Best Restaurant 

Best Red Chile 

Best Enchiladas 

Pete’s Cafe

105 N. First St., Belen 


Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday 

A winner in several categories over the years, Pete’s Cafe has been voted the Best Restaurant for the second year in a row in this year’s Best of Valencia County competition. The restaurant, which has been in business for 74 years, also won Best Red Chile and Best Enchiladas.  

Co-owner Marie Torres said the consistency of the food draws people back generation after generation with traditional family recipes. 

“I think it’s also the atmosphere and ambiance of the restaurant. Every room is a little bit different,” Torres said.  

She and cousin, Camille Padilla, took over ownership of the family-owned restaurant in 2020, keeping the tradition their great grandparents started in 1949 alive.  

Offering up cheese, chicken, shredded and ground beef, carne adovada and shrimp enchiladas, wrapped in blue, white or yellow corn tortillas and smothered in their signature red chile, Torres and Padilla say the restaurant is a place that is both familiar to the community and a new experience for visitors. 

“We are a little out of the way, down here by the railroad,” Torres said. “Unless you know we’re here, you don’t really know we’re here. You don’t just drive by and stop in. We’re a destination.” 

Tradition and consistency along with a healthy dose of patience keeps the quality of the food at Pete’s high, Padilla said. 

“It really takes patience. Everything comes out better. We learned the hard way it doesn’t work to rush things,” she said. 

Best Breakfast


3463 Main St NE, Los Lunas 


Hours: 7 a.m. to  2 p.m.

The award for Best Breakfast in Valencia County goes to Weck’s, which opened its Los Lunas location in 2010. Weck’s has a variety of breakfast options, such as a “Full Belly”omelet, buttermilk pancakes, huevos rancheros or even the belly bustin’ biscuits and gravy.  

“It’s an honor to win it, and it shows our community support and how much we appreciate them and everything they do for us,” says Laura Tyll, Weck’s general manager.

Best Breakfast Burritos

Blake’s Lotaburger

799 River Road, Belen 

1395 Bosque Farms Blvd., Bosque Farms 

314 W. Main St., Los Lunas 

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily

It must be a great if voters continue to rave about a burger joint’s breakfast burritos. Blake’s Lotaburger has once again been voted to have Valencia County’s Best Burritos.  

Iris Johnson, the general manager at the Belen location, said there isn’t a clear favorite — people enjoy them all, whether it’s bacon or sausage, with red or green chile and even both. She said there are also customers who enjoy the burritos without chile.  

Regardless of what is put on the burrito, Zachary Chavez, a shift manager at the Belen location, said the staff is always glad when they can make their customers happy.  

“It makes us very proud,” Chavez said of the honor, “because we try very hard to make sure our burritos are very consistent.”  

Best Lunch

Best Green Chile

Best Salsa

Best Carne Adovada

Teofilo’s Restaurante 

144 Main St NW, Los Lunas 


Hours: 11 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday-Saturday

Teofilo’s Restaurante, a timeless and treasured destination for authentic New Mexican cuisine, takes home four Best of Valencia County awards this year. The family-owned restaurant won Best Carne Adovada, Best Green Chile, Best Salsa and Teofilo’s is the first recipient of the Best Lunch award—a new category.  

Johnnah Torres, daughter of the original founders who manages the restaurant, said lunch at Teofilo’s is super fun and the sought-after daily specials are always made fresh to order. In particular, Torres said their Tuesday lunch special, a green chile chicken cheese soup, is to die for.  

“We’ve been making these dishes for generations now. It has been in my aura and blood and I’m really lucky because I so enjoy it,” said Torres. “I love my coworkers and it’s so nice to be with the community everyday and to be able to serve delicious food because people always leave happier. You can really uplift someone’s mood with a really delicious meal and beautiful atmosphere.” 

Teofilo’s has won Best of Valencia County awards in multiple categories over the years,  including Best Salsa, Green Chile, Best Sopapiallas and more. Torres is excited though that this is the first year they have won for Best Carne Adovada.  

“We’re so honored and grateful that we are still in business and we get to serve the public this way,” said Torres.

Best Dessert

Range Cafe 

740 Main St. SE, Los Lunas 


Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 

The Range Cafe in Los Lunas has been voted to have the Best Desserts in Valencia County for the variety of sweet treats they offer — everything from bear claws, roadhouse chocolate cake, pumpkin cheesecake, cream puffs, pecan or cinnamon rolls, banana pudding and even sugar free cheesecake.  

Lawrence Padilla, who has managed the Los Lunas eatery for two years, said the company has its own commissary, which provides the desserts to the six Range Cafe locations in the Albuquerque metro area.  

“It’s an honor that we’ve been chosen for our desserts,” said Padilla. “It’s great for our company because we take great pride in our desserts. 

“We’re glad to be back in the Best of Valencia County,” he added. “We were voted Best Restaurant in 2019. We know we’re doing good things here and we hope to accomplish more as we move forward.” 

Big Mike’s Burgers & More 

19388 N.M. 314, Belen 


Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 to 8 p.m., Fridays; closed Saturday and Sunday 

Big Mike’s Burgers & More has once again won the title of Best Green Chile Cheeseburger in Valencia County. 

Mike Montaño, the restaurant’s owner, said while it’s a “basic burger,” the success of his green chile cheeseburger is the seasonings that elevate the patty, and a buttered, toasted bun take it to the next level.  

“You have to give it up to Valencia County for voting for us every year,” Montaño said. “We’re trying to be consistent and I guess that’s what we’re doing because they keep voting for us.  

Montaño recently hurt his wrist and hasn’t been cooking too much, and credits his brother, Brandon, who has been serving up all the burgers.  

“It’s been the same crew for a while now, and that’s how we keep doing well,” he said.  

Best Green Chile Cheeseburger

Best Salad


3460 Main St. NE, Los Lunas  


Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 

Double your pleasure at Dion’s in Los Lunas, a Best of Valencia County winner for pizza and salad. 

“It’s a huge honor—I’m super excited,” said Jake Murdoch, general manager at Dion’s in Los Lunas.  Murdoch says it’s all about “Making fresh and quality ingredients that are made to order with intention and care.”  

The pizza at Dion’s is well known, but Murdoch says don’t forget about the salad.  

“People love the chicken pecan with the spring mix— and you can’t have a Dion’s salad without Dion’s dressing.”  

Murdoch believes employees are ready to say “yes” to the customer, “whatever they need, just doing our best to make that happen.” 

Best Pizza

Best Steak

Varela’s Steakhouse 

710 Dalies Ave., Belen 


Hours: 4-8 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 

New business owners, Lourdes and Hector Varela, are off to a good start, winning the Best Steak accolades in this year’s Best of Valencia County. 

Last year, the couple purchased and opened Varela’s Restaurant — formerly the RSH Steakhouse, where Lourdes was a cook.  

Daughter Claudia Varela says the family owned and operated restaurant takes pride in great customer service and quality food.  

“I think it’s the seasoning and flavoring of the steaks,” Lourdes said, when asked what made them the best. 

Best Tacos


1675 Bosque Farms Blvd., Bosque Farms 


Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays 

Benny’s has been filling stomachs and bringing smiles to the faces of customers since Benny Zamora opened the business in 1972.  

“We really do try. We cook everything fresh every day,” said Daniel Zamora, Benny’s son.  

Quality, freshness and consistency are priorities. 

“We try to do everything exactly the same,” Zamora shares. “We make our own tortilla shells.  We make our own taco meat, obviously.  We also shred our own cheese.”  

Best Artist

Kevin Harding

Best known for his stencil artwork, Belen artist Kevin Harding has been voted Best Artist in this year’s Best of Valencia County.  

In addition to his stencil work and hand-painted signs and lettering for businesses, Harding has recently expanded his work into wildlife and avian photography. For his “day job,” he creates set pieces for the movie and TV industry — everything from artwork on sets, signs, household items and even entire buildings. 

Harding was one of the artists who built part of the set for “12 Strong,” which was partially filmed in Los Lunas. The set of several adobe buildings, aged to New Mexico perfection were ultimately blown up during filming, but Harding says the work lives forever in the film. 

Winning Best Artist is a “real honor,” he said, and is different from winning competitions he’s entered in the past. 

“It’s different when you’re voted for,” Harding said. “For the other contests, I went out of my way to put them in. Here, people went out of their way to vote for me.” 

Best Attorney

David C. Chavez

David C. Chavez  

651 N.M. 314 SW, Los Lunas 


Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Friday 

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be recognized by Valencia County as the Best Attorney,” said David C. Chavez.  

Chavez has been serving New Mexicans for more than 40 years as a personal injury attorney through the law firm of David C. Chavez. He said he is passionate about providing personal, individual service and being the voice for injured parties and their families.  

“We are really excited about being selected. We have a great staff and a top legal team who assists with cases,” said Chavez. “We’ve been in business this long because of the support we have locally throughout the years, so we just want to thank the community for their support and trust in our law firm.” 

Best Dentist

Dr. Roland Sanchez

Conquistador Dental 

704 Christopher Road, Belen  


Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., every other Friday 

Email: [email protected] 

For the third year in a row, Valencia County’s Best Dentist is Dr. Roland Sanchez, DDS, owner of Conquistador Dental, in Belen.  

For 13 years, he has provided the community with a full spectrum of dental care, including teeth cleaning, high-end cosmetics, implants and oral surgery.  

“I’m excited and I feel honored by the people,” Sanchez said. “That’s really what it is, you know, it’s nice to know that we’re able to come back and serve our community and that they’re happy with us here.” 

A Belen native, Sanchez says it has been a pleasure to serve the community his father served. His goal is for his children to follow in the family’s footsteps. 

“You can only be so good but without a good team, you’ll never meet your potential and I’m fortunate that I have a set of girls here they are just incredible I’d put them up against anyone.”  

Conquistador Dental sees patients from across the state, everywhere from Deming to Santa Rosa and up to Santa Fe.  

“We’re very fortunate that we have a very large patient pool and we work hard to serve them and make sure they’re happy with our services,” he said.  

Best Educator

Jared Schmock

A teacher for more than a decade, Belen High School English and language arts teacher Jared Schmock has been voted as the Best Educator in Valencia County. 

