Despite its small size, Bernalillo (just north of Albuquerque) isn’t short on great places to eat. Most of its restaurants specialise in New Mexican cuisine and are best known for their burgers, burritos, tacos and hot dogs, all of which are made with fresh local produce. Read on for recommendations in and around Bernalillo to savor the vibrant, spicy flavors of New Mexico.
Halfway between Bernalillo and Placitas this friendly little cafe has a pretty extensive menu. Centring on typical New Mexican fare, it offers a huge amount of choice (especially for breakfast) with options ranging from homemade scones and pancakes to bagels and omelettes. If you’re visiting for lunch choose from one of the many kinds of burrito and burger, or go for something a bit different such as the grilled salmon salad. Several evenings a month, for a treat, a live band serenades you during dinner.
On Bernaillo’s main drag, Abuelita’s has been serving up the best Mexican food in the area for years. The recently modernized interior features a bright eating area with traditional artwork and tapestry hanging on the walls. The menu is mostly traditional Mexican dishes paired with hot green and red chillies. Top-rated dishes include the burgers, the Enchiladas Abuelitas and the Chile Rellenos. Abuelita’s legendary Huevos Rancheros have also made this a popular breakfast spot amongst Bernalillo residents.
This Hawaiian establishment doesn’t just brew one of Bernalillo’s best cups of coffee (although it certainly does do that) – it’s also a great choice for breakfast or lunch. Start the day with a bacon or sausage burrito (or the vegetarian ‘no-meat’ option) and accompany it with coffee or a freshly blended smoothie. If you’re calling in for lunch, choose from a wide selection of wraps or gourmet deli-style sandwiches. Bad Ass can be found on Highway 550, between Bosque Brewing and Blake’s.
Santa Ana Cafe is another eatery in the Hyatt Tamaya Resort, a few miles outside of Bernalillo. The breakfast buffet, lunch, and dinner offerings consist of a mixture of American and New Mexican cuisine, with plenty of options for vegetarians or gluten-free diners. Star dishes include tamales and homemade pizzas, especially those with a cauliflower crust. Take your pick from a sumptuous wine list and enjoy the views of the sacred Tuyuna Mesa landmark, with the Sandia mountains beyond.
Don’t be put off by the fact that Chili’s is a countrywide chain – it’s a great spot for inexpensive Mexican-American dishes, whether you’re eating in or on the move. Bernalillo’s branch (three miles north of the centre) offers a vast range of steaks, burgers, fajitas, tacos, soups and sandwiches to choose from. A popular combo is the ‘3 for $10’ deal, which includes a non-alcoholic drink, starter, and main at a hard-to-beat price. There’s also a great selection of beers, wines, and cocktails.
Despite the unloved exterior and dated interior, Guang Dong serves up the best Chinese food for miles around. It’s a great option if you’re craving something other than burgers or burritos, and it offers all the classics like egg fried rice, noodles, spicy Mongolian beef, and curries served with sticky white rice. It’s great value for money, especially when you consider the substantial portions, and there’s a decent choice of beers and wines to wash it down. When you’ve finally had your fill of burritos and tacos, you’ll find it on the northern edge of town, just up the road from Twisters.
Additional reporting by Mark Nayler