Queer Girl City Guide: Albuquerque, New Mexico

0. 2/20/2012 – Here/Queer Call for Submissions, by Riese
1. 3/02/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Montreal, Canada, by Sid
2. 3/05/2012 – Playlist: Here/Queer, by Riese
3. 3/05/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Portland, Oregon, by Lesbians in PDX
4. 3/07/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Brighton, United Kingdom, by Sarah Magdalena
5. 3/07/2012 – Oh But To Be A Queer in Sicily, by Jenn
6. 3/08/2012 – City Guide: Seattle, by Marley
7. 3/11/2012 – City Guide: Washington DC, by Keena
8. 3/13/2012 – Here/Queer: Sydney Mardi Gras Is On Your To-Do List, by Crystal
9. 3/14/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Spokane, Washington, by Ana
10. 3/15/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Cleveland, Ohio, by Lora
11. 3/16/2012 – Madison, WI and W4W Entertainment, by Emily
12. 3/16/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Dublin, Ireland, by Una
13. 3/19/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Vancouver, Canada, by Kathryn
14. 3/19/2012 – Things We Wrote That You Loved, by The Team
15. 3/20/2012 – Here/Queer: Boogie Down Bronx, by Gabby
16. 3/21/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Columbus, Ohio, by Dominique, Annie, Kat, Liz & Mila
17. 3/24/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Santa Fe, New Mexico, by Sam
18. 3/24/2012 – Here/Queer: Oxford, by Sybil
19. 3/26/2012 – Get Baked: Australian Edition, by Crystal
20. 3/26/2012 – Here/Queer: Brooklyn Under the Radar, by Samken
21. 3/27/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Albuquerque, New Mexico, by Juanita

Albuquerque. AKA “the Duke City” or “Burque.” Before moving to Manhattan in 1999 to attend graduate school at NYU, I spent the first 23 years of my life residing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the last two of those years as an out lesbian. The hospital I was born in, the high school I attended and the undergraduate university from which I earned my bachelor’s degree are all located within a 1.5 mile radius of each other. It goes without saying that this city holds a special place in my heart. Still, I sort of have an “it’s complicated” relationship status with Albuquerque.

Someone once jokingly said that if Santa Fe, the second gayest city according to the Advocate, is known as “the city different,” then Albuquerque is known as “the city indifferent.” Things move at a snail’s pace in this city, and even though Burqueños are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, the city is often resistant to change. My type-A, I-needed-that-on-my-desk-yesterday personality is often at odds with a city that is notoriously known as “the land of mañana.” As with anything else in Burque, if you want girl-on-girl action, you have to be patient and look hard for it. But once you find it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I Love the Nightlife, I’ve Got to Boogie


There are no officially designated lesbian bars in Albuquerque, and there are only three gay bars catering primarily to men. However, there is plenty of girl-on-girl boogie in Burque to fill up your dance card. Here’s a lesbian nightlife roundup that you won’t find in a Fodor’s guide:

Established in 2001, the Albuquerque Kings Club, Burque’s premiere Drag King performance group, draws a sizable lesbian crowd to their events. They perform in Burque’s three gay bars (The Albuquerque Social Club, Effex, and Sidewinders) and at Evolution, the straight-but-gay-friendly bar that took over the space once occupied by Albuquerque’s only lesbian bar, the now-closed Exhale. Kings Club member Rocco Steele is the first trans man to hold the Mr. New Mexico Pride title.

Rocco Steele, Mr. NM Pride

Albuquerque Social Club (4021 Central Avenue) Albuquerque’s only “members only” LGBTQ club draws more of an old school crowd. They host women’s parties featuring DJ Madie, one of Burque’s veteran lesbian DJs, on the first and third Fridays of the month. Memberships range from $5 to $30 annually.

With a capacity of 750, Effex (420 Central) is Albuquerque’s newest and largest gay club. Here you’ll find go-go dancers, a roof-top lounge, one of the largest dance floors in the city, and a young, diverse crowd of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and curious party-goers.

