El Pinto, Albuquerque's best restaurant for New Mexican cuisine, is a must try on any trip to the area. Home to one of the nicest outdoor patios in the region, a meal at El Pinto feels like so much more than your ordinary restaurant experience.
El Pinto is popular with both locals and tourists due to the beautiful architecture, relaxing outdoor patio, and tasty New Mexican themed entrees. Despite the popularity, the vibe is totally relaxed and natural.
El Pinto was by far the best dining experience during our Albuquerque vacation.
Know before you go that El Pinto serves New Mexican cuisine, not Mexican. Many go in expecting traditional Mexican and leave disappointed. New Mexican cuisine is a distinctive type of food served only in New Mexico. The cuisine features a fusion of Spanish and Native American influences.
Some key differences between New Mexican and Mexican food is the more liberal use of cheese in NM cuisine, the heavy use of red and green chili (or Christmas if you would like both), and the use of whole pinto beans as opposed to refried beans. Burritos tend to be smothered in cheese and chili sauces, while Mexican cuisine does not typically use any cheese and relies more heavily on salsa. While one is not necessarily better than the other, there is definitely a difference in the taste.
All food at El Pinto is made fresh each morning: no processed or freezer foods here! Seasonal local vegetables are used when available. Delicious local honey is served, except for in the patio area due to the heavy bee presence.
Other healthy efforts by El Pinto include the use of Celtic sea salt and sunflower oil.
The restaurant is famous for their award-winning salsa, which you can order directly from their website in a variety of flavors. A basket of complimentary chips and salsa (to your desired spiciness level) is served before your meal. Even the mild salsa had a real kick to it and was spicy enough to clear out my sinuses!
El Pinto serves brunch, lunch, and dinner. Lunch is the perfect time to visit as pricing is more affordable and the crowds typically a bit more toned down. Delicious entrée selections include a Vegetarian Burrito, Stuffed Sopapillas, and Taco salad.
Sunday brunch is also a nice time to visit as you can relax in the outdoor courtyard with a great meal and cup of coffee without feeling rushed whatsoever. The laid-back patio vibe is just perfect for a peaceful weekend meal. If you visit during brunch hours, definitely try the Blue Corn pancakes, topped with fresh blueberries and served with local maple syrup.
Many of the entree selections involve the use of blue corn. A few choices include Blue Corn Pancakes, Blue Corn Cheese omelet, and Cast Iron Blue Corn Trout. Glancing around at other table, the Blue Corn pancakes looked outstanding - I will definitely be ordering them if I find myself visiting again. Why not try something new which you cannot order at a diner back home?!
The breakfast burrito (stuffed with free range Taos eggs, hash browns, cheese, and topped with red or green chili) was excellent. It definitely made for a filling and delicious weekend treat! Pricing is very affordable based on the very large portion sizes.
A separate gluten-free and vegetarian menu can be requested. Many dishes can be made gluten-free by substituting the flour tortillas with corn tortillas. In addition, those with severe sensitivities can opt for steamed tortillas in order to reduce the risk of fryer cross contamination. Additionally, the red chili can be made gluten-free and the green chili is naturally gluten-free. You will find over a dozen entrees to choose amongst.
Vegetarian options are also plentiful and include selections such as veggie burritos, enchiladas, and quesadillas. The Vegetarian Combo Plate looks to be a nice choice for anyone willing to try something a bit different. The Veggie Burrito (stuffed with pinto beans, rice, and cheese and smothered with chili sauce) is a nice healthier option for just about anyone, vegetarian or not.
The best part of the meal is the complimentary sopapillas served with honey. This tasty New Mexican style dessert is absolutely delicious, so much in fact that you may just order another round!
Service was fantastic. Our waiter had no problem letting us order from the lunch menu even though our visit fell during Sunday Brunch. Drinks were always refilled and plates cleared in a timely manner. The setting was relaxed, yet still professional.
El Pinto truly is a beautiful restaurant. Both the indoor and outdoor dining areas are spacious and beautiful. Each is broken into numerous private sections in order to create a more relaxing, less noisy, and more personal experience.
Inside you will find a fresh, open air style dining area with lots of plants and water fountains. Really it is an attractive space.
The patio is even more beautiful and just perfect on a nice breezy day. With all the lush landscaping, fountains, and gazebos, dining at El Pinto really is the perfect relaxing experience to start your weekend off on a laid-back, positive note.
Around the holidays, El Pinto is decorated beautifully, so if you happen to be visiting in December, be sure to stop by to enjoy both a great meal and the lovely holiday ambiance.
El Pinto is one of the best restaurants in the Albuquerque area. The beautiful setting, unique menu, and terrific service make it the #1 restaurant to consider during your Albuquerque vacation.