Albuquerque: New Mexico cuisine that’s anything but ordinary

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Albuquerque, February 17, 2015 -Foodie cities are now popping up everywhere. San Francisco, L.A. and New York, however, don’t have a lock on that title anymore. In the Southwest corner of America, Albuquerque is blazing a trail of its own on the culinary scene. So much so, in fact, that even the Food Network has taken notice and filmed segments about some of the city’s most eclectic eateries.

From hot and spicy New Mexican cuisine to upscale dining, here are some of Albuquerque’s most popular dining hotspots for you to enjoy next time you visit.

@Ron Stern all rights reserved
@Ron Stern all rights reserved

Sadie’s of New Mexico

Started in 1965 as a 9 seat diner, Sadie’s has grown to 4 locations in Albuquerque. The family-style restaurant serves up New Mexican cuisine featuring big portions with many dishes using variations of the famed Anaheim pepper. V.P. of operations, Jim Garcia, could arguably be called The Chile King, attesting to his love of all types of peppers. “We go through 60 tons of chiles per year,” he explains. “Our salsa is in 11,000 grocery stores nationwide.”

@Ron Stern all rights reserved
@Ron Stern all rights reserved

The most popular dish at Sadie’s is their chicken enchilada made with blue corn tortillas. You can order that with sour cream, con queso, guacamole and, of course, red or green chiles. According to Garcia, ordering it with a fried egg on top will create a flavor sensation that will keep you coming back for more.

El Pinto

Most first timers to El Pinto don’t expect such a massive restaurant. The parking lot is huge, and the entire complex covers 12 acres! Run by two brothers, their dishes are based on recipes passed down from their grandmother.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

While you’re there, be sure to try their chile con queso, made with a creamy blend of cheeses and chopped green chiles. For dessert, their levante is a Mexican-style tiramisu made with homemade biscochitos soaked in Patrón XO Cafe, Kahlúa and brandy and layered with mascarpone cheese, whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

Corn Maiden at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa

For a fine dining experience, make a reservation at the Corn Maiden on the grounds of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort. This location takes a little time to find via a serpentine on-property road but it is worth the effort.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

The restaurant was a 2014 James Beard invitee, and Chef Eric Stumpf creates updated Southwestern cuisine using fresh, locally sourced ingredients from their own on-site garden and bee farm.

The ambiance is small and cozy, and you can choose to sit at the counter to watch the orchestration of how the food is prepared, plated and served.

For a starter, try their signature buffalo carpaccio with grilled focaccia, heirloom tomatoes and organic greens.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Their top selling entrée is the New Mexico filet mignon ($49) made with black truffle, Reggiano frites and grilled heirloom tomatoes. The restaurant sources their beef from a local rancher and the result is a flavorful, tender steak that rivals any you might find for twice the price.

The Cube BBQ

Located right on the old Route 66, now Central Ave.,The Cube has an interior shaped just like a cube. It’s nothing fancy décor-wise, but upon entering, the first thing that hits you is a fog of fragrant smoke wafting off the meat cooking in the ovens.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Owner Manny Aka acquired his barbecue expertise at a young age from his grandfather while growing up in the South. After trying all of the available barbecue in Albuquerque, Manny felt he could offer something different and opened his own place in 2009.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

In that short time, he’s already caught the attention of the Food Network, who featured his smoked meats on one of their shows. Manny’s secret to success is his passion for real food using high quality meats and making everything from scratch. Organic veggies (Try his collards.), hand cut fries and fresh baked bread are just some of the sides offered. This is Southern cooking at its finest, and the meat and side dishes are killer.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm

La Merienda is located on the grounds of Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. The restaurant started off small, and during the summer, all of the doors and windows open up for a fresh air dining experience.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Since the restaurant owns their own gardens, about 90% of their foods are locally sourced and served in their dining room, which does resemble a ranch or farm space. They feature farm to table cuisine and many a die-hard foodie have found their way to this tasteful restaurant.

Some of the samplings you should try include their roasted beet salad with fresh greens and fried lentils as well as their Monticello feature plate. The latter is beautifully presented with caramelized mushrooms, sweet potato napoleon, roasted garlic, and 17 year aged balsamic vinegar.

