You’ll find locally sourced ingredients at Farm to Table. (Photo: Mark Hollingsworth)
Pulling from its diverse history and population, Albuquerque offers a plethora of food and entertainment options. Local eateries offer mashups of Native American, Spanish, Mediterranean, Mexican and even cowboy chuckwagon staples. To stoke your appetite for a fun night out, options range from rock and hip hop performances to traditional Spanish flamenco shows.
Here’s where to start your adventure.
Where to Enjoy Local Flavor
For a high desert city, Albuquerque has strong agricultural offerings. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, irrigation from the Rio Grande and fertile soil to work with, local farmers—and diners—have a lot to work with. Sample a New Mexican staple, atolé, a thick breakfast porridge made from blue corn, at this farm-to-table haven in the North Valley. Local beers and wines accompany the menu items, sourced from New Mexico farmers and the restaurant’s own garden by the sunny patio area.
Inside the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, you’ll find one of Albuquerque’s best kept culinary secrets. Most museum cafe seem like an afterthought—a place to grab a sad burger or some chicken nuggets for the kids—but not here. Pueblo Harvest Cafe serves up “Native fusion,” a brilliant blend of traditional Native American ingredients prepared with modern twists, like buffalo carpaccio, green chile pesto pheasant rigatoni and red chile s’mores. Original Native American art lines the walls, and local artists perform live music every weekend. Time your visit around the weekly Mural Discovery Tour, which gives visitors a glimpse into the values and traditions of the Pueblo people.
An Albuquerque institution, Sadie’s is known for its family-friendly atmosphere, extensive tequila menu and house enchiladas, which come smothered in red or green chile, a New Mexico staple. (In fact, New Mexico is the only state with an official question: “Red or green?”) If you really want to blend in with the locals, order yours “Christmas style”—code for half red sauce, half green. Other standout menu options: the carne adovada (slow cooked pork marinated in red chile sauce), and chile rellenos stuffed with spicy cheese.
Where to Splurge
Looking for the perfect date spot? Head to Old Town Plaza, the heart of Albuquerque since its founding. Stroll through 10 blocks of historic adobe buildings, art galleries, museums and Native American shops before snagging a table at this cozy, classy joint. This smallish, French-influenced restaurant offers thick, juicy steaks, seafood and fine wines. The warmth from the kitchen and flickering candles hugs guests like an old friend. Be sure to try the polyczenta, a savory dessert made with ground walnuts and fresh cream, wrapped in a crepe and drizzled with hot chocolate.
Where to Imbibe
Mark Kiffin (of Santa Fe’s The Compound Restaurant fame), recognized Albuquerque’s culinary potential years ago, and has built a loyal following at Zacatecas in the interim. Located in trendy Nob Hill, the place has a decidedly hipster vibe.
An open dining room and glass garage-style doors allow diners to see the action on Central Avenue (historic Route 66), while Day of the Dead statues, photo panels of Zacatecas, Mexico and hand-painted papier-mâché skulls keep the aesthetic interesting on the inside, too. As the name implies, there’s a primo tequila selection and the cocktails are not to be missed.
Try the brisa fresca, a twist on the traditional margarita made with Don Julio, Prickly pear puree, Cointreau, agave nectar and fresh lime.
In 2014, Albuquerque became the first U.S. city to designate an official “Brewery District,” and the city is now home to dozens of artisanal suds-makers. New Mexico has its own style of India Pale Ale, made with wild Neomexicanus hops that grows only in this state.
This style is most evident at La Cumbre Brewing, which also offers food trucks, pool, foosball and live music on Saturdays.
In addition to the Brewery District, Albuquerque hosts plenty of exciting and unusual food-and-drink-centered festivals. Check out the National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show, the Macaroni and Cheese Festival, the Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Festival and the Albuquerque Wine Festival for starters.
Where to Let Loose
Cheap covers (usually $5 to $10), plenty of parking and a solid rotation of local and national acts make The Launchpad one of Albuquerque’s most popular music venues. This dive bar hosts acts ranging from burlesque to hip hop and heavy metal. (See the events schedule for more information.)
For something a little more playful, check out the arcade and pinball at live-music joint Sister, which also offers a full kitchen. In downtown Albuquerque, the historic El Rey Theater hosts electronic dance festivals and whiskey expos. Outpost Performance Space‘s schedule is heavy on jazz, roots and folk music.
Then there’s Tablao Flamenco Albuquerque, a proper ode to the city’s Spanish roots. The Tablao, in partnership with the National Institute of Flamenco, has weekly shows featuring world-class performers at Hotel Albuquerque, in the heart of historic Old Town.
Come early to savor authentic Sevilla tapas and regionally-inspired wines and cocktails. For the most intimate experience, spring for a premium table—you’ll be so close you can hear the rustle of the dancers’ skirts.
This article was published through a partnership with Visit the USA, inspiring travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities.