“Some folks like to get away
Take a holiday from the neighborhood
Hop a flight to Miami Beach
Or to Hollywood
But I’m taking a Greyhound
On the Hudson River Line
I’m in a New York state of mind.”
Perhaps only in New Mexico does the term “New York state of mind” evoke images of a desert hamlet atop the mesa overlooking the largest city in the state. Such was the effectiveness of the slick marketing campaign by the American Realty and Petroleum Company (AMREP for short) that Rio Rancho, the city it founded less than fifty years ago, may be more often referred to as “Little New York” than as the “City of Vision,” the sobriquet it would prefer. AMREP’s clever marketing attracted hundreds of middle-income New Yorkers to the then untamed western fringes overlooking the Rio Grande.
To almost everyone else, however, “New York state of mind” calls forth the melting pot character that can take you around the world in five boroughs where as many as 800 languages are spoken. That multicultural diversity has become what former President Jimmy Carter described as “a beautiful mosaic” with “different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.” That diversity extends to the city’s culinary scene where within a span of two or three blocks and scant minutes, you virtually have a world’s worth of dining options.
It’s been said that you may leave New York, but New York never leaves you. Patrick Archibald, a transplanted New Yorker who’s been in Albuquerque for more than two decades, can certainly attest to that. Having cut his culinary teeth in Staten Island by baking bagels, he was immediately smitten with the food business and determined to someday make a living in the profession. It’s taken a twenty-year detour to someday for him to achieve his dreams.
As owner of New Surface Cabinets and Countertops on Juan Tabo, he witnessed several restaurants come and go from the restaurant space next door before embarking on his inaugural restaurant ownership venture. A few months after Dagmar’s Restaurant & Strudel Haus shuttered its doors in the summer of 2014, Patrick and his beauteous better half Lisa, a native New Mexican, launched New Yorken. Determining what the featured fare would be was a no-brainer. Patrick wanted to bring New York to New Mexico. For that it’s not only transplanted New Yorkers who are grateful.
Perusing the menu, it would be easy to conclude that Patrick is of Italian descent, but he’s as Irish as a field of shamrocks. While heavy on Italian “red sauce” restaurant favorites, the menu also reflects the multicultural diversity of the neighborhood in which he grew up. That means a smattering of Jewish and German favorites, too. New Yorken also salutes Lisa’s home state with such enchanting dishes as a breakfast burrito, Frito pie and green chili (SIC) stew). New Yorkers aren’t the only ones who’ll appreciate the fried or dirty water hot dogs, pork cutlet sandwich, chicken cutlet parmigiana sandwich and burgers redolent with Big Apple touches.
While the breakfast and lunch menus bespeak of New York’s melting pot diversity, the dinner menu could have emanated from a restaurant named Guido’s, Santori’s or any number of other Italian names. It lists ten Italian dishes, not all of which might be recognized in Italy, but all of which are absolutely beloved in the Italian American communities of New York. Family recipes are the source of such New York favorites as linguine with clam sauce, baked ziti and meatballs. Patrick smiles broadly when describing those meatballs and is fittingly proud that the New Yorken menu includes shrimp parmigiana, a dish not often found in the Land of Enchantment.
The New Yorken Cafe & Bakery is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday and for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. All dinner entrees come with a tossed side salad and fresh Italian bread, the latter of which is served with garlic cloves and butter. The hard-crusted bread with a soft, pillowy interior is a perfect vessel for sopping up sauces. That includes the housemade salad dressings such as the house specialty, a garlic vinaigrette. (The bread, by the way, comes from Sergio’s on Wyoming).
18 April 2015: My standard salad dressing request is “as much blue cheese as you can carry.” What is ferried to my table usually isn’t enough. Lisa brought me two ramekins brimming with some of the best blue cheese we’ve had in a long time. It’s replete with plenty of blue veined, thick, creamy and wonderfully fetid blue cheese crumbles. This blue cheese dressing pairs well with New Yorken’s tossed side salad which is constructed from an organic salad mix, carrots, cucumber, tomato, broccoli, red onions and mushrooms. Yes, mushrooms, a vastly underused salad ingredient which goes especially well with blue cheese.
18 April 2015: Because my own New Mexican mom makes my favorite lasagna in the universe, I rarely order lasagna in restaurants for fear of being disappointed. It’s usually a self-fulfilling prophecy. Lisa’s effusive description of New Yorken’s lasagna swayed my decision as to what to order. It’s an excellent choice: layered pasta, homemade marinara sauce, creamy cheese blend and Italian sausage “baked to perfection.” Several elements on this dish stand out. The marinara sauce is reminiscent of the sauce served at New York’s many “red sauce” Italian restaurants. It’s not as heavy on oregano as marinara around here tends to be and the tomatoes are rich and sweet. The coarsely-blended sausage is redolent with fennel and is very flavorful.
18 April 2015: We thought the lasagna has a lot of sausage (and it does), but it’s sausage-impoverished compared to the Italian Sausage entree (mild Italian sausage, peppers and onions served over spaghetti with garlic and herbs). Often called sausage and peppers on Italian restaurant menus, it’s a favorite in red sauce Italian restaurants. None we’ve ever visited serves as many diagonally sliced sausage coins as New Yorken. My Kim, who believes in sparing the sauce (heretical, yes I know) appreciated the relatively sparse sauce as well as the perfectly al dente spaghetti. The red and green peppers were absolutely perfect, too, neither soft and mushy nor raw and hard. The diversity of sausage and peppers can be seen throughout the menu. They’re available on the New Yorken omelet and on the “Little Italy” sandwich. Wise diners will try them all.