Fire Womyn Events (Various locations) Promoter Alma Rosa brings in big name acts, like Bitch and God-Des & She, to her monthly dance and performance events for womyn by womyn. The crowd is extremely diverse; no matter what your age or style, you will never feel out of place. Alma Rosa’s rationale behind having rotating venues is to increase the LGBTQ community’s access to venues that are usually not accessible to them and to shift business owners’ perspectives of our community. Subscribe to Fire Womyn for their calendar of events.

Giddy-up, cowgirls! Sidewinders (8900 Central Avenue) is Burque’s queer country bar. Alma Rosa of Fire Womyn events brings the lady-loving-ladies a new party here every Wicked Wednesday, complete with 50 cent tacos!


Other Queer-Friendly Bars


Burt’s Tiki Lounge (313 Gold Avenue) This hipster/Rockabilly live music venue could be straight out of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof! With its anything goes attitude, you’re bound to find some lesbian/bi/curious action going on here. Located in what was once Albuquerque’s only lesbian bar, Evolution (6132 Fourth Street), no longer billed as a gay club, draws in dance and music lovers of all sexual orientations.


LGBTQ Activities, Events & Soirees


While not strictly a queer group, the The Duke City Darlins are a queer-friendly, all female promotional street team and modified (i.e., pierced, tattooed or otherwise personalized) model company. They host charity events and volunteer to raise money and awareness for marginalized groups and women’s health issues, among other advocacy initiatives. Founder and CEO Dezy Hardin Darlin is bisexual herself, and her business partner, Chief Executive Director, Brittany Darlin, is one of the lead members of GetEQUAL New Mexico. Bisexual CFO, Suzanna Bonesteel Darlin, says that she “feel[s] as though [they] are one of the most accepting, openly supportive organizations for the gay community. [They] participate in Pride every year, winning 2nd place last year for our float, as well as support and participate in gay marriage/LGBT rights rallies.” This sexy group of ladies ROCK!

Duke City Darlins, Courtesy of Billie Ciofii

One of the original 100 roller derby leagues in the U.S., Duke City Derby is comprised of teams from Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos. Duke City Derby is queer-friendly and welcoming to women of all shapes, sizes, races, and ethnicities. DCD belongs to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), a national organization of roller derby leagues with hundreds of leagues internationally that just last year adopted a policy that allows transgender skaters to play in their organization.

Lesbian comic Dana Goldberg, a native New Mexican, is the host and producer of Southwest Funny Fest, an annual comedy event that benefits New Mexico AIDS Services. Goldberg brings in other headlining funny lesbos like Fortune Feimster of Chelsea Lately.

The Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is an annual film festival that started in Albuquerque in 2003. Produced by Closet Cinema, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit organization dedicated to showcasing queer cinema in an attempt to highlight the richness of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender experience, the festival showcases distinguished LGBTQ shorts and films from around the world.

Yes, I’ve been to a Burque Pride Parade or two. But I’ve also lived in Manhattan since 1999. With that in mind, would it really be fair for me to assess Burque’s Pride events? From my point of view, all I can say for Albuquerque’s Pride Parade is that there is one. And that’s a start; no matter how big or small the gathering, it is always inspiring to see fellow queers stand in solidarity with each other. With Burque’s population now inching closer and closer to one million, though, I hope to see the city step up its Pride events in the future.


For Your Food and Caffeine Fix


Ok, so here’s where I feel New Mexico beats New York hands down – New Mexican food! I was told that I could find the best of any type of cuisine 24 hours a day in NYC. 13 years later, I am still searching for delicious, authentic New Mexican food. (No one in NYC knows what a sopapilla is!) New Mexican food is not Mexican food; it’s not Tex Mex–when a New Mexican says chile, we don’t mean that chunky Tex-Mex mess with beans; and it’s not Cali-Mex. Albuquerque is highly regarded as a culinary city, with a unique cuisine that is influenced by U.S., Native American, Mexican and Spanish cultures. We eat chile with everything, so bring your Pepto!

