Since I drive for Lyft daily in Albuquerque, I pick up a lot of locals and folks from out of town and drive them to various popular haunts in town. Let me start with a simple summary of the areas of ABQ… (or jump directly to Places in ABQ or Eat & Drink in ABQ)
How Albuquerque is Laid Out
You are best advised to think of Albuquerque as being on a grid, since it generally is mapped out that way. When I first moved here, I was mildly bemused and slightly irritated to discover that residents love to give directions using north, south, east, & west instead of saying “Turn right (or left) at the next stop.” The truth is that the city is pretty much laid out in a north-south/east-west grid, so using map coordinates does make sense. Running north-south through Albuquerque is the Rio Grande, although during a good portion of the year it is not so grand, as it dries up significantly during the long summer months and through the generally dry fall season. Also, the two major NM freeways, I-25 & I-40, cross through the center of ABQ, north & south respectively. However, for purposes of determining the four sectors of ABQ, consider Central Avenue as the dividing street between the north and the south and Broadway as performing the same task for the east and west coordinates.
Along this line, most of the areas of ABQ are defined by one of the four sectors in the city: northeast, northwest, southeast, & southwest. The best and most visible landmark to use to determine direction are the Sandia Mountains, which lies to the east of Albuquerque and is rather difficult to overlook.
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Places in ABQ
The northeast area is the most recently developed and the least interesting sector in ABQ: about the only sites of interest are the Sandia Peak Tramway that will take you to Sandia Peak, where you can get a panoramic view of Albuquerque, and the Balloon Fiesta Park, best known for its annual hot air balloon fiesta that runs for several weeks each October. If you are a book fanatic like me, you will certainly want to visit Page 1 Books, the best and biggest used book store in ABQ. Finally, one of the newest developments in ABQ has brought the residents the delights (and traffic snarls!) of ABQ Uptown. Otherwise, what you will find in the northeast sector are lots of houses and apartments, as well as the typical mundane shopping options that are to be found in most every major US city.
The northwest area may be even less interesting than the northeast sector, unless driving through endless residential developments gives you a special thrill. Besides hosting the largest shopping mall in ABQ, there is little that this area offers both locals and out of town visitors.
The southeast section of ABQ offers plenty for visitors as well as local residents. In addition to finding the largest college university in the state (University of New Mexico), you can traverse the main drag of Central Avenue (which borders the south side of UNM) and quickly find yourself in the Nob Hill area, replete with unique shops and local eateries.
Eat & Drink in ABQ (all descriptions are swiped from Google verbatim)
La Crêpe Michel – Simply furnished bistro with a traditional French menu that includes sweet & savory crêpes. 400 San Felipe St NW C2, Albuquerque, NM 87104; (505) 242-1251
Church Street Cafe – Local haunt for tried-and-true Southwestern fare including chile rellenos & carne adovada. 2111 Church St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104; (505) 247-8522
High Noon Restaurant & Saloon – Veteran restaurant offering seasonal steak- & wild game-focused menus in a stylish dining room. 425 San Felipe St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104; (505) 765-1455
Seasons Rotisserie & Grill – Sophisticated American dining, a second-story cantina serving specialty drinks & seasonal live jazz. 2031 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104; (505) 766-5100
Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza – Lively, laid-back eatery doling out traditional pizzas, pastas & salads, plus beer & wine. 3403 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106; (505) 266-7855
Zacatecas Tacos + Tequila – Creative Mexican fare & margaritas served in a hip, bustling spot with open-air seating. 3423 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106; (505) 255-8226
Nob Hill Bar & Grill – Relaxed spot for drinks & a variety of upscale grill grub including burgers, steaks & salads. 3128 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106; (505) 266-4455
Two Fools Tavern – Low-key alehouse for Irish food & drink amid a traditional dark-wood setting with a stone fireplace. 3211 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106; (505) 265-7447
O’Niell’s – Irish stalwart featuring a long bar-food menu, quiz nights, low-key live music & an outdoor patio. 4310 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108; 505-255-6782
Matanza Beer Kitchen – Matanza Beer Kitchen is the only New Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill with 100 local beers on tap. 3225 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106; (505) 312-7305
French-ish – Upscale choice for French plates like pâté, foie gras & bouillabaisse, plus a wine bar. 3509 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106; (505) 433-5911
Tucanos – Brazilian steakhouse chain serving all-you-can-eat churrasco & specialty skewers in a vibrant space. 110 Central Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102; (505) 246-9900
Elephant Bar Restaurant – Informal chain with a menu built on Pan-Asian, wok-fired plates & global fare. 2240 Louisiana Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110; (505) 884-2355
Buca di Beppo – Chain serving family-style Italian fare in a kitschy setting featuring red-&-white tablecloths. 6520 Americas Pkwy, Albuquerque, NM 87110; (505) 872-2822
California Pizza Kitchen at Albuquerque Uptown – Chain eatery serving up inventive pizzas plus pastas & salads in a modern setting. 2241 Q St NE #7G, Albuquerque, NM 87110; (505) 883-3005
The Cheesecake Factory – American chain restaurant offering sizable portions from a vast menu including signature cheesecake. 6600 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110; (505) 883-2539
The Rest of ABQ:
El Pinto – Green chile, sopapillas, carne adovada & more in an old hacienda surrounded by lush gardens. 10500 4th St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114; (505) 898-1771
Taqueria Mexico – Popular spot for tacos, burritos & other Mexican eats, with a to-go window & breakfast options. 415 Lomas Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102; (505) 242-3445
Cocina Azul – Light, bright corner cafe serving New Mexican cuisine & Southwest-accented burgers, plus breakfast. 1134 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102; (505) 831-2500