It is probably less than 4,500 feet “door-to-door” from 1514 Silver SW to the La Placita. There were other restaurants serving the Huning Castle neighborhood in 1930 when the neighborhood was getting started, but the La Placita Dining Rooms were probably the oldest and largest. The old Armijo house (built in 1706), facing on the old Old Town Square, was converted from being an old house to an old restaurant, or more specifically, dining rooms.
In time, even Duncan Hines approved it. It is a myth that Duncan Hines approved any restaurant that gave him free food, he didn’t.
Eating Mexican food, or more properly New Mexican food, in any place that doesn’t have two-foot thick ancient adobe walls, huge thick vigas, brick and/or saltillo tile floors, a kiva fireplace that is actually used, and a bit of art on the walls, is wrong, or probably wrong. It is a worse offense than saying “neither”, when you are asked by the server “red or green?” It’s like having sopapillas without honey.
“Atmosphere” is such a misnomer. “La Placita” means “the square, the place where the community meets”, and like LOCATION, the place is everything. Patio dining is everything too, and that’s why a restaurant without outdoor eating is just a dining room at best. A good restaurant needs dining rooms, plural, hence the tree. OK, the tree is obviously older than the dining room, so the “tree” dining room was obviously once a patio, an inner courtyard, a safe place offering quiet and serenity. That’s what makes the La Placita timeless and famous, it’s removed from the hustle and bustle of Route 66 and the traffic and often the tourists. It’s a neighborhood restaurant, no more than a friendly, fairly short walk away.
Oh sure, there are lots of more modern, more plastic-fantastic, more novel places to eat New Mexican food. Some other places have more color, more noise, even more artwork maybe. But La Placita, for over 80 years, has set the tone and the style for stylish eating in Albuquerque; meaning “stylish” your way, not the New York way, Paris way, or London way. Those other cities are so way out of town, and so far away from the casual dining opportunities in Albuquerque. It’s not just a life style, it is more a tradition.
Another tradition at the La Placita restaurant site is the Indian jewelry vendor market. Crafts men and crafts women sit under the Placita’s portico with their wares spread out on a blanket in front of them. Each space is allotted by lottery. It is the only space and place where the traditional “open and free” “Indian Market” method of marketing still exists on a daily basis.
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