Wait, everything? Everything! Take for example the homemade vanilla red chile fudge, dark chocolate red chile truffles, and green chile peanut brittle served up at The Candy Lady (524 Romero Street) in Old Town Albuquerque. If you’re into a different type of spice, visit the Candy Lady’s sexplicit adult sweets section.

El Patio (142 Harvard Drive) New Mexicans often argue about which restaurant serves the best chile. And while I’m not going to enter that debate right now, I will tell you to come here with a huge appetite, order the carne adovada stuffed sopapilla, and be prepared for some heartburn.

Flying Star Café (3416 Central Avenue) Come here for queers cruising queers, drinking coffee, eating cake, cruising queers, posting flyers advertising their next band gig or art show, drinking coffee or cruising queers.

Flying Star

Open seven days a week from 5am to 1am, Frontier Restaurant (2400 Central Avenue) is a Burqueño’s version of a NYC diner, only better due to the fact that their array of items, from their flour tortillas to their fresh squeezed lemonade, is prepared homemade daily. Frontier is located across the street from the University of New Mexico, so you’ll find lots of artists, college students, graduate Teaching Assistants, and professors hanging out and people-watching all day.

So, you punked out? Your stomach couldn’t handle all that heat. You need some of that fancy pants, local, organic Northern California style familiarity to soothe your queer belly? Well then, The Grove Café & Market (600 Central Avenue) is right up your alley, with their house-made granola, organic yogurt and Intelligentsia coffees and teas.




Burque is a pretty heavily-tatted city. All Is One Tattoo & Design (139 Harvard Drive), Evolution Tattoo (4517 Central Avenue Northeast) and Route 66 Fine Line Tattoo (5511 Central Avenue Northeast) are only a few of the finest places to get inked.



Nob Hill — sometimes called “Snob Hill” because of its high end boutiques and boho vibe–is not technically a “gayborhood,” but it’s the closest thing Burque has to one. Located along historic Route 66, Nob Hill is home to a number of queer friendly establishments including the Flying Star (mentioned above), the Guild Cinema (an “eclectic” cinema that shows indie films), and the La Montanita Co-Op Food Market (um, hello).


Hoods to Avoid


There are lots of places to avoid, especially at night. Gang activity has been a problem for Albuquerque, and the city often ranks way above New York and Los Angeles in terms of violent crime. (Less than 10 years ago, it was within the top 10 most violent cities, which is ironic considering everyone I know back home is always concerned about my safety in NYC). My recommendation to anyone regardless of their sexual orientation is to travel in packs when the sun goes down. Don’t let its beauty fool you; Burque still has a “Wild Wild West” mentality.


College Life


The University of New Mexico gave me some of the best memories of my life. I didn’t go to a top notch or gay-friendly high school; as a “townie,” I knew a lot of locals and I didn’t share the same views or post-high school graduation goals with many of them. UNM, located right on Route 66 near Nob Hill, is an artsy, laid back, hippie-dippy campus that allowed me to just be me. Even though I stayed home for undergrad, the mentality on UNM’s campus is so different from that of the city at large that I felt like I went away for college. There are lots of great queer resources on campus, including the LGBTQ Resource Center, the UNM Feminist Research Institute, the UNM Queer Straight Alliance, and the UNM Women’s Resource Center, to name a few. It doesn’t hurt that UNM has a beautiful campus known for its unique, Spanish-Pueblo style adobe buildings.


Go Team!

If you’re a big sports enthusiast, you probably already know that, with the exception of the Albuquerque Isotopes, a minor league baseball team, New Mexico doesn’t have any professional sports teams. If you’re truly a REAL sports enthusiast, you know that Burque makes up for its lack of professional sports teams with our college sports. Burque is Lobo country! The UNM Lobos have an excellent athletics department, sending many players on to the NBA and NFL, and their basketball teams play at the Pit, one of the loudest arenas in the country!


LGBTQ Community Centers/Support Groups/Resources

Located on the University of New Mexico’s campus, the The LGBTQ Resource Center is open to students as well as to the general public. Out country singer Chely Wright recently opened a “Like Me Lighthouse” LGBTQ community center in Kansas City, Missouri and in an interview with MSNBC, she stated that she hoped to open one in Albuquerque in the future. Fingers crossed! We’ve also got Equality New MexicoGet Equal New Mexico and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.


