Albuquerque’s Range Café stands out among many mediocre choices in Albuquerque for exciting destinations for food and drink. I visited the location at Wyoming and Montgomery, which sits on an unimpressive shopping center pad in an otherwise unnoticeable section of town, only to learn they have opened four newer locations in town, and still have the original restaurant in nearby Bernalillo that opened in 1992. Even though you wouldn’t know it is there, folks who do know beat a path to this wonderful place. What makes it so good? I took a look to find out.
As you enter, there is invariably a line waiting. You sit in front of the bakery cases while your mouth waters thinking about getting some after your meal. There is also counter seating, which was full when I visited. When we were called back to our table, around the corner, you could see the space is actually quite small and includes an actual bar that is not in any way separate from the eating area. If you want a late night dessert or just a coffee, don’t wait for a table. Head right for the bar. It was nearly empty even though the wait out front took a little while.
Let’s start at the beginning… the coffee here was superb! I don’t think I have had better anywhere. What’s the secret? Well, an article on the top of the dessert display told the story, although it wasn’t positioned to be able to be easily seen, covered by a menu holder. I made a certain effort to read it. Turns out the coffee here is a story in itself. It comes from a Colombian coffee farm, Villa Myriam, that started in the 1960s. The sons of the owners of the farm relocated to Albuquerque and now the beans that are hand-picked in Colombia are roasted in Albuquerque and distributed locally. This Colombian coffee is what has made Colombia famous for coffee, and is now available at Range Café.
Sitting in front of the dessert display I couldn’t help but notice the fresh baked black-and-white cookies being offered. These are rarely found outside New York City where they are iconic. Reports are these cookies at the Range Café are as good as in New York!
The menu is classic American diner with a heavy influence of New Mexico. That means there is an abundant amount of spicy green and red chilies used in the cooking, as well as other Southwestern favorites. They aren’t keeping secrets … they sell a cookbook of their dishes so you can try your favorite recipes at home.
When inside the restaurant, notice the art pieces around the walls. Many of the pieces are for sale. They are all interesting, and you might want to acquire one as a souvenir of your time here. Even the minutest details are important here. The furniture is designed especially for the restaurant by a famous furniture maker.
The Range Café is a favorite of Bill Clinton. He visited the original location both during his presidency and during his wife’s campaign. Barack Obama visited during his campaign. It’s the type of down-home restaurant with which politicians like to associate.
In addition to politicians, many celebrities have eaten here. The tradition is for them to sign a plate. Legend has it that Cameron Diaz refused, and the staff didn’t ask Serena Williams in time before she left. The menu lists a lot of other lore surrounding the Range Café.
For a fun time with good food, check out the Range Café next time you’re in Albuquerque. If they recognize you, by all means, sign a plate!