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66 Diner – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The 66 Diner on Route 66 (Central Avenue)

Route 66, America’s highway, meandered across 2,448 miles of the fruited plain, crossing three time zones and eight states, from Chicago to Los Angeles. Although Route 66 has all but disappeared, been renamed (as in Albuquerque’s Central Avenue) or left for nature to reclaim, the spirit of the roadside diner continues to thrive in neon spangled restaurants such as the 66 Diner.

One of the best of Albuquerque’s nostalgia restaurants, this Historic Route 66 classic features a 50s theme replete with pony-tailed waitresses in blue skirts and bobby socks. The 50s music blaring from the jukebox  brings to mind American Graffiti, the 1973 coming of age movie which reintroduced America to the era.  Nostalgia abounds at the Route 66 where with a little imagination, you’ll be transported to a more innocent time in America’s past.

Nostalgia abounds in and out of the 66 Diner

The era of the Mother Road is celebrated in the authenticity of the 66 Diner’s 50s trappings, ranging from black and white tiled floors and iridescent neon signage to the fluorescent turquoise and hot pink decor. Seinfeld devotees will appreciate the hundreds of pez dispensers which line the ledges directly above the steely countertops in the front dining room. Indeed, the 66 Diner is committed to preserving the spirit of the roadside diner along the fabled route.

There is much to like about the Route 66 the diner even if Route 66 the two-lane blacktop is solely something you’ve read about. You’ve got to admire the gumption of a restaurant willing to replace a recipe if a better one is brought in by a guest. That’s right! If you believe you have a tastier recipe for something, the 66 Diner will try it out and if they like it more, it will go on the menu. Not only that, they’ll treat you and three friends to dinner. Frankly, I have a feeling they haven’t had to comp many dinners.

Nostalgia and fun abound at the 66 Diner

That’s because the 66 Diner’s recipes are tried and tested over time. The diner originally launched in 1987 in a converted World War II era Phillips 66 gas station named Sam’s. It was an instant hit among locals and tourists alike. In May, 1995, the 66 Diner went up in flames, only a portion of the original structure remaining. Albuquerque was in mourning for nearly seven months as the diner was rebuilt. It relaunched in February, 1996 and like the Phoenix of legend, has arisen from the ashes to reclaim its previous glory.

Like many 1950s diners, the 66 Diner features a daily “blue plate special.” Ironically the term “blue plate special” originated not in the 1950s, but in the 1890s courtesy of the Fred Harvey restaurants along the railroad lines of the frontier west. I’ve written extensively in other reviews of Fred Harvey’s culinary contributions to the West. Like his other contributions, the genesis of the blue plate special is very interesting. Apparently Harvey bought cheap, disposable plates colored blue similar to Wedgwood dishes and used them to serve inexpensive meals, hence the term.

Albuquerque’s best shakes according to many are at the 66 Diner

At the 66 Diner, the blue plate specials range from spaghetti and meatballs on Monday to chicken pot pie on Tuesday, chicken and dumplings on Wednesday, a taco platter on Thursday, fried catfish on Friday, a hot turkey sandwich on Saturday and “mom’s choice” (whatever mom comes up with) on Sunday. For the most part, the blue plate specials are comfort food favorites prepared very well and served in generous portions.

No 50s era diner would be complete without thick, rich milk shakes, floats and malts (egg creams are available, too). No one in Albuquerque does it any better. That’s the consensus of respondents to various annual polls of city diners who have voted the 66 Diner’s shakes “best in the city” consistently year after year–with such frequency that the “best shake” category should be defaulted to the 66 Diner.

One of the very best green chile cheeseburgers not to make the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

Many people eschew the old stand-bys–chocolate, vanilla and strawberry–in favor of flavors that weren’t available in the 1950s. In fact, some of those revolutionary flavors might have been considered heretical in the more conservative era of the 50s. Those flavors include the Elvis Presley (banana and peanut butter), the Pink Cadillac (strawberry ice cream and crushed Oreos), Oreo, Dreamsicle, Mocha, Coffee and several others. Pumpkin pie and Egg Nog shakes are featured as “shakes of the month” during winter holiday season. Despite all the inventiveness, the most popular shake remains chocolate.

