What I learned Visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico

New Mexico: Great Food, Diverse Culture, Outdoor Mecca

Eating the Green Chili and Hiking Domingo Baca were my highlights

I imagine you have to be tough to survive New Mexico’s heat, rugged landscapes, and rebellious culture. So on a recent visit to Albuquerque, I decided to find out what this southwestern state was all about.

Albuquerque’s small but welcoming airport is decorated with vintage model plains and Air Force memorabilia, as well as signboards advertising New Mexican restaurants. I got my first taste of the state’s fun and adventurous nature as a live band came into view near the exit escalator, with a transgender lead singer performing Prince.

I was soon to learn that Albuquerque has a growing transgender community, as well as more PhDs per capita than any other state. You can sense there’s a real appreciation for the arts and sciences in the city, as well as Native American art around every corner. It’s a place where cowboys come in many different colors, with around 48% of the population Hispanic and just 40% caucasian. People have a more open attitude towards immigration too, with a lot of coming and going across the border.

If you’re into the outdoors, hike the Pino Trail, a nine-mile route through the Sandias. Make sure you bring plenty of water and I’d advise against attempting to summit along the Crest Trail as it’s easy to get lost. On my next trip, I’d like to go mountain biking at Angel Fire and explore El Malpais National Monument, as well as see the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and visit the Native American pueblo of Sky City.

New Mexican cuisine is almost in a genre of its own, with a distinct Mexican influence, although lighter than Tex Mex (so I enjoyed it more). Albuquerque also has a great barbecue scene where you can feast on all-day smoked meats and you can check out some of my local friend Tina’s favorite places in this {blog}.

While most tourists visit Albuquerque to tour the filming locations from “Breaking Bad” and eat donuts from Blue Sky, there’s so much more to the city. Its food, outdoor pursuits and “real” people make it a destination I’d highly recommend. If I return, I’d definitely visit Taos to explore its historic adobe buildings and try and coincide my visit with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta that celebrates all things hot air ballooning.

Top Albuquerque restaurant recommendations

My friend Tina is an Albuquerque local, so I decided to get her insider advice about the best places to eat. She says that the city has changed a lot in the last couple of years and there are tons of new restaurants popping up. But this is a list of the tried and true places that have been there for years and are institutions in “Burque”.

  • Blake’s Lotaburger – you must try their burger with green chili and cheese!
  • Garcia’s – this is the place to head for New Mexican food (the Juan Tabo and 4th street locations are the most authentic).
  • Hurricane’s – this place does amazing shakes that are made the old-fashioned way.
  • Twisters (South Valley location) – this is where they filmed all the Los Pollos Hermanos scenes in “Breaking Bad”.
  • Los Cuates on Lomas – they do legit New Mexico food and their mole salsa is addictive!
  • Il Vicino – Great atmosphere for simple, delicious wood fired pizza and local brews (the chili oil dipping sauce on the tables is super good).
  • Old Town Pizza Parlour (intersection of Rio Grande and Central) – this is owned by my buddies and does phenomenal pizza.
  • Dion’s – amazing salads (especially the Greek salad) and chile ranch dressing.
  • El Patio – one of my favorite New Mexican joints for their incredible sopapillas, vegetarian burritos and blue corn chicken enchiladas.
  • Powdrell’s BBQ on Central – Papa Powdrell is so giving and makes damn good barbecue!
  • Sophia’s Café – this is a great spot for brunch.
  • Yanni’s – order the lamb rack or the parmesan-encrusted sole (the saganaki is so good even lactose intolerant folks will risk it)!
  • Pueblo Harvest Cafe – I recently tried this place at the Indian Cultural Center and was extremely impressed.
  • Korean BBQ and Sushi on Central – two restaurants in one with all-you-can-eat sushi.
  • Pho Linh on Central – their specialty is Pho Satay (something I’ve never been able to find anywhere else) and it’s soooo good!
  • Golden Pride – for their carne adovada burritos or breakfast burritos at any time of the day.
  • Flying Star Cafe – this is a great place to study (the Juan Tabo location is ritzier than the Central branch, which is more fun and festive).
  • Green Jeans – this shipping container food park has a taco place, a pizzeria, a brewery and retail shops (save room for the Nitro ice cream!)
  • Marble Brewing Company and Tractor Brewing Company – both great microbreweries for a drink.
  • O’Niell’s on Central – they do amazing chile con queso with their cheese fries.

 

This is the airport. It gives you a real New Mexico vibe!

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