Get Up!


International Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque is home to the world’s largest International Balloon Fiesta, as well as the world’s longest double reversible tramway.


Get Out!


If you’re an outdoorsy dyke, then Burque is perfect for you. New Mexico’s natural beauty is unparalleled, so get out of the bar and hit the great outdoors. Here are some day (or longer) trips that my friends in NYC don’t believe I’ve taken. (Is it the glitter top or the heels that throw them off?)

About 1 hour from Burque, Bandelier National Monument has great hiking, camping, wildlife and cliff dwellings.

You can find hot springs, river walking, waterfalls, hiking, and camping approximately 1.5 hours from Burque at Jemez Springs. Don’t forget to stop in at Deb’s Deli.

About one hour from Burque, you can go hiking, catch amazing views, tent rock formations and wildlife at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

Summer sports like hiking, biking, nature walks, camping, and picnicking and winter recreation like skiing are just 15-30 minutes away from the city at the Sandia Mountains. Watermelon, anyone?

Santa Fe: Just 45 minutes from Burque. The state’s capital and the oldest capital in the United States has over 300 art galleries and museums combined, including the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. If the Santa Fe Opera is in season, catch a performance at their open-air Crosby Theater.

Gay Rights NM


Albuquerque Pride

New Mexico is a BIG state…and a swing state. Albuquerque is more conservative than Santa Fe, but more liberal than some one-horse towns further south. New Mexico in general offers domestic partnership benefits to state employees, but a recent, more comprehensive domestic partnership bill never even made it out of committee. On January 4, 2011, Attorney General Gary King issued an opinion stating that that a valid same-sex marriage from another jurisdiction is valid in New Mexico. While New Mexico doesn’t perform gay marriages, King’s opinion hasn’t yet been tested in the courts or legislature.

In more current glitterific homo news, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (R) recently lost her hairdresser over her anti-gay marriage stance. Stylist Antonio Daren cut Martinez’s hair on three different occasions but decided to decline further appointments until the Governor changed her opinions. When Martinez’s camp called Daren’s salon to see if he would change his mind, Daren held firm. He. Betta. Werk!

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Anita Dolce Vita

Anita Dolce Vita is a fashion and culture blogger whose work has been featured/mentioned in The Huffington Post, Curve, DIVA, Autostraddle, AfterEllen, Newsweek’s The Daily Beast, HuffPo Live, San Francisco Weekly, Canada’s Globe and Mail, Beijing Review, Vice, Nylon, and Bosnia’s Manjine.BA

Anita has written 3 articles for us.


  1. What an awesome guide. I’m hoping to visit a friend in ABQ in the fall and this gives me all the more reason to make it happen!

  2. I have been to Albuquerque, and had not planned to return (unless it was to eat!). This guide may have changed my mind! Who knew this little southwestern city had all of this to offer?

  3. Great guide. As for sopapillas and real Mexican food you can find it all uptown in Spanish Harlem. It probably doesnt have the same exact taste as Burque Mexican, but its as authentic as it gets.

    • I sort of hate to be this person, but authentic Mexican food and Authentic New Mexican food are very different cuisines. Saying they are the same is kind of like saying New York and Chicago basically have the same type of pizza. The most obvious difference between the two is in the use of chile,* but there are many other subtle differences, such as “flat” enchiladas.

      On a less nitpicky note, I have a few more suggestions for Abq. visits if you go during basketball season should try to check out a Lady Lobo basketball game, attendance is regularly in the top 10 in the country, Old Town is a pretty legit tourist stop, and I feel pretty comfortable saying that the red chile glazed bacon at Gold Street Caffe is some of the best bacon in the world.

      As a random aside New Mexicans are very particular about the spelling of chile since in NM it only applies to the New Mexico cultivar which comes in red and green varieties depending on when it was harvested.