Schmock has been a teacher at BHS since 2018, and is also the boys and girls head track and field coach at the school. After he earned his degree in art, Schmock said he really started to think about how to make a living in art.  

Not liking the options, he took inspiration from his mother, who was a teacher, and went into education. 

Teaching offers a stable livelihood while leaving enough time to practice his artwork, such as oil painting, digital art and stencils. 

Schmock said being voted Best Educator is “surprising and exciting. Something I never expected. I go to work every day and do my job. I don’t expect awards.” 

Best Electrician (tie)

Daylight Electric 

267 Courthouse Rd., Ste. E, Los Lunas 


Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday 

A family business for more than 25 years, Daylight Electric owner Matt Thomas says he and his team are proud of the work they do and how the company supports the community. Being voted Best Electrician this year is another accomplishment to be proud of, he says. 

“We are proud to be part of the community and we all take great pride in our work,” Thomas said. “I have a group of great guys. We give customers a fair, honest product.” 

Randy’s Electric 

3529 N.M. 47, Peralta 


Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday 

In business more than 43 years and multi-year winner of Best Electrician, Randy Smith, owner of Randy’s Electric, says it’s always an honor to be recognized and it’s never a solitary accomplishment. 

“It’s not Randy Smith and Bonnie Smith doing this,” Smith said. “We have good employees and customers; they make the difference. It’s great to receive this again.” 

Best Financial Advisor

Pavlos Panagopoulos 

511 W Reinken Ave., Belen 


Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Belen office; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Albuquerque office 

For 38 years, Pavlos Panagopoulos, who holds multiple financial certifications and licenses, has been assisting the people of Valencia County from his Belen-based business. This year marks his unprecedented eighth consecutive selection as the Best Financial Advisor in Valencia County. He attributes his success to his staff. 

“Winning this award is a testament to Francine and Selena that they’ve been with me for so long, we have a good family here and we’re a family business.” 

Panagopoulos’ insurance agency is affiliated with Cetera, one of the largest independent financial service companies in the country. Cetera has more than 9,000 advisors and he is in the top percentile of advisors in the country.  

“It’s a testament to Belen and to our family-oriented business that we have kept it as a family business and our clients have gravitated toward that because people are really uncertain about what’s happening in the world,” said Panagopoulos. 

Best Firefighter

Capt. Raquel Torres

Los Lunas Fire Capt. Raquel Torres said it’s shocking and exciting to receive the 2023 Best Firefighter award.  

“To see the work I’ve done over the last 19 years being recognized is awesome,” she said.  

Torres began volunteering with LLFD in 2002 and became a career firefighter in 2005. In February, she was promoted as the first female captain in the LLFD.  

“I enjoy the ever-changing field, and the biggest thing I appreciate and love about (LLFD) is the comradery with the crews. It was especially felt during the last few months with my father’s passing that this is my family.”  

Best High School Coach

Greg Henington

Becoming a coach may have been destiny for Greg Henington, the Los Lunas High School head football coach.  

Henington remembers going to coaches meetings at 6 or 7 years old with his father Rex, “drawing up some wishbone plays and I just loved it. I loved football. I kind of followed in my father’s footsteps.” 

Henington calls his selection, “A cool honor. I’m pleased to know that we are working hard to make a difference, not only with football but in the community as well.” 

Best Insurance Agent

Rodney Baca

Farmers Insurance 

1202 Main St. NE, Ste. B, Los Lunas 


Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Friday 

“It’s really a blessing,” said Rodney Baca in response to again winning the Best Insurance Agent award. “First, I give all the glory to God; he’s the one who gives us all our blessings. I also owe a lot of it to my parents because they showed me what hard work and good customer service looks like. The other thing I’m extremely thankful for is a wonderful staff.” 

Baca, a Farmers Insurance agent based in Los Lunas, is passionate about providing personalized service and educating customers about insurance so they can make more informed decisions to find the insurance coverage that best fits their needs. 

“I feel extremely happy and blessed to be voted again this year,” he said. “It shows we are going in the right direction, but it’s never something I rest on. I always try to keep making myself better.”  

Best Musician

Daniel Solis

Daniel Solis, who was voted as Valencia County’s Best Musician, started playing music as a youngster growing up in northern New Mexico. He credits his grandfather, Marcelino Herrera, and older brother, Dominico, for teaching him how to play guitar and sharing the passion for New Mexican music. 

Along with being the front man for The Daniel Solis Band, he is a seventh-grade Social Studies teacher at Belen Middle School and is married to wife, Natalie, and has three children. He is also a woodworker.  

Solis is currently promoting his latest CD, “Lo Que Hago Mejor,” or “What I do Best.” 

“It’s an honor,” Solis said of the recognition by voters. “We do this because we love to see people happy and smiling out there on the dance floor. It’s the best feeling being able to provide them a good time.” 

Best Plumber (tie)

Hessinger’s Plumbing 

40 Los Chapulines, Belen 


Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, with after-hours emergency services available 

Email: [email protected]

For the fourth year in a row, Hessinger’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling won for Best Plumber in Valencia County. 

Hessinger’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling brings more than 20 years of experience. They are family-owned and operated, offering residential and commercial solutions. They service plumbing, heating and cooling needs — everything from drain cleaning to HVAC conversions. 