On many a balmy evening in Massachusetts when we needed plenty of carbs for marathon sessions of ultimate Frisbee, my friends and i would visit Mario’s Italian Restaurant in Lexington. One of our favorite energy boosters was baked ziti served in too-hot-to-handle casserole dishes. Baked ziti is one of those Italian-American hybrids for which there isn’t one standard recipe. It’s essentially a penne pasta with some type of sauce. The infusion of the sauce through the dish’s preparation is where the secret to its deliciousness lies. First the pasta is cooked then combined with the sauce in a casserole dish. The ziti is then placed in an oven and allowed to bake.
18 July 2015: If there’s one immutable law about Italian food, it’s that it’s going to taste even better the second time around…even if it means reheating a dish. That’s especially true of good ziti and at New Yorken that’s what you’ll enjoy–very good ziti. This rendition is made with a blend of rich and creamy Italian cheeses, herbs, pasta and the housemade marinara. Not needing an infusion of carbs for ultimate Frisbee, we couldn’t finish the generous portion, but enjoyed the remainder thoroughly. It’s not left-overs when it’s as good, if not better, the second time around.
The term “Parmigiana” is a sort of “catch-all” used to describe meals cooked and served with grated Parmesan cheese. Traditionally, Parmigiana is a dish consisting of layers of Parmesan over fried slices of eggplant though there are numerous variations including chicken, veal and even shrimp. Over time–and some consider this sacrilege–Parmigiana has been made with other types of cheese such as mozzarella. You’ll probably never meet a New Yorker who doesn’t use the diminutive of this dish. That would be “Parm,” a term almost as revered as “mother.”
18 July 2015: Serious Eats, an award-winning online publication contends that “It’s pretty hard to mess up a fried breaded chicken cutlet smothered with red sauce and melted mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.” Alas, in New Mexico finding a good Chicken cutlet Parmigiana is an exception, not a rule. Chicken cutlet parmigiana is apparently the dish enchantment forgot. We count on two fingers–one for Joe’s Pasta House in Rio Rancho and one for New Yorken–the restaurants which prepare an outstanding chicken Parmigiana dish. One of the aspects of New Yorken’s version which stands out is the golden-hued breading which lends a crunchy texture while insulating the chicken as it’s being fried. Amazingly, the breading accomplishes this despite being light and thin, somehow allowing the chicken to retain its moistness. Then there’s the sauce and the cheese, both applied optimally for a blend of acidity and creaminess which render this dish wholly wonderful.
There are many foods associated with New York, but perhaps the most beloved of them all is the classic cheesecake. It may be the most enduring, too, having survived America’s low-cal, low-fat, low-carb and low-sugar manias to be served today in more than 2,000 of the city’s restaurants. New York cheesecake has been a rich, creamy, delicious staple of the New York dessert scene since the 1920s. Among its telltale signs are its denseness, thickness and creaminess. There are many imitators, but none are as good.
It took a lot of trial and effort before Patrick was able to bake a cheesecake as good as his mother’s. Over the years he’s added to his repertoire, eventually building a brand and a business from his passion. For almost five years, he’s offered his delectable cheesecakes under the Patty Cakes brand, selling them in limited quantities. With a more expansive platform, it shouldn’t be long before Duke City diners discover and get hooked on possibly the very best cheesecakes outside New York.
18 April 2015: The luminous treasures displayed in jewelry cases pale in comparison to the cheesecakes behind glass in the pastry cases at New Yorken. Most of them might be classified as “plain” if sheer, utter deliciousness can ever be termed as plain. In this case, plain only means they’re unadorned with any toppings. “Classic” is a better descriptor. Patrick encourages you to make your inaugural slice a classic cheesecake so that nothing comes between your taste buds and the purity of this rich, creamy dessert. My Chicago born-and-bred Kim, who’s no stranger to cheesecake, conceded with alacrity that Patrick’s classic cheesecake is better than Eli’s, a Windy City staple.
18 April 2015: The turtle cheesecake (pecans, caramel and chocolate) is at least as good as the last slice of Junior’s Cheesecakes to cross my lips (and hips) several years ago. That places it in rarefied company. Unlike far too many cheesecakes which are made with a Graham Cracker or Oreo crust, New Yorken’s cheesecakes are absolutely crustless. The denseness of the cream cheese holds up against the generous layer of chocolate topped with whole pecans and drizzled with caramel. The beauty of the turtle cheesecake is the layer of flavorings with varying degrees of sweetness within the tangy cream cheese, dark chocolate and sugary caramel. The pecans are a perfect foil. This is the perfect cheesecake!
The New York state of mind is alive, well and delicious at the New Yorken Cafe & Bakery, a little bit of the melting pot character that defines America’s largest city. By the way, don’t ever buy into the stereotype that New Yorkers are cold and unfriendly. Patrick is one of the nicest restaurateurs you’ll meet, a perfect complement to the lovely Lisa and their son Patrick, Jr., who aspires someday to head Apple.
New Yorken Cafe & Bakery
2120 Juan Tabo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 18 July 2015
1st VISIT: 18 April 2015
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Turtle Cheesecake, Cheesecake, Lasagna, Sausage and Peppers, Lemon Cheesecake, Baked Ziti, Chicken Cutlet Parmigiana