  4. You always hear so much about Santa Fe, but it seems like Burque is the place to be as well! I’m mostly dying to finally taste some of that amazing food that everyone is talking about!

  5. so detailed. Like your blurb about safety in New Mexico vs NYC. Now, I wanna travel to Albuquerque and eat!

  6. Juanita, you are such a thorough and vivid writer! This post makes me hungry for some spicy Tex-Mex…will have to check out New Mexican food some day! Thank you for taking us on this tour of your hometown. xo, y

  7. The memory of The Frontier’s sweet rolls now has me salivating… So glad to see another city guide from my home state!


      I think about/miss that place on a regular basis, even though I’m vegan and only ever ordered little snacky things and like three beverages at once. There was just something particularly heartwarming and comfortable about that enormous, crazy restaurant.

  8. “New Mexican food is not Mexican food; it’s not Tex Mex–when a New Mexican says chile, we don’t mean that chunky Tex-Mex mess with beans; and it’s not Cali-Mex”
    As a southwestern-er-er-er…(haha!)I endorse the above statement. N.M food is truly like no other. You need to try it. Woman up, ladies! In addition to pepto, take imodium, tums, peppermints y 7up.
    The Roasted Green Chile is phenomenal. Don’t just eat it. Smell it! Find a place that roasts chile outside, stand nearby (not too close or you´ll hate me) & enjoy the unique aroma. I promise it will be one of your favorite memories.

    Also, The accent in New Mexico is very special. Not the English accent, but Spanish. ¿Habla español? Then talk to locals in Spanish. They sing when they speak. Now, some people have argued with me that Mexicans (from Mexico) do the same. True, but the difference is what Juanita said: ¨the land of mañana¨. I find New Mexican accent soft, relaxing, and soothing. There´s no rush to it…simply beautiful. It´s my favorite of all American Spanish. Sidenote: I want to reassure any Mexicans here. I do enjoy your accent. ¡Me encanta! It´s lively, fun, and welcoming.

    F.Y.I: I can only confirm the singing accent in southern N.M. I´ve been to AL-BQue plenty of times but I can´t gurantee everyone there has this accent.

    Well, I´m finished. Great article, Juanita! Ladies, visit N.M! And if you find a single lesbian who makes sopaipillas, roasts her own green chiles, and sings to you in Spanish-KEEP HER! Also, go in August & pick up a sack of roasted green chiles to send to me.

  9. The only place I’d ever visited where in the first fifteen minutes I felt I would move there that day if I could..Crescit eundo New Mexico!

      • I’d agree but need to add some sweet rock climbing single pitch limestone and OMG..OMG..OMG the Sandias! I think it’s time to revisit some of those..Any wallerinas care to join me? I’ve got a killer rack and I’ll let you top-out!

    • Girl, if you come to ABQ look me up. I know all the good places. I’m not much of a rock climber but I pack a mean taco box. Let’s have a pic nic.


  10. As founder and CEO of the Duke City Darlins I speak for all of us when I say that we are proud to have been featured in this article. I am proud of this city and the advancement we are making to ensure that everyone has equal rights. We love the Duke City and we love the people in it, black, white, queer, and straight, we do what we can for everyone! Thank you Juanita for writing this

  11. It is an honor to be from New Mexico and read great articles on our culture. You all need to come out and visit. Come hang out with the Duke City Darlins and Hit a burlesque show. I do burlesque here in Albuquerque and I am proud to say that we are all huge supporters of the GLBTQ community.

  12. I moved to ABQ five years ago and wild horses would have to drag my dead body from this city before I would leave. I was born and raised in the Northeast, and started to feel like I was going to get arrested for punching people in the head out of frustration on the subway. Moving to Albuquerque was just the antidote to that insanity. Juanita’s explanation is great. There’s little that I would add (and I should really be playing outside and watching the sunset over our gorgeous Sandia (Watermelon) mountains). But – I’m not sure how a post about ABQ’s queer/trans scene could leave out mention of Self Serve, the Sexuality Resource Center (they sell sex toys and sexy stuff, but in an awesome, affirming way!). The ladies of Self Serve also host tons of LGBTQ-related events, so that place is generally always hopping with queermos.