“What it means to the company is we’ve worked hard to service the community and it’s great to get recognition like this,” said owner Kris Hessinger. “It’s probably undeserving. We’d love to be bigger and take care of everybody, but with my smaller crew, we let a lot of people down. We can’t get out there. Same-day service, but yeah, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to be nominated again and to be first.”  

TLC Plumbing 

5000 Edith Blvd., Albuquerque 


Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday; open 24 hours in cases of emergency

TLC, based out of Albuquerque, tied with Hessinger’s Plumbing for the Best Plumber in the county.  

Started by Dale Armstrong in 1987, TLC has offices in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and serves the entirety of the Middle Rio Grande Valley. 

“TLC really enjoys being a part of the community. A huge percent of our workforce lives in Valencia County, and we are excited to be recognized as the Best Plumbing Company of Valencia County,” said Dale Armstrong, TLC owner.  

Best Primary Care Provider

Jennifer Tafoya Trujillo

Valencia Health and Wellness 

101 N. Sixth St., Belen 


Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed 12-1 p.m. for lunch), Monday-Friday 

After 19 years as a physician’s assistant working for someone else, Jennifer Tafoya Trujillo, with her business partner and fellow practitioner, Cassandra Otero, opened Valencia Health and Wellness in Belen in January 2020.  

Trujillo, this year’s Best Primary Care Provider, said she went into medicine in order to serve the community she grew up in. 

“I wanted to help as best I can. I definitely love helping people find their path to wellness,” Trujillo said. “We have an awesome staff. I’m grateful. People who go into medicine don’t do it for the notoriety, so when something like this happens, it feels good.” 

Best Principal

Eric Tiger

“Shocked,” is how Eric Tiger, principal at Los Lunas High School, described his honor. Tiger has only been principal at LLHS about six months.  

“It does make me happy just to see that people really see the changes that we are trying to make up here,” Tiger said.  

While there are “growing pains,” Tiger added, “I always have had the desire to work with kids and work with adults that are working with kids. I think that’s what gets me coming to work every day.” 

Best Police Officer

Sgt. Mario Vallejos

After a career in the construction industry and as a bail bondsman, Mario Vallejos decided to become a police officer. Since 2017, Vallejos has worked for the Belen Police Department, and is the administrative and detective sergeant. Vallejos said he has always wanted to serve the community.  

“To be honest, I’m really humbled by it. I wasn’t expecting it,” Vallejos said of the people who voted him as Best Police Officer. “I want to thank the community for recognizing not only myself, but the hard work all law enforcement does for the community.” 

Best Real Estate Agent

Nancy Montoya

Century 21 Real Estate agent Nancy Montoya said it’s incredibly humbling and fulfilling to be recognized by the community as Best Real Estate Agent for the eighth consecutive year. 

“Knowing that I’ve earned the trust and confidence of my clients and peers is truly special,” said Montoya. “It motivates me to continue providing top-notch service and making a positive impact in the real estate world. I couldn’t be more grateful for the support.” 

Montoya, who has 45 years of experience in real estate, opened Valencia County’s only Century 21 franchise in 1981 with her husband, Joe. She said her and her team work on a nearly daily basis providing expert services to anyone in need. 

Best Tattoo Artist

Orlando Sedillo 

231 Sandoval Road, Los Lunas 


By appointment only

Coveted tattoo artist Orlando Sedillo has been recognized by the community as the Best Tattoo Artist for a second year in a row.   

“I am booked at least five to six months in advance; it’s awesome,” said Sedillo, who has been tattooing for 34 years. “I think it’s all due to my clients, friends, family and, of course, the man upstairs.” 

A versatile artist, Sedillo’s tattoos encompass a wide range of styles and requests. He also specializes in cover-ups, hence the name of his shop, 2nd Chances Tattoo Studio.  

“I also do wood burning, watercolor paintings, I make furniture, I make costumes, I do a lot of stuff,” he said.  

Best Varsity Female Athlete

Danae Chavira

Danae Chavira has been a standout for the Belen Eagles on the softball diamond as a pitcher and a hitter.  

“I think it’s really cool,” Chavira, senior, said of the honor. “I never thought I would be nominated—it’s a good thing to show colleges.”   

During her junior season, Chavira batted .411, slugged seven home runs and led the team in runs batted in. 

Chavira is excited for her final season at BHS.  

“I think we’re going to have a good team.” 

Best Varsity Male Athlete

Diego Avila

It’s hard to decide whether it’s Diego Avila’s accomplishments or his perseverance that is most impressive. The three-sport star at Belen High School is a two-time state wrestling champion, who shunned surgery on a torn ACL last season to continue wrestling.  

“To be the best is what motivates me, really, the challenges,” said Avila. “I take honor in what I do.” 

Avila won’t pick a favorite between football, baseball and wrestling, but “Sports has always been one of my top priorities throughout my life.  I like them all.” 

Best Veterinarian

Dr. Florian Sanchez

Yucca Veterinary Medical Center, LLC 

1837 Camino Del Llano, Belen 


Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday; Saturdays, emergencies only

For the third year in a row, the award for Best Veterinarian goes to Dr. Florian Sanchez, owner of the Yucca Veterinary Medical Center.  

