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Albuquerque Chile Fix

Recommendations by locals

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This list is intended to be fluid, subject to frequent changes based on input from others…think of it more as a regularly updated list of suggestions.

 

For the sake of having time for other projects, and to create a page that loads quickly and isn’t overwhelming, the list will be limited to 20. Currently it is a combination of perennial local favorites, places to take visitors (typically with tame chile, but ambiance), and a couple of solid options for green chile cheeseburgers. That may get parsed in the future, but in terms of compiling suggestions for outstanding local restaurants for chile and comfort food…this is a starting point.

 

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, but often to the detriment of the chile potency.

 

If your favorite place isn't listed, please take a moment to nominate them using the form below. Please include your name. I will be including that so restaurants know who is giving them shout-outs. Other info is helpful, e.g. What are your favorite dishes? Red or green chile preference?

 

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  • BREAKFAST & LUNCH: An ABQ classic, and a perennial local favorite, Barelas Coffee Shop is located at 1502 4th Street SW in downtown Albuquerque (aka the South Valley). Barelas has been in business for over 25 years, serving New Mexican comfort food. It has an old-school coffee shop ambiance, which is appropriate since it is in the oldest neighborhood in Albuquerque. Spanish settlers set up a ranch here in the late 1600s. The food at Barelas is authentic, affordable fare. The portions are generous. You won’t leave hungry. You may need a nap. They are generous with their chile, which is delicious. In the wonderful world of red, green or Christmas, I prefer the red at Barelas; however, it is best to try both and decide for yourself! A few favorites: menudo (their specialty), carne adovada, red chile, flat, cheese enchiladas, topped with an egg, posole and huevos rancheros. Be forewarned…they are very busy on the weekends, with cramped parking. Mon. – Fri. from 7:30 am – 3 pm, Sat. from 7:30 am – 2:30 pm. (505) 843-7577
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  • BREAKFAST & LUNCH: A downtown favorite, Cecilia’s is located at the corner of 6th Street and Gold Avenue (230 6th St). Cecilia has worked at several of the well-known local eateries, learning from each and surpassing them all with her humble diner. She believes in quality and customer service, preparing the food herself. 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. For those who believe hotter is better, it may be better if Cecilia is in a raging fury. If you are fan of chicharrones, try these, but don't expect fried pork skin. Cecilia's chicharrones are chunks of stewed 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 the 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
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  • BREAKFAST & LUNCH: The Central Grill and Coffee House is a recent, and 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 burritos has impeded trying one of the many other tempting items on the menu. Based on the number of pancakes sailing out of the kitchen each weekend, it is clear that pancakes are one of the most popular items. I’ve never heard anyone complain about any dish served 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 spend another day at the gym, but it so worth it. Mon. – Sat. from 6:30 am – 4 pm, Sun. from 6:30 am – 3 pm (505) 554-1424
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  • LUNCH & DINNER: Cervantes is an Albuquerque classic. The restaurant, located at 5801 Gibson, serves authentic New Mexican cuisine. It is a favorite among service personnel assigned to Kirtland Air Force Base. Taking newcomers to Cervantes for lunch is part of the “rite of passage” associated with being transferred to Albuquerque. It isn’t chile 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 also very flavorful. I'm not a huge fan of fees for chips & salsa, due to the New Mexican expectation that chips, salsa and sopapillas are an obligatory part of the meal, but it probably has something to do with food cost and the reality is Cervantes is inexpensive. The ambiance is ‘rustic,’ which is to say heavy on the 70s kitsch. A few favorites: anything with red chile, usually enchiladas, sopapillas and margaritas. Mon. – Sat. from 11 am – 10 pm, Sun. from 11 am – 9:30 pm. (505) 262-2253
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  • 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 sopapillas are excellent. The brisket is outstanding. 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
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  • BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER: This is a fantastic little café tucked inside an old fashioned drugstore near Old Town (1815 Central Ave NW). They have been sating the local need for chile since 1942. Not only do they have wonderful New Mexican food, but they also have all your pharmacy needs and a plethora of unique, fun, quirky stocking stuffer type gifts and toys. Their book selection is primarily local writers or about New Mexico. Back to the food. Their tortillas are massive, made to order nirvana. They are one of the best options for red chile in Albuquerque (IMO). A perennial favorite is the bowl of chile. Tourists should be warned that this is not a Texas style, tomato and bean based concoction. This is a bowl of basic red or green chile with beans and seasoned ground beef served with one of the massive, homemade tortillas on the side. A few more 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
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  • 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 interstate was completed. El Camino catered to those making the trek. The place retains an old school diner atmosphere. They serve tasty, inexpensive, authentic New Mexico cuisine. Full disclosure: 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. This is another place with outstanding red chile. The piquancy varies, but it may be too spicy for people adapting to the chile phenomenon. 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
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  • 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 when the weather is pleasant and you can’t wait. It is a large building, but 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. In terms of favorites, you can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu, but 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
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  • BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER: Located in a converted home at 142 Harvard Drive near UNM, El Patio has been serving students and the neighborhood traditional New Mexican fare for decades. The front yard of the house serves as a patio, well shaded by trees. As a go-to for students, it will come as no surprise that the prices are affordable. 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 not particularly hot for local taste buds. However, that isn’t the case for tourists or newcomers, as I discovered when taking friends to El Patio. They have all enjoyed the food, but it has made several 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
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  • LUNCH & DINNER: As far as places that can accommodate large parties, El Patron is second only to El Pinto in size. This place is huge and it is usually busy. They opened in 2012 at a location formerly occupied by Garduno’s at 10551 Montgomery Blvd. (between Eubank and Juan Tabo). The food is reliably good, with a few inventive dishes for those with an adventurous palate. The menu references the heat of the chile, but that may be for the benefit of tourists or newcomers. The chile is flavorful, but without much in the way of burn. The patio faces the Sandias, providing 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
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  • 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. For those far from New Mexico, 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. Favorites: The accoutrement…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
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  • LUNCH & DINNER: This is NOT a pick based specifically on chile. In fact, other establishments have chile that is as good or better (particularly for those of us with an affinity for heat); however, the green chile cheeseburger at Fork & Fig is awesome. Frankly, they have a plethora of options on the menu that are tasty, but most don’t involve chile, which is just as well given their close proximity to Uptown hotels. However, the item that seals the deal on inclusion is the cheeseburger. When I get around to doing a green chile cheeseburger page, this slot can be relinquished to one of the other local purveyors of New Mexican fare, but, for now, this place isn’t well known and more people need the opportunity to savor their burger. They are located at 6904 Menaul Blvd, just east of Louisiana on the south side of the road, across from the Sheraton. If you aren’t looking for it, you probably won’t notice it. Mon. – Thus. from 11 am – 9 pm, Fri. – Sat. from 11 am – 10 pm, Sun. CLOSED (505) 898-1771
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  • LUNCH & DINNER (other than Saturday & Sunday): Hot Tamales is a good choice for people on the west side who don’t feel like crossing the river. 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 blend their red chile from pods and fire roast their green chile, making for fresh and flavorful entrée accoutrement. The Hot Tamale bowl is a favorite. It consists of posole topped with a tamale, cheese and red chile. As you would expect from a place named after tamales, the tamales are quite good. Another favorite is the green chile stew. It is delicious and filling, particularly as the temperature drops. All are quite tasty. The chips are not overly salty. The salsa has great flavor, though I prefer more chutzpah. The queso is very good, which is a rarity in ABQ. Mon. – Fri. from 11 am – 9 pm, Sat. from 8 am – 9 pm, Sun. from 8 am – 3 pm (505) 962-0123
