Albuquerque, NM 87114
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Maureen R.Price Point$$$Helped?0Jun. 26th 2016
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 you will ever find, 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 meal we had during our Albuquerque visit.
Know before you go that El Pinto serves New Mexican cuisine, not Mexican. Many go in expecting traditional Mexican and leave dissapointed. New Mexican cuisine is a distinctive type of food served only in New Mexico which includes a fusion of Spanish and Native American influences. Some key differences between New Mexican and Mexican cuisine 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 used, except for the outdoor patio due to the bees. 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. A lunch buffet is available Monday-Friday, from 11:00-2:30 for just $14 per adult. This is a great time to visit as you can test out a variety of New Mexican dishes for one low price. 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 ambiance on the patio is just perfect for a peaceful weekend meal. 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 visiiting again. Why not try something new which you cannot order at 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 standard option for just about anyone, vegetarian or not. The best part of the meal is the complimentary sopaipillas served with honey. This tasty New Mexican style desert is absolutely delicious, so much in fact that you will be craving more!
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, creating an attractive tranquil atmosphere. The patio is even more beautiful and just perfect on a nice breezy day. With all the lush landscaping, fountains, and gazebos, it really is the perfect relaxing restaurant 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 for a great meal along with a 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.