Artichoke Cafe has a shocking number of appetizers to work with. Their steamed artichoke, arguably the defining appetizer among their offerings, is both simple and delicious. The charcuterie board is immense, offering enough that you could risk filling up before you even get to the meal if you don’t wisely split it with your table mates. The seared lamb carpaccio? Now we’re just toying with emotions since we’re not all sitting around and eating all this at this very second. Just the thought it sends us into waves of hunger that can’t reasonably be sated until next week. Look forward to the future, as it’s bright and full of appetizers.
3) Sadie's of New Mexico
Frank's Famous Chicken & Waffles
Frank’s Famous Chicken & Waffles
Eric Williams Photography
Story time again. Way back in 2013, a rumor was going around that there was a guy you could text who would bring you fried chicken and waffles. Through bribery and charismatic charm, we got that number, and D&D nights were never the same. Things have only changed for the better since then, with Frank operating one of the most bumpin’ places in town, but what hasn’t changed is my love for every single thing they sell. I try to avoid eating too often at the same places, but Frank's Famous Chicken & Waffles is different. I do not ever see a day in my future that has the potential for me to say, “No, I don’t think I do want fried chicken while listening to amazing music.”
3) Turtle Mountain Brewing Company
Laguna Burger breaks a lot of my burger place rules. They have a huge menu, but the real star is their namesake burger. There are two types of people in Albuquerque: Those who love Laguna Burger and those who haven’t taken the time to eat there yet. I can’t say anything burger tangential without hearing their name dropped in some form, making sure I have eaten there, as if any other burger in the city isn’t worth consideration. It’s a testament to the perfection they’ve found that the collective mind of the city ignores and forgets anything but them. Are you one of us yet?
2) Blake's Lotaburger
3) TIE: Holy Burger/The Shop Breakfast and Lunch
Best French Fries
Blake's Lotaburger does seasoned fries so well that I honestly forget that they even have regular fries. In my mind, regular fries aren’t even an option when I go there, because why would I ever cheat on my sweet seasoned fries? Maybe their regular fries are more amazing, and I’m missing out, but I refuse to believe that there are any fries in the world that are better than their seasoned fries. There’s a joy, perhaps tied to nostalgia or a deep, unwavering love for spice, that just isn’t present in the fries from anywhere else. Blake's Lotaburger is dominant in the fast food scene against a host of giants for lots of reasons, and those damned delicious seasoned fries play a strong part in that.
3) The Shop Breakfast and Lunch
Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q
More story time: For a long time, an ex and I would go to Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q every Friday night, order fully loaded baked potatoes along with a side of meat, and have a great feast with our bottled sodas and a container of cobbler that was impossibly large. You would think a break-up would taint the idea of that meal and force me away, yet to this day, I still love eating at Rudy's "Country Store" and Bar-B-Q. Their sauce is amazing. Their meat is amazing. Their staff is amazing. Barbecue is a delicate thing to do right so consistently, and they nail it. Keep on keepin’ on, Rudy’s. No relationship will ever push me away from you.
2) Mr. Powdrell's Barbeque
3) Nexus Blue Smokehouse
Monte Carlo Liquors & Steak House
Monte Carlo Liquors & Steak House is an icon. To go against the giants of steakhouses in the city and to crush them in voting is a testament to their skill at steaks. Beloved by most, if not all, who eat there, it’s one of those places that younger people like me never knew about (even after Guy Fieri visited it!), and remains a powerful force by those who have frequented their space for longer than some of us have even been around. That needs to change. The decorative vibe alone makes this place worth the visit, not to mention their amazing food. Go for the retro, stay for the steak; I think my grandfather said that once.
2) Antiquity Restaurant
3) Vernon's Speakeasy
Eric Williams Photography
Ragin' Shrimp made it onto this list a surprising amount of times. That’s not surprising because their food isn’t good, but because I feel like I don’t see enough of them normally. The other nominations seem to be on the lips of everyone around me, but Ragin' Shrimp is going along and killing it. Their jambalaya is not to be trifled with, and their pan-fried gator is a dish you never knew you’d love until your first bite. When it comes to Cajun food, those who are passionate about it know best, and ya’ll spoke loud and clear. Ragin' Shrimp is the place to be.
2) Down N Dirty Seafood Boil
Vinaigrette is one of those places you hear about, think “that concept can’t possibly work” and end up realizing you were so wrong it wasn’t even a thought you should have entertained. Their impressive creativity so excels in making salads that you are left with one of the most extensive, thoroughly well-crafted menus in the city, and nearly all of it is salad. Everyone does a caesar salad, but who does an apple-cheddar chop with grilled pork tenderloin over baby arugula, julienned green apples, pickled fennel with sharp cheddar, all tossed in a ruby port vinaigrette? No one else that I know of, but hot damn if that isn’t one of the most gourmet salads you could ever have.
3) Ragin' Shrimp
Slow Roasted Bocadillos Downtown
Slow Roasted Bocadillos Downtown has tons of renown already, so it shouldn’t be a surprise they came in first. With meats roasted for at least 12 hours, you’re left with something so tender, juicy and flavorful that you can spend weeks thinking about what you just ate, because the experience changes you. This is another local restaurant that has a history with Food Network—not once, but twice. That’s all very impressive, but what’s most impressive is that they got our first-place spot, which we would argue counts for more.
2) The Shop Breakfast and Lunch
3) Grove Cafe & Market
Best Soup (American style)
Cheese and Coffee
Soup has been the quintessential middle stepchild of the dinner table. We love it but only on certain occasions. Finding the balance to make it exceptional is a skill that few possess, but when done right, something as simple as chicken noodle soup can deeply touch part of your soul. Memories of days past, sitting at the table on a rainy day, your mom bringing you a tomato soup and a grilled cheese, feet kicking wildly because the chair was too high for your feet to touch the ground yet. Cheese and Coffee encapsulates all these feelings in their soup, giving you reprieve from a dark, hard world to open your heart to childhood joy once again.
3) Artichoke Cafe
Best Grilled Cheese
TIE: Cheesy Street / The Shop Breakfast and Lunch
This is the one and only first-place tie we had on our list. I find it fitting that The Shop Breakfast and Lunch is there. In all seriousness, with the consistent quality available at The Shop Breakfast and Lunch, it’s a really impressive feat for Cheesy Street to share the top slot here. Grilled cheese is pure, unadulterated joy, and taking a moment to sit and enjoy it is arguably one of the most simple pleasures in life. We’re thinking that a blind taste test is in order, just to be sure. And, no, this isn’t me just finding an excuse to eat two grilled cheeses for lunch, why do you ask?