State Treasures: New Mexican cuisine
 Alibi V.18 No.41 • Oct 8-14, 2009 


State Treasures

Best New Mexican Restaurant:   Sadie’s
Best New Mexican Restaurant: Sadie’s
Eric Williams

Best New Mexican Restaurant


If massive portions, killer Margaritas and a bustling atmosphere are the criteria for best New Mexican restuarant in Albuquerque, Sadie's is as down-home Land of Enchantment as you can get. Plus, there’s the salsa. Oh, the salsa. Don't be a tourist—get the hot variety. (MD)

2) Los Cuates

3) Tie: El Patio, El Pinto

Best Chile Relleno

Los Cuates

The chile relleno is a miracle of New Mexican gastronomy. A delicious green chile stuffed with cheese, battered and then deep-fried. The trick comes in getting the coating just right—light and crisp. Los Cuates, at any of its locations, is your trusted purveyor of all things relleno. Just save a few bites for everyone else, OK? (EAH)

2) Sadie’s

3) Tie: El Modelo, El Patio

Best Green Chile Cheeseburger

Owl Café

This is serious business. A true state staple, any New Mexican you ask will have an opinion about where to get the best green chile cheeseburger. Even though Badlands Burgers of Grants just won the govenor’s statewide competition, Burqueños know better and crowned the long-perfected version at Owl Café as the Duke City winner. (MD)

2) Blake's Lotaburger

3) Bob's Burgers

Best Red Chile Burger:   Little Red Hamburger Hut

Best Red Chile Burger: Little Red Hamburger Hut

Lindsay Holmes

Best Red Chile Burger

Little Red Hamburger Hut

Beefy goodness combined with ripened chile totally kicks ketchup in its flat, white packet. Little Red Hamburger Hut serves up little reds until it runs out. And with a burger this good, running out isn’t unusual. So what’s the secret? Simplicity? The fact that you never get charged extra for chile or cheese? Maybe it’s the way the thick, spicy red chile sauce soaks into the bun instead of dripping onto your lap. Whatever it is, Burqueños know a good red chile burger when they taste one and have declared the Little Red to be damn good. (MT)

2) Bob's Burgers

3) The Red Ball Café

Best Frito Pie

Bob's Burgers

It’s not high-end food. Heck, it’s not even pie. We don’t want that. Take your fancy pies, Mr. Monopoly Guy, and leave us here with those curvy corn chips, ground beef, beans, chile and cheese. Maybe a little lettuce-and-tomato garnish if we just passed Go. Whatever you do, make sure it’s from Bob’s Burgers—with so many convenient locations, we can pick up a pile of Frito pie from Baltic Avenue to the Boardwalk. (LM)

2) Dog House Drive In

3) Little Red Hamburger Hut

Best Huevos Rancheros


Frontier Restaurant is a clearinghouse for citizens large and small. Luckily, that's how you can order your huevos there, too. Get the light version with one egg or the full deal with two. Flavorful beans, a serviceable red chile and fast service means this breakfast of champions can be floating down your gullet just minutes after you place your order. (MD)

2) The Range Café

3) Barelas Coffee House

Best Green Chile

Frontier / Golden Pride BBQ, Chicken & Ribs

What are people voting for here—the chopped green chile or the ranchero sauce contained in communal cauldrons in the main dining room (which, fun fact, used to be a Dairy Queen)? Does this fairly priced, late-night, UNM-area emporium of deliciousness even serve green chile sauce proper? Hey, just put some more of that communal sauce on your breakfast burrito and don't worry about it. (JCC)

2) El Pinto

3) Tie: Duran's Central Pharmacy, Sadie's

Best Red Chile

Duran's Central Pharmacy

We like getting a straight-up bowl of the stuff with potatoes (mashed) and whole beans (or ground beef for the carnivores). Sometimes we'll ask for a splash of green or rest an over-easy egg on the surface. Donna knows our orders by heart, of course, since she's the best damn waitress this side of the Rio Grande. What we're getting at is this: If you haven't been to Duran's, where red is queen, it's about time. (CC)

2) Mary & Tito's

3) Tie: El Patio, Los Cuates

Best Tortillas

Frontier / Golden Pride BBQ, Chicken & Ribs

Frontier’s tortillas (which are also used at Golden Pride BBQ, Chicken & Ribs) are made right in front of your eyes, using a machine much like the one God uses to make clouds. And that’s what they taste like. Here in New Mexico, tortillas aren’t just wraps; they’re the bread, the side and, when they’re great, the main course. Scarf ’em there or get some to take home—Frontier’s tortillas go with everything. Spaghetti burritos, anyone? (EAH)

