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December 4, 2023

MN in NM: Downtown & Old Town

Thursday, Oct. 12

My husband and I put the finishing touches on our loft in preparation for the Epic Girl’s Balloon Fiesta Retreat. It’s been a long-time dream for our little place to host guests for this event, and the day had finally come.

Our "Urban Cabin"

Four beautiful, smiley Minnesota gals landed at our quaint Albuquerque “Sunport” and piled their luggage in our truck. Upon arrival at our headquarters for the trip, I was so encouraged by their reactions and enthusiasm for our downtown neighborhood and digs.

Hungry and ready to kick things off with some local fare, we walked to the 505 Central Food Hall, a great place to enjoy a variety of food and drinks. Like an indoor food-truck smorgasbord, there’s everything from coffee & pastries, tacos, smash burgers, subs, pizza, ramen, chicken fingers, to a huge selection of local brews. Oh, and may I mention the BEST green chile cheese fries I’ve ever had!

Smash Burger from 505 Central Food Hall

After a good dose of comfort food and great beers, we enjoyed a nice walk on historic Route 66 along the downtown corridor. We popped into Sumner and Dean, which much to my sadness will be closing due to the retirement of its owner. This gallery features one of my all-time favorite local artists, Angus MacPherson, known for his unique renditions of our southwest landscapes. It’s a bucket list item to own one of his large paintings someday, but for now I got to bring home a couple of his books: “Landscapes” and “The Pecos-Center of the Universe”.

Next up, we drove over to Albuquerque’s iconic “Old Town” where Lomas, Central, and Rio Grande Boulevard come together in historic bliss. A hot spot for tourists, fun shops surround the charming square with its green grass and large gazebo. A mariachi band was setting up, and the lovely sound of Spanish music filled the air. The famous San Felipe de Neri church, built in 1793, stands along the north side of the square as reminder of the rich Spanish history found throughout our state. Native Navajo artists sit along the sidewalks, selling their silver and turquoise jewelry. As you duck into age-old courtyards with brick walkways, an old wishing well surrounded by southwest plants and flowers presents a magical sense of the past sharing in the present beauty of it all.

Albuquerque's Iconic Old Town

In addition to every imaginable souvenir, we enjoyed perusing the handmade soaps and lotions, art, unique greeting cards, and the great wine tasting room, Noisy Water Winery! My personal favorite was their specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars that could be sampled from large vats. Watch out for the habanero infused olive oil! It starts off with wonderful flavor yet packs a punch as it goes down. I snagged some blood orange olive oil, coupled with pomegranate balsamic vinegar, which we enjoyed with fresh bread as a late-night snack.

San Felipe de Neri Church

Knowing we had a VERY early morning coming the next day, we made a quick stop by a local gem featured on Diners Dives and Drive Thru’s, Golden Crown Panaderia on Mountain Ave. They were already sold out on their scrumptious fruit empanadas, but we happily made it out of there with a variety of New Mexico’s signature cookies called biscochitos. These crumbly, cinnamon and sugar-coated cookies have a hint of anise seed and come in wide variety at the Golden Crown (including Gluten Free). In addition to sampling the traditional flavor, we tried the chocolate, blue corn, and cappuccino varieties. The consensus was that the blue corn is king!

Arriving back to our “camping” spot, a huge pot of homemade green chile stew was simmering, and we busted out Albuquerque Tortilla Company tortillas and all the fixin’s. Few things are more beloved to New Mexicans as this simple stew made with chunks of meat (I like it with pork), roasted green chile, potatoes, a few seasonings, tomatoes, and broth. Top it with anything from sour cream and cheese, to onions and cilantro, and you have soothing meal that feeds your soul.

As the fall weather was setting in with a nice little chill to the air, we bedded down early in preparation for the 4 am departure to the Balloon Fiesta! It was a lovely day filled with fun and anticipation.