Dining On The Cheap in Albuquerque
There is a sweet spot for dining in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Indeed, $10 or so per person or less, (not including alcoholic beverages) will find you consistently excellent New Mexican food in Albuquerque if you know where to go. One of the strengths of Albuquerque, New Mexico is its abundance of high-quality inexpensive eateries. Good New Mexican food has never been about expensive cuts of meat or imported ingredients. Good seasonings, slow cooking, and local ingredients make New Mexican cuisine one of the great bargains of the American dining experience. The best restaurants in Albuquerque may not have the most modern decor or slick marketing, but they can make a great meal that’s easy on your budget.
Keep in mind that Albuquerque is a big city with small-town hours. Most restaurants in Albuquerque are closed by 9 PM so you would do well to plan dinner no later than 7 PM generally (The Frontier Restaurant is open until 1 AM however). Once you’ve had a great meal, go sightseeing! Check out my Things to Do in Old Town Albuquerque for some suggestions. Enjoy!
Great Cheap Eats in Albuquerque Under $10 Per Person
With that in mind, I want to highlight what I consider the best value-priced eateries for your budget in my Best Albuquerque Restaurants Guide. These are the places where the locals eat, offering cheap, high quality, unpretentious food. I’ve listed a few of my personal favorites below:
Pollito Con Papas
This is the most sublime rotisserie chicken in Albuquerque, bringing its Peruvian roots to 3200 Central Ave. in Nob Hill! If you’re used to the typical rotisserie chicken offered by your supermarket stop that now and discover how good it can be by coming to Pollito Con Papas. $10 per person will fill you up with some of the best chicken ever. The Peruvian side dishes are a treat as well. Read my review here. Highly recommended!
My Favorite Cheap Tacos
The simple truth is that its pretty easy to find a good taco anywhere in Albuquerque. If you see the locals eating there you generally can’t go wrong. Therefore, choosing one place for this list is rather unfair, but I must!
My pick for cheap, filling tacos on-the-go in downtown Albuquerque is Taqueria Mexico at 415 Lomas Blvd NE. The portions are very generous, tasty and cheap. For under $5.00 you can have one of the best breakfast steak burritos in Albuquerque. The dining area is sparse and fills up quickly at lunch-time. The decor is low-rent. But you’ll forget about all that on your first bite.
The Frontier Restaurant
One of the most popular breakfast/lunch stops in Albuquerque for balloon chasers is the Frontier Restaurant at 2400 Central Ave. SE. It gets crowded during Balloon Fiesta week but the line moves quickly and there is plenty of seating. This is New Mexico diner food at its best. It has to fit the budgets of cash-strapped university students (the University of New Mexico is right across the street) so you will find lots of filling, low-priced selections for your travel dollar.
If you want to time-travel back to the glory days of Route 66, the 66 Diner at 1405 Central Ave NE should be at the top of your dining list. Blue plate specials, swinging tunes on the jukebox, and the best milk-shakes on the “Mother Road’ make this an ‘upscale’ diner experience. The premium diner-style meals will certainly push you over $10 per person. However, if you are a Route 66 buff you won’t mind. Bring a camera for selfies. The retro ambiance of this stylish diner makes it worth every penny. Great for the whole family or a date night.
Weck’s Breakfast & Lunch
If you want an alternative that offers a hearty breakfast (and I do mean hearty), check out Wecks (various locations in Albuquerque). This is the king of big portions on a budget. Breakfast may hover around $10-13 per person. However, this is THE place to eat a super-sized breakfast and skip lunch. This will hold you until dinner. No one will leave here hungry!
El Modelo Mexican Food
El Modelo at 1715 2nd St SW had been around since 1929 for a very good reason. This is top-notch home-made style Mexican food (not New Mexican) with big portions and rock-bottom prices. This is where you find local office clerks, construction workers, and bus drivers, patiently waiting in line come lunchtime. They don’t want fussy or overpriced. They just want great food that’s familiar, filling, tasty and cheap! El Modelo delivers! Your dollar goes far here! Read my full review here…
If you want to eat on the run or just want a quick but filling breakfast, do not pass by Blakes Lotaburger. They are a New Mexico fast food chain with locations all over Albuquerque. They make a tasty and filling breakfast burrito and a savory green chile cheeseburger (rated tops by National Geographic). In fact, the locals consider this the fast-food burger joint of choice. Skip McDonald’s when you’re in Albuquerque, this is the better New Mexican alternative.
The Dog House
Here’s another personal favorite for dining on a budget: If you want a tasty New Mexican version of chile-cheeseburgers or flavor packed foot long hot dogs, then The Dog House Drive In is your place. Located downtown on a quiet stretch of the old Route 66 (1216 Central Ave NW), this is where the locals go when they want premium quality cheese dogs and burgers at McDonald’s prices with a touch of old Route 66 added to the mix.
If you want a diversion from New Mexican cuisine on a fast food budget, I highly recommend Taco Cabana. This is Mexican (not New Mexican) fast food that is a cut above fast food but at fast food prices. Plus, they offer a cheerful, family-friendly dining experience. Learn more about Taco Cabana here.
Teriyaki Chicken Bowl
The Teriyaki Chicken Bowl offers some of the cheapest and healthiest fast food in Albuquerque. Their menu is simple. Grilled chicken cutlets, steamed vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, and carrots) and rice with a light teriyaki sauce. Or you can have french fries or fried rice if you prefer. Healthy, basic and filling. The basic Teriyaki Chicken Bowl is just over $6.00 and is generously portioned. The grilled chicken is flavorful and tender. Order some red chile on the side to ‘kick it up a notch.’ This is cheap, tasty, healthy fast food that will do your body much better than McDonald’s. There is one in Old Town at 2129 Central Ave. (in the Walgreens mini-mall), and another at 4700 Menaul. You can’t go wrong here!
Amore Neopolitan Pizza
Let me start out by saying that this is some of the best pizza in Albuquerque. However, it tastes even better when you stop by during the Amore Happy Hour for the $5 Plates! This is the good stuff. Wood-fired ovens from Naples, Italy, and fresh mozzarella made in-house every day… Am I making you hungry? This is the perfect way to nosh your afternoon away with an authentic Margherita pizza and a cold brew! Check out my full review and the Amore locations here (Amore has a beautiful new pizzeria in Old Town Albuquerque on Central Ave.)
Paletería Michoacana de Paquime
Want to satisfy a sweet tooth? Don’t overlook one of the best ice-cream treats in all of Albuquerque. Paletería Michoacana de Paquime sells Mexican style popsicles and other ice-cream snacks worth the trip from anywhere in the city. These popsicles are not your typical sugar water and food coloring supermarket standards. Think chunks of tropical fruit in a rich, creamy mouth-watering melange of refreshing and creative flavor combinations. If you never had a paleta, now is your chance… More on the Paletería Michoacana de Paquime here...