Pueblo Harvest Café

Located at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and owned by the 19 pueblos of New Mexico, Pueblo Harvest combines traditional recipes of the past fused with contemporary tastes.

The restaurant started out asking their chefs what their grandmothers cooked. Then, they created dishes that were both flavorful and based on old world New Mexico recipes. Their traditional pueblo oven bread infused with green chilies, is one such dish.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

One of their top selling items and a must try is their blue corn crusted onion rings served with green chile ranch dressing and homemade salsa. This one item, delicious and addictive, may be enough to bring you back to Albuquerque for a return visit. They have many other items, of course, including their Tewa taco, voted best of Albuquerque 11 years in a row. The Santa Ana enchilada is another entrée that is based on a 100-year old recipe.

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is one of the top 10 attractions in the state of New Mexico. If you arrive on Saturday or Sunday at noon, you will be treated to a performance by traditional dancers and experience some authentic pueblo hospitality.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Albuquerque has one of the most culturally diverse populations in the country, and this is reflected in the variety of food establishments that dot the landscape. We have just scratched the foodie surface, so come discover what all the buzz is about in New Mexico’s largest city.

Where to Stay

There are many chain hotels in Albuquerque, but for a personal, at-home experience, try these bed and breakfasts:

Chocolate Turtle B&B

www.chocolateturtlebb.com

This B&B is located in nearby Corrales, a quiet and tranquil community just minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Innkeepers Denise and Keith are friendly and personable and greet each guest upon arrival.

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The interior rooms are decorated in a colorful, Southwestern style that isn’t overpowering. The main living area has plush couches and chairs as well as a television and warm, cozy fireplace. The beds are quite comfortable and room amenities include water and chocolate turtles.

The large backyard is a nice place to sit and watch the setting sun turn the Sandia Mountains their signature watermelon hue.

Morning features a home-made breakfast, which could include quiche, fruit kabobs and morning biscuits with jam, bacon, juice, and tea or coffee.

Overall, this is a great place to stay while visiting nearby Albuquerque. The atmosphere is calm and relaxing and feels like home.

Mauger Estate B&B

www.maugerbb.com

Located in the heart of the city, this beautifully restored 118-year old Queen Anne bed and breakfast is centrally located and adorned with period accents, rich woods and period furniture.

@Ron Stern All rights reserved
@Ron Stern All rights reserved

Accommodations include five luxury rooms in the main house along with two townhouse units nearby.

Additionally, each room includes phone, voice mail, satellite TV, free wireless Internet, small fridge, and evening treats such as chocolate chip cookies.

Tammy, the owner, is welcoming and accommodating and engages each guest. She prepares a fresh, hot breakfast each morning, which you can enjoy in a couple of bright rooms.

Resources

Sadie’s of New Mexico

www.sadiesofnewmexico.com

El Pinto

www.elpinto.com

Corn Maiden at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa

tamaya.hyatt.com

The Cube BBQ

www.thecuberestaurant.com

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm

www.lospoblanos.com

Pubelo Harvest Café

http://www.indianpueblo.org/visit/cafe.html

Rainbow Ryders (hot air balloon rides)

www.rainbowryders.com

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Ron Stern
Ron Stern, aka: The Global Gumshoe is passionate about excellence in hospitality and tourism. He writes full features with a focus on luxury, cuisine, hotels, resorts, tourism and travel destinations. His articles have appeared in national and regional magazines such as Shape, Cruise, Frequent Flyer, AAA Motorist, Visit Los Cabos Guide, Destinations West, Key Biscayne and La Jolla Today. Other articles have been published in newspapers (print and online) such as The Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sun Sentinel, Bismarck Tribune, The Jamaican Observer, the Coloradoan and travel trade magazines. Ron’s other contributions have been noted by PBS, Mobil Travel Guides and his photography has been used extensively by entities such as tourism boards and public relations firms. He has traveled extensively and is the author of five books. Ron's motto: "uncovering the sole of travel" humorously captures his spirit of walking the world travel beat as a gumshoe detective, always looking for a story.