“It’s a great honor because of all the things that we try to do — treat people right be honest, upfront and price things the best we can,” says Sanchez. “We’re working hard for people, it’s a great honor for people to see that and acknowledge it.” 

Dr. Sanchez and his medical team provide internal medicine, dentistry, orthopedic surgery and more for companion pets and large animals. 

After obtaining his doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine, he founded Yucca Veterinary Medical Center in 2013. 

“Being from a small town means you know the people, treat them like regular people, give people options and be here to support them,” he said.  

Best Art Gallery

Tomé Art Gallery 

2930 N.M. 47, Tomé 


Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday

The little gallery in the heart of the county — Tomé Art Gallery — has once again been voted Valencia County’s Best Art Gallery. 

“Thank you to our loyal customers for this wonderful honor. As always, with such amazing competition in the county, we are very grateful to be named best gallery,” said owner Jan Pacifico. “It almost feels like cheating, to be honored for doing the thing we love to do most — make art and then see it find good homes all around New Mexico and even around the world.” 

Best Auto Body Shop

Charlie’s Paint & Body 

925 Martha Jean Road, Belen 


Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday; By appointment on Saturday  

Charlie’s Paint & Body, voted Best Auto Body Shop, was founded in 1967 in Belen by Charlie and Betty Croft. 

Croft’s granddaughter, Debbie Thompson and her husband, Jimmy, have owned and operated the business since 2001. 

“I like to say our work speaks for itself,” said Debbie Thompson, “but I want to say ‘thank you’ to all the people around here who support us.  

“I love dealing with our customers,” she said. “That’s my main quality here is dealing with our customers and taking care of them. Customer service keeps us busy.” 

Best Auto Shop

Bobby’s Automotive Inc. 

19767 N.M. 314, Los Chavez 


Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday

Bobby’s Automotive offers a full range of services on cars both foreign and domestic, as well as doing some cosmetic work.  

“My dad, Bobby, started this business 23 years ago and I’ve been with him ever since,” said Steven Gutierrez, owner of Bobby’s Automotive. “In 2018, he retired because of health problems, and that’s when my wife, Stephanie, started. She learned how to work on vehicles from both of us. 

“We are blessed because it’s just the two of us and we continue to grow the business together. We want to thank all of our loyal customers because without them we wouldn’t have lasted this long. It’s an honor to be voted best automotive shop.” 

Best Bakery

Manny’s Fine Pastries 

515 Main St., NE, Los Lunas 


Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday and Saturday

Manny’s Fine Pastries continues their winning streak as the Best Bakery in Valencia County.  

Betty Jean Villa, owner of the family-owned and operated business, said she is appreciative of the recognition. 

“It makes me happy because that’s what we want to do; we want to make people happy with our product,” Villa said. “We know our community, and we just try to make a quality product at the best price we can get it because we’re not here to make millions—we’re here to help each other out in our community and that’s what we’re about.” 

Manny’s has been in business for 27 years. They offer a wide variety of fresh baked goods that have an authentic, New Mexican touch. This time of year, Villa said pastelitos and empanadas are big hits as well as their specialty Christmas cookies like the honey nut bar.  

Best Barber Shop

Mario’s Barber Shop 

2210 Sun Ranch Village Loop, Los Lunas 


Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday

“Early bird gets the worm,” is the reason the doors open at 7 a.m. at Mario’s Barber Shop in Los Lunas, according to owner, Mario Sandoval. “You’ve got to do it to be successful. When no one else is open, you’ve got to be cutting hair.” 

Sandoval says all seven barbers are ready when the doors unlock and all seven are local. 

“We’re not necessarily a business, we’re family here,” he said. 

Best Boutique

Two J’s Boutique 

2476 Bosque Farms Blvd, Bosque Farms 


Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 

 “It has a little bit of a country vibe,” is how Jige Jenkins, owner, describes Two J’s Boutique. “I try to keep things in the store for people who don’t dress western.” 

“I have a pretty big selection,” Jenkins said, including tops, footwear, jewelry, jumpsuits and jeans.   

In addition to a variety of choices, Jenkins believes her staff provides excellent “customer service—we’re very helpful.” 

Best Cannabis Dispensary


Smokal Smoke Local LLC 

212 Becker Ave., Belen 


Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily

“We know that Belen has more competition than any other city in New Mexico and possibly the nation at roughly a hundred actual customers per store. This means we have to work every single day to gain their loyalty,” said Jay Peters, who co-owns Smokal Smoke Local with Chris Gabaldon. “You can have specials and entice people in here-and-there but we sincerely want them to come back every time. Our staff engages, asks questions and offers input. Our patients and customers have become family and we are very proud of their recognition.” 

Best Childcare

Wright Choice Learning Center 

901 W. Vivian Road, Belen 


Hours: 6:30 a.m. to  5:30 p.m., Monday-Friday  

Email: [email protected]

Situated on an acre of land, the Wright Choice Learning Center has five rooms for children ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years old. It has a fully-equipped kitchen, where the staff prepares home-cooked nutritious meals.  

“It means a lot because my staff works really hard,” said center owner and director, Sandra Lee Baca, about winning for Best Child Care.  

“It’s nice to be appreciated by the community and to know that our work has been recognized for 38 years. It’s a great accolade for us to get recognized for something that we love to do and it shows through the community,”   

Best Place to Get a Cup of Coffee

Double Cup Coffee Truck  


Location and hours are posted regularly on their Instagram and Facebook pages

Double Cup Coffee Truck has all of the traditional hot drinks people need to get their day started right or stay warm on cold days but they also have some delicious specialty drinks created for the holidays, like the gingerbread latte, the peppermint mocha or the biscochito latte.  

“It means a lot, we’re super blessed and we try hard to be the best so it’s awesome that we’re recognized for it because we really do try hard to please all of our customers and serve them something that they love,” says Taylor Rios, owner of Double Cup Coffee Truck.  

Best Community Event

Los Lunas Fourth of July

This year, Los Lunas’ Fourth of July events, including the parade and celebration, has been voted as the Best Community Event in Valencia County.  

Los Lunas Village Administrator Greg Martin said this recognition is extremely gratifying because it validates all the hard work put into the event by village employees and other participants.  

“The Los Lunas Parks and Recreation Department strives each year—together with many other village departments and community organizations—to plan and carry out a fun, safe, and memorable Fourth of July celebration,” said Martin. “We are so pleased this special event is recognized and enjoyed by so many in the community and we hope people keep coming back for a good time year after year!” 

Best Community Service/Nonprofit Organization 

Valencia Shelter Services 

445 Camino del Rey SW, Ste. E, Los Lunas 


24-hour hotline: 505-864-1383 

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday

Established in 1989 as a crisis line to help women experiencing domestic violence find shelter and resources to keep them safe, Valencia Shelter Services has grown into an organization that provides confidential services and hope to individuals and families affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. VSS is an advocacy organization providing comprehensive services in a trauma informed environment to individuals and families in crisis in Valencia County and beyond. 

Executive Director Stephanie Wood said the VSS is beyond grateful for the recognition of being named Best Community Service/Nonprofit Organization. 

“Thank you for allowing us the honor of supporting our community for 34 years. Thank you for trusting us when you needed support and thank you for supporting our calls to action when a victim needed you,” Wood said. “Your support truly makes what we do possible.” 

As a nonprofit organization with a predominantly rural service area, community support is absolutely imperative to ensuring the community’s survivors receive 24/7 crisis intervention, shelter, advocacy, and support when fleeing from domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, said Vicki Hulce Finnegan, VSS community engagement and development director.  

“Our hope is that this meaningful recognition will increase awareness of our services, let our community members know they are not alone and VSS is here for them,” Finnegan said. “Heartfelt gratitude to the Valencia County News-Bulletin for keeping our county informed and connected, and to all who voted for Valencia Shelter Services. We will continue to put all we have into earning this honor.” 

Best Community to Live In

Village of Los Lunas

Los Lunas Mayor Charles Griego said he is thrilled that Los Lunas has again been voted as the Best Community to Live In within Valencia County.  

“This recognition reflects our commitment to an exceptional quality of life and our position as the second fastest growing community in New Mexico,” said Griego. “Together, we’re building a future that embodies the spirit of Los Lunas, fostering growth in commerce, industry, and technology and creating increased opportunities for our residents.” 

Best Dance Exercise Studio 

Hózhó Nutrition 

621 N. Main, Belen 


Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday-Friday; 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 

Email: [email protected]

Hózhó Nutrition’s owner Verlonda Brown took a chance on opening a new business nearly three years ago during the COVID pandemic, and her dream has paid off. Hózhó Nutrition has been voted to have the Best Dance Exercise Studio in Valencia County.  

Brown offers a variety of exercise classes, including dance fit, which she says is offered from 6-7 p.m., Monday and Wednesday; 9:30-10:30 a.m. on Saturdays and from 4-5 p.m. on Sundays. The cost is $5 per class, but if you purchase from the menu at Hózhó Nutrition, the class if free. 

“It’s at the end of the work day, and it’s a place to let go and not think about work, not think about the stress of life,” Brown said. “They just come here to dance and have fun — and it’s exercise. It doesn’t feel like it’s exercise. We have a disco ball and people just let loose.” 

Brown named the business Hózhó, which is Navajo for beauty, balance and harmony, to be able to create a community.  

When she learned people voted for Hózhó Nutrition, Brown was very excited.  

“This is a family-owned business, and it’s a struggle having a business in a small community,” Brown said. “We’re super excited and grateful.” 

Best Financial Institution

Best Mortgage Lender

Nusenda Credit Union 

320 Main St. NE, Los Lunas 


Lobby hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday 

Drive-up hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday

Once again, Nusenda Credit Union has been voted the Best Financial Institution in the county as well as Best Mortgage Lender. 

“It is truly an honor to receive recognition once again from the community we are privileged to serve every day,” said Judy Sandoval, Los Lunas branch manager. “I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the Valencia staff for their dedication to our members and their commitment to a ‘people helping people’ approach, supporting the community’s financial needs.” 

Best Floral Shop

Bloom Flowers & Gifts 

1402 Main St., Ste E, Los Lunas 

505- 865-7338 

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Saturday

“I want to say thank you to Valencia County for voting us as the best as far as flowers are concerned,” said Penny Lucero, owner of Bloom Flower & Gifts. 

