Three days in Albuquerque and we’ve hit all the destinations. Well, all the dining ones on our list, that is. We think New Mexico cuisine is a great reason to come to Albuquerque, and if you’re in Albuquerque you may want to try it too.
Five years ago we first visited Albuquerque while traveling on an Airstream guided trip, The Southwest Caravan. We love New Mexico cuisine and think Albuquerque covers it as well as anywhere. Stern’s Road Food and our caravanning friends led us to fun dining choices on our first visit. We’ve been trying those and new ones in visits since.
This week we dined at these four, in order: Duran’s Pharmacy; El Charrito; Model Pharmacy; and Frontier Restaurant. Duran’s, Model, and Frontier are recommended by Stern’s Road Food, and El Charrito is recommended by some of the staff at American RV Park. They’re all good choices, and all different.
Here’s our rundown of this week’s fun NM food dining, place by place.
Duran’s – We arrived near Old Town at 6:30PM for supper and we were one of only two tables occupied. We had very personal attention from an engaging and helpful wait person. Debbie ordered a Mexican Combination Plate and Jim ordered a bowl of green chile topped with shredded cheddar cheese, served with a very good tortilla. We finished with a slice of blueberry pie a la mode. The green chile was tasty and smoking hot, way picante, as hot as anything we ate anywhere this week. Deb’s combination plate was tasty, and the warm blueberry pie was great. The crust was tender and flaky and the filling was sweet and a nice consistency.
El Charrito – We were the only Anglos amongst a lively lunch crowd in this neighborhood restaurant on Central at 50th. Service was very friendly and fast. Jim joked to the waitress the combination plate lunch was not very big (it was really ginormous.) She laughed and said they have much bigger meals but Debbie had ordered a small one. Really? Jim’s carne adovado meal was way too much for one of us. It’s marinated pork served with lettuce, tomato, rice and beans, and a tortilla. The marinated pork was tasty, spicy-hot, and tender, and except for the spiceyness seemed like New Mexico’s answer to North Carolina’s pulled pork barbecue.
Model Pharmacy – The scale and setup of Model Pharmacy’s dining area is similar to Duran’s. Duran’s Pharmacy store is much larger and seems first a pharmacy, then also a gift store and restaurant. Model seemed equally a trendy gift store and a restaurant, neither very large. We readily found a table for dining but could easily have picked a stool at the fountain counter. Service was as good as at Duran’s, but Model was busy so the waitperson really worked to do so well. Our waitperson was attentive without interfering and made nice and helpful recommendations. We ordered a cup each of green chile stew with a tortilla, and we ordered coffee and a scoop each of Dreyers ice cream. The green chile stew was laced with carrots, celery and bits of beef, was mild and very tasty.
Frontier Restaurant – Frontier is directly across the street from University of NM. Open from 5am to 1am seven days a week and serving hot food really quickly, Frontier seems to serve a lot of people all the time. We arrived after 8pm today and had no wait to order. There is an order counter where we placed our order and received a number. Less than five minutes later our dinners were plated and on trays for our pickup. If there’d been a line we’d still have had our food within no more than ten minutes. Jim ate a cup of carne adovado with a chicken taco and a tortilla. Debbie had a half-order enchilada plate. The serving sizes were perfect for us and the food was excellent. The carne adovado was slightly spicy and, again, most like pulled pork barbecue with extra kick.
They have very large and attractive sweet rolls ($1.85) that remind us of the many rolls we enjoyed on our Alaska Caravan several years ago. While we were dining we watched a couple of dozen people show up to order. Within several minutes they all had ordered and were queueing to pick up their trays of food. Parking at Frontier can be challenging for lunch, but we easily found street-side parking on Central outside the restaurant for this late dinner.
Model had the tastiest, for us, green chile stew. Duran had the hottest green chile by far. Frontier is the low-price leader and the very fastest. El Charrito served the most food on a plate. We look forward to our next visit to Albuquerque so we can eat great NM food again.
See you down the road!
Jim and Debbie
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