Anyone who thinks size matters needs to try dining in New Mexico’s small towns. Earlier this year, we shared our
first list of wonderful restaurants located in towns with fewer than 3500 residents. However, there are so many memorable places tucked away in tiny towns that we decided to do a follow-up article. This time around, we looked at places with up to 5000 residents. Here are 13 small town restaurants that are worth a detour.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. The Hollar Restaurant, 2849 Highway 14, Madrid
Think you can’t find Courdon Bleu level food in a town with only 204 people? Think again. The chef at The Hollar, Josh Novak, graduated from le Courdon Bleu Institute. The restaurant serves salads, sandwiches, and down home comfort food. Southern dishes like po-boys, and grits are always a hit. There's usually an intriguing twist - the fried green tomatoes are accompanied by lavender béchamel sauce!
2. Old Road Restaurant, 692 Old Road, Mescalero
Old Road Restaurant is known for its enchiladas. It's located in Mescalero - population 1338 - and is a cash-only joint.
3. M&M Café, 404 2nd Street, Magdalena
M/M Café can be found inside the Old Magdalena Hall Hotel. This building was constructed in 1917 and is supposed to be haunted. Aside from the historic vibe, this café offers delicious fresh salads, soups, sandwiches, and tacos. Magdalena, which is located between Socorro and the Very Large Array, is home to 938 people.
4. Buckhorn Tavern, 68 Highway 380, San Antonio
Whenever we produce a list that doesn’t include these dueling burger joints in San Antonio, readers wonder why we omitted them. Both restaurants have already been featured in our article on green chile cheeseburgers. But, given that two of the best burger joints in the state happen to be in the teeny town of San Antonio (population 165), they deserve recognition here as well.
Buckhorn Tavern opened in 1944 and is still run by the same family. The burger here is billed as the 7th best in the nation. The Buckhorn burger is a hefty half-pounder served with cheese and green chiles – juicy with just enough kick.
5. Owl Bar & Café,77 US Highway 380, San Antonio
The family-owned Owl Bar opened in the 1940s and is also famous for its green chile cheeseburger – the restaurant grinds its own beef. Back in the day, “prospectors” would come to eat here. These were actually undercover, nuclear scientists who were working on the top secret Manhattan Project.
6. Si Senor Tacos, 1314 S First Street, Clayton
This food truck is parked in Clayton, which is home to 2980 people. Si Senor Tacos is a local favorite that offers great value. The menu is simple and features tacos (definitely order some of these), burritos, burgers, and hot dogs. Nothing fancy, just fresh, flavorful food. This is a great pitstop for anyone driving through northeastern New Mexico, near the border with Texas and Oklahoma.
7. Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue, 105 James Canyon Highway, Cloudcroft
Facebook/ MAD Jack's Mountaintop Barbecue
Mad Jack’s grills up Texas-style BBQ so good that long lines form in this town of only 674 people! If you arrive before the restaurant runs out of BBQ, you’ll be treated to brisket you’ll be bragging about for months.
8. Irma's, NM 11 & NM 9, Columbus
If you're craving breakfast done right, head to Irma's for a home cooked meal and a warm welcome. This restaurant is located in the border town of Columbus, which has 1664 residents.
9. Eagle Guest Ranch, Highway 60 & State Road 12, Datil
It’s fair to say that Datil is in the middle of nowhere – Socorro is the nearest small city and that’s a good hour’s drive away. So you don’t expect to find an impressive steakhouse in this town of 54 people. That makes the Eagle Guest Ranch all the more special. Portions here are massive and you can pick your steak right out of a meat case in the attached store. Although this is a place for carnivores, the salad bar is cute. It's crafted from barrels suspended in midair and instead of regular plates, you scoop your salad into cast iron skillets!
10. The Annex Bar-B-Q and Grill, 101 N Highway 54, Logan
If you’re in the vicinity of Logan (population 1042), head on over to the Annex for a serving of BBQ with a large side of kitsch. Old signs and vintage sports equipment adorn the walls of this sports bar. Get there early to score some awesome pulled pork.
11. Hatcha’s Grill, Highway 518, Mora
Hatcha’s is an unassuming restaurant in Mora, where you can guzzle burgers and sandwiches along with some delicious New Mexican fare. Your meat can be served bundled in a burrito, stuffed in a sopaipilla or atop fry bread as a Navajo taco. Definitely sample the pulled pork and also the chicharrones.
234 State Road 75,
Zuly’s Café is hiding in the small, Northern New Mexican town of Dixon (population 926), between Espanola and Taos. The food here is super fresh and equally good whether you order a New Mexican plate or select a burger or salad.
Abuelita’s, 6540 Highway 380, Carrizozo
If you’re passing through Carrizozo, you’ll relish a meal at Abuelita’s. The burgers are succulent and the salsa is perfection. This is a great spot to refuel in a town of only 996 people.