Throughout the history of the Beard Foundation, it has bestowed the designation of America’s Classic on dozens of restaurants, including three in New Mexico.
What is an America’s Classic? An independently owned restaurant beloved by its community, often run by more than one generation of the same family, that has stood the test of time while reflecting the culinary heritage of its area. Terrific barbecue joints, seafood shacks, steakhouses, dim-sum parlors, and burger bars are some of the sorts of eateries that have received this special designation.
Cafe Pasqual’s, Santa Fe
Pasqual’s is famous for its snaking waiting line for breakfast and lunch, its lively Mexican décor, and its menu of great dishes, made for three decades (way before it was cool) from mostly local organic foods. In fact, you should thank founder Katharine Kagel for her fierce determination in helping make local, sustainable, and organic the buzzwords they are today. The menu tends toward effusively seasoned Mexican, Latin American, and southeast Asian fare, with some American icons like corned-beef hash and New York–style black-and-white cookies thrown in. Reservations available for dinner only. 121 Don Gaspar Ave.; (505) 983-9340; pasquals.com
The Shed, Santa Fe
As at Pasqual’s, the wait here is famous, and there’s a reason the place is mobbed: The kitchen serves absolutely classic and delicious New Mexican dishes. The Shed dates back to the 1950s, when it was first housed in what had been a burro shed on downtown’s Burro Alley. It moved to its current location, in Sena Plaza, a decade later. Now in its third generation of Carswell family ownership and management. Reservations available for dinner. 113 E. Palace Ave.; (505) 982-9030; sfshed.com
Mary & Tito’s, Albuquerque
When New Mexicans argue about superlative carne adovada and chile rellenos, Mary & Tito’s is always in the forefront of the discussion. Mary and Tito Gonzales founded the café, just north of downtown, in the 1960s. He was the cook, and she greeted customers and ran the front of the house. Tito passed away in the 1980s, but the cooks he trained still dish out New Mexican specialties to his exacting specifications. Mary, now in her 90s, can still be found at the counter, keeping an eye on the business and chatting with longtime customers, as well as with newbies who’ve learned about the little café from its Beard award. Daughter Antoinette ably continues in her mother’s footsteps. It was überchef Jacques Pépin who handed the coveted award to Mary and Antoinette. 2711 Fourth St. NW; (505) 344-6266