To be New Mexican is to love food. We worship at the altar of green chile, beans, tortillas, beef, chicken, and cheese. We know that a meal won’t be good without sides of shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and Spanish rice. We’ll wait in line for hours for a table at our favorite restaurant. We love our food and culinary heritage, and we are very opinionated about it as well.
Every town is fiercely proud of its homegrown restaurants, and they have a right to be. Each place has its local hangouts, and it would take a lifetime to try them all. But there are still some that stand out above the others. Here are 14 food spots that every true New Mexican knows and loves.
1. The Range Cafe, Albuquerque
For breakfast, get the huevos rancheros, hands down, and for lunch and dinner, pretty much anything. You literally can’t go wrong here, everything is good. Obama ate here and loved it, so I think that tells you everything you need to know. Also, the green chile mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food; I would want it for my last meal.
2. The Owl Bar and Cafe, San Antonio
You can get into knockout brawls with people over where has the best green chile cheeseburger, but this place invented it back in the 1940s when it was frequented by scientists working on the Manhattan project, so this is THE place. A perfectly cooked burger, gooey cheese, and a heap of roasted, spicy green chile: heaven. Their sister restaurant in Albuquerque is a worthy second, and is especially fun with all the ’50s decor.
3. The Frontier, Albuquerque
The best place to nurse that hangover after a long night hitting the bars on Nob Hill. Also, those cinnamon rolls… legendary.
A true New Mexican institution. A person who doesn’t like Blake’s breakfast burritos is not a person I want to associate with.
If these restaurants were ever to close, Santa Fe would go into mourning for a year. Everything is delicious, but the enchiladas are to die for.
7. Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, Santa Fe
An icon of the Santa Fe culinary scene. Yeah, it’s usually packed with tourists these days, but the wait is so worth it for those blue corn enchiladas or their fajitas. Also, the margarita list!
8. El Parasol, Santa Fe
If you need that green chile fix but are in a hurry, get thee to the nearest El Parasol! Been keeping us Santa Feans happy since the ‘50s, and their breakfast burritos and tacos are things of beauty.
Nothing like pulling into an Allsups at the end of a night out and going to town on a chimichanga or beef and bean burrito. Pure bliss.
10. Bobcat Bite (now Santa Fe Bite), Santa Fe
Rest in peace, Bobcat Bite, with your ah-mazing green chile burgers. Your replacement is still good, but not quite as good. But we’ll take what we can get.
11. Any roadside food vendor
If you see a guy selling tamales or burritos or roasted pinon nuts on the side of the road, you pull over.
12. The local cafe or breakfast spot
There is nothing better than the smell of green chile and fresh coffee in the morning. We all know it so well: it’s midmorning on Saturday, the line is out the door, you’re hanging with your friends or family waiting for a table, and every now and then, when the door opens, you catch that whiff. Every NM town has their classic go-to breakfast spot, so wherever you are, just ask the locals where’s the best place for breakfast and they’ll point you in the right direction for a lovely morning of huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, and more.
13. The Five and Dime, Santa Fe
The birthplace of the Frito Pie (fight us, Texas). Granted, any Frito Pie served in its crinkly little Frito bag at a fair or fundraiser for your local sports team is good, but there’s just something about the chili at this place, plus getting to mess around with all the wacky souvenirs after you’re done eating.
14. Santa Fe Brewing Company, Santa Fe
New Mexican has amazing craft brewing going on right now, but the Santa Fe Pale Ale started it all. You can’t go camping in NM or be chilling at home with some friends without a can of the pale ale or an IPA in hand.
15. Your home kitchen
Most often, the best New Mexican food you’ll find isn’t even at your favorite local diner or drive-up taqueria, but right at home. Nothing beats those family recipes for posole, tamales, and green chile stew, all made with love and just the right amount of chile heat. This is the heart of New Mexican cuisine.