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Category Archives: eat for cheap (and like it)

sweet rollThe Frontier Restaurant, that wacky barn shaped building across from UNM, is not only a warm haven for stress eating students, it’s also an Albuquerque food institution that draws locals and tourists alike.  The interior is kitschy southwest brown, features multiple portraits of John Wayne, and stretches 3 large rooms back from the main entrance where you can choose between window seats, booths and tables large enough for study groups.  Ordering is quick but can be nerve wracking if you don’t know what you want.  Upon entering you face a long counter staffed with friendly people in paper hats waiting (im)patiently beneath flashing green lights for you to get yourself together and scurry over to their register.  The large menu hanging over the registers is extensive, but I would guide the Frontier noob toward any of the following 5 items: (1 French Fries – Deep golden brown and incredibly crunchy.  The thick outer layer suggests double frying, and no one’s complaining.  (2 Tortilla Soup – Basically a very spicy corn and potato stew, topped with just a little shredded cheese that melts into  gooey strings in the thick broth.  Order some flour tortillas on side (instead of the chips it comes with), relax into the comforting flavors, and forget you’re surrounded by jocks and forgot your science homework.  (3 Fresh Squeezed Lemonade (or orange juice if you roll that way) – I would categorize this as a splurge item cause it’s not super cheap, but if you like lemonade even a tiny bit, spring for this perfectly tart and sweet drink and skip the Minute Maid at the soda fountain.  (4 The Frontier Sweet Roll – a rare “what the hell” order for me because it’s basically sugary white bread drenched in butter.  BUT – it’s really sugary cinnamon flavored white bread LITERALLY swimming in warm butter, sooooo its crazy delicious.  Make the table share it with you (it’s also huge) and you’ll feel less bad about yourself.  Last but certainly not least, the almighty (5 Breakfast Burrito – the ultimate food prevention of, or remedy for, your hangover.  burritoShredded hashbrowns from the griddle (this is a diner after all), shapely mounds of scrambled eggs, fluffy yet firm, (NOT overcooked into that flat egg patty), chopped green chile and thickly shredded cheddar cheese are loosely wrapped inside an airy yet substantial house made flour tortilla (you can also buy these poofy and floury delights by the dozen).  Because the ends of the tortilla aren’t tucked, it is by nature a fork and knife burrito – which makes smothering it with a ladle of green chile stew from the serve yourself crockpot in the main dining area a necessity to bring the dish to it’s ultimate spicy sloppiness, and ready to inhale with gusto.  Now, I have been accused of being a little weird about this burrito because I have eaten it so many times in the middle of the night after some serious drinking (back when the Frontier used to be open 24 hours before the bar fights spilling over onto their premises finally made them rethink the operating hours) or the next day as a hangover cure as reliable as the sun rise.  But I think the burrito can hold up to sober palate.  It’s simple, well proportioned, and consistent – they make a gazillion of them everyday so all the ingredients are always fresh and hot.  So whatever your state of mind or body as you sit under the florescent lights clutching your receipt, waiting for the little red number to pop up signalling your order is ready, be certain that you are in for a very yummy food coma with healing powers.

If you have been to Albuquerque and not eaten at the Frontier, you’ll have to go back.


I Know this is a no brainer for most of us, but adding a few simple ingredients to your ramen makes it the best kind of ramen!! I love the salty spicy decadence of a big bowl of packaged ramen, especially disguised with a smattering of good for you vegetables. Today I went for some broccoli and a fried egg atop a flat noodle ramen with spicy clear broth. It’s fast, relatively healthy (depending on your ramen flavor) and goddamn fancy! Add veggies to the boiling water with the flavor packet and noodles, they’ll be done just in time. Another delicious way to class up your shame bowl is the addition of a sauce made from peanut butter, siracha, and sesame oil. Throw some raw carrots and bean sprouts on for a pad tai kinda feel. The key is to stock up on all the awesome ramen noodle variations your local Asian market has to offer. There’s a plethora of different flavors and types of noodles, and they’re only a tiny bit more expensive than Top Ramen AND about a million times more delicious. At about $1.00 for this lovely an filling meal, it’s a definitely a spicy bargain.

bajatacosBaja Tacos is a tiny oasis of fast friendly cheap deliciousness in the otherwise boring-yet-stressfull blur of Cerrillos Rd. in Santa Fe, NM.  Despite the name, I always go for a burrito here – pictured is the tofu and bean burrito, smothered with green chile. There is nothing particularly spectacular about the individual parts of this dish, BUT together they create a truly special and deeply satisfying trifecta of burrito precision. Sturdy, comfortingly mushy, and mildly seasoned beans and tofu are wrapped in a chewy tortilla swimming in perfectly spicy green chile sauce of the best consistency (there may be corn starch involved and I don’t care) and hidden beneath a plentiful topping of crunchy iceberg, chopped tomatoes and shredded cheddar cheese.  The resulting burrito is so texturally interesting yet sloppy, light yet spicy, and just simply yummy, you won’t be able to stop eating it until you realize you are way too full. And then you’ll finish it anyway.  Washing it down with the (rare for me) ice cold fountain coke really makes it pop, AND makes is a serious deal at $5.99.  Not to be missed in Santa Fe.  No seating inside, drive thru/takeout and neat concrete tables out front.

2621 Cerrillos Road / Santa Fe, NM