At first glance, Albuquerque and Santa Fe are polar opposites of each other. Albuquerque is bustling and gritty,Santa Fe is smaller and sleepier. But when it comes to food, there's a sense of diversity in the former—over 20 different Thai food restaurants and tons of coffee shops, not to mention the breweries—and affordability that makes for some warm and hospitable spaces. There's a commitment to family-run institutions, small pockets devoted to sustainability and plenty of gloriously self-indulgent junk food. And lately, there's been plenty of Santa Fe up in Albuquerque's business, and I'm not mad at it.
Erin Wade's Santa Fe salad success Vinaigrette moved into not just Albuquerque but Austin, too. And the Duel Brewing tasting room and venue on Central Avenue is way bigger and busier than the OG here in Midtown. Below are a few of our favorite ways food and drink from the City Different have extended themselves into the Duke City.
Opened in late 2017 in a large, 7,500-square-foot building formerly owned by Texas Land & Cattle, the new location of a Santa Fe institution serves up a similar menu of traditional Northern New Mexican staples. Comparisons are inevitable—the menu at the Albuquerque location is slightly abridged, and there are no daily specials like the ones featured at the original location. But owner George Gundrey, whose family also owns Atrisco Café and Bar in Santa Fe's DeVargas Center, has roots that go deep in the Albuquerque community. His mother, Georgia Maryol, operated a small Duke City diner called The Central Café for 26 years, before shuttering its doors and moving the family north to Santa Fe. She established Tomasita's in a small red brick building that once served as a waystation on the Chili Line, a railroad that ran lumber from Antonito, Colorado, to Santa Fe. While the Albuquerque location doesn't have the same sense of historic romanticism, it does have stuffed sopaipillas ($11.95), hangover-curing bowls of menudo ($7.95) and frozen margaritas swirled with sangria ($7.95) to echo tradition that springs from restaurants based on the recipes of New Mexican grandmothers.
4949 Pan American Fwy. NE, 344-1204
Santa Fe Brewing Company
It's already been three years since taps started flowing here, and is well worth seeking out while there's still patio weather to be enjoyed—this location happens to be double-decker. The brewing co has consistently demonstrated a shrewd sense of where to plant its locations, whether it be in Santa Fe in an old downtown speakeasy-esque cigar club or a sprawling lot off I-25 south of town that was begging to be turned into an outdoor concert space. The Albuquerque taproom at the Green Jeans Farmery Complex, a mall made out of old shipping containers and bicycle parts located at the intersection of I-40 and Carlisle, is a veritable stroke of genius, since it has unlimited potential in terms of food options. These include offerings from Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria, Rockin Taco or Soup Dog for noshing on with your pint of choice. Everything the taproom sells is brewed by the mothership, including the State Pen Porter, Happy Camper IPA and the Freestyle Pilsner ($5). Catch happy hour from 4-6 pm Tuesday through Thursday, where all pints are $3, and an all-day happy hour on Monday.
3600 Cutler NE, Ste. 1, 881-0887
If there's one thing all of New Mexico needs more of, it's quality African food. Thank goodness for Jambo, which in June 2017 expanded to Albuquerque with its characteristically craveable Afro-Caribbean fusion cuisine. Owner and chef Ahmed Obo draws upon his experiences growing up on the small island of Lamu off the Kenyan coast at both his Santa Fe and Albuquerque restaurants, not to mention his food truck, Hapa ("here" in Swahili), which travels between Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos. Find a few treats unique to the Albuquerque location, such as fried cassava for $6.95 and Caribbean spiced slow-cooked oxtail for $16.95. But the menus are consistent between the two locations, meaning you can get your East African comfort food favorites such as goat stew or chicken kebabs (both $13.95) with a side of roti or ugali—African flatbread or cornmeal, respectively ($2.95). Not to mention that both locations use locally raised, hormone and antibiotic-free meats, and the menu is friendly for vegetarians and gluten-frees.
1105 Juan Tabo Blvd., 294-3459