National Scenic Byway: New Mexico’s El Camino Real

13 STOPS | 347 MILES | 5 hr 56 min
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The Royal Road

One of the most delicious American Byways is El Camino Real (“The Royal Road”) through New Mexico. In addition to spectacular natural beauty, travelers will encounter all kinds of opportunities to savor one of the nation’s most distinctive regional cuisines, much of which is based around the state’s two official co-vegetables: the chile pepper and the pinto bean. This tour is filled with regional dishes, most notable of which is the Green Chile Cheeseburger, also known as a GCCB.

El Paso to Las Cruces

  • The Tex-Mex served at Little Diner is fantastic. Some of our favorite dishes include Gorditas, Flautas and Chile Relleno. The tortilla chips are great, they are made just before being delivered to your table. Chile, both red and green, is a must-try in our opinion.
  • Chiles are a reoccurring item on the menu at Chope’s and for good reason, they are grown locally and taste fantastic. Some of our favorite dishes are the “Chile Rellenos” as well as the “Chile Con Queso” which can be ordered with or without beans.
  • Known best for its “Tostadas Compuestas,” La Posta de Mesilla serves first-rate New Mexican style food. The “Tostadas Compuestas” was invented here in 1939 and consists of crisp-fried corn tortilla cups that are filled with red chili con carne, beans, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.
  • Operating as a breakfast-and-lunch eatery, Nellie’s packs lots of heat in their dishes. Breakfast includes “Huevos a la Mexicana” which are scrambled eggs with chile and meat. The “Huevos Rancheros” are also a great dish, what has us coming back is the “Green Chile.”

San Antonio

  • Although we arrived at the Owl Bar at 8:30 in the morning, there was only one thing we planned on ordering. That would be the “Green Chile Cheese Burger” or GCCB. This fantastic burger is crafted from a great patty topped with chopped chilies and cheese that holds each component together when melted.
  • Although lesser known, “The Buckhorn,” the name used for a GCCB at the Buckhorn Tavern, should by no means take a backseat to the GCCB served at the Owl Bar. The Buckhorn isn’t as hot as its rival at the Owl Bar and has a much thicker patty. We have a tough time deciding our favorite, try both and decide for yourself.

Albuquerque and Bernalillo

  • Duran Central Pharmacy is a full-service drug store in Albuquerque that also serves great food. Seating can either be at tables or the counter, which has a nice view of the kitchen. Tortillas here are excellent. They are primarily used to wrap hamburgers or as the base for quesadillas but we prefer to simply dip them into a bowl of red or green chile.
  • Everything about Golden Crown Panaderia is amazing. Bread is baked to resemble turkeys, 43 beers are offered on tap, 90% of their lettuce is grown in house, in a soilless system, coffee beans are roasted in house and, the best of all, their green chile bread. The green chile bread is a visual work of art that tastes even better than it looks, anyone going to Golden Crown must try a slice, or a loaf.
  • Famous for their sweet roll, a hot and gooey roll with a cinnamon sugar glaze on top, Frontier is a great stop for anyone in the area. For breakfast we love their “Huevos Rancheros” and breakfast burritos. For lunch and dinner their GCCB is an excellent choice.
  • When looking for down-home food in Bernalillo, locals go to The Range. Our favorite dish here is the “Huevos Con Queso” which is a New Mexican spin on eggs Benedict made from two poached eggs and Canadian bacon on top of a toasted English muffin. This is all covered in a creamy, spicy chile con queso.

Santa Fe and Espanola

  • Operating out of a cart, Roque’s Carnitas serves excellent New Mexican dishes. Co-owner Mona Cavalli explains to us the reason they serve beef rather than pork, and flour tortillas instead of corn, is because their food is “New Mexican, not Mexican.” The difference doesn’t bother us, the food is fantastic.
  • Far from you average Roadfood restaurant, Santacafé is both stylish and pricey. However, if there is one spot to splurge while in Santa Fe, it would definitely be Santacafé. An impressive variety of fusion dishes are offered, we loved the “Smoked Pheasant Spring Rolls” as well as the “Tempura Prawns.” It would be a surprise if we didn’t mention that they also serve a great GCCB.
  • Everything served at Pasqual’s is made in house, no cans and no frozen foods.  Three meals are served a day, our favorite is breakfast. The whole wheat pancakes are featherweight and only made better by the addition of maple syrup.
  • Seating is limited to a few stools inside or the seating in your car at Stop and Eat Drive In but don’t let this deter you from coming here. The GCCB is not as fancy as some of the others along this tour but is excellent in its own way. Also offered is a frito pie, don’t let its appearance deter you from ordering it, it tastes fantastic.
1

Little Diner

Little Diner of Canutillo, Texas, just outside El Paso, offers the best true Tex-Mex food: superb chili con carne, flautas, gorditas, and made-here tortillas.

2

Chope’s

In the heart of New Mexico chile growing country, Chope's is the locals' favorite place to go for chilies rellenos, enchiladas, tamales, and tacos.

3

La Posta de Mesilla

A landmark restaurant serving true New Mexico fare, La Posta is a magical dinner destination in the Mesilla Valley.

4

Nellie’s

A sign on the wall in Nellie's of Las Cruces says: "A day without chile is like a day without sunshine." No problem on this fine chile-centric New Mexico menu!

5

Owl Bar

Gnarled patties of beef are covered with chopped hot green chilies and melty cheese: the Owl Bar's green chile cheeseburger is one of New Mexico's best.

6

Buckhorn Tavern

Messy, memorable green chile cheeseburgers make the Buckhorn Tavern an essential Roadfood stop in San Antonio, New Mexico.

7

Duran Central Pharmacy

The lunch counter of a full-service Albuquerque drug store, Duran Central Pharmacy serves New Mexico fare at its best, including magnificent tortillas.

8

Golden Crown Panadería

Green chile bread is worth a detour to this squat bakery near Old Town Albuquerque. New Mexico’s state cookie, biscochitos, are great, as are pizzas.

9

Frontier

The Frontier is great New Mexico quick-eats: huevos rancheros, green chili stew, tacos, & burgers. Cinnamon rolls are legendary. Vegetarian options abound.

10

The Range

For downhome food in Bernalillo, New Mexico, the Range is best. Breakfast: huevos con queso; lunch: the Rio Grande Gorge chile-smothered burger on a tortilla.

11

Roque’s Carnitas

A Santa Fe, New Mexico, food truck, Roque's Carnitas wraps strips of char-cooked marinated beef with onions & chilies in broad wheat tortillas.

Must Eats
12

Santacafé

Brilliant southwestern flavors fuse with the cuisines of the world in the stylish Santacafe, one of the best Santa Fe restaurants.

13

Pasqual’s

Pasqual's is Santa Fe's favorite corner eatery, serving bright, modern versions of New Mexico classics. Corned beef hash is some of the best in the West.