New Mexico's Culinary Treasures
In the restaurant world, “new” and “hot” always grabs attention, but it’s the older places that create the character of an area, and that provide the foundation on which more recent dining establishments can thrive. Here, we celebrate restaurants that have stood the test of time, independent spots that have become beloved in their neighborhoods and beyond. Many of these are operated by the founding family, or by someone handpicked by the founders to carry on their legacy. In all cases they are still family-owned and operated. In recent months the Tourism Department has traveled around the state visiting many of these “Treasures,” helping draw attention to their unique place in New Mexico’s culinary heritage and bolstering local pride in these landmarks. With the advice of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, we picked 40 years of age as the milestone New Mexico’s Culinary Treasures must have reached. We put out the word statewide and received nominations from loyal patrons, staff members, cooks, chefs, and owners. Then we convened a team of culinary experts to confirm their qualifications and comb around for more. Whether you’re ravenous for huevos rancheros, hungry for hash browns, or craving a plate of stacked red enchiladas, you can find it all among the “Treasures." Among these Treasures, you’ll find cafes, diners, drive-ins, country general stores that serve meals, and classics from the golden age of Route 66. The list also boasts one of the state’s most elegant dining venues, The Compound in Santa Fe, overseen by James Beard award-winning chef-owner Mark Kiffin. If a vintage favorite of yours isn’t on the list, it may be that it’s not quite old enough, like a couple of venerable establishments in Albuquerque, Barelas Coffee Shop and the Frontier Restaurant. Some well-known spots found in ancient buildings haven’t been operated long enough as dining venues. Personal or family hospitality is among the pluses of Culinary Treasures, so we stipulated that the restaurant could have no more than one “sibling,” which left out a few other favorites that are now small chains.