Lucero said it’s been a joy to serve the community, though this may be her last year as owner of the shop. 

“When I purchased this shop, I said I wanted to do it for five years and I’m in my fifth year, so I am looking forward to selling it,” she said.  

Lucero encourages interested buyers to get in touch as she is hoping to sell as soon as possible. As a final message for the community, Lucero said she can only express gratitude and appreciation for their support over the years.  

Best Food Truck

Game Changer Grill 


Hours and Locations: Game Changer Grill travels to various locations. Check its Facebook page, The Game Changer Official, or call for locations and hours of operation. 

According to Chris Montaño , who owns and operates Game Changer Grill along with his fiancé, Lorraine Garcia, the success of his food truck is simple.  

“Just good food, good service and a happy smile,” Montaño said.  

Montaño points to asada fries, Philly cheese steaks on fry bread and the gourmet burger as items “on the menu that people ‘wow’ about—we’re happy to give people great food.  That’s what it is all about.”   

Best Funeral Home  

Noblin Funeral Service 

♦ 418 W. Reinken Ave., Belen 


♦ 2211-D Main St., SE, Los Lunas 


Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday (On-call 24/7)

Robert Noblin, owner of Noblin Funeral Services, said the Noblin family is once again honored to be the choice for Valencia County’s Best Funeral Home. 

Noblin opened his doors in Belen 18 years ago and expanded to Los Lunas. In May 2021, he purchased the Terrace Grove Cemetery in Belen, expanding the company’s services. Noblin Funeral Service offers full funeral services, memorial services, burials and cremation. 

“The staff of Noblin Funeral Service is humbled to once again receive Best Funeral Home,” Robert Noblin said. “We strive to ease the burden of a difficult time and we thank you, Valencia County, for your continued trust.” 

Best Gym

Main Street Muscle and Fitness Center 

435 Main St. SW, Los Lunas 


Hours: 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Friday; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday,

Main Street Muscle and Fitness Center was voted the Best Gym in Valencia County again. The Los Lunas gym is the county’s fitness destination for weights, cardio, yoga and personal training.  

“What it means for us is that there is positive customer feedback,” said  Chris Sais, owner of the Main Street Muscle and Fitness Center about being voted Best Gym in Valencia County. “Our goal is to provide personal service to our customers, which is something that’s been lost in the fitness industry.”  

Best Hair Salon

Hair Innovations 

403 Main St., Belen 


Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday

Ronnie Torres, who has co-owned Hair Innovations with Barbara Torres for 36 years, is grateful for his customers.  

“I guess you’re never too old to be appreciated,” Torres said of having the Best Hair Salon. “We’ve been here forever, and now we’re doing the hair of the grandkids of our customers. The best thing is when people who have moved away come back for a visit always stop in and tell us they had to get their hair done here. It’s so nice to be a place where people come back to. 

“With so much competition out there — so many good salons and stylists — it’s nice that people appreciate us. It’s great.” 

Best Hardware/Lumber Store

RAKS Building Supply 

108 Carson Drive, Los Lunas 


Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday

An experienced management team and many younger employees is a combination for success at RAKS Building Supply in Los Lunas, according to Kenneth Trujillo, co-owner.  

“People like the store because they get waited on right away,” Trujillo added.  “We care about their projects and can pretty well answer most of their questions.”   

Richie Tabet, co-owner/president, has called the staff, “like family.” 

Best Ice Cream Shop


3457  N.M. 47, Los Lunas 


Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Sunday 

To Tiffany Sanchez, co-owner, Baskin-Robbins in Los Lunas is more than just “31 Flavors,” the company’s well-known catchphrase. 

“Variety,” is the reason for its success, Sanchez said. “We have a ton of options to choose from. It’s your traditional ice cream shop.”  

Sanchez appreciates the employees and loyal patrons.   

“We have so many people who are repeat customers,” she said. “I just want to thank them for keeping us afloat.”  

Best Locally-Owned Business  

High Desert Industrial Supply 

830 N. Main St., Belen 


Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Saturdays

Espirdion “Speedy” and Viola Vallejos opened HDI in 1966 on South Main Street. Their son, Michael and his wife, Leslie, moved it to its current location on North Main Street in 2019. Because the current location has more retail space, they were able to expand what they could sell.   

Not only do they sell welding supplies, HDI also sells groceries, including frozen meat. Vallejos added a deli counter, where they sell Frito pies, enchilada, chile dogs and breakfast burritos. The store also sells fresh meat and cheeses. HDI also has a lot of local products on their shelves.  

Store manager Karen Vigil says she and the Vallejos family are very grateful for the honor of being voted Best Locally-Owned Business.  

“It’s great — it means a lot,” Vigil said of the recognition. “It means we’re doing a great job and we have the loyalty of the community. To be local is awesome.” 

Vigil credits the success of HDI to their customer service, saying they take that extra time to make sure they give them considerable attention.  

“Just knowing and recognizing the people and being personable,” she said. “Being kind goes a long way. It’s more of a feeling — and it’s about family and being in a small town.” 

Best Nail Salon

Nails Time 

3457 N.M. 47, Ste. F, Los Lunas 


Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday

If you’re looking for a place to get a glow up for your fingers and toes, Nails Time in Los Lunas is the place.  