    New Mexico is also one of the few states with fairly comprehensive laws protecting trans folks (can’t get fired for being trans here!). I think partly as a result of those laws, we have a kick as transgender community. Check out New Mexico’s Transgender Resource Center if you’re interested. They’re some fantastic, good-hearted folks. They also just opened up a brick and mortar resource center.

  13. Juanita your always a great read and this really makes me wants go back for a vist thanks so much!!!

  14. I am glad someone in the comments mentioned Self Serve. That place is hands down the queer hub of this city, especially as far as ladies go.

    And! Don’t forget Dandykor, the newest monthly queer cabaret:

    People always seem shocked when they find out how queer ‘Burque is, and I’m always smug so smug about it. This city is the best kept secret in America.

    Que viva!

  15. Been studying at UNM for 2 semesters now. Never knew the Tiki Lounge was quite a hotspot.

  16. Albuquerque New Mexico is quite awesome despite the fact that I spent two hours there trying to find an open liquor store after 9 at night on a road trip.

    • Solution: Smith’s grocery store. Open till midnight.
      I’ve been where you are, my friend, and it is not a happy place.

  17. Excellent article, Juanita! You gave such a wonderful, descriptive overview of where one should venture out to for a night on the town! I think you made reference to some wonderful places to socialize as well as good eateries in NM. I also like the way you describe the authentic cuisine & culinary standards in NM, along with certain common signature dishes that NM is well known for! It makes me want to book a weekend trip and go there sometime soon and see a burlesque show!!!! Thanks, Juanita. You’re a very creative writer:-)

  18. That was exceptional what a tour guide keep up the great work and writing getting us informed once again you did your thing “Baby Girl” Junita

  19. I was so very pleasantly surprised to scroll down the autostraddle homepage and see this article about abq (aka the 505!). Awesome! And very comprehensive! Queers (and celebrities) seem to love Santa Fe, but Albuquerque has some cool things to offer.

  20. Great article, I always had a great time visiting NM. Beautiful sunrises, and beautiful girls.

  21. Any girl’s guide to ABQ must mention Self Serve – not just for the goodies (oh, the wonderful adult goodies) – but also because it is a community hub. If you were dropped on Central not knowing anything about where to go/who to know, Self Serve would be the first place to stop. It bills itself as a “sexuality resource center” but the staff knows what’s up around town, too. I used to go there just to hang out.

  22. Holy Moly, what a neat review of li’l ol’ albuquerque! And how fun to find that an old schoolmate is writing for such a neat travel guide! I’m proud of our little city, and as cosmopolitan as we think we are, it IS the wild west:)

  23. I’m so glad I read this. I’m moving to ABQ this summer (july/august) and have been having doubts for a variety of reasons. This makes me feel better and look forward to it!

  24. I love these city guides :) Thank you to Ricky Roo, Sun Sneezer and SKP for mentioning Self Serve. It’s my business – co-owned by 2 queer ladies. We are like a one-stop-shop for goings on in the lgbt community, and have lots of resources on sexuality, local events and groups.

    We also offer classes on sex – from cunnilingus to fisting :) I didn’t know much about New Mexico before I moved here, and I’m proud to say that ABQ is a super cool town for queers. like a secret, inexpensive, awesome, homo vacation spot! See you all at Self Serve…

  25. I love ABQ. Seriously, one of my favorite places in the world.
    But uh, Lobos? Really?
    I bleed crimson and white, thank you.
    GO AGGIES!!!
    (in case anyone doesn’t get it, I’m from the town that UNM’s rival school is located in)

  26. I hate to be one of those people who is like, yo, do another city guide!

    But I would appreciate one for Bellingham, WA :D

  27. These guides are always so helpful but I’m starting to worry about them getting out of date. Has ABQ queer scene changed since 2012? NM got marriage equality, what effect has that had? Bars close or open since then?

  28. thanks so much for the information is very helpful excited to be visiting your blog

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