Albuquerque (Part 3 of 3): Eats and Retreats

For the final blog in this travel series on Albuquerque, I’ll look at some restaurants that I recently sampled, along with two hotels I experienced. A third motel I stayed in, about 45 minutes outside of ABQ, I will not mention here, even though they left me a wonderful surprise in my bed… a bedbug! Needless to say I darted out of there as quickly as I could. I did post a (negative) review of the hotel on Trip Advisor.

RESTAURANTS

ABQ is a great city, blessed with a wide variety of ethnic foods and a nice share of quality restaurants.

El Pinto. El Pinto is a 1,000 seat restaurant that roasts its own chile peppers and makes its own popular brand of salsa. The menu is quite broad and the food good. El Pinto serves upscale Margaritas using artisanal tequilas. These drinks are outstanding. If you think all magaritas are the same, tell me that after you sample their wares. Try to arrive at a time when you can tour their salsa factory, which is behind the restaurant. www.elpinto.com

Scalo Northern Italian Grill. Located in the downtown area in Nob Hill section of the city this comfortable eatery won the coveted Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Moderately priced, nice ambience and delicious food. www.scalonobhill.com

Tucanos Brazilian Grill: Skip this one, unless you like a boisterous, loud and frenetic eat-fest. Their salad bar is excellent, with fresh fruits and veggies. It would be more than enough for an entire meal. Servers circulate with skewers of meats and slice it onto your plate. The shrimp and scallop dishes disappointed, but the meat dishes brought raves from my companions. www.tucanos.com

Torinos @ Home. Wow! is all I can say. This restaurant would be a success in New York City or Florence. The owners are an Italian woman and French chef husband. Daniela, the co-owner, is the most passionate hostess one can imagine. Torinos uses only fresh ingredients, locally grown. http://torinosfoods.com

St. Clair Winery & Bistro: a classy, upscale dining experience that celebrates New Mexico’s emerging and fine wines. The winery runs three bistros in New Mexico. Very nice ambience. http://www.stclairwinery.com/bistros/albuquerque/

St. James Tea Room: Incredible dining and creative imagination combine in an intimate series of dining spaces, each discreetly separated from its neighbor. You can delight in a 3-course Afternoon Tea experience seated outside in a private garden or inside in Victorian-decorated rooms. Dinners are by reservation only. The desserts are exquisite, but served in small portions so that you may indulge in as many or few as you wish. The selection of tea is not only broad, but deep in quality and individually pot-brewed. www.stjamestearoom.com.

LODGING

Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town: Located just a few blocks from the Old Town Plaza tourist district, this is a comfortable, mainstream hotel with a full complement of amenities. The lobby and rooms are nicely decorated with a Hispanic influence. Breakfasts are excellent. Staff is very helpful. http://www.hotelabq.com/

Nativo Hotel: decorated in a Native American theme, the hotel is full service, with a bar, dining area that serves all meals, large lounge, magazine rack. Rooms are tastefully decorated and spacious. I had two stays at the hotel and in each of my rooms dream catchers hung on the wall over my bed, which I’m attributing to my getting a great night’s sleep (okay, maybe my hiking and photographing all day helped a tad). One warning: if you book on a Saturday night you’d better be a stone-dead sleeper or plan to stay awake until 1:30 AM. That’s when the ultra loud, bass-thumping music from their weekly nightclub ends. It’s a great time for the young adult set, but convinces me that every young adult should be socking away money right now into investments in hearing aid companies. http://www.hhandr.com/nativo.php

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