Unique flavors not withstanding, the 66 Diner’s milkshakes are made with real hand-dipped ice cream and whole milk and are mixed in a tin on a Hamilton Beach blender, the way they were made in the 50s. They’re then served in a shake glass with the tin on the side, much like getting a shake and a half. The 66 Diner is also one of the few places in town to offer red cream soda, my favorite before I gave up sodas altogether.

Sloppy Joe and onion rings

25 June 2011: Nothing goes better with a shake, float or malt than a burger. In New Mexico, naturally this means a green chile cheeseburger. The 66 Diner makes one of the very best (top ten) green chile cheeseburgers in town–even though it didn’t made the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail in either 2009 or 2011. When you request a burger a certain way, it’s delivered to your exacting specifications. Moreover you get a two-fisted burger in which the beef is prepared to your exacting specifications, the ingredients are unfailingly fresh and the chile (spelled correctly on the menu) actually bites back. It’s a very good chopped green chile with piquancy and flavor. Burgers are accompanied by your choice of sides–French fries, potato chips, coleslaw or potato salad. 

28 June 2014: There are probably only a handful of Duke City restaurants deigning to serve a Sloppy Joe sandwich today.  While the Sloppy Joe wasn’t “invented” during the Route 66 era, its peak in popularity occurred during that time.  The Food Timeline Web site explains how the name Sloppy Joe came about: “There is probably no Joe after whom it is named–but its rather messy appearance and tendency to drip off plate or roll makes “sloppy” an adequate description, and “Joe” is an American name of proletarian character and unassailable genuineness.”   At its most basic, the Sloppy Joe is a simple sandwich constructed with ground beef and a tomato sauce to which salt, pepper and spices are added.  At its elevated form, it’s  sandwich deliciousness you will crave.  Route 66’s Sloppy Joe will inspire craving.

Patty Melt with Potato Chips

28 June 2014: Another sandwich which may have seen its halcyon days during the Route 66 era is the patty melt.  Cynics who decry the patty melt as “a cheeseburger on toast” probably haven’t had a good one.  The 66 Diner’s version borders on greatness, largely because it follows the traditional recipe: a ground beef patty topped with molten cheese and grilled onions on rye bread, pan-fried in butter.  The ground beef patty is perfectly prepared at just past medium, rendering it juicy and absolutely delicious.  The grilled onions and melted cheese practically coalesce as one with the patty to give you a sweet-savory one-two punch you’ll enjoy.

The 66 Diner isn’t as well known for breakfast as perhaps it should be. Its limited breakfast menu might be the reason. Frankly, many New Mexicans are of the opinion that if you have breakfast burritos on the menu, you don’t need much else. The diner’s breakfast burrito is one of the biggest in the city, a large tortilla engorged with home fries, scrambled eggs and chopped green chile topped with melted Cheddar cheese and your choice of red and (or) green chile.

The Breakfast Burrito

12 October 2008: Make yours “Christmas style,” a burrito covered with both red and green chile. Both are surprisingly good and more piquant than at many New Mexican food restaurants. In fact, the green chile is downright special, a fruity sweet and gunpowder incendiary chile that elicits the type of endorphin rush which makes people fall in love with chile in the first place. The burrito is served with pinto beans.

12 October 2008: On our way to the 66 Diner for breakfast one Sunday, we passed a restaurant on Central Avenue offering “all you can eat pancakes for seven dollars.” A better bet would be ordering a “short stack” at the 66 Diner. Short obviously isn’t synonymous with small as we found out when our waitress delivered two pancakes which covered all but a tiny bit of the plate. These enormous pancakes would fill a small, developing nation (or as Jay Leno might quip, one fat American). We barely put a dent on them and even contemplated the notion of left-over pancakes, but perhaps only if you’re stoned would pancake left-overs be palatable…and they might cure the munchies. Otherwise, they’re almost inedible.

A “short stack” of pancakes

Friendly, attentive service is also a constant. There are many who say nothing could be finer than a meal at the 66 Diner.  They’re right!

66 Diner
1405 Central Avenue, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 247-1421
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 28 June 2014
# OF VISITS: 15
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Chile Cheeseburger, Breakfast Burrito, Pancakes, Red Cream Soda, Shakes, Malts, the “Dagwood”, Sloppy Joe, Patty Melt

66 Diner on Urbanspoon

The Grove Cafe & Market – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Grove on Central Avenue in Nob Hill

The Grove on Central Avenue in Nob Hill

Voracious readers*, avid aficionados of art and those aflame with a musical ardor know that great books, art and music are imbued with the power to transport them to another time and place.  A recent influx of contemporary restaurants in Albuquerque also has that power.

If you think about it, having a meal at most Duke City restaurants–transcendent though some may be–is just so…Albuquerque.  There’s an almost boring consistency and sameness about many local restaurants.  Their sole distinctiveness comes from the foods they serve.  It’s very difficult, for example, to picture yourself on the beaches at Cabo San Lucas while sipping on a margarita at Garduño‘s. Noshing on mussels at the Indigo Crow just doesn’t feel like a leisurely repast on a sidewalk cafe in Paris.

Does this look like a typical Albuquerque dining establishment?

Does this look like a typical Albuquerque dining establishment?

A new dining trend has emerged in Albuquerque that has something to do with the type of cuisine, but perhaps even more to do with the “look and feel” of the dining experience.  New restaurants have emerged that can transport you from the dour sameness of Duke City dining.  Restaurants such as the Slate Street Cafe, Standard Diner and most recently the Grove Cafe & Market are so un-Albuquerque that you just may feel as if you’re dining at a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan city.  This trendy pattern is especially prevalent in the revitalized, reinvigorated downtown district and more so in the East Downtown (EDO) area, a burgeoning residential and business district regarded by real estate experts as one of the “top five up-and-coming areas in the nation.”

The EDO is considered an urban evolution of sorts as historic buildings are reclaimed from veritable scrapheaps and transmogrified into vibrant and thriving neighborhoods in which residents can work, live, shop and play.  The EDO is where you’ll find the Grove Cafe & Market which launched its unique restaurant concept in June, 2006.  Functionally and esthetically, it’s got the look and feel of a market restaurant in Portland, Oregon or maybe even San Francisco, California.  It’s got the look and feel of a market restaurant that’s going places.

A unique take on a breakfast burrito....so un-ALbuquerque!

A unique take on a breakfast burrito….so un-ALbuquerque!

The expansive interior, which Albuquerque Journal food critic Andrea Lin says is “somewhere between industrial-loft and trendy restaurant” is bustling and inviting despite cold concrete floors, exposed ductwork and steel beams.  Moreover, it is a fun place that will certainly invoke the feeling of deja vu (if ever you’ve dined in Portland) or the feeling that you’re dining in an oasis of sophistication. 

You might also feel as if you’re dining in a tightly-enclosed sound chamber of sorts.  There’s a perpetual noisy din in the restaurant, the byproduct of diners enjoying themselves.  Weather permitting, it’s somewhat quieter on the patio, situated on the restaurant’s west side near the parking area.  The only drawback might be the cacophonous commotion from Central Avenue.

"The Beef"

“The Beef”

True to its name, there is a market, but it’s not to be mistaken for the type of market at which you can pick up all your comestibles.  The market portion of the complex has a nice selection of gourmet specialty items such as chocolate, cheeses, crackers, olive oils, pastas and more.  The menu isn’t quite fine-dining and it certainly isn’t fast food fare.  Call it fast-casual fare for everyday dining.  A large slate board lists every item on the menu save for the day’s specials.  You order at a counter and are given not a number, but a placard touting a market product provided by a local vendor.  Somehow the wait staff will manage to find you.

In its June, 2010 edition, New Mexico Magazine celebrated New Mexico’s Best Eats, eight of the best dishes served in restaurants throughout the Land of Enchantment. Two versions of each dish–a down-home version and uptown version were selected. The magazine accorded the honor as  state’s very best down-home use of local, seasonal ingredients to The Grove’s farmers salad.  It’s a well-deserved honor few would dispute.  The farmers salad is constructed of mixed greens with roasted golden beets, asparagus, yellow peppers, tomato, marcona almonds and goat cheese, all tossed with a lemon-basil vinaigrette studded with shallots and garlic.  It’s a winner in every way.  New Mexico Magazine‘s amazing associate editor Ashley Biggers also listed the Grove as one of the 50 reasons to love Albuquerque in the magazine’s April, 2012 issue.

Winter Fig & Prosciutto Salad: Quercia Prosciutto, Marinated Figs, Spiced Pecans, Old Windmill Goat Cheese, Pomegranate Seeds, Mixed Greens, Orange-Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Given an opportunity to select the ingredients to craft the salad I’d enjoy most and it would very much resemble the Winter Fig and Prosciutto Salad at The Grove.  This salad starts with a bed of mixed greens atop of which lies a tangle of artisan cured prosciutto from La Quercia, an award-winning Iowa-based charcuterie a James Beard Foundation executive extolled as “the best prosciutto you can get in America hands down;” marinated figs; spiced pecans; Old Windmill goat cheese from New Mexico; pomegranate seeds and an orange-poppy seed vinaigrette.  This is a salad in which ingredients contrast and complement one another exceptionally well–the tanginess of the pomegranate seeds and orange-poppy seed vinaigrette, the rich pungency of the goat cheese, the salty porcine perfection of the prosciutto and the freshness of the greens.

Local, seasonal ingredients are an essential component of The Grove’s operational philosophy.  Executive chef Jason Green and his wife Lauren are passionate about using ingredients of the highest quality and employing artisan methods.  Their focus on local products and produce is core to the restaurant’s success.  Most of the vegetables used on the menu are acquired within a 40-mile radius of the restaurant.  Other high-quality ingredients are procured out-of-state because those ingredients are the best to be found anywhere.

Piquillo Pepper Soup: 100 percent vegetarian and 100 percent delicious!

It was in recognition of The Grove’s commitment to the local food movement that it was singled out by the Huffington Post in a feature celebrating the “ten best US cities for local food.”  Albuquerque was ranked number eight on the list though only two restaurants were mentioned–the Flying Star and the Grove about which the Post wrote, “the Grove uses green produce along with artisan meats and cheeses.”

Greenopia, recognized experts on green living, gave The Grove four and a half stars out of five meaning it meets 90 percent of its stringent criteria for meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, dairy products, prepared foods and even personal care products, all of which are verified to be certified organic and/or locally grown or raised without chemical treatment, fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics.

Aged Salami with olive tapanade, arugula and aged provolone

Large, steaming vats of coffee are conveniently situated in close proximity to the order counter.  This is fresh-roasted coffee from Chicago’s Intelligencsa Coffee, the basis for some of the best cafe au lait I’ve had in Albuquerque.   Andrea raves about this stuff with the same fervor with which I speak of The Grove’s strawberry-rosemary lemonade.  It’s an intensely flavored lemonade, neither too sweet nor too tangy and punctuated by the freshness of the rosemary. The Grove is open six days a week (closed Mondays) with workday hours being 7AM to 4PM.  On Sundays the Grove opens from 8AM to 3PM.  Breakfast is served all day long and lunch starts promptly at 11AM.  A small (in item size only) brunch menu is also available on Sundays.

4 September 2007: The quintessential New Mexican breakfast seems to be defined in our uniquely wonderful breakfast burritos.  The Grove has a very interesting take on this ubiquitous morning indulgence that’s good any time of the day.  Like all breakfast burritos, it starts with scrambled eggs which the Grove somehow manages to serve sheet-like.  They also include goat cheese with a pronounced creamy and earthy flavor; housemade green chile which smells and tastes housemade, not canned; and hearty chunks of Tully’s sausage.

EDO’s Best BLT with butter lettuce, grove guacamole, applewood smoked bacon

Unlike traditional New Mexican breakfast burritos, the Grove tops their version not with red or green chile, but with a roasted tomato jalapeno salsa served cold.  Normally I would balk at eating cold salsa on a warm burrito, but have nothing but praise for the salsa.  It is only mildly piquant, but explodes with flavor though not so much that it obfuscates other flavors on this magnificent breakfast burrito.  In its September, 2011 edition, the staff of Albuquerque the Magazine rated the breakfast burrito at the Grove Cafe & Market the third best breakfast burrito in the Albuquerque area.  Considering the number and quality of the competition, that’s a significant honor. 

25 March 2012: The Grove’s Sunday brunch menu is posted on the restaurant’s Web site’s “Feature of the Day” section.  Not surprisingly, this section is kept up-to-date, a lesson other restaurants should learn.  The brunch menu doesn’t introduce a large number of items not normally found on the day-to-day menu, normally two entrees.  If the sunchoke hash is any indication, some of those brunch items should become menu standards.  Sunchokes are a real treat!  Also called Jerusalem artichokes, they taste a bit like a cross between potato and artichoke heart.  The Grove’s hash showcases this edible tuber, serving it with spinach, garlic onions, local feta cheese and Benton’s bacon topped by two eggs over-easy.  The pairing of sunchokes and the bacon are especially noteworthy.  No ordinary bacon is Benton’s, a hickory-smoked, full-flavored bacon cut lardon thick.  It may well be the best bacon to ever cross into New Mexico.

Croque Monsieur: Black Forest Ham, Tomato, Whole Grain Mustard, Gruyere Cheese, Open-Faced and Warm on Rustic Farm Loaf

25 March 2012: For breakfast or lunch, few entrees are as satisfying as the Croque Monsieur.  At its most elemental level, it’s essentially a hot ham and cheese sandwich, but being French, it’s got a storied background more interesting than some fiction.  The Croque Monsier has been around for more than a century and it’s literal translation is “crunch mister” based on the verb “croquer” (to crunch) and the word monsieur (mister).  The Grove’s rendition starts with a rustic farm loaf topped with black forest ham and tomato both covered in a rich Gruyere cheese.  It’s served open-faced with whole grain mustard on the side.  It’s a very good sandwich.

4 September 2007: For lunch the menu has a selection of warm, pressed sandwiches as well as several cool sandwiches, the word “cool” having dual meanings involving temperature as well as fashionability.  Sandwiches, made with Sage Bakehouse artisan bread, are served with fresh fruit and sweet pickles (a welcome respite from the all-too-common dill variety). One of the coolest sandwiches we’ve had in a while is called simply “The Beef.”  The Beef starts with a canvas of fresh sourdough bread which is then topped with thin sliced housemade roasted sirloin, caramelized onion, butter lettuce, whole grain mustard and havarti.  This is no boring roast beef sandwich! The Beef is served in the proportions he-men like, but is crafted with high-quality ingredients women appreciate.  It is a two-fisted sandwich as good as any you’ll find anywhere in Albuquerque.

Sunchoke Hash: Roasted Sunchoke, Spinach, garlic, Onions, Benton’s Bacon, Local Feta and Two Eggs Over-Easy

10 August 2013:  The Beef’s porcine counterpart is called simply The Pork.  It’s every bit as good, if not better, than its beefy sibling.  What makes it such a great sandwich is the superb quality of the ingredients from which it’s constructed and the creativity to put such complementary ingredients together.  Chief among those ingredients is house-roasted Berkshire pork loin.  Berkshire pork has been called pork’s equivalent of Kobe beef.  It’s an exquisite pork renowned for its juiciness and tenderness as well as its slightly sweet flavor and nice marbling.   The canvas for the sandwich–which also includes Romesco sauce, fennel, arugula, lemon aioli and an over-easy egg–is a toasted brioche bun.

26 June 2010: Another spectacular pressed sandwich (sometimes referred to elsewhere as panini sandwiches) is called simply “Aged Salami” and it’s constructed of aged salami, olive tapenade, arugula and aged provolone on sourdough bread.  The  lightly toasted and buttery sourdough bread is a terrific canvas for ingredients which work very well together.   The aged salami isn’t too heavily salted or garlicky as aged salami tends to be; instead spices are well balanced for optimum flavor.  The aged provolone has a light, creamy flavor and the tapenade complements the other ingredients very well.

The Pork

The Pork

26 June 2010: EDO’s Best BLT isn’t just some audacious claim.  The Grove’s rendition of the not-so-humble BLT is one of the very best in Albuquerque, ranking with the BLT at Gecko’s Bar & Tapas.  At the Grove, this descendant of Victorian tea sandwiches, is crafted with butter lettuce, the Grove’s guacamole, tomatoes and applewood smoked bacon.  There are two stand-outs in this sandwich–several strips of crispy bacon (the type of which only restaurants seem to be able to acquire) and the Grove’s creamy, rich guacamole.  Though it’s generally made with whole wheat bread, ask for it to be crafted on the restaurant’s homemade English muffin which, unlike some English muffins, isn’t crumbly.  Still another sandwich, the Mozzarella was named one of the city’s 12 yummiest sandwiches for 2012 by Albuquerque The Magazine in its annual food and wine issue for 2012. 

19 May 2014:  On paper (or at least on the menu board), the Pork Belly BLT looks at least as good as the aforementioned EDO’s Best BLT.  How, after all, could you go wrong with a BLT constructed with heirloom lettuce, tomato, kimchi hot sauce, sorghum mustard, pickled veggies and a sunny side egg on toasted brioche?  This BLT is unfortunately the product of “too much of too many good things”…too many ingredients competing for the rapt attention of your taste buds.  Because there is so much going on in this sandwich, the unctuous flavors of the pork belly were virtually unnoticeable.  In some ways the Pork Belly BLT was like eating a veggie sandwich with a fried egg atop.

Pork Belly BLT

Pork Belly BLT

4 September 2007: Beethoven once said, “Only the pure of heart can make good soup.”   If that’s true, the Grove’s soup makers are as chaste as ice and as pure as snow, creating an impressive array of homemade soups of the day.  One of the best is piquillo pepper soup.  Piquillo translates from Spanish to “little beak,” and have a rich, spicy-sweet flavor.  As if the flavor profile of the tiny piquillo isn’t enough, The Grove adds garlic, harissa, celery and smoked paprika then tops the concoction with creme fraiche.  Though it looks like tomato soup, its flavors are much more concentrated and intense.  It is an amazing soup!

Antipasto Board

Antipasto Board

10 August 2013: It shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to us that The Grove has one of the very best antipasto boards in Albuquerque.  Emphasizing freshness and complementary flavors, it’s a treasure trove of some of the most delicious bite-sized treats you’ll find anywhere.  Artisan cheeses included a creamy brie, a hard parmesan and a soft, delicate mozzarella.  You can pair those cheeses with the board’s meats, a whisper-thin sliced salami and prosciutto shards.   Sweet pickles, a grainy mustard, cherry tomatoes and Marcona almonds complement both meats and cheeses.  To assuage the sweet tooth, the antipasto included sweet pickles, raspberry jelly and some of the best chutneys we’ve had outside of England.  The antipasto board is easily big enough for three to share.

10 August 2013:  For those of us who enjoy sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between, the  Grove offers three breakfast sandwiches.  None are so heavy that you’ll want to crawl back under the covers.  The Smoked Salmon is a masterpiece of concordant ingredients: cream cheese, red onion, capers, lemon peel, creme fraiche, and chives served on a housemade English muffin.  The salmon is as fresh as you’ll find it in Albuquerque without compromising the native pungency of salmon.  The triumvirate of cream cheese, creme fraiche and capers add an unexpected moistness and flavor punch.

Smoked Salmon: cream cheese, red onion, capers, lemon, creme fraiche, chives with green side salad served on housemade English muffin

Smoked Salmon: cream cheese, red onion, capers, lemon, creme fraiche, chives with green side salad served on housemade English muffin

4 September 2007: Nowhere in Albuquerque will you find cupcakes comparable to The Grove. That’s the findings of a Duke City Fix taste test. How can you dispute those findings when you’re enjoying such unique concoctions as red velvet and coconut cupcakes. These are outstanding! Ernestine Ulmer stated something very obvious and wise when she said “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” It’s an aphorism to which visitors to The Grove should subscribe, especially when the counter at which you order showcases cookie jars with such treats as chocolate chip and ginger cookies and cookies constructed with chocolate, walnut and sea salt. These cookies are fabulous! 

Chocolate Chip and Ginger Cookie (right) and Chocolate, Walnut and Sea Salt Cookie (left)

19 May 2014:  The term “macaroon” has come to mean different things to different people.  In the United States and England, macaroons are typically made with coconut.  Visit a Patisserie (French bakery) and macaroons are a delicate, airy meringue typically found among the petit-fours.  The Nibble describes French macaroons as spectacularly colored and flavored meringue “sandwiches.”  That’s the type of macaroon for which the Grove has become famous locally.  There’s a good reason for that.  These macaroons are delicious.  Alas, they’re available only Friday through Sunday until sold out.  Get there early to make sure you don’t miss out.

Three large “trasteros” as white as a stereotypical picket fence, showcase a variety of dry goods: shelves of chocolates, vinegars, teas, candy and more. Two other standing displays include mustards, cookies, gourmet dried pastas and more while a small refrigerator displays fine cheeses. This is the market portion of The Grove, an integral component of a swanky place to be.

Assorted Macaroon, a Grove specialty

*Voracious readers, the type of which I mention at the start of this essay, should make sure their reading list includes La Bajada Lawyer, a spell-binding mystery by Albuquerque attorney Jonathan Miller. Miller made a couple of observations about the Grove which will warrant many happy returns. He wrote that “The Grove hired the most beautiful waitresses in town,” and “the place is a “chick restaurant” at lunch.” If my male readers needed a reason to visit The Grove, perhaps Miller’s writing will inspire that visit.

A wonderful quadrumvirate of cupcakes including coconut and red velvet.

Albuquerque is as close to perfect as any city in America, but it’s good to know that if you want to, you can get away quickly and easily simply by driving to the Grove Market & Cafe where in an instant you can be transported elsewhere–a better, more delicious Duke City.

The Grove Cafe & Market
600 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
505-248-9800
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 17 May 2014
1st VISIT: 4 September 2007
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Burrito, The Beef, Signature Cupcakes, EDO’s Best BLT, Croque Monsieur, Cookies, Piquillo Pepper Soup, Sunchoke Hash, Winter Fig & Prosciutto Salad, The Pork, Smoked Salmon, Antipasto Board, French Macaroons


View The Grove Cafe & Market on LetsDineLocal.com »

Grove Café & Market on Urbanspoon

Hannah & Nate’s – Albuquerque & Corrales, New Mexico

The original Hannah & Nate’s on Riverside Plaza in Albuquerque’s West Side

There are just some restaurants at which the stereotypical Ralph Cramden hungry man shouldn’t dine. Hannah & Nate’s is one of them. It’s not that the food isn’t good. That’s certainly not the case.  It’s just that  it’s part of the troglodytic nature  of men to whine and complain when we have to wait more than two minutes for our meals and we become doubly obnoxious when the portions aren’t large enough to feed a small bull elephant. Thankfully, my Kim has been a great civilizing influence on me and I’m able to enjoy restaurants such as Hannah & Nate’s as much as she does.

Hannah & Nate’s is a home decor and market cafe ideally suited for gentrified ladies with a lot of leisure time on their hands. It’s not a restaurant at which a boorish lout will sit patiently then be satisfied with what he would consider “finger foods.” Take for example the “beef & bleu” sandwich featuring sliced roast beef, caramelized onion and sautéed mushrooms topped with bleu cheese on grilled sourdough. It’s not four inches thick the way such men would want it and the bleu cheese isn’t powerful enough to give them the belch inducing halitosis powerful enough to clear a room.

Tuscan Meatloaf Sandwich:  Rustic Tuscan Meatloaf topped with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and jack cheese, Served on a grilled baguette (add Green Chile for only $.99)

Launched in 2002, Hannah & Nate’s is ensconced within the Riverside Plaza, a mixed-use development with convenient access from both Montano and Coors.  The plaza’s charming campus-like environment seems tailor-made for the home decor and market cafe which is named for the children of Beth and Phil Salazar.  Phil manages the food operations side of the business while Beth manages the decor operations.  The cafe is open from 8AM to 2PM while the home decor  operation remains open until 5:30.

The ambitious full-service breakfast menu belies the relatively small (call it comfy cozy) dining room which tends to get quite busy.  Many eyes are drawn immediately to the menu section entitled “Local Flavor” for Hannah & Nate’s take on New Mexican breakfast favorites such as huevos rancheros, breakfast enchiladas, breakfast quesadillas and the intriguing Eggs Benedict de Nuevo Mexico (two poached eggs served on top of an English muffin smothered with homemade carne adovada and melted Cheddar cheese.  This is the favorite breakfast entree of my learned friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate.

Rio Grande Turkey: Sliced Breast of Turkey, avocado, and green chile, topped with jack cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, served on grilled sourdough and green chile stew

More traditional eggs Benedict dishes are also available on the “Traditional Favorites” section of the menu where you’ll also find quiche and sourdough French toast.  A number of breakfast burritos and omelets are also available for the most important meal of the day.  The lunch menu is apportioned into several sections: Appetizers, Sandwich Board, Garden Fresh Salads, New Mexican Food Favorites, “Hot” From the Grill and The “Lite” Side (a half-sandwich with your choice of potato salad, fresh fruit, side salad or cup of green chile stew).

Lunch enjoyment might start with the carne adovada crisp, a quesadilla in which crisp flour tortillas envelope lean pork marinated in red chile and melted cheese. Why more quesadillas don’t feature carne adovada is beyond me, but even if they did, it’s doubtful they can duplicate this artfully crafted appetizer. Although the red chile isn’t especially hot, it’s very flavorful with a garlicky taste which complements the rich red chile.

In the spring of 2006, Hannah & Nate's Market Cafe launched its second restaurant, this time in Corrales.

In the spring of 2006, Hannah & Nate’s Market Cafe launched its second restaurant, this time in Corrales.

Among the many hot-off-the-grill sandwiches we’ve enjoyed from the sandwich board are:

  • Nate’s Melt (sliced beef roast, green chile, red peppers, caramelized onions, avocado and cheddar on grilled sourdough bread) in which the green chile has that pronounced roasted green chile aroma and taste New Mexicans love as much as life itself. This is an outstanding sandwich!
  • Tuscan Meatloaf Sandwich (rustic Tuscan meatloaf topped with caramelized onion, roasted red peppers and Jack cheese served on a grilled baguette). This is meatloaf at its comfort food best, the type your mother made for you as a child.  The meatloaf isn’t overly thick which means you’ll actually taste the other ingredients, a harmonious mix of complementary toppings.
  • New Mexico BLT (crispy bacon, fresh tomato, roasted green chile and lettuce on grilled sourdough bread). This isn’t the boring BLT you make at home. The bacon has a smoky taste; the sourdough bread a buttery, grilled texture; and neither the L or the T dominate as they’re apt to do.
Carne Adovada with a fried egg

Carne Adovada Breakfast Enchiladas:
3 Stacked enchiladas, stuffed with carne adovada, topped with red or green chile, cheddar cheese and 2 eggs any style, served with a side of hash browns and tortilla

All sandwiches and grilled items are served with your choice of homemade potato salad (a  boring celery and dill pickle based potato salad that is the only thing we haven’t liked at Hannah & Nate’s), fresh fruit or ridged potato chips. Invariably, the fresh fruit seems to be in season no matter the time of year. We’ve had watermelon in November and it had a fresh flavor. The chips are always crisp and fresh and thankfully not the “bottom of the bag” bits some restaurants serve.  Eschew these sides altogether and ask for a cup of green chile stew.  It’s served warm and has a nice piquant bite of green chile complemented with just enough Mexican oregano.

For an additional two bits, make sure you ask for one of the five (chipotle, cucumber dill, cranberry, herb, olive) specialty mayonnaise offered. Even though the sandwiches don’t need any additional accoutrement whatsoever, the mayonnaise can be used as a dip for your chips.  The chipotle mayo and the cucumber dill (similar to the Greek tzadziki sauce but maybe even better) are our early favorites.

Steak burrito

Steak & Egg Burrito

Corrales Addition: In the spring of 2006, Hannah & Nate’s Market Shop launched a second Albuquerque area restaurant, this one in the former site of the very popular Calico Cafe which burnt down in 2004. If anything, the Corrales version of Hannah & Nate’s is even better than the Riverside Plaza restaurant.

For one thing, the Corrales restaