We’re just back from the GRL (GayRomLit) con in Albuquerque – part of my “other” life as a queer writer.
We explored downtown and Old Town, and thought we’d share some of our favorite things about each. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in the heart of the “new” downtown. Albuquerque is clean and quiet – at least in October. We were both surprised by the paucity of public art – there are very few murals or public statues and sculptures here.
But the city is pretty, and the mountains that surround it reminded me of my home town, Tucson, just a few hundred miles away to the southwest.
The restaurant scene is also a lot smaller than what we’re used to in our current home town, but we did find an awesome place to eat in the heart of Downtown – Brixens:
This is a cool, reasonably priced modern restaurant that combines a comfortable atmosphere with a mix of New Mexican and American cuisine, and some innovative touches as well. The menus are all touch screen tablets, which allows them to change the mix regularly. Each item has its own page, with an appetizing picture, price, details about the ingredients, and all kinds of options for picky diners. The swipe and click interface is easy to use, and I loved all the info at our fingertips.
Each table also includes an ice bin in the middle, covered by a board with a hole in it, to keep your beers cold.
We ate here three times over the five days we were in town – the burger was great, as was the flatbread – but the stand-out here was the desserts, especially the fry bread – it’s big enough to easily serve four, and I’m convinced that the one I had was responsible for half my six pound weight gain on this trip:
Another restaurant just down the street intrigued us:
We were in town for a book convention, after all – but it was a bit too much of a dark, hooters style bar for our tastes.
We spent most of our one non-conference day over in Old Town, the (touristy) heart of the city. I liked Old Town. Yes, there were about ten thousand shops selling the same things, most of it made overseas. But it has a certain charm, and we managed to find a few gems there.
Old Town surrounds a central square, and funny story – when we were there, a wedding was taking place in the gazebo in the heart of the square. We checked it out from afar, and saw that the bride and groom were in t-shirts – “Second Amendment Rights” t-shirts, to be exact. So yeah, there’s that. As I remarked to the hubby – “hey, at least they found each other. Once the wedding party was gone, Mark strode around the gazebo’s interior a few times to dispel the gun karma with a little fairy dust of his own:
St. Felipe de Neri
On the north side of the square, a beautiful peach-colored church dominates the block. This is St. Felipe de Neri, named for an Italian saint Philipe di Neri. The church was built in another location, burned down, and when it was reconstructed in its current location, it was funded by Spain and King Felipe, named for the original saint. It’s a beautiful little church that has gone through three or four reconstructions, from Jesuit to Franciscan, once hosted a convent, and and which is still an active community church:
There’s also a lovely side courtyard/garden to wander through:
And the inside is simple but beautiful:
Bonus, there’s a cute little gift shop attached to the church. We found a beautiful hand-made angel ornament there for a friend, and I bought a miniature replica of the church to take home as a memento of our time in queer Albuquerque.
This is a cute store and candy shop on the eastern side of Old Town, perfect for a quick chocolate pick-me-up. But it also had some really cool merchandise, including balloon ornaments designed by the owner and made in Mexico. You can see some of them hanging from the ceiling in the second picture:
Genuine Southwest Arts and Gifts
This was our favorite shop in Old Town. The whole place is chock-full of art made by local artists, and while you could spend a whole lotta money here, you can also get some great things at reasonable prices (including the beautiful turquoise-colored earrings I found for my Mom – don’t tell her)! The shop is tucked away on the Eastern edge of Old Town, but it’s well worth the search. here are a few of the pics we took there of their beautiful gifts and art (including a few rainbow finds):
Church Street Cafe
When you wind down and want a nice place to eat, check out the Church Street Cafe. It’s about a block north of the square. The food was good, if not the best Mexican I’ve ever had, and the back courtyard was beautiful.
The sopapillas after dinner were hot and delicious, especially with a little honey (though we wished they had honey bottles instead of packets).
I won’t mention the name of another restaurant – this one on the square – that was out of almost everything, and that served us a “salad” of green lettuce with no dressing that was basically cooked by a helping of poor quality dark meat chicken put on top too hot, and smothered with cheddar cheese.
All in all, we had a great time in Albuquerque, and hope you enjoy it too!
Here are a few ore pics of Old Town from our trip: