The 9 Best Mom & Pop Restaurants in New Mexico! By
There’s nothing better than a dining experience that takes us to a memory of home. Sit-ting around the table with family or friends and a table full of good ol’ home cooking. Here are nine great restaurants in New Mexico that’ll make you want to move in.
This off-the-beaten path but not unfamiliar restaurant is a hangout for locals and tourists. The great thing about mom and pop places is the family atmosphere that makes them so welcoming. This is one such place. And the food is good. Red and green chili is a highlight on many of the dishes—separate or Christmas style. Try the sopapillas as big as plate, Navajo tacos on crispy fry bread or the best breakfast enchiladas in town … get two, you’ll want one for lunch.
As so often happens, what begins as a mom-and-pop endeavor quickly turns into a family affair to make it a success. The Rancho is the epitome of this strategy. More than 50 years ago, Arturo and Florence Jaramillo created this restaurant to celebrate their cultural heritage and, now, she along with her family continue this unparalleled dining experience. Fare like hand-rolled tamales, spicy guacamole, blue corn enchiladas and carne adovada pay tribute to this family’s heritage.
3. Padilla’s Mexican Food Restaurant, Albuquerque, NM
A home-cooked meal at someone’s house is a real treat. A meal here evokes that same feeling, as if you’re eating with a friend who keeps popping up from the dining room ta-ble to check on things in the kitchen. The dishes coming out of the kitchen here, for more than 30 years, are true New Mexican soul food with all the distinctive flavors of the Southwest. Carne adovada is a specialty, as are the sopapillas that come with every meal. Homemade tamales and blue corn enchiladas are just like mom’s … and pop’s.
Lift a Thai Iced Tea to the husband and wife who own this authentic Thai restaurant; au-thentic because they’re from Thailand. The restaurant may be small but it packs a wallop with tasty, flavor filled dishes. Not to be missed: mango sticky rice, papaya salad, pad Thai, chicken yellow curry and the pu pu platter. Leave room for the coconut ice cream, hand-made by the owners. Vegetarian and vegan options available.
Although only Pop is named in this restaurant there is a mom component to this family-run enterprise and has been since it opened more than 20 years ago. This is home-style cooking—chicken fried steak, prime rib, hamburgers, chili dogs and barbecue sausage and brisket. Part of the food charm is Pop’s championship chili made with fresh ground sirloin and a secret blend of spices. Have it in a bowl, on a dog or Frito pie. Desert alert: 32 flavors of Blue Bell ice cream served on a cone, in a split or sundae or blended in a shake, float and malt.
You’ll feel the warmth of this place right as you enter and it’s not just coming from the kitchen. It’s coming from the owners of this local eatery that’s been serving authentic Mexican fare for more than 20 years. The handmade whole wheat sopapillas are too good to pass up … so don’t! The green and red chile is perfectly seasoned, mild and hot and spicy, respectively. It might be the best red chile in town, but you be the judge. You can’t go wrong with the green chile rellenos, beef enchiladas, the Navajo taco, or try a little bit of everything on the combination plate. Fresh chips and salsa kick off a great meal.
Gold mining brought prospectors to this town in the late 1800s. The gold is long gone, but there’s still treasure to be had here at this tiny restaurant, a designated National His-toric Site. The owners and caretakers have been caring for this historic site for two dec-ades. The kitchen, a modern upgrade, creates consistently exceptional New Mexico fa-vorites for both breakfast and lunch. The green chile cheeseburger is a local favorite. There are only seven tables so be patient. The homemade bumbleberry pie, a sweet mix of berries, is worth the wait.
As you enter this diner the first thing you see is the pastry case filled with homemade pies. You’ll want to save room for a piece. This is a fusion of standard comfort food meets New Mexico cuisine for breakfast, served all day, lunch and dinner. The menu is extensive. Huevos rancheros share space with a build-your-own burger option and liver and onions and Frito pie. And then of course, there’s the pie—rhubarb, green chili apple, peanut butter chocolate and pumpkin, and that’s just one shelf!
9. Pete’s Cafe, Belen, NM
The city’s oldest restaurant, a local institution, is one of the best and as the owners say, “Not the best because it’s the oldest; it’s the oldest because it’s the best.” The chile con queso, a family recipe, is rich, smooth with just the right amount of heat. Be sure to specifiy beef or bean, red or green when ordering burritos or sopapillas. A big part of this 60-year success story are the owners, still making sure that chili is hot, the food is authentic and the consistency of the dining experience is unchanged, ensuring customers return again and again. If for nothing else, than the traditional natillas, a delightful custard dessert.