2) Duran's Central Pharmacy

3) Garcia's

Best Tamales

El Modelo

An institution from the get-go, El Modelo Mexican Foods has been making tasty masa-encased treats since 1929. We can all agree that pretty much makes them the experts. Fat, bursting with pork and begging to be eaten, El Modelo's tamales are the standard against which all others are judged. (DOL)

2) Tie: Los Cuates, Sadie's

3) Barelas Coffee House

Best Sopaipillas


Though it’s becoming slightly easier to get your hands on green chile in such far-flung places like Oregon and Illinois, finding a sopaipilla past state lines is near impossible. It’s fine by us if we keep the sopa our little secret. What’s loud and clear, though, is your preference for sopas by Sadie’s. Airy yet substantive, they cradle your chile and honey to perfection. They’re even good naked. (EAH)

2) Tie: Garcia's, Garduños

3) Stufy's

Best Enchiladas

Casa Vieja

Good food comes from good ingredients. And that sum-of-its parts axiom is especially apparent in the humble enchilada, where corn tortillas are simply stacked or rolled with chile and cheese, and maybe some chicken or beef. Casa Vieja’s dinner menu pulls the uncomplicated dish together with exceptional components, layering on organic green chile from Tucumcari, farm-fresh veggies and organic, free-range meats. (LM)

2) Los Cuates

3) El Patio

Best Chips and Salsa


Everybody seems to have their own personal taste in salsa: hot or mild, chunky or smooth, thick or watery, all-red or with a hint of green. For this year, anyway, the North Valley landmark known as Sadie's is winning out with its legendary appetite-whetter. Hatch chile, jalapeños, a bit of tomato: So simple, yet so addictive. And if you can't get enough, you can, of course, have jars of the stuff shipped right to your door. (DOL)

2) Los Cuates

3) El Pinto

Best Green Chile Stew

Frontier / Golden Pride BBQ, Chicken & Ribs

Green chile stew is mother’s milk for New Mexicans. Cheaper than a trip to the shrink and more comfortable than a hospital gown, no remedy goes down better than a buttered tortilla with a warming bowl of the green stuff. Frontier and Golden Pride (owned by the same company) do a velvety-smooth version loaded with ground beef and cubed potatoes, which Alibi readers just couldn’t live without. (LM)

2) Barelas Coffee House

3) Tie: Garcia's, Gecko's Bar and Tapas

Best Posole

Barelas Coffee House

Politicos, Bareleños and hardcore 505ers stand in line Saturday mornings for a taste of what Barelas Coffee House serves up. Though the chicharrónes are plump and perfect and the tasty chile is plentiful, readers say it's the meaty posole that can't be beat. (MD)

2) Frontier / Golden Pride BBQ, Chicken & Ribs

3) Tie: El Modelo, Garcia's

Best Carne Adovada

Frontier / Golden Pride BBQ, Chicken & Ribs

Adovada (ahhhh-doe-vada), n.: 1) Shredded pork that’s been marinated in spicy red chile and cooked until falling-apart tender; perfect with eggs or stuffed into burritos. 2) Carneadovaditas, n., a condition in which the area directly around the lip line is stained orangey-red, causing observers to ask where you’ve been eating carne adovada; usually followed by chastening that you didn’t you invite them, too. See Frontier or Golden Pride BBQ, Chicken & Ribs locations for best usage. (LM)

2) Sadie's

3) El Patio

Best Taquitos

Mac’s Steak in the Rough

Most Albuquerqueans grew up snarfing down Mac's tiny fried rolls of shredded beef. Head to this venerable drive-in, get an order of taquitos, pop open the little plastic container of sauce and dip yourself back to a simpler fast-food time. (DOL)

2) Taco Cabana

3) Tie: Kathy’s Carryout, Taquería Mexico

Best Indian Taco

Pueblo Harvest Café

There are two benchmarks that an Indian taco must aspire to, in our book. 1) Is the fry bread crispy yet tender, so it will properly support its topping of ground beef, beans, cheese and garnish? 2) Is it at least as large as your face? Pueblo Harvest Café nails both. It even ups the ante with high-quality ingredients, a lovely dining room and a piece of fry bread so mammoth it requires an extra-large plate to serve it on. Plus, Pueblo Harvest is happy to attend to your special Indian taco requests, whether it’s holding the beans, making it vegetarian or ladling on a little red chile. (LM)

2) The State Fair

3) Church Street Café

Poll results reported by Erin Adair-Hodges, Jessica Cassyle Carr, Christie Chisholm, Marisa Demarco, Ari LeVaux, Laura Marrich, Devin O'Leary and Maren Tarro.