Shoulda taken a left turn at Albuquerque

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As I write this -- this is being posted on a delay -- I am sitting in the Albuquerque airport. Not only do they have free wi-fi here, but there is an upstairs lounge (with power outlets!) near gate B1 with views of the airfield and the mountains to the east of town.

This was my first visit to the Duke City (where the minor league baseball team is no longer the Dukes, but the Isotopes). I'm impressed. It was a business trip, so I didn't have a lot of time to explore, but we got out a little bit.

We had pizza at Il Vicino in the Nob Hill district, a lively area of restaurants, little shops, and old motels on Central -- old 66 -- just east of the University of New Mexico campus. The next night we headed north of town to a hacienda-style restaurant called El Pinto. It's on Fourth Street, the pre-1937 alignment of US 66 that passed through Santa Fe and came into Albuquerque from the north. It's in a picturesque setting not far from the Rio Grande. The restaurant, with its various rooms and courtyards, made me think of a more authentic version of Casa Bonita with better food. Even though we were in the most unattractive room in the restaurant and had an inexperienced waiter, I had a great meal of carne adobada (roast pork marinated in red chiles) with fresh guacamole. I substituted calabacitas (summer squash, zucchini, corn, onions, and green chiles) for the pinto beans. (Taco Cabana used to offer calabacitas -- I miss that.)

I saw a little bit of Route 66. Albuquerque's stretch of the Mother Road has one of the better assortments of classic old motels, and the section of Central that passes through downtown is a lively entertainment district. I'd love to come back and explore further some day.

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7 Comments

Emily said:

Albuquerque is an awesome town. We love to stay at the Monterey Non-Smokers Motel when we're in town, and the food is awesome -- especially at 66 Diner, Mr. Powdrell's Barbecue, and Cake Fetish. Just don't get suckered into buying one of those chile ristras in Old Town unless it's completely dried out, or you're liable to lose your appetite. If there is anything worse than the smell of several dozen Anaheim chile peppers off-gassing in a paper bag, I'm sure I don't want to experience it.

The neon in town is unbelievable. I shot over 60 signs in the span of two hours one night last June. Photos are here if you want to see them.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

From a personal perspective, as the old saying goes, Its a nice place to visit, but...

It really is a nice place to visit.

Christie Breedlove said:

Wow! I just got home last night from a trip to Santa Fe and Taos this last week. It is quite the drive from Tulsa. I stayed at the El Rey Inn on old Route 66 in Santa Fe (highly recommended by my city councilor and his wife who go at least once a year).

You have to see Albuquerque in October for the International Balloon Fiesta. The Mass Ascension puts all of those colorful balloons in the air with the mountains in the background. You can grab breakfast at one of the many diners and watch the balloons fly by. Or, if you are brave enough to take on the crowds, you can venture over to Balloon Fiesta Park and take a ride in one.

Thanks for posting a link to your beautiful neon photos, Emily. I didn't get to see much neon for myself as we were mainly on Central during the day. I had hoped, based on Ron's recommendation, to stay at the Monterey, but we had to coordinate with another group staying in a chain hotel on I-25. Maybe next time.

Likewise, I didn't get to check out any of the roadfood.com recommendations -- such as Powdrell's -- but I did eat an amazing green chile bacon cheeseburger at a little cafe on Kirtland AFB.

Thanks, Christie, for the Santa Fe tips. That's another city I want to visit soon. Prior to this trip I'd only been to New Mexico once -- a short jaunt from the Oklahoma panhandle to Raton on the way to Colorado. (Shame, shame, I know.)

Emily said:

Santa Fe is cool, but I like ABQ more; Santa Fe seems a little too aware of its own hipness for my tastes. ABQ is a little grittier, a little more homegrown, a little less touristy, if that makes any sense.

Tucumcari is my favorite spot in New Mexico, though. One night at the Blue Swallow, one movie at the Odeon, and one sunrise over Tucumcari Mountain should explain why.

One more must-stop in ABQ: The Dog House. Best chili dogs I've ever eaten, bar none. They're huge, and the chili is thick (more like gravy than chili) and spicy, with plenty of cumin and a good hot-pepper kick. Amazing stuff.

BTW, thanks for the shout-out the other day. :)

Joseph Wallis said:

Thanks for reminding me about the town I miss. Unfortunately it is about 16% more to live in ABQ than Tulsa, otherwise I'd be headed there right now. They do have A LOT smoother roads though.

Janice said:

We moved to Oklahoma after living in Abq for 25 years. Definately a place to VISIT - but has sadly become a fairly dangerous place to raise a family, which is why we moved. BUT *oh* what restaurants! If you go back, be sure to visit Le Chantilly - a french bakery on Wyoming. Also, if you liked the carne adovada - be sure to visit the tiny, family run restaurant (outdoor seating only) "Acapulco Taco" on San Mateo for the absolute best burritos in this world. And last, but not least, for the most wonderful pizza go to Dion's Pizza - there are several locations there. Wonderful, wonderful hand thrown pizza: my favorite is their canadian bacon with green chile.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 13, 2007 10:43 AM.

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