Whenever I’m in Albuquerque it’s a given that I’ll eat at Papa Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant at least once (but really, as often as I can). This New Mexican restaurant is right around the corner from where I grew up, and where my parents currently live, but even if I lived on the other side of town—or, shoot, the other side of the country—I’d make the drive to eat there. It’s that good.
My history with Papa Felipe’s goes way, way, way back. It goes back before I was actually born. Way back, in 1983, my mom and dad invited my grandparents to meet them for dinner there, and during the meal my mom spilled the (refried) beans that she was pregnant with me. See? Papa Felipe’s is practically in my blood!
Besides having sentimental value (Papa Felipe’s is also the place where my parents met my husband for the very first time), their food is scrumptious…like, lick-your-plate-and-don’t-care-who-sees-you delicious. The menu is huge, and filled with unique dishes like Chilaquile Casserole, Green Chile Carne Adovada, Papa’s Puffy Taco, Steak and Enchiladas, Crab Cakes (my sister-in-law LOVES these), and so.much.more; anyone who eats there always leaves with a full and extremely happy tummy.
Their chile is some of my absolute favorite in town. It’s so flavorful with just a hint of heat that it’ll make you fall in love with New Mexican food. In fact, their red chile is so wonderful that you can eat it straight with a spoon. My mom often buys their chile (they sell it to go in pints) and cooks with it at home. Jealousy doesn’t even come close to describing how I feel about the fact that she gets to have Papa Felipe’s at home whenever she wants.
Papa Felipe’s New Mexican Restaurant: The Food
So what’s good at Papa Felipe’s? Everything. No, seriously. Everything is great. My personal favorite is their lunch special “A,” which is a rolled cheese enchilada (I get it smothered in red and green chile, AKA “Christmas”), a taco, and a side (I get the Mexican corn). That may not seem like that much food, but 9 times out of 10 (unless I’m pregnant and want to eat ALL the food), I have enough to take home for later. All the entrees (and lunch specials) also come with sopaipillas—per usual.
Let’s talk about their carne adovada. This stuff practically melts in your mouth; it’s so good that when you take that first bite you practically have to close your eyes just to savor the taste. It’s a burst of intense flavor, coupled with a wonderful heat that will make you wish your meal could continue on forever. Then, when you realize your plate is clean, you have a moment of sadness (followed by a genius idea to lick your plate clean). My husband gets their carne adovada either stuffed in a sopaipilla or wrapped up in a burrito.
My brother’s go-to meal is their nachos—a mountain of chips with their perfectly seasoned ground beef, ooey-gooey cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. Use their outstanding salsa on top, or ask for them to drizzle red chile over the whole thing. It’s dynamite.
Get the combo plate, like my mom usually does, if you want a little bit of everything, or try the beef burrito with chile on the side, like my dad gets, if you want something a little more simple, but that still has a ton of flavor.
Say you want something a little bit lighter. Get their taco salad, like my grandma always orders. They come in two sizes, but their small is definitely large enough for a meal. It’s a deep-fried, crunchy taco shell stuffed with lettuce, taco meat, whole beans, avocado, sour cream, and olives, and of course, ask for extra salsa and pour it on top.
Their sides, by the way, include Mexican corn (a slightly different version of calabacitas), whole or refried beans, or papas (potatoes) that’ve been cooked with bacon—BACON!
Their kids portions (like the one in the picture above) are also gigantic, so keep that in mind if you visit with little ones.
And despite what all of these dishes look like, you can definitely order your food without chile on it! Just ask. Every single New Mexican restaurant should accommodate you when it comes to chile. If I’m at a new restaurant I almost always ask to taste a little bit so I can decide if I want their chile all over my food or on the side—all chile is not created equal; each place puts their own flavor profile on it, so they all have a different heat level and taste. If a place doesn’t help you out with the chile…get the heck out and go somewhere else (like some place I recommend)!
Like most New Mexican restaurants, the messier your plate comes out—from the smothered chile—the better, so don’t worry if you can’t actually see your food. Also, all meals start off with chips and some darn delicious salsa (you can buy it to go in jars, and I highly recommend you do so), and all the meals end with their pillow-like sopaipillas. If you finish your meal and still have food left on your dish (like extra chile, bits of meat, or a few beans/rice/potato here and there), scoop up the leftovers into a sopaipilla. They’re perfect for stuffing, or drizzling with honey.
You guys, I truly can’t express to you enough how much I love this New Mexican restaurant. When friends visit Albuquerque, it’s always at the very top of my list as far as places they HAVE to eat at. As an added bonus, if you’re a fan of Breaking Bad, several BB landmarks are within throwing distance to Papa Felipe’s, so keep an eye out when you’re in the area!
Papa Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant
9800 Menaul Blvd. NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Open 7 days a week: 11 am—9pm
Have you eaten at Papa Felipe’s? Tell me about your favorite dish from there!
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