While Albuquerque overflows with chile-laden New Mexican cuisine, the metropolis also has a few surprises up its culinary sleeves. It takes cues from Native American culture—both traditional and contemporary—and global dishes here are aplenty. The Duke City also has a sweet tooth: Candy, cookies, and popsicles rank among its favorite dishes.
Here are the top 10 dishes to eat while you’re in Albuquerque—and the best places to try them.
Green Chile Cheeseburger
Albuquerqueans top, smother, and mix nearly everything with chile—including the classic American cheeseburger. Even places like McDonalds serve their burgers with diced green chile. However, local restaurants make this spicy dish best. For a down-home version, head to the Laguna Burger location in Duke City. Hop over to Sixty-Six Acres next door if you're in the mood for something more upscale; the eatery make their burgers with New Mexico beef, local cheese, and, of course, local green chile.
Albuquerque's breakfast burritos—which come with eggs; potatoes; cheese; red or green chile sauce; and bacon or sausage—give you a chance to sample the city’s incredible flour tortillas. Hit up the drive-through window at Golden Pride, which is known for having some of the best in town. At Duran’s Central Pharmacy, an old-fashioned drugstore with a restaurant counter in the back, the plate-sized burritos come smothered in chile. The butter-slathered flour tortillas are so good here you’ll want one on the side.
Puffs of fried dough, sopaipillas are served during any meal of the day—including dessert. They come stuffed with eggs and hash browns for breakfast, and with meat and cheese for lunch and dinner. Craving something sweet? You can drizzle yours with honey instead. Casa de Benavidez serves perfectly pillowy versions of any variety. You’ll have to ask for the breakfast version—it’s not on the menu, but they’ll gladly make it. The lunch and dinner sopaipillas can be filled with carne adovada, another regional dish of pork shoulder braised in red chile sauce.
Blue “Meth” Candy
Albuquerque’s association with the TV hit “Breaking Bad” isn’t going anywhere soon. While it was being filmed, local confectioner The Candy Lady "supplied" the show's creators with blue rock candy that resembled methamphetamine crystals. To this day, you can still buy bags of the local creation at the candy shop. For an even more decadent version, head to Rebel Donut, where the rock candy is crumbled over the shop’s Blue Sky donut.
Biscochitos, New Mexico’s official state cookie, are anise-flavored shortbread cookies coated in cinnamon sugar. Although they’re traditionally served at Christmas time, they’re delicious any time of year. At Celina’s Biscochitos, you can get a traditional cookie—or you can opt for one of the more unique flavors, such as the green-chile pecan. Neighborhood bakery Golden Crown is also known for its classic biscochitos, as well as its green chile bread.
Green Chile Sushi
The Duke City surprisingly has a good number of Japanese restaurants. As to be expected, most of the dishes get a chile touch—even sushi. Head to Azuma Sushi Teppan for an excellent version of the green-chile roll.
Also known as a Navajo Taco, this dish is all the best parts of a taco, with an even more delicious bready container. It begins with a base of Indian frybread, which is then layered with taco fillings such as ground beef, beans, chile, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. You’ll find a great version of one at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s Pueblo Harvest Café (take note that it's called the "Tewa Taco" there). If you’re up for the bread but not the toppings, Indian frybread is also served plain and is traditionally eaten with honey drizzled on top.
Native peoples began consuming cacao in the form of drinking chocolate some 1,300 years ago. It’s only fitting to carry on the tradition by eating chocolate while you’re in New Mexico. Albuquerque chocolate shop Chocolate Cartel serves several varieties, including a bar infused with red chile.
Indigenous peoples cultivated blue corn long before the arrival of Spanish and Anglo settlers, and it has since remained an essential component of Albuquerque cuisine. Many restaurants serve blue corn enchiladas, but some dole out the ingredient in unique ways. At Tia B’s La Wafflería, you can get a blue corn waffle topped with scrambled eggs and smothered in red chile sauce and cheese. Pueblo Harvest Café also serves blue-corn crusted fried chicken in an ancient-meets-modern dish.
These Mexican milk- or water-based ice pops usually come in fruit-rich flavors. At Paleta Bar you can get your traditional paleta dipped and coated in nontraditional toppings like gummy bears and Fruity Pebbles cereal. Pop Fizz, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, has several refreshing flavors, including mango chile, Mexican chocolate, and sandia (watermelon).