Top 12 Best Restaurants in Albuquerque

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque offers no shortage of dining options spanning fiery New Mexican cuisine to eclectic global flavors. But with so many restaurants vying for your attention, narrowing down the very best places to eat in Albuquerque can prove tricky during your visit.

Restaurant NameCuisine/Highlights
Cafe Pasqual’sElevated New Mexican Cuisine
Artichoke CafeHigh-End Steak & Seafood
Andaluz or MasInventive Tapas
Duran Central PharmacyAlbuquerque Specialties
Apothecary LoungeInventive Cocktails & New American Fare
Jennifer James 101High-End Elegance
Vivace Italian RestaurantClassic Italian Dishes
Artisan Market & Sushi BarHigh-End Japanese Fare
GohomoKorean & Japanese Fusion
Le Troquet BistroClassic French Cuisine
Amore Neapolitan PizzeriaPizzas & Italian Classics
Wine & SwineSpecializing in Charcuterie

That’s why we’ve compiled the definitive list of must-try eateries showcasing the top restaurants shaping Albuquerque’s one-of-a-kind culinary scene. From James Beard Award semifinalists putting adventurous Southwestern spins on farm-to-table fare to generations-old New Mexican kitchens serving up iconic renditions of enchiladas and tamales, these 12 best restaurants give you a delicious overview of Albuquerque’s palate-pleasing specialties.

Ready to launch your taste buds into the city’s vibrant food landscape? Keep reading for the restaurants you absolutely can’t miss when taking on Albuquerque’s eclectic tables, inventive cocktails, and quintessential tastes of New Mexico.

Savor Elevated New Mexican Cuisine at Cafe Pasqual’s

Name and Location: Cafe Pasqual’s, located in downtown Santa Fe, NM

History and Significance: Open since 1979, Cafe Pasqual’s is considered a pioneer in elevated New Mexican cuisine. Its innovative takes on classics have made it a destination for foodies from around the world.

What to Expect: The menu features traditional New Mexican dishes like enchiladas and tamales, as well as globally-inspired plates that fuse Southwestern, Mexican and Asian flavors using seasonal, organic ingredients. The art-filled dining rooms add to the experience.

Visitor Information: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations strongly recommended, especially for dinner. Entrees $15-$35.

Legendary for putting New Mexican cuisine center stage through seasonal fare focused on locally sourced ingredients, Cafe Pasqual’s helped pioneer Albuquerque’s homegrown specialty back when it first fired up stoves back in 1981. Their innovative preparations masterfully balance tradition and contemporarily, with the James Beard-nominated menu spanning blue corn pancakes, tender carne adovada, stuffed sopaipillas overfilling with savory ingredients, and daring fusions you have to taste to believe.

Standouts like tamales stuffed with sweet and spicy candied jalapeños or salmon served atop hominy grits bring together indigenous flavors in daring ways diners won’t soon forget. And the farm-driven ethos extending from their kitchen to the dining room’s vibrant artwork make Cafe Pasqual’s an iconic entry on any best restaurants list seeking to capture Albuquerque’s culinary imagination. Just arrive early or reserve ahead as this cozy spot fills up fast with fans craving their magical touch honing New Mexican cuisine to perfection over 40 years strong.

Experience High-End Steak & Seafood at Artichoke Cafe

Name and Location: Artichoke Cafe in downtown Albuquerque

History and Significance: Open since 2002, Artichoke Cafe has won acclaim for its creative preparations of prime steaks, fresh seafood and signature sides served in an elegant setting. Zagat rated it Albuquerque’s top restaurant.

What to Expect: The menu changes with the seasons but always focuses on quality ingredients paired with global preparations and flavors. Extensive wine list offered in several unique dining rooms.

Visitor Information: Dinner Tue-Sat starting at 5pm. Entrees $30-60. Reservations essential. Valet parking available.

Merging gorgeous ambiance with mouthwatering cuisine, Artichoke Cafe continuously lands on national best restaurant lists as the pinnacle for fine dining done the Albuquerque way. The innovative menu balances classic steak preparations with an ever-changing lineup of seafood flown in fresh daily. Sizzling plates arrive as edible works of art at intimate tables gazing out into the stylish courtyard dotted with fountains and fire pits.

Frequently incorporating New Mexican signatures, diners can indulge in green chile crusted salmon, crab enchiladas doused in red and green chile sauces, or signature cowboy cut ribeyes seared perfectly with garlic and herbs. Homemade desserts then satisfy the sweet tooth, especially their signature chocolate Gateau cake rounded out by white chocolate ganache and fresh berries. For special occasion dining at its best melding flavors and ambiance tailored distinctly to Albuquerque, nowhere else rivals polished perfection served up nightly at Artichoke Cafe.

Try Inventive Tapas at Andaluz or Mas

Name and Location: Andaluz and Mas are two tapas restaurants located downtown Albuquerque.

History and Significance: Opened by chef James Campbell Caruso in the early 2000s, Andaluz and Mas brought Spanish-inspired small plates dining to Albuquerque using New Mexico ingredients. Their tapas menus gain local and national praise.

What to Expect: Creative tapas featuring seafood, salads,lamb, charcuterie and more Spanish flavors. Vibrant lounge with specialty cocktails and wines. Shared plates and an energetic vibe.

Visitor Information: Andaluz open Tue-Sat for dinner, Mas open Mon-Sat lunch and dinner. Tapas $4-15. Reservations recommended.

Perennial winners on best Albuquerque restaurants lists, Andaluz and sister eatery Mas Tapas y Vino baby sibling Mas showcase global small plates shining bright under James Beard semifinalist chef James Campbell Caruso’s bold preparations. Downtown Andaluz stuns with modern architecture and dazzling courtyard strung with lights, creating a sensational backdrop for experiencing Spanish and Latin fusion discoveries. Mas then channels quirky industrial vibes through exposed ductwork hovering above the convivial restaurant dishing out shareable bites and Spanish wines alongside craft cocktails.

Between the two award-winning establishments, creative tapas span seared scallops on corn pudding, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with almonds and blue cheese, patatas bravas doused in spicy aioli, empanadas overflowing with savory fillings, and paella packed with seafood caught fresh that morning. From dramatic decor to intense flavors, both Andaluz and Mas deliver Albuquerque’s strongest tapas game ready to impress groups thirsty for house-made sangrias and global eats amplified through regional New Mexican influences.

Try Albuquerque Specialties at Duran Central Pharmacy

Name and Location: Duran Central Pharmacy in Old Town Albuquerque

History and Significance: Historic building that has been renovated into a beloved diner, Duran’s draws locals and tourists with its nostalgic decor and affordable, tasty New Mexican comfort food and desserts. A classic for 60 years.

What to Expect: Green chile cheeseburgers, huevos rancheros, pozole and other specialties, plus syrupy homemade sopapillas. A local institution with counter seating and families. Cash only.

Visitor Information: Open daily 6am-10pm. Most dishes under $15. No reservations. Paid parking nearby.

No roundup of Albuquerque’s essential restaurants is complete without old-school Duran Central Pharmacy housed in a former drugstore since the 1950s. Today the retro luncheonette with vintage soda fountains keeps hungry crowds returning thanks to their quintessential spins on New Mexican staples done just right. Beloved dishes like huevos rancheros smothered in both red and green chile sauces, blue corn cheese enchiladas baked in more punchy salsa, and overflowing breakfast burritos start the day right with carnitas, potatoes, and eggs tucked inside oversized tortillas.

Then lunch and dinner shift to reliable combo plates letting you sample native specialties with abandon. And we’d be remiss not mentioning their puffy sopaipillas served with honey for dipping – the quintessential sweet ending embellishing New Mexican meals across Albuquerque. For the authentic cuisine locals crave, Duran Central Pharmacy delivers big flavors immersed in nostalgia.

