I found myself not knowing where to look. The scenery was nothing short of breathtaking in every direction and so my eyes darted from here to there and I marveled in the natural beauty. The hike up to Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, New Mexico turned out to be one of my most favorite hikes. There were stunning views of the Piedra Lumbre Basin the entire way but the reward for hiking all the way to the top was even more than I could have imagined.
While laying on a rock admiring the view, I couldn’t help but think about how nice a spot it would be for a picnic. The closest grocery store, however, was a substantial distance and the vegan food selection in general was extremely sparse in this part of the state.
Being vegan in northern New Mexico was either easy or difficult depending on where we were at any given time. As with most places in the world, larger cities have more options and the Land of Enchantment was no different. Albuquerque had three vegan restaurants and we made sure to visit all of them.
With what seems like an endless supply of hikes Albuquerque is a great jumping off point for a northern New Mexican adventure. There are also unique museums, like the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum of New Mexico, and fun tours, such as the Breaking Bad tour (which includes a meal so be sure to let them know in advance so they can arrange a vegan meal).
There are two Vegan Thai restaurants in the Albuquerque area and one in Santa Fe. Each location has its own menu, and quite different atmospheres. The establishment at 5505 Osuna Road had very quick and friendly service with an extensive menu in a casual environment. We ordered the pad Thai, spicy noodles and fried dumplings with a sweet and spicy sauce and were not disappointed.
Just before driving to the Albuquerque airport prior to leaving the state, we decided to have our last meal at their location in Nob Hill (3804 Central Avenue SE), which was a more upscale restaurant with a delicious menu and knowledgeable and friendly wait staff. It was a great way to say goodbye to the Land of Enchantment.
We went to Vibrance Vegetarian Restaurant‘s Sunday all-vegan buffet, which is served from 11am to 9pm ($20 for all day) and includes live music. The food selections included a variety of cooked and raw dishes, desserts and drinks. We found the atmosphere to be very unassuming and non-precocious. The owner, Karen Hammer, who was very down to earth and friendly, seemed to enjoy sharing good vegan food with people and introducing people to how good vegan food can be and that it is nothing to fear. We left there with full and happy bellies. If you find yourself in the Albuquerque area on a Sunday, the Vibrance Buffet is a must-do.
Annapurna Vegetarian Restaurant
We decided to give Annapurna Vegetarian Restaurant a try as we had heard that it was quite vegan-friendly with many vegan options on the menu. We did indeed find a large selection of clearly-marked vegan soups, salads and sandwiches as well as Mediterranean- and Indian-inspired dishes. We ordered a veggie burger made of lentils and potatoes as a base with veggie bacon as well as puri bhajhi served with puri pieces, Nappa Lemon soup and a slice of sweet potato pie (gluten free). While we found the flavors of the main dishes to be quite mild and bland, we thought the pie was excellent and we could see why they had won the best vegan dessert award.
Harvest Cafe at Pueblo Indian Cultural Museum
We highly recommend visiting the Pueblo Indian Cultural Museum, which has wonderfully interactive exhibits on a wide range of topics from the origins of life itself to the modern day world. The museum touches on dancing, cuisine, housing, schools and so much more. And be sure to check their schedule for dance performances. They are not to be missed!
After exploring the museum, however, eating at the Harvest Cafe was rather difficult. Not only were there not many vegan options, but also the wait staff was very unfamiliar with veganism. I got responses such as “this is gluten-free” and “we can substitute the goat cheese on this salad for feta” after asking for some help with navigating the menu as a vegan.
Once all was explained, however, they were quite accommodating and it turned out that their menu included 4 vegan options. One was unfortunately not available because they had run out (Harvest chips), but I made sure to ask for all the others: nopalitos tacos, grilled cauliflower tacos and deep fried kool-aid pickles (ask for them without the ranch dressing). Truth be told, it was not the best meal I had while in New Mexico, but it certainly was one of the most interesting. The waitress was very willing to share pieces of her life with me, including that kool-aid pickles was a favorite among the children on her reservation where she grew up. It was really neat to try putting pickles and kool-aid together, something I am quite sure I would have never thought of on my own.
We were very happy to find Taos Pizza Out Back just outside town. The pizza crust is vegan and they have vegan cheese (Soy Sation brand). Wanting to try some New Mexican cuisine, we ordered half our large pizza with green chillies and pineapple and the other half with green chillies and fresh mushrooms. We enjoyed eating our spicy pizza under a big tree out back in this casual and comfortable locale.
One of the main attractions of Taos is Taos Pueblo. We were able to find two different vendors selling vegan breads, one being the famous fry bread. Everyone we came across in the village had never heard of veganism before so we had to explain it and ask if milk, eggs, honey or lard was used in the making of the bread. Since recipes and vendors can change, it’s important to ask each time for the recipe used that day. By the way, the fry bread in particular was delicious.
We were quite disappointed with the menu at the Abiquiu Inn. Not only are there no vegan options on the menu, but they even had an item listed as vegan on the menu that wasn’t as the dish included a honey vinaigrette that was pre-made into the dish so could not be substituted or left off entirely. In addition, the wait staff, while very friendly, were unfamiliar with veganism.
After talking back and forth for a bit with two waitresses explaining what being vegan means, we settled on an order of Christmas fries, a popular New Mexican dish that was off the menu. They made sure not to include the cheese that is often common with this meal. Needless to say our meal was rather lacking and we were happy to be on our way.
Purple Adobe Lavender Farm Teahouse
After our disappointing meal at the Abiquiu Inn, we headed over to the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm to enjoy the lavender and visit their teahouse. While the setting was beautiful and the ingredients seemed fresh, again, there were no vegan options. And sadly, I must report that the service was also rather poor. After explaining several times that we are vegan and what that entails, our soup still came with sour cream on top, we were never given a fork to eat our salad even after asking for one, and they messed up orders for those around us as well.
We did enjoy walking the labyrinth they had adjacent the teahouse as well as relaxing in a large hammock they had there. We were so comfortable, in fact, that we slipped into slumber listening to the sounds of nature.
Other Useful Information
We had heard mixed reviews of the famous fry bread while in New Mexico. A waitress at the Harvest Cafe, who grew up on a reservation, told me that fry bread is always made with lard. But then when we went to Taos Pueblo we encountered a man selling it who claimed it was not made with lard or any other ingredients from animals. So it is important to ask wherever you go just to be sure.
While in Albuquerque, any time we mentioned that we were eager to try New Mexican cuisine, everyone pointed us in the direction of Sadie’s. After looking at their menu online, however, it didn’t seem like we had many options. So I emailed them about vegan options and they never even responded. So, we decided not to eat at their establishment, where it seemed we could only enjoy chips and salsa.
In Albuquerque, we were happy to come across Sprouts, a grocery store with many vegan items, including pre-prepared dishes which is great for travelers like us. They also had a sizable bulk section with different kinds of trail mixes and other snacks for the road or on the trail. They had a pretty decent selection of nut milks and vegan cheeses as well. We were delighted to find out that Sprouts has just opened a store near us in Tampa.
We look forward to returning to New Mexico to explore the southern portions of the state including the UFO mysteries of Roswell, the sand dunes at San Lucas and the bat caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.