Jazz parties at the inn have become legendary around town. The Perons also hold a jazz hour at the nearby Avalon Restaurant every Friday, and are putting the final touches on the inn's first compilation CD. If you want to know what's happening musically around the state, just check out the inn's Web site.
It's no surprise that the Jazz Inn has attracted not only devotees but musicians themselves. Herb Ellis slept here (one of the inn's five "suites and variations" is named in his honor); so have Mose Allison, James Newton, David Murray, Richie Cole, Roy Hargrove, and a host of others. "Breakfast at two a.m.—that's our specialty," Sophia says with a laugh. But she does have her limits when it comes to making her musical clientele feel at home. "They have to go outside to smoke," she says.
Jazz Inn Bed & Breakfast 111 Walter St. N.E.; 888/529-9466 or 505/242-1530 phone and fax; www.jazzinn.com; doubles from $79.
where to eat
Range Café 925 Camino del Pueblo St., Bernalillo; 505/867-1700; dinner for two $30. Outranking Santa Fe's temples of cuisine in the latest regional Zagat Survey, the Range Café is proof that a stylish, inventive, and smoothly run place can also embody the spirit of democracy—everybody feels welcome here, a 20-minute drive from Albuquerque. The burgers and portobello mushroom pizza are justly famous, but there are also many spiffier dishes (salmon in mango salsa, for example).
Seasons Rotisserie & Grill 2031 Mountain Rd. N.W.; 505/766-5100; dinner for two $50. This sophisticated, sunset-colored room near Old Town is a welcome alternative to the area's more touristy restaurants. The pan-roasted chicken or the double-cut pork chop cooked over an oak fire should hit the spot after a hard day of shopping.
Prairie Star 255 Prairie Star Rd., Bernalillo; 505/867-3327; dinner for two $80. One of the area's favorite splurge restaurants, set in a 1920's adobe house with blazing kivas and knock-your-socks-off views of the Sandia Mountains at sunset. The Southwestern-inspired cooking strikes a balance between innovation and showmanship, with dishes such as yucca-crusted Pacific swordfish finished with a tres leches sweet-corn sauce, and blue-corn crab cakes with avocado and smoked-tomato aioli.
Chef du Jour 119 San Pasquale S.W.; 505/247-8998; dinner for two $35. A tiny oasis in an unassuming strip mall, Chef du Jour is laid-back to the max. But the weekly roster of dishes whipped up in the open kitchen may include wild-mushroom strudel with arugula pesto, and green-chili meat loaf. The incredible chocolate burrito is always available, thank God.
Artichoke 424 Central Ave. S.E.; 505/243-0200; dinner for two $50. The clientele of this popular, ice-blue bistro runs the gamut from dressed-up date-night couples to families gathered for celebrations. The menu is eclectic as well; you can have New American cuisine (pumpkin ravioli stuffed with butternut squash) or rack of lamb.
Scalo 3500 Central Ave. S.E.; 505/255-8782; dinner for two $55. Everybody adores Scalo, which may immediately arouse the suspicions of out-of-town food cynics. But the northern Italian cooking here definitely delivers—this is one case where you can't argue with success. Order the penne with house-made sausage and roasted garlic. Across the street is the owners' modish Il Vicino (3403 Central Ave. N.E.; 505/266-7855), beloved by brick-oven pizza fans.
Model Pharmacy 3636 Monte Vista Blvd. N.E.; 505/255-8686; ice cream sodas for two $8. If you thought the only soda fountains left were tired exercises in retro-chic, this Albuquerque hangout, a fixture since the forties, proves that delicious lime rickeys, root beer floats, and egg creams can still be made without even a sprinkling of irony.
feel the burn
Albuquerque no longer lags behind Santa Fe and Taos when it comes to high-style restaurants with accomplished chefs. But the city's quintessential dining experience is still found in its unpretentious, family-owned New Mexican places, where no order is complete unless you've answered the question "Red or green?" Meaning, of course, the kind of chili sauce you want your entrée to swim in.
If you're convinced that this kind of cooking will leave you feeling dazed and full for the rest of the day, prepare to be amazed. I had perfect huevos rancheros, slathered in green-chili sauce and accompanied by fresh flour tortillas, from the tiny kitchen at the back of Duran Central Pharmacy (1815 Central Ave. N.W.; 505/247-4141; lunch for two $15; no credit cards). At the cavernous and memorably named M & J Restaurant & Sanitary Tortilla Factory (403 Second St. S.W.; 505/242-4890; lunch for two $12; no credit cards), I got a little crazy and asked for red and green with my gently spiced combination plate. The result was immensely satisfying.
Chili fanatics should also check out Garcia's Kitchen (113 Fourth St. N.W.; 505/247-9149), Barelas Coffee House (1502 Fourth St. S.W.; 505/843-7577), El Norteño (6416 Zuni Rd. S.E.; 505/255-2057), and Los Cuates (5016B Lomas Blvd. N.E.; 505/268-0974), with a snazzier twin across the street at 4901 Lomas Blvd. N.E. (505/255-5079). For a nouvelle slant, try Fajitaville (6313 Fourth St. N.W.; 505/341-9683). Some of these restaurants have limited hours, so call ahead.
in the kitchen with jane
For food-lovers around the world, Albuquerque's allure has everything to do with Jane Butel's Southwestern Cooking School. Butel, a third-generation New Mexican who's been teaching for 16 years, has been called both the queen and the high priestess of Southwestern cooking, as well as a "foodfluential" person by the Food Channel. She's also a prodigious cookbook author, with 16 titles to her name, including Hotter Than Hell and, most recently, Jane Butel's Quick and Easy Southwestern Cookbook. If you want to know why salsa now outsells ketchup in the United States, asking Jane Butel is one place to start.