A fast-food burrito chain in Albuquerque has become an international tourist attraction as people come from all over the world to see the spot where a fictional drug trafficker runs his organization. A pastry shop sells doughnuts topped with blue candy designed to resemble crystal meth. A beauty store has a similar product — crystal blue bathing salts.
As “Breaking Bad” finishes filming its fifth and final season in Albuquerque, the popularity of the show is providing a boost to the economy and creating a dilemma for local tourism officials as they walk the fine line of profiting from a show that centers around drug trafficking, addiction and violence. “Breaking Bad” follows the fictional character Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned meth lord.
Albuquerque has seen an unexpected jump in tourists visiting popular sites from the show and local businesses cashing in on its popularity. Tourists are also flocking to sites that before the show were unknown and unimportant: the suburban home of White, played by Bryan Cranston; a car wash that is a front for a money-laundering operation on the series; a rundown motel used frequently for filming; and the real-life burrito joint, which is a fast food chicken restaurant on the show. The Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau has even created a website of the show’s most popular places around town to help tourists navigate, and ABQ Trolley Company sold out all its “BaD” tours last year at $60 a ticket.
“They ask if they can take pictures. They ask if Gus is here,” said Rachel Johnson, 19, a shift manager at the Twisters burrito restaurant in Albuquerque’s South Valley, referring to the show’s character Gus Fring, played by actor Giancarlo Esposito. The eatery has served as the location for the “Los Pollos Hermanos” restaurant where Fring runs his drug operation on “Breaking Bad.”