration for those slots…based on feedback. Basically, your opinion DOES matter. Thanks for shouting out Frontier. They got me through UNM all nighters.

  6. Nice list and commentary. I really like Perea’s New Mexican Restaurant off of Juan Tabo. They offer frijoles whole or refried and their chile is hot! Do you know if it is affiliated with the Corrales Perea’s?

  7. YAY CERVANTES! Definitely a native New Mexican’s Favorite! Their Red can be Hot- but Always flavorful! Add Queso or Sout Cream if you need to – but the Best Adovada in Town!

  8. My favorite is still Los Cuates. They have the best Carne Adovada, especially in the stuffed sopapilla. Wonderful sopaillas and green chile.

    • But YOU did not and that is precisely why I added commenting options. Shout out your favorite dishes. I haven’t been to Monroe’s in years…mainly because I worked there when I was in college.

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