Not just hot air balloons, green chile and Georgia O’Keefe landscapes— but also hot springs, bike rides along the Rio Grande and great Thai food. Which is why I chose to spend my last week in the United States in New Mexico, to soak in some of that warmth.
For me, Albuquerque has always been a place of rest and escape. The first time I traveled there was on a road trip as a child— and I remember the wide open spaces, the mountains and cliffs like something out of a dream. The next time I was there, it was to visit a dear friend when I was in college— and I fell in love with the beauty of the land and the spicy food.
Albuquerque boasts New Mexican food— similar to Tex Mex, but distinctive for green chile. I usually don’t like overly spicy food, but I can’t get enough green chile— there’s a rich flavor underneath the fire. Red chile, also popular, is sweeter.
If you’re looking to get your fix of vegetarian green chile: I recommend either Los Cuates on Lomas or Loyolas on Central. A lot of restaurants’ green chile sauce has pork in it, but these two also have plain green chile. When you order, make sure to ask for vegetarian green chile, which is usually served on the side. (And don’t be shy about asking for a lot, if you love spicy food.) Red chile sauce usually isn’t made with meat, but it won’t hurt to ask. Also: since I’m avoiding gluten, I order corn tortillas, and ask for them steamed.
AVOID Little Anita’s, unless you feel like eating guacamole with a spoon while your friends happily munch on burritos.
If you’re looking for a vegan version of a New Mexican breakfast, check out Flying Star— their tofu breakfast scramble is satisfying without being overly greasy. For dinner, try the Buddha Bowl, a favorite of mine. The savor of fried tofu, mushrooms and broccoli is balanced with the sweetness of ginger. The local coffee chain is also trying out gluten-free baked goods.
If you need a break from burritos and sopaipillas, one of the best vegetarian restaurants in town is easily Thai Vegan. I’ve loved all the meals I’ve had from their— full of fresh veggies and great flavors. (If you’re sensitive to spice, you can ask for less.) Another great stop is Loving Vegan, which has vegan sushi.
For a break from Asian, try Annapurna’s, which has rich chai tea and a solid menu of Indian food (with some American standards!)
If you’re self-catering, the prepared food section of the La Montanita Co-op has both vegan and gluten-free baked goods, fresh tamales and other vegan and veggie foods. (I’m a fan of their corn muffins and tamales. Make sure to ask for salsa when you order them.)
Though I haven’t had a chance to check them out, I’ve had several friends rave about Gluten-Free Gourmet Food. (Another good option for wheat-free breakfast burritos.)
An easy place to do a day trip is Santa Fe, made possible by the Road Runner. If you do decide to check out the Georgia O’Keeffee museum, leave some time for the cafe Body. With both vegan and raw food, everything I’ve ordered from here has been great: well-prepared and tasty.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t reminisce about the now-defunct 20 Carrot’s chocolate peanut butter smoothie, or Fei’s delicious tofu stew and bento boxes. Sadly, along with Mint Tulip, both those places are long gone.