The distinctive spirit of the Southwest lives in Albuquerque

In the past few years, Albuquerque, New Mexico has become perhaps best known as the troubled setting for the hit show Breaking Bad. But this city, which spans the Rio Grande in the shadow of the Sandía Mountains, is more than just a television set. Capturing everything the Southwest has to offer, Albuquerque offers visitors the chance to fully experience (and taste) the real New Mexico past and present.

Keep it easy with French tartlets / photo courtesy of French

Where shall we eat

New Mexican cuisine is a mix of Native American and North Mexican styles that is vastly different from its eastern neighbor, Tex-Mex. The region’s food revolves around “chilli,” which refers to both the native New Mexico chilli pepper – sometimes referred to as hatch chilli – as well as the green (fresh) and red (dried) chilli sauces made from it. When someone asks “red or green” they asks what sauce you want on top of your dish, and New Mexicans piss them all off. The smart answer for a newbie is “Christmas” or half and half.

The Poblanos: This historic inn was built in 1934 and designed by famous New Mexico architect John Gaw Meem. The property is also home to one of the best restaurants in the southwest. Los Poblanos also runs an organic farm that specializes in endangered heirloom products and supplies the restaurant with most of the ingredients. The restaurant’s self-described “Rio Grande Valley cuisine” is mainly cooked over wood fires.

Border restaurant: Albuquerque has no shortage of old school restaurants, and while the locals argue over which is the best, you can’t go wrong with Frontier. Visiting the community since 1971, indulge in local favorites like huevos rancheros for breakfast (don’t skip the typical sweet bun), a green chilli cheeseburger for lunch, or a late night carne adovada burrito. While you wait in the fast-paced line, check out the extensive gallery of John Wayne portraits in the diner.

French: Jennifer James has long been a star of the Albuquerque food scene. Their newest restaurant, an unpretentious bistro with a French influence called Frenchish, opened late last year. It offers dishes like New Mexico Steak Tartare, Grilled Beef Ribeye with Roasted Mushrooms, and a Gouda Macaroni Gratin.

Before 6:30 PM, have a boisterous happy hour that includes a three-course dinner for friends and farmers for $ 20. The all-French wine list also includes a portion of the bottles priced at $ 25.

A selection of La Cumbre Brewing Company's goodsA selection of La Cumbre Brewing Company merchandise / photo courtesy of La Cumbre Brewing Company

Where to drink

Brewery district: There are craft breweries all over Albuquerque, but the Brewery District – an official name given to the region a few years ago – is the best place to start.

The summit brews some of the city’s most iconic beers, and the elevated IPA is a must. Canteen brewery (formerly Il Vicino) is the oldest brewery in town. Nearby Nexus brewery serves a mix of New Mexican and Southern comfort food alongside beers and local wines.

Among the breweries worth visiting outside the district are Bosque Brewing, Boxing bear, Marble brewery, cactus, Lizard tail, tractor and red door. Don’t be afraid to ask your bartenders about their favorites.

Turn left Distilling: The city’s first distillery, also located in the brewery district, produces vodka, gin and rum, as well as a blue corn whiskey, which is made exclusively from local ingredients.

The tasting room at the Gruet winery / photo by Gabriella MarksThe tasting room at the Gruet winery / photo by Gabriella Marks

Gruet winery:: New Mexico was one of the first wine regions in the country when Spanish monks planted grapes in the early 17th century, but world class sparkling wine made using the traditional method from New Mexico? The Champagne-producing Gruet family has been planting here since 1984. Their high altitude locations outside of Albuquerque are between 4,245 and 5,110 feet above sea level and enjoy the warm days, cool nights, and disease-free climate ideal for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Albuquerque tasting room at the winery has recently been renovated and expanded. Wine cellar tours take place on the last Saturday of each month.

Prairie Star wine barPrairie Star Wine Bar / Photo courtesy of Prairie Star Wine Bar

Albuquerque is arguably more of a beer town than a wine town, but if you’re craving grapes, there are some great places to visit. Pharmacist’s Lounge offers dozens of options through the glass and panoramic rooftop views. Take a look at the cellar bar Zink Wine Bar & Bistro for live music and great casts. You can attend blind tastings and frequent wine events Slate Street Cafe, while Prairie Star wine bar offers 32 wines by the glass (via Cruvinet) that go well with breathtaking sunsets over the mountains. Notable is Prairie Stars “Wednesday Wine & Dine” – a three-course meal for two and a bottle of wine for just $ 60.

The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University / photo courtesy New Mexico State University

Not to be missed

The Chile Pepper Institute: Learn why these vegetables are so important to local culture at the Chile Pepper Institute, the only nonprofit dedicated to the study of chilies. Located on the New Mexico State University campus, the visitor center offers seed packets for hundreds of hard-to-find chilli varieties. The nearby teaching garden is open daily from June to October.

Comments are closed.