A great meal should be a culinary adventure. So don’t settle for a run-of-the-mill dining experience. Instead, head to one of these New Mexican establishments, which offer entertainment, unusual food, or an unexpected atmosphere. You definitely won’t be bored.
1. The Love Apple, Taos
If you like to know where your food comes from then you’ll love The Love Apple. The restaurant focuses on local and organic food and serves up unexpected combinations such as a caramelized onion and apple quesadilla. But what really makes this place unique is the building, which used to be a church. The restaurant is inside the old Placitas Chapel, which dates back to the 1800s.
2. El Pinto Restaurant and Cantina, Albuquerque
There aren’t many restaurants that can comfortably seat over 1000 people! This local fave is owned by twin brothers who also run a salsa company from a facility off the restaurant. The salsa production alone requires 120 tons of chile per year. You might have seen El Pinto salsa in your grocery store, because it’s distributed nationwide. The other reason El Pinto is unique is because it has a tequila bar, serving 160 different tequilas - you can even order sampling flights. It’ll give you a different kind of burn than the red chile ribs.
3. La Cantina at La Casa Sena, Santa Fe
Singing waitstaff. Yep, that’s right. If you head to La Cantina after 6 p.m., your server will deliver your grilled quail, scallops, or duck nachos in between belting out Broadway show tunes.
4. Curious Kumquat, Silver City
First there’s the unusual name, then there’s the fact that this restaurant is inside a building from the 1870s. But what truly makes the Curious Kumquat unique is that the chef, Rob Connoley, is a James Beard Award semi-finalist whose restaurant uses 90% locally-sourced food and 40% foraged food. Meals usually consist of at least five courses. Perhaps this wouldn’t raise eyebrows in New York, but it’s certainly unique for Silver City.
5. Vernon’s Speakeasy, Los Ranchos
Who says that gangsters can’t be gourmands? Behind a door in Los Ranchos Liquors lies a den of debauchery. Well, okay, not really, but the secrecy certainly creates those expectations. In order to gain access to this fine dining steakhouse, you have to knock on the unmarked door and then give a password. Makes you think that Carrie Nation could appear any minute with her hatchet.
6. Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House, Pinos Altos
Ignore the exterior of this 1860s building, which looks ready to collapse. Instead head inside this historical restaurant, to experience a taste of the Wild West in a steakhouse that has served everyone from miners and gunslingers to ladies of ill repute.
7. Big D’s Downtown Dive, Roswell
Sure, the décor is kitschy, but this restaurant makes the list because of two of its burgers. Big D’s serves a breakfast burger, almost as good an idea as the breakfast burrito, and also a burger that is served on fry bread rather than the standard bun.
8. Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ & Expresso, Hatch
Sparky’s is a kitsch-lover’s dream. It’s the kind of place that makes you hit the brakes if you’re driving by. The restaurant serves scrumptious BBQ and, of course, the World Famous! Hatch Green Chile Cheeseburger. Hatch is synonymous with chile, so it should come as no surprise that this ingredient permeates the menu from the green chile lemonade, to green chile milkshakes!
9. La Posta de Mesilla, Mesilla
La Posta occupies a massive 10,000 square feet, packed with decidedly unique décor and even live birds! Supposedly Billy the Kid and Pancho Villa stayed here when it was part of the Corn Exchange Hotel, a stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line. The La Posta Compound is on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
10. Pueblo Harvest, Los Ranchos
Pueblo Harvest serves a fusion of Native American cuisines. Blue corn (which has an earthier, nuttier flavor than yellow corn) features heavily on the menu, from the chackewe (a blue cornmeal porridge) to blue corn pancakes and onion rings. Some of the protein choices are unexpected, like boar and pheasant. Plus you can experience pizza baked in a traditional adobe bread oven, called a horno.
Have you eaten at any of these restaurants? What did you think? What New Mexican restaurant do you find truly unique?