How Guy Fieri and ‘Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives’ saved my trip to Albuquerque

MOUNT POCONO, PA - JULY 30: TV personality and chef Guy Fieri prepares a meal at his restaurant Guy Fieri's Mt. Pocono Kitchen during the Guy Fieri Meet & Greet held at Mount Airy Casino Resort on July 30, 2016 in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for Mount Airy Casino Resort)
MOUNT POCONO, PA - JULY 30: TV personality and chef Guy Fieri prepares a meal at his restaurant Guy Fieri's Mt. Pocono Kitchen during the Guy Fieri Meet & Greet held at Mount Airy Casino Resort on July 30, 2016 in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for Mount Airy Casino Resort) /

When it comes to culinary destinations, Albuquerque may not be the first city to come to mind. And while my recent vacation was a culinary disaster, thanks to Guy Fieri and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, I was able to find some amazing food.

How do you plan your meals when you go away (whether on vacation or for work)? Do you make a plan before you even leave home or do you choose places to eat when you get where you are going? For my recent trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I did very little planning when it comes to where I would eat. Sure, there were a few places I wanted to try, but nothing concrete.

Having been to Albuquerque in the past, I knew what kind of food to expect to find, and even what I was hoping to get my hands on. But for the most part, I really did not have some grand culinary plan when I flew off on my trip.

Considering I was visiting Albuquerque for a book convention, I knew my time was limited and I expected to spend a lot of time eating in the hotel restaurant (that was mistake number one). The problem with this thinking is that the restaurant in the hotel ended up being a disaster. I’m talking about people not getting their meals, cold food, and a whole host of problems. Right away it was clear that we would need to find alternatives to our dining situation.

And let’s not even discuss how weird it was at the Starbucks located in the hotel (it closed at 5 PM on weekdays and 2 PM on the weekends), which had it own issues. So for our second night in town, one of the authors suggested we try a restaurant that had been featured on the Food Network show hosted by Guy Fieri, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

It was this decision that led us to Nexus Brewery and Restaurant. And after nearly two full days of disaster in terms of everything from food to beverages, it was a relief to sit down in a restaurant that clearly knew what it was doing and how to handle a lot of people.

Photo: Chicken and waffles from Nexus.. Photo by Kimberley Spinney /

Nexus ended up being just as amazing as we were hoping it would be. Not only was the food delicious, but the service was excellent. In fact, everything was so good we ended up going a second time with a larger group.

Not only did they make some of the most delicious chicken and waffles I have had in a long time, but their collard greens were perfection, their mac and cheese was decadent, and their fried pickles hit the spot. Even their sweet tea seemed to be made the way it should be (I’ve had enough bad sweet tea to know when someone knows what they are doing).

Seriously, there was not a single bite at Nexus that wasn’t delicious. As a side note, if you want to try something amazing get the cornbread waffles to go with your fried chicken. It really was a game changer in terms of flavor combinations.

Photo: Pappadeux.. Photo by Kimberley Spinney /

So, do you think we learned our lesson and turned our trip over to the guidance of Guy Fieri? Of course not! Why would we do that?

For our next day in Albuquerque, I went off to Old Town to explore and eat lunch with friends. And after asking a number of people where to eat we decided on a local place that ended up being a disaster. I won’t even discuss how disappointing this meal was because we could be here all day. But I will say that sometimes even the locals don’t have all the answers when it comes to picking somewhere to eat.

This is why for dinner we decided that we were going to give a chain restaurant some of us were familiar with a chance. This led to a wild trip to Pappadeux Seafood Kitchen for dinner (our Lyft driver when we were leaving picked us up in a car decorated for Halloween that even had strobe lights).

Having been to Pappadeux before, I was expecting so much better than we got. I’m not sure if it was because of how busy it was (there were plenty of open seats, but a lot of larger groups including our table of six) or simply because of the fact that it was a Friday night, but this was not the best experience I have ever had.

Even with some of the issues our table faced, I have to give Pappadeux credit for making some of the best Coconut Shrimp I have ever eaten. Plus, their creme brulee was delicious. The presentation alone was enough to make me happy.

Seriously, by day three I should have known better and kept Food Network suggestions on my phone as my go-to.

Photo: Golden Crown.. Photo by Kimberley Spinney /

By Saturday, it was time to admit defeat and return to the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives playlist, which is how we ended up at the Golden Crown Panaderia. With a wide range of menu options, it was almost impossible to choose what to eat.

I ended up going with a baguette stuffed with roast beef, and I have never been happier. The fact that it came with a side of chips and queso was an unexpected bonus. Every single bite was amazing. And the fact that I also got to enjoy some of their delicious cookies and even a guava and cream pastry meant that I was satisfied by the time I was done with lunch.

Seriously, this place had some of the best baked goods I have enjoyed in a while. And since they are known for their “Original New Mexico Green Chile Bread” it makes sense that they know how to make perfect breads and pastries.

If you find yourself in Albuquerque, listen to Guy Fieri and go here!

And yes, this was the same night we ended up back at Nexus because there was no way we were going to ignore Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives again and choose somewhere without the help of Fieri.

By the end of my trip to New Mexico one thing was clear, it’s better to have a plan of action when it comes to dining and always have backups for just in case. And if you don’t know where to go, make sure you check out where Guy Fieri has been, because in this case he did not steer us wrong at all. In fact, I would have to say that now I want to try more of the places he has visited on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which means either I need to travel more or its time to explore my own city a bit more.

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Have you ever had a bad culinary experience on vacation? How do you plan for your meals while out-of-town? Have you ever tried a restaurant that was recommended by a Food Network show? Tell us what you think in the comments.