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  • 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. This is NOT wimpy chile. Whereas it starts out mild, the red chile builds tempo as you consume it, with a gradual inferno building throughout your meal. For the uninitiated, this is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. I want it 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 Award’s “America’s Classic” honor, the same honor received by Rancho de Chimayo in 2016. Mon. – Thurs. from 9 am – 6 pm, Fri. - Sat. from 9 am – 8 pm, Sun. CLOSED (505) 344-6266
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  • BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER: When the scientists from the Manhattan Project were developing the first atomic bomb, they were stationed about 35 miles from Sant 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. When an Albuquerque entrepreneur purchased the franchise rights in the 80s, they not only built a notable edifice¬ with a prominent owl 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. 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
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  • 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. It isn’t fancy from the exterior and they are not trying to impress you with the interior décor either. At Padilla’s it 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 being a local favorite, well loved by multiple generations of UNM students. Padilla’s is so good that I have had to wait for a table at 2 pm on a random Tuesday. They don’t accept reservations. They don’t accept credit cards. Their hours are limited. The menu is limited. The food is traditional New Mexican fare; pure, simple and prepared exceptionally well. Favorites: carne adovada in any form, blue corn chicken enchiladas (green) and stuffed sopapillas. Mon. – Fri. from 11 am – 7:45 pm, Sat. – Sun. CLOSED (505) 262-0115
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  • BREAKFAST & LUNCH: Located at 4590 Corrales Road, Perea’s serves traditional, homemade New Mexican comfort food. For those that would 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 Pereas have been in the village of Corrales for a long time. John took over when his father passed away. The restaurant is located in an old, cozy adobe home. I’ve known the owner, John Perea, since our mutual youth, which is now an alarming number of years past tense. John’s mother still handles the cooking and it’s her skill that makes this one of the best New Mexican restaurants in the state, though relatively unknown compared to others. A few favorites: chile relleno, green chile stew, Stuffed sopapilla and plain sopapilla. Mon. – Sun. from 8 am – 2 pm (505) 293-0157
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  • BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER: The original Range opened in 1992. Three years later the restaurant was destroyed in a fire. The community’s loyalty and support allowed the Range to not only rebuild, but to do it better. After a few years at an interim location, they secured another property on the main drag. They are more popular than ever, with additional locations added in Albuquerque. The food is well executed comfort food, both with and without chile. Though they are a good option any time of day, they are one of my favorites for breakfast, with excellent, albeit massive, breakfast burritos and fantastic huevos rancheros. Their pastry case is also worth perusing, but that’s a topic for a different post. Other favorites: 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
    Hungry?
  • 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 with ongoing popularity necessitating a larger location by the late 1970s. During the many years at the Sun Valley Bowl, their following continued to grow with another move in 1990 to the flagship location on 4th Street. Unlike many local purveyors of New Mexican cuisine, Sadie’s doesn’t tone their chile down. They are well known for the potency of their peppers and portions that encourage sharing. The chips and salsa are free. For visitors the salsa is available in local stores as well as at Sadie’s locations, but it needs to be shipped or stowed in your main bag. Security won’t allow it through in the carry on. Tried that. Fail. A few favorites: Roberto Special, Stuffed Sopaipillas, Green Chile Cheeseburger. Mon. – Thurs. from 11 am – 10 pm (505) 293-0157
    Hungry?
  • BREAKFAST & LUNCH: Hailing from Chimayo, Tia Betty Blue is classic northern New Mexico cuisine with an infusion of fun, flair and inventiveness. They offer a discount to anyone with a visible tattoo on Fridays. The décor leans towards hipster cool. 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 are generous. Side dishes include traditional favorites like calabacitas and posole, but 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. 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 those. Mon. – Fri. from 7 am – 2 pm, Sat. – Sun. from 8 am – 2 pm. (505) 268-1955
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New Mexico Nomad

Albuquerque Chile Fix

Recommendations by locals

New Mexico Nomad