Try Inventive Cocktails & New American Fare at Apothecary Lounge

Name and Location: Apothecary Lounge in downtown Albuquerque

History and Significance: Opened in 2021 in Hotel Chaco, Apothecary Lounge brings a modern cocktail bar with small shareable plates made using regional ingredients and global inspiration. Its creative bar program draws acclaim.

What to Expect: Handcrafted, award-winning cocktails using housemade ingredients. New American bites like Korean fried chicken, pork belly lettuce cups, flatbreads shareable while relaxing in the chic lounge.

Visitor Information: Tue-Sat 4pm-12am. Cocktails $13-15, bites $8-16. Street parking available.

Creative seasonal small plates share top billing with intensely-flavored craft cocktails shaken and stirred with expertise at this long-running Downtown favorite. Apothecary Lounge’s enormous patio strung with festive lights sets an energetic vibe, while inside candlelit booths encourage intimate conversations lingering into the night. Their bartenders gain accolades for liquid concoctions transforming classic templates, with signatures spanning whiskey aged in charred oak to the cucumber-infused Hendrick’s Up cocktail or refreshing Blood Orange Mojito.

Then the kitchen impresses with scrumptious flatbreads, juicy burgers with New Mexico’s iconic Hatch green chiles, and other reinvented American classics prepared with regional nuances. For a lively night out in Albuquerque that additionally brings creative libations and shareable plates into the mix, Apothecary Lounge sets the standard for fusing atmospheric spaces with innovative drinks and fare making every visit distinct.

Experience High-End Elegance at Jennifer James 101

Name and Location: Jennifer James 101 fine dining restaurant located in Albuquerque.

History and Significance: Open since 2008 under acclaimed Chef Jennifer James, this AAA Four Diamond restaurant creates a special fine dining experience blending Southwestern ingredients with global techniques in a romantic, elegant setting.

What to Expect: Prized for its attention to every detail, from the amuse bouche welcome to impeccably prepared entrées of meat, fowl, fish and Southwestern cuisine paired with fine wines in an intimate setting.

Visitor Information: Open for dinner Tue-Sat 5:30-9pm. Jackets preferred for gentlemen. Tasting menus $85-125. Reservations essential.

Smart sophistication with an extravagant farm-to-table focus sums up what you can anticipate encountering at Jennifer James 101 led by local star chef Jennifer James. An ideal venue for celebrating special occasions in style, the restaurant impresses with elegant architecture featuring soaring ceilings, iron chandeliers, and meticulously set tables that could rival venues more expected in bigger metropolises. The menu further tantalizes with beautifully plated dishes putting New Mexico’s seasonal bounty into the spotlight, from produce sourced from their own farm to cheeses and heritage breed pork raised nearby.

Standouts include roasted duck with a midnight cherry glaze served alongside goat cheese polenta then capped with crispy brussel sprout leaves. For lighter fare, opt for rainbow trout topped with toasted almonds and a brown butter sauce brightened by preserved lemon. And don’t pass up desserts ranging from local honey lavender panna cotta to classic creme brûlée or chocolate pot du crème certain to satisfy. At Jennifer James 101, attention to sourcing ultra-fresh ingredients merges seamlessly with refined technique for an exceptional fine dining experience on par with anywhere statewide.

Try Classic Italian Dishes at Vivace Italian Restaurant

Name and Location: Vivace Italian Restaurant in Northeast Heights, Albuquerque

History and Significance: Family owned for 30+ years, Vivace prepares handmade pastas, sauces, breads and other Italian classics with recipes perfected over generations. Its wine cellar boasts over 3,500 bottles.

What to Expect: Hearty Tuscan dishes like osso buco as well as housemade pastas, seafood and signature desserts like tiramisu served in a welcoming, lively trattoria atmosphere. Extensive wine list.

Visitor Information: Open Tue-Sun for dinner. Entrees ranging $19-$38. Recommend reservations.

Northern Italian recipes spanning generations offer a comforting taste of the old country at this local favorite attracting devoted regulars. Vivace brings together family recipes perfected by owners Michael and Carlotta who expertly balance tradition with contemporary adaptations keeping standards high across two Albuquerque locations. Housemade pastas steal the show, from ricotta cavatelli paired with Bolognese meat sauce to delicate agnolotti filled with pear and gorgonzola best sellers. Beyond pastas, chicken marsala arrives perfectly tender bathed in an earthy mushroom pan sauce sure to impress while classic lasagna layered lovingly with meaty ragu and bubbling cheese satisfies all comfort food cravings.

Don’t pass up rounding out meals with tiramisu kissed with espresso liqueur certain to satisfy your sweet tooth. At Vivace, well-executed Italian cuisine benefiting from locally sourced ingredients makes every meal feel like an authentic trip to Northern Italy worth repeating over and over any visit to Albuquerque.

Experience High-End Japanese Fare at Artisan Market & Sushi Bar

Name and Location: Artisan Market & Sushi Bar located in Albuquerque.

History and Significance: Opened in 2022, Artisan Market & Sushi creates an upscale Japanese dining experience with pristine seafood flown in daily and a menu overseen by LA-based chef Katsuya Fukushima. Its attention to quality draws praise.

What to Expect: Innovative sushi rolls, sashimi and small plates fusing Japanese techniques with international flavors. Handcrafted cocktails, sake flights and Japanese whiskey selection. Sophisticated ambiance.

Visitor Information: Open Tue-Sat for dinner. Reservations recommended. Valet parking. Entrees range $22-$65.

Far surpassing typical strip mall sushi joints, Artisan Market combines exceptional raw presentations with cooked Japanese signatures perfected by chef/owner Kai Teppan. The sleek upscale eatery expands way beyond nigiri and sashimi to include specialties effortlessly fusing Japanese techniques with regional nuances that astound diners bite after bite. Beyond impeccable sushi and sashimi plates, don’t miss standout starters like melt-in-your mouth hamachi kama yellowtail collar grilled to buttery perfection. Then bring on the hot entrees spanning miso sake glazed sea bass over forbidden rice to the 16-ounce Miyazaki ribeye sure to satisfy hardcore carnivores.

And specialty libations like their Ginger Saketini craft cocktails or premium sake selections only elevate the entire experience that much more. For Japanese fare far surpassing expectations through standout presentations and balanced flavors straight from the Land of the Rising Sun, Artisan Market makes its case as one of the most exceptional options south of Santa Fe.

Experience Distinctive Korean & Japanese Fusion at Gohomo

Name and Location: Gohomo Korean & Japanese Cafe located in Albuquerque.

History and Significance: Family-owned Gohomo opened in 2016, quickly gaining acclaim for its inventive fusion blending Japanese and Korean flavors and preparations into something uniquely its own. Zagat top rated.

What to Expect: Dishes like bulgogi tacos, Korean fried chicken, bibimbap in stone bowls and sushi rolls fusing Japanese and Korean ingredients and flavors in mashups acclaimed for their creativity.

Visitor Information: Open Tue-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-9:30pm. Lunch and dinner entrees $11-$26. Reservations recommended.

Owner and chef Mo Choi blends her Korean heritage with adopted Japanese influences for a cross-cultural fusion experience found exclusively on Gohomo’s trailblazing menu. Blending together unique flavor profiles and preparations spanning continents, signature plates awaken taste buds with dishes diners won’t find stateside anywhere else. House favorites include luxurious wagyu beef tenderloin served alongside kimchi fried rice or spicy Dolsot Bibimbap where ingredients like mushrooms, bean sprouts, and pickled daikon sizzle while bathed in fiery gochujang sauce.

