There are three reasons why so many people call New Mexico home: They're called breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try as you might, the chile will never work its way out of your system.
By Laura Marrich and Steven Robert Allen, Christie Chisholm, Amy Dalness, Marisa Demarco, Hillari Straba, Jennifer Wohletz
Best New Mexican Restaurant
It's all about the papitas, really. Your top two choice's for the year's best New Mexican restaurant came down to a dead heat between El Patio and Sadie’s. The former is a tiny converted house in the University area; the latter, a monolithic North Valley shrine to home-style cooking. They're about as different as night and day, yet both share a near-religious reverence for one thing: potatoes. We wouldn't be able to pick between the two either.
1. Tie: El Patio, Sadie’s
2. Los Cuates
Best Chile Relleno
We're pretty sure that if you take any food item and stuff it with cheese, dip it in batter and deep-fry the sucker until it's crunchy and golden brown, it's going to be good. That's a given. But here in New Mexico, our Achilles heel is the chile pepper, so we're really in trouble. Especially at El Pinto, where the rellenos are as big as a baby's arm and exploding with white cheese and chile sauce. That's good.
1. El Pinto
2. Los Cuates
3. El Patio
4. Papa Nacho's
Best Frito Pie
Proof that New Mexico isn't so very far from God after all, the Frito pie is without a doubt one humankind's finest creations, just behind the pinball machine, and just in front of constitutional democracy, in the roster of the most brilliant inventions of all time. And so healthy, too! According to our voters, Bob’s Burgers and Dos Hermanos do the Frito pie better than anyone in town.
1. Tie: Bob’s Burgers, Dos Hermanos
2. Blake’s Lotaburger
3. Dog House Drive In
Best Huevos Rancheros
It's pretty hard to go wrong with huevos (pronounced "way-vos" for you newcomers) in this town—period. The staple breakfast can be found pretty uniformly with only subtle distinctions across the state. The Range Café gripped the gold in this category with its tweaks to the standard corn tortilla beneath eggs, chile, beans, potatoes and cheese. Blue corn tortillas add a nuttiness the white cheddar complements quite nicely.
1. The Range Café
4. Barelas Coffee House
Best Green Chile
Have you ever noticed that when someone moves away from New Mexico, the first thing they whine about is how much they miss green chile? It's easy to take it for granted when it's part of your culinary existence each and every day. Without it, though, a substantial fragment of your soul will quickly wither and die. It's just the way it is. Frontier's world-famous green chile gets the prize this year. Eat it there or buy it in bulk to go.
3. El Patio
4. Tie: 505 Southwestern, Papa Nacho's, Sadie's
Best Red Chile
Green or red—that is a really stupid question. For true New Mexicans, the answer is “both” or “sometimes one, sometimes the other.” Please. They're both delicious. A tasty red, of course, can be a thing of beauty, and a work of art. Aficionados claim it's actually much more difficult to produce than a smokin' green. This time around, voters handed the victory to Duran's, a staple where they make their own tortillas, perfect for sopping up that lovely delicious red residue.
2. Tie: El Pinto, Garcia's
4. Tie: Los Cuates, Padilla's
A good tamale is easy to find. A great tamale—now that's a state treasure. Lucky for us, we've got El Modelo. They know how to make some great tamales. Stock up on some corn-masa masterpieces at El Modelo for Thanksgiving this year, or stop by for a quick lunch.
1. El Modelo
2. Dos Hermanos
3. Tie: Los Cuates, Sadie's
Oh, delicious pillows of fry bread. You taste so delectable with the last bit of red chile on my plate. Big, fluffy and wonderful. Garduño's—we, the people of Albuquerque, salute you for frying up the best sopaipillas in the land. Whether slathered in honey or dipped in queso, yours are the sopas of our heart. Gracias.
2. Los Cuates
4. Tie: El Pinto, Padilla's
5. El Modelo
Making great enchiladas is harder than it looks. Believe us, we’ve tried.We thought, what's so difficult? Just layer a bunch of crap on corn tortillas, put it in a dish, stick it in the oven for a half an hour and voila! You have enchiladas! We couldn't have been more wrong. It is an art form not easily mastered by most. Thankfully, Sadie's takes enchilada making seriously and provides us with some of the tastiest enchiladas in Albuquerque.
2. Los Cuates
3. Tie: El Patio, Duran's
5. Tie: Papa Nacho's, Padilla's
Best Chips and Salsa
There’s a subtle beauty in chips and salsa. As the waitress at Los Cuates places a basket of chips lightly beside a silver dish filled with dark red salsa, she isn't just offering you a premeal snack, she's serving a piece of culinary art. Los Cuates' salsa is like nothing else in the city—a sweet and spicy experience that lingered on the taste buds of Albuquerque foodies long enough to garner them this year's top spot. Just remember to save room for a stuffed sopaipilla with green chile.
1. Los Cuates
Best Green Chile Stew
Green chile stew is soul medicine in New Mexico. We eat it when we're sick with colds or crudo, praying for the endorphin jolt to kick us back to life. We eat it when out hearts are broken, wiping our tears with warm tortillas. It welcomes us home from long trips to strange places. It floods us with memories and helps us forget life's troubles. And, at Frontier, it's available without a prescription 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for just a few dollars a bowl.
3. The Range Café
A perfect self-contained food requires no special equipment, the ability to travel easily and a certain compactness that still carries some heft to it. In fact, "burrito" loosely translates to "fat little mule" in Spanish, which fulfills all of those requirements. It's also exactly how we feel after eating a No. 9 for breakfast at Golden Pride. Hee-haw!
1. Golden Pride
2. Dos Hermanos
Collectively, Albuquerqueans have spent an estimated 37,345 hours watching fresh tortillas spiral down the tortilla maker at the Frontier. OK, that's completely made-up and likely an understatement given that the Frontier is home to Albuquerque's favorite tortilla. Happy tortilla eaters mop up the last dregs of green chile stew with a portion of fluffy, floury goodness 24 hours a day. Tortillas are a New Mexican's best friend, and the Frontier has a lot of hot friends.
4. Dos Hermanos
5. Tie: Golden Pride, Albuquerque Tortilla Co.
Most Creative Use of Green Chile
New Mexicans obsessed with our unique veggie (fruit?) have been known to make green chile jams, wines, candy—you name it—with varying degrees of success. Rest assured, the green chile sauce at Papa Nacho's is like no other but not so far off the trampled path that it raises eyebrows or wrinkles noses. The medium heat and the density of the sauce make it a great gravy substitute on your Thanksgiving bird.
1. Papa Nacho’s
2. The Range Café
3. Tie: Ambrozia, Casa de Benevidez, Flying Star Café, Shogun Sushi
It's getting to be posole season here in New Mexico. As the weather turns crispy cold, the locals turn to steaming bowls of posole stew for physical and spiritual sustenance—and to keep from freezing their bums off! There's no shortage of eateries where you can find the good stuff, but there's no place better than everybody's favorite South Fourth Street classic, the Barelas Coffee House.
1. Barelas Coffee House
2. El Pinto
3. Tie: Church Street Café, Golden Pride
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