You haven’t been to Albuquerque unless you’ve been to The Frontier Restaurant (2400 Central Ave. SE, 505/266-0550, 5 a.m.–1 a.m. daily, $6), a mammoth diner across from UNM . Everyone in the city passes through its doors at some point in their lives, so all you have to do is pick a seat in one of the five Western-theme rooms (hmm, under the big portrait of John Wayne? Or maybe one of the smaller ones?) and watch the characters file in. You’ll want some food, of course: a green-chile–smothered breakfast burrito filled with crispy hash browns, or a grilled hamburger, or one of the signature cinnamon rolls, a deadly amalgam of flour, sugar, and some addictive drug that compels you to eat them despite the hydrogenated goo they’re swimming in. If you feel a little unhealthy, you can always get some fresh orange juice and restore your balance by vegging out in front of the mesmerizing tortilla machine.
Near the university, El Patio (142 Harvard Dr. SE, 505/268-4245, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Fri. and Sat., noon–9 p.m. Sun., $9) is the kind of old-reliable place that ex-locals get misty-eyed about after they’ve moved away; the green-chile-and-chicken enchiladas are high on many citywide favorite lists. It doesn’t hurt that the setting, in an old bungalow with a shady outdoor space, feels like an extension of someone’s home kitchen.