Kevin Ho, owner for the last six years, said the salon has made its mark because every employee has their own area of expertise, from acrylics to gel to waxing. 

“Everyone has something they are very good at,” Ho said. “It feels great to be recognized, amazing. We love Los Lunas.” 

Nails Time has been a Valencia County mainstay for more than 20 years. 

Best New or Used Car Dealership

Tillery Buick GMC 

2221 Autumn Brush Road NW, Los Lunas 


Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday

Tillery Buick and GMC in Los Lunas claimed the award for Best New or Used Car Dealership in Valencia County. 

“It’s an honor to have been nominated and selected as the (Best New or Used Car Dealership) in Valencia County …,” says Dan Hoagland, dealer at Tillery Buick, GMC. “This award is a recognition of the bond, trust and relationship we have with our customers and the people of Valencia County.” 

Best Place to Get an Adult Beverage

Tractor Brewing Co. 

470 Sandsage St, Los Lunas 


Hours: 2-9 p.m., Wednesday; 12-10 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; 12-6 p.m., Sunday

For the second year in a row, Tractor Brewing Co. in Los Lunas won for Best Place to Get an Adult Beverage in Valencia County. Go there for some hand-crafted beers or get some cocktails made from spirits by the Troubled Minds Distilling. 

“Basically, it means so much to us because this is our hometown,” said Jeremy Kinter, events and marketing director at Tractor Brewing Co. “We originated in Los Lunas in 1999. We just love all of our customers in Valencia County so much and we’re happy to be able to provide a service that people enjoy.”  

Best Place to Get an Oil Change  

My Lube Center 

1505 Main St. SW, Los Lunas 


Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 

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Eric Garcia is well known in Valencia County, starting in 1981 when he opened a gas station in Bosque Farms. Thirteen years ago, he began operating My Lube Center with the help of his sons, Chris and Eric Jr.  

“I’m really amazed,” with the honor, Garcia said.  

Garcia believes customers appreciate, “Our honesty and our friendly service. We always try to be good to everybody. That’s how our customers are to us.” 

Best Place to Get a Sweet Treat

Teri’s Sweet Garden  

120 Main St. NW,  Los Lunas 


Hours: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 

Teri’s Sweet Garden has been voted as the Best Place to get a Sweet Treat in Valencia County for the fifth year in a row. The shop offers a variety of traditional candies, including homemade suckers, caramel apples and chocolate treats. Additionally, you can try their homemade pickles in sweet, sour or spicy flavors. Satisfy your sweet tooth today at Teri’s Sweet Garden. 

“It’s amazing. We literally have the sweetest customers. I tell you what it’s just so cool. I don’t even know what to say anymore,” says Teri Leahigh, owner of Teri’s Sweet Garden. “We’re just so thankful and so blessed that everybody keeps us in business now for 13 years.”  

Best Thrift/Consignment Store

Adelante Bargain Square 

19554 N.M. 314, Los Chavez 


Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Sunday 

Offering everything from sofas to shirts, Adelante’s Bargain Square thrift store has once again been recognized as the best in Valencia County. The store is operated by Adelante, a nonprofit that supports people with disabilities, seniors, and disadvantaged populations across New Mexico. 

“Adelante is honored to have Bargain Square recognized again this year as the best thrift store in Valencia County. Our team works hard to process thousands of donations a day and to offer great deals to our local shoppers,” said Rebecca Sanford, Adelante president and CEO. “We greatly appreciate the support of our customers and donors, and the community that makes our thrift store possible.”  

Best Tire Shop

Craig Independent Tire Co. 

19236 N.M. 314, Belen 


Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week; closed on holidays

Craig Independent Tire Co. was established in 1981 by John and Carolyn Craig. Their son, John and his wife, Kassandra, continue the tradition of excellent service. 

Craig Tires offers a variety of services, including tires, tire repair, alignment, brake repair, suspension and more. The Craigs credit their longtime success with a commitment to the community, providing honest and trustworthy service.  

“We’re grateful to our customers and we are glad to be able to provide quality service to Valencia County,” John Craig said. “Our customers and our great team is what keeps us here.”  

Best Tourist Spot

Belen Harvey House Museum

104 First St., Belen 


Hours: 12-5 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday

The Belen Harvey House Museum specializes in Harvey House, railroad and Southwest history, but it is also a space where you can find a variety of exhibits and the Whistle Stop Cafe. 

“For everything that people of Belen say that we don’t have, the one thing we do have is the Harvey House. Only a few towns can say they have a Harvey House,” said Frances Zeller, manager of the Belen Harvey House Museum. “We have something so special that people from all over come to see and, part of that is, we have a responsibility to make this a really top-level attraction.  

“We make sure we are inclusive of all the different types of events we have here … there’s always something to interest everyone,” she said. “There’s always a reason to come to the Harvey House. We come in every day and play in our big giant doll house.” 

Zeller said the Whistle Stop Cafe will be reopening after the holidays. 

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The Valencia County News-Bulletin is a locally owned and operated community newspaper, dedicated to serving Valencia County since 1910 through the highest journalistic and professional business standards. The VCNB is published weekly on Thursdays, including holidays both in print and online.