The Denny's at 2608 Central Ave. SE had a resonance I didn't feel at Los Pollos Hermanos (see my notes below for more). Perhaps it's because, for all of LPH's emblematic qualities, few of my favorite scenes actually happen there (the major exception is those involving the cousins). The Denny's is not only where Walt buys the big gun, but it's also where Walt & Jesse eat after Victor's grisly murder, matching Kenny Rogers shirts and all.
The actual mens' bathroom here was used, and I was quickly able to recreate the approximate shots (on my camera phone--sorry). The very friendly staff took our pictures sitting at "Mr Lambert's" stool and by their BrBa posters. In return for letting us gawk, we got milkshakes.
As my wife pointed out, one really has to visit Garduño's to appreciate its full, goofy, mall-parking-lot grandeur. The severity of what the Whites and the Schraders discuss here evinces BrBa's persistent black humor as the series plummets deeper and deeper into the abyss. From the exterior alone you can tell that it is cut from the same cloth as Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill, etc. Inside, the flair, if you will, is ratcheted up pretty high. The female employees wear truly awful "authentic" garb. They kind of look like Amish women at the end of a long day, or something like that. There are knick knacks all over the walls; it's very cluttered. We only had dessert here and weren't able to sit at the table from "Confessions", though we were very close to it in a side booth. It is unclear to me whether the guacamole is actually made at the table. It was a long day and we told our server that we were just there for dessert. Next time, perhaps.
The Grove ended up as one of our favorite spots. In addition to great scenes between Walt and Lydia, and later Lydia and Todd, then finally all three, the Grove has great food and coffee and a nice atmosphere. A bit on the hip side but by no means pretentious (can't really say pretentious exists in ABQ from what we saw). We first attempted the brunch hour on Saturday, which was a huge mistake. The place was brimming with customers, so we came back later (twice, in fact): once for dessert at around 2pm and the other time an early breakfast at around 8am.
The only difference I can see from the actual Grove and what appeared on-screen is that you order at the counter, get your drinks, and then go to your table where your food is later delivered. The way it's portrayed in the show is more like a typical restaurant. However, this made for a nice opportunity for them to say "the Grove" in the show rather than forcing it with an establishing shot bordering on a hamfisted ad for the joint.
Most importantly, we were able to sit at Lydia's exact table. No Stevia to be found, which is perhaps a good thing given how that played out in "Felina".
After Tohajiilee and the "Dead Freight" trestle, visiting Twister's admittedly feels like amateur hour. It's unquestionably a part of the BrBa filming location pantheon, but at the end of the day it's still a greasy fast food restaurant inside and out. Apparently Twister's has trained their staff to be welcoming of BrBa seekers, which is thoughtful. They even have a guestbook out on the counter, which has gotten some serious use. When we arrived, the booth had just been vacated. We cleaned the surface ourselves so that we could be sure to plant our own asses their for the requisite 15 minutes. Mission accomplished, we were on our way.
The more I think about Loyola's, the more I realize how much care was put into selecting Breaking Bad's restaurants. I'd put it like this: Walt is to Los Pollos Hermanos as Jesse is to Taco Sal as Lydia is to The Grove as Mike is to Loyola's. Loyola's has that trusted institution feel. It's reliable, dependable, honest--you know what you're getting. No bullshit here. You go here a couple times, and they're bound to know that your name. So no sense in masquerading as "Duane" for your drug meets.
Notably, we didn't make any guilt purchases here. Rather, we had breakfast burritos with green chiles, topped off with our best Lydia impressions.
This no-frills Mexican restaurant is first featured in the missing poster montage, and later it's where Walt tells Jesse he is in remission and where Jesse shows Brock how water expands the crinkled-up straw wrapper. We made another modest good-faith order and took in the joint for 20 minutes or so. It's directly across Octopus Car Wash on Menaul, so an easy box to tick while hitting one of the more principle/mandatory locations.
A few hundred meters from Java Joe's and Badger's Bench, the grunginess of The Dog House is only matched by its popularity. In other words, not sure what's in these hot dogs, but the place does killer business. Benches were added here to get the excellent shots of nervous Jesse buying the pistol. As it actually stands, the parking spaces run pretty much right up to the building. We're not meat eaters, so we only stopped in to get sodas as payment for the time we spent in the parking lot getting night shots. The interior is very dingy, but again no barrier to high customer volume. In fact, The staff seemed friendly despite how obvious it was that we were two fish-out-of-water tourists.