Their sushi burritos then bridge raw presentations from Choi’s hometown Osaka with Korean touches wrapping up salmon, lobster, and more inside seaweed held together by sushi rice like you’ve never seen executed before. For bold fusions celebrating the breadth of flavors possible by uniting culinary worlds together on one plate, intrepid foodies flock to Gohomo where creative passion translates ingredient mashups into craveable sensations found only along Albuquerque’s one-of-a-kind, Asia-inspired kitchens.

Experience Classic French Cuisine at Le Troquet Bistro

Name and Location: Le Troquet Bistro in Old Town Albuquerque

History and Significance: Family-owned French bistro open since 1998, Le Troquet serves rustic French cuisine made with quality local ingredients in a charming atmosphere that makes patrons feel transported to France, garnering many accolades.

What to Expect: French country dishes like coq au vin chicken, cassoulet, trout almondine and tenderloin paired with wines. Bustling, friendly ambiance for a relaxed meal. Live music on weekends.

Visitor Information: Dinner from 5pm daily, 10am Sun brunch. Entrees $17-35. Reservations recommended. Street parking.

Charming Parisian ambiance interwoven with rustic brick walls and ornate ironwork transports diners straight to continental Europe without having to leave Albuquerque at perennial French favorite Le Troquet Bistro. Their seasonal menus master familiar Gallic staples like escargots served sizzling in garlic herb butter or crispy sweetbreads reinvented through regional ingredients and thoughtful preparation. Beyond classic starters, rotating mains might include pan-roasted New Mexico bass on a bed of roasted pepper risotto then artfully plated with local farmer’s market vegetables harvested at their seasonal peak.

Then finish indulgent evenings on a sweet note through made-in-house desserts like profiteroles kissed with chocolate ganache or vanilla bean creme brûlée – the essential ending expected from any French restaurant worth its (fleur de) sel. Thanks to its cozy atmosphere and transportive Provencal dishes, Le Troquet Bistro stands apart for refined takes on French bistros giving locals a delicious Old World escape.

Try Pizzas & Italian Classics at Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria

Name and Location: Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria, multiple locations in Albuquerque area

History and Significance: Family-run since 2005 using generations-old recipes, Amore brings authentic wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and Italian dishes to New Mexico. Zagat top rated pizzeria serving homemade pastas, breads and desserts.

What to Expect: Traditional thin-crust pizzas, pastas, Italian dishes in a casual setting perfect for families. Outdoor patio dining available. Craft beers on tap.

Visitor Information: Open daily for lunch and dinner. Pizzas $14-25, entrees $15-25. Delivery available.

Certified by the Italian government as executing authentic Neapolitan-style pies, Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria serves up pie after perfect pie with chewy, char-spotted crusts and seasonal toppings showcasing New Mexican ingredients when available. Beyond the VPN-certified pizzas emerging from their wood-fired oven, Amore excels at fresh pastas spun daily then topped with hearty meatballs, Italian sausage, or simple pomodoro sauce. Other favorites include their signature meatball covered in melted mozzarella then inserted into a crusty hoagie roll for a portable taste of Italy with every bite.

And for dessert, Nutella-stuffed bombolonis definitely satisfy, especially when dusted with powdered sugar for the ideal sweet capper expected from Little Italy’s pastry cases the world over. Thanks to Amore’s dedication towards pizza perfection plus elevated presentations of additional Italian specialties, this Albuquerque pizzeria earns its place of honor among the city’s most crave-worthy pizzerias and trattorias.

Experience Wine & Swine Specializing in Charcuterie

Name and Location: Wine & Swine gastro bar located downtown Albuquerque

History and Significance: Opened 2021, Wine & Swine crafted the city’s first charcuterie-focused menu allowing guests to pair artisan meats and cheeses with fine wines, beers and ciders in a chill atmosphere. Its meat and cheese program gains renown.

What to Expect: Rotating selection of quality charcuterie, 200+ wines by the bottle or glass, craft beers. Custom charcuterie boards, sandwiches, shareable plates made for pairing. Contemporary, laid-back setting.

Visitor Information: Tue-Sat 12-10pm. Custom boards $18-48. Counter seating first-come. Street parking.

Charcuterie boards take center stage at this hip downtown spot blurring lines between bar and eatery thanks to an extensive lineup of cured meats and funky wines begging to be sipped, sampled, and shared. The menu at Wine & Swine changes frequently guided by what housemade and locally sourced salumi emerge that week from their curing cases, perhaps presenting speck, saucisson sec, lamb lonza, or chicken galantine ready to be thinly sliced then artfully arranged. From there, customizable boards allow guests to choose meats then pair with funky cheeses, pickles, mustards, nuts, and other accoutrements spread out in an endless pairing feast for the senses.

Then quaff boutique wines spanning Old World regions or funky natural pours – maybe orange wine or a bubbly pet nat sourced from small production wineries. The convivial atmosphere encourages discovering new taste sensations found exclusively at this one-of-a-kind Downtown spot fusing charcuterie with wine in exciting “only in Albuquerque” ways.

Experience Classic Steakhouse Vibes at Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse

Name and Location: Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse in Northeast Heights, Albuquerque

History and Significance: Family owned since 1999, Vernon’s is considered Albuquerque’s premier steakhouse, serving premium Black Angus steaks and seafood alongside classic sides. Its antique-filled dining rooms harken a 1960s rat pack style.

What to Expect: Thick, juicy cuts of steak alongside lobster tails, chops and other meat/seafood plates served by tuxedo-clad waiters. Creative cocktails and extensive wine list offered in a classy, vintage setting.

Visitor Information: Dinner from 5pm daily. Steaks average $45-75. Jacket and reservations recommended. Valet parking.

This beloved Albuquerque institution transports diners back to vintage steakhouse experiences through white tablecloths, knowledgeable servers, and exceptional cuts expertly prepared. Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse opts for Sterling Silver premium beef with standouts including bone-in ribeyes and melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon seared impeccably over a hot grill. Beyond indulgent steaks, fresh seafood makes frequent menu cameos like lobster tail doused in drawn butter or seasonal catches perfectly cooked your way. And don’t overlook starters like plump sea scallops wrapped in prosciutto then bathed in a decadent gorgonzola cream sauce sure to impress before the main event.

Rounding out the red leather banquettes and intimate dining rooms, homemade desserts tempt with everything from adult root beer floats spiked with vanilla vodka to classic New York style cheesecake dolloped with your pick of berry sauce topping. For expertly orchestrating steakhouse traditions hailed through meticulous cooking techniques centered around Sterling Silver’s exceptional cuts, Vernon’s Hidden Valley lands among Albuquerque’s most iconic restaurants to experience carnivorous cravings fulfilled in style.

Final Thoughts

With so many distinctive restaurants all passionately showcasing Albuquerque’s vibrant food scene, visitors quickly discover navigating the culinary landscape offers endless opportunities to uncover tastes spanning New Mexican signatures, global cuisines, and inventive fusions specific to the city. From James Beard-recognized chefs putting adventurous twists on native flavors to generations-old eateries serving heritage recipes perfected decades back, the restaurants featured above collectively capture quintessential and contemporary experiences foodies simply can’t miss.

Taken together, these 12 best restaurants invite diners on a journey across preparations proudly honed by local culinarians side-by-side with national award winners choosing Albuquerque as the ideal backdrop for their inspired visions. Through New Mexican uniqueness and unexpected angles on broader influences, Albuquerque’s restaurants never fail to surprise and satisfy during any stint exploring menus as intensely flavorful as New Mexico’s iconic chiles lighting up almost every dish. Just leave room for dessert – with so many sweet specialties done right, you’ll want to sample as many as your stomach can allow!

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