Plates like braised St. Louis-style pork ribs and carne adovada and grilled squash make it clear to our readers that Gecko’s takes tapas seriously. Never mind those fancy restaurants that only have four appetizers on their menus. At Gecko’s your head will spin as you pore over a wide array of tapas, from sautéed escargot to edamame and hint hummus, none of which will break the bank.
With a spacious patio and a classy diner-like feel, Holy Cow knows how to cook up a burger that totally rules. Whether you’re a plain Jane burger connoisseur, or you prefer the finer accoutrements on top of your New Mexico-raised grass-fed beef, like avocado or pecanwood-smoked bacon, this year’s winner takes burgers to another level.
3) Q Burger
Best French Fries
Forget the sweet potato fad. This year, our voters like their fries simple and crispy, and Blake’s is their place. When they’re feeling a little spicy, they get the seasoned fries and get lost in potato heaven.
2) Holy Cow
Though we’ve been invited to watch how the magic is made through a tiny glass window centered in front of the pizza making station, we still can’t figure out how Dion’s continues to make the perfect pie year after year. Maybe it’s the immaculately balanced soft and chewy dough, or the immaculate usage of marinara. Whatever it is those pizza chefs are doing, they’re doing it mega right.
3) Il Vicino
Best Pasta (Western)
It’s no wonder these two top dogs are in a draw. Scalo no doubt knows how to cook up a just-right-spicy penne, while Paisano’s offers an awesome gluten-free menu, something the Celiacs of the world can appreciate deeply.
Best Noodles (Asian)
Asian Noodle Bar understands the diverse ways to enjoy a bowl of noodles. Whether you’re craving a sweeter bite of Pad Thai, or you’re welcoming fall with a bowl of warm, perfectly salted and spiced noodle soup, Asian Noodle Bar has what our readers crave.
2) Fan Tang
Chickpeas don’t lie, and neither do our voters; Sahara’s falafel is queen. When it’s deep fried in corn oil, spiced to perfection and cooled down with tahini sauce, a falafel sandwich never felt so right.
It’s called Gyros! So, of course the gyros are something to write home about. With plentiful portions and a patio with an eclectic view of Albuquerque’s bustling University life, Gyros is perfect for a quick lamb and pita snack between classes.
3) Olympia Café
Taqueria Mexico guarantees the authentic taste of Mexican tacos in a darling, vintage window-order style building. Whether you’re hungry for barbacoa or needing a quick fish taco fix, there is plenty to choose from. The taqueria’s a la carte taco offerings allow for a mix-and-match taco utopia.
A good quiche reminds us that breakfast is not just an eggs-and-bacon ball game. With a handful of thoughtful and complimentary combinations, Quiche Parisienne won our readers over with dishes like Quiche Au Salmon, a mixture of Atlantic salmon, Swiss cheese, asparagus and light cream.
Best Mac and Cheese
Sure, you can buy a box of macaroni and eat processed cheese, but Flying Star has a better idea. Mix three unprocessed cheeses, add curly Q pasta (more fancily called cavatappi) and you’ve got a handsome bowl of hearty comfort food. No need to feel guilty, add some steamed broccoli and you’ve got a ... pasta ... salad?
Checkered red and white table cloths, picnic table seating and employee t-shirt uniforms showing disdain for vegetables. If that doesn’t say BBQ, what does? What makes this Texas-based BBQ chain great is their down-home and upfront showcase of butchered meat and pints of potato salad. You decide how hot you want it, and if you’re a “sissy,” they’ve got a sauce for that too. Honorable mention to Powdrell’s, a local BBQ joint that’s affordable, diverse and damn good, and University area BBQ joint The Cube!
3) The Cube BBQ
Not unlike something you’d expect to see in an episode of “Twin Peaks,” with its wood-paneled walls, leather seats and moody red-hued lighting, Paul’s Monterey Inn isn’t afraid to serve a steak with a little blood on the plate. With its unassuming location, you quickly realize you’re somewhere special when you see their ’70s, neon-lit sign.
One might think fresh seafood would be impossible to find in a landlocked state like New Mexico, but Down N Dirty knows how to satisfy our coastal cravings and does so without pretense or stuffiness. With a bag of buttered up clams or crab legs, our voters feel the sea at this down-home and delightful joint.
The art of a thoughtful and complex salad is not lost on this Santa Fe-born restaurant. Beets, goat cheese and pistachios tossed in arugula and topped with a honey balsamic-vinaigrette is just one example of the fine salad compositions available here. Carnivores fear not! You can add anything from seared tuna and grilled shrimp to lemon-herb chicken breast to your leafy entrée.
Few things in life are as sweet as an awesome sandwich, and these two know how to dominate the sandwich galaxy. While Relish boasts a gourmet menu with sandwiches cleverly named after Albuquerque touchstones like the Isotopes or the Lobo beef, Al’s is conveniently located Downtown and makes a badass roast beef caprese.
2) Yeller Sub
Viet Taste will add a little vermicelli to your life with its comforting and savory pho. Not a vermicelli lover? The udon chicken noodle soup won’t disappoint. With modest pricing and a gazillion choices, you’ll be all about that pho all winter long.
Best Soup (American Style)
Al’s new location inside Downtown’s Main Library is as charming as it is busy, and there’s a reason everyone is in line. With a different soup each day, their du jour is a perfect match with one of their perfectly toasted hot sandwiches.
Nestled between Buffalo Exchange and the Lobo church theatre thing, Crazy Fish’s shrimp tempura is a sushi miracle. As a sushi chef works behind a low raised bar, you can take in the happenings of Nob Hill while you sip on a cup of miso soup. Crazy Fish knows exactly how to incorporate our beloved green chile into their New Mexico Roll, and that alone makes it the Queen Bee of sushi.
3) Sushi Hana
The tiny wooden boats swirling through the table-top moat are only part of the charm of this Nob Hill standby—the rest comes from Albuquerque’s best tempura. A kind waitstaff takes good care of you while you fill up on all the good stuff and resist one last sake bomb. And, c’mon—they have tiny boats!
Best Indian Curry
As if the lunch buffet wasn’t enough to get you totally obsessed with this Indian gem, our readers agree that Taj Mahal’s Indian curry, with its perfect hint of sweetness and savory spice, will take you to the next realm. Also, we can’t resist a special shout-out to their mango chutney, which slays all other chutneys in its supreme perfection.
3) Taaj Palace
Best Thai Curry
Another tie! Longtime reader favorite Siam Café has huge portions, a charming atmosphere, and their curry is just as wonderful as their service. Thai Cuisine II has slowly won over voters’ hearts over the last few years, as should be evident from their packed dining room each night. As far as we’re concerned, Thai Cuisine II has the best yellow curry in town and at a price that’s surprisingly modest for the portion size and freshness of ingredients.
2) Salathai (Has some of the sweetest waitstaff in town and super affordable lunch specials!)