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Find & dine

Owner Matt DiGregory will be offering fresh and healthy options at the Range Cafe. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Owner Matt DiGregory will be offering fresh and healthy options at the Range Cafe. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — All across the metro area, restaurants are gearing up to make visitors to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta feel welcome, on and off the field.

“We want to give them a real New Mexico welcome. We want to create memories for them,” says Jim Garcia of Sadie’s of New Mexico. He plans to have chile roasting by the front door at the Fourth Street restaurant. “Of course, it’s cheating if you roast chile, but it’s a time for us to show off and do our best. We get to make new friends.”

Garcia, who is on the Balloon Fiesta board of directors, says more than 800,000 people visited the fiesta last year and many of those came to eat at Sadie’s.

“You can tell the people who have never been here before,” he says. “They’re completely awed. They have that look on their face. We want to continue that experience. We are prepared to make their experience memorable.”

He says New Mexico earned bragging rights in a recent USA Today poll for having the most “iconic” food in the country.

Along with specials on New Mexico favorites and award-winning margaritas, Sadie’s on Fourth will display a memorabilia collection of the late Sid Cutter, a ballooning hero, Garcia says.

Sadie’s of New Mexico, with four locations and two near the field, at 6230 Fourth NW and 5400 Academy NE, serves up authentic New Mexico flavors year round. The restaurant is on many local favorite lists, including topping a recent Albuquerque Journal Readers’ Choice award for its food – guacamole, enchiladas, sopaipillas and more – along with its margaritas.

Regular hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, closing at 10 p.m. Sundays. Visit sadiesofnewmexico.com.

It’s quintessential

Doug Evilsizor, marketing director at El Pinto Restaurant and Cantina on far north Fourth Street, was in a chile field in Hatch when he was reached for an interview, to load up with the best of New Mexico’s trademark fiery flavor.

“People are coming in from all over the world and we want to make sure they find what they’re looking for,” he says. “El Pinto is quintessential New Mexico. We’re 1½ miles from the Balloon Fiesta field and we have everything you hoped to find with the beauty of this place. You never know who you’ll meet, if you come and have a margarita on the patio.”

El Pinto, 10500 Fourth NW, has a full menu that features premium tequilas, fresh guacamole, with plenty of authentic entrees to savor, from red chile baby back ribs, about $20 for a half rack, to a combination plate of tamales, tacos and enchiladas. El Pinto opens at 11 a.m., except Sundays at 10:30 a.m. for brunch. On Sundays, an outdoor yoga class precedes brunch at 9 a.m. Visit elpinto.com.

If you want breakfast, because your body clock says so, even if you devoured a breakfast burrito on the field at daybreak, try Weck’s. This local favorite opens at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast and lunch. With plenty of green chile and multiple locations, including 2039 Fourth NW and 6650 Holly NE, east of the field on Paseo del Norte, one is sure to be nearby. Visit wecksinc.com.

The Flying Star, also conveniently located around the metro area, flyingstarcafe.com, with locally or regionally sourced and organic ingredients available, is open at 6:30 a.m. and has pet-friendly patios at most locations, including the northeast corner of Wyoming and Paseo de Norte NE, and Corrales, just north of Alameda on Corrales Road.

Homestyle on the range

The Range Cafe, open at 7 a.m., with its original location in Bernalillo and in Albuquerque on Wyoming, south of Montgomery NE, and on Menaul, east of University NE, has multiple choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner with fresh and healthy options, many flavored with authentic New Mexico chile. Visit rangecafe.com.

On Fourth Street, Mr. Powdrell’s BBQ House, powdrellsbbq.webs.com, is also a local favorite. Fourth-generation owner Joe Powdrell says he honors his great-grandfather’s traditional recipes. “He believed you got the best flavor when everything was fresh. Fresh tomatoes, lemons and in the beginning, fresh sugar cane. Now we use brown sugar. He thought the barbecue sauce should be good enough to eat by itself.”

He says the beef brisket and ribs are the most popular main dishes, with greens, fried okra and special corn bread, among the favorite side dishes. A dinner portion is about $12.

He says Balloon Fiesta visitors often find the restaurants on 5209 Fourth NW and 11301 Central NE after the first few days of their trip. “We feel like they are coming to our home. We feel good about them choosing us and we want to be of genuine service.” The restaurants open at 10:30 a.m. and are closed Sundays.

Rudy’s, a restaurant with two locations in Albuquerque, 2321 Carlisle NE and 10136 Coors NW, rudysbbq.com, and the County Line, 9600 Tramway NE, countyline.com, are both local barbecue favorites with beginnings in Texas and are open for lunch and dinner.

A taste of Italy

Owner Steve Paternoster at Scalo’s Northern Italian Grill, 3500 Central SE in Nob Hill, is looking forward to celebrating 28 years of welcoming ballooning visitors.

His menu features fresh fish, seafood, house-made pasta, along with steak. He plans to have happy hours with a $5 appetizer menu, Sunday brunch with a Bloody Mary bar, beginning at 11 a.m., and many more specials, he says. “I’m the head Italian, just tell them to ask for me.”

He also has Elaine’s across the street with fresh modern American cuisine. Visit scalonobhill.com or elainesnobhill.com.

Other local favorites with gourmet appeal include the Artichoke Cafe, 424 Central SE, artichokecafe.com, and Trombino’s Bistro Italiano, 5415 Academy NE, bistroitaliano.com.

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