Food is a major passion in Albuquerque, and city dining provides a wide range of options from small mom-and-pop-type eateries, to stylish contemporary cafés, to swanky upscale restaurants. There are plenty of national chains to be found, but as you’re already familiar with those, we’re focusing on the places that will give you real local flavor in both food and atmosphere. Highlights include authentic New Mexican restaurants, of course, and visitors on their debut trip to the state have a treat in store as they discover our local specialties for the first time. New Mexican cuisine has a very specific character and is quite different from Mexican or Tex-Mex food. The regional cuisine has developed over centuries, combing traditional Native American foods with ingredients brought by the early Spanish settlers from Europe and Mexico. New Mexican dishes typically feature corn and blue corn, squash, beans, cheese, and—of course—the all-important chile pepper! Even restaurants that focus on American, European, or other international cuisines often incorporate New Mexican culinary elements for a unique twist. We also give recommendations for cafés serving traditional and updated American diner classics, plus restaurants specializing in French, Italian, Greek, Mexican, and Asian cuisine. We list gourmet pizza joints, steakhouses, and a vegetarian restaurant (Annapurna’s in the University area and the North Valley)—although vegetarians are also well catered to in most of the restaurants in this chapter. Many eateries offer patio dining, and some host live music. Some of the best food is hidden behind humble facades or even tucked away inside storefronts, such as Duran’s Central Pharmacy and Model Pharmacy.
On the whole, Duke City dining is fairly casual. Nobody gets too hung up about formal mealtimes. All-day menus mean you can eat breakfast at dusk, and there are plenty of places you can stop in for a full meal or a quick snack. Prices are competitive compared to other American cities, and even the smartest establishments tend to offer a broad and flexible menu to suit all appetites and pockets. These include smaller plates and lighter fare and sometimes a separate bar menu. Restaurants are also generally receptive to diners dropping in for an appetizer or two and a dessert. While our price codes indicate average prices for a substantial meat-based dinner entrée, it’s perfectly possible to eat in even the most upscale places for less. Lunch menus (where available) are targeted to a lower price point and are a very accessible way to get a taste of our best fine-dining establishments.
Restaurants are wheelchair accessible unless otherwise stated. Smoking is not permitted in New Mexico restaurants, although sometimes there is smoking on the patio. Some restaurants are only licensed to serve beer and wine, and others offer a full bar; these are indicated in the listings.
Reservations are generally accepted, although often unnecessary. We’ll let you know where you can’t reserve or if reservations are recommended. Even where reservations are recommended, restaurants will usually fit you in if you’re prepared to wait a little, although it’s always wise to make reservations during major events and festivals.
Plenty of places are open all day, and guidelines are given for opening hours at the time of writing, but as with everything in unpredictable New Mexico, hours may change. There are sometimes changes of policy or seasonal alterations, and restaurants are likely to be closed on major holidays, so it’s best to check before setting off. Albuquerque diners also often eat earlier than in other cities, and it’s not unknown for a restaurant to close early if it’s a quiet night. If you want to eat later in the evening, it’s advisable to call ahead and book a table, because if you show up unannounced at the last minute, you may find darkened doors. And that would be a shame, as there is some truly excellent food in Albuquerque, just waiting for your knife and fork.
Restaurant listings are organized alphabetically by geographic area, covering the main city areas, followed by the surrounding neighborhoods of Bernalillo and Santa Ana Pueblo, Corrales, Rio Rancho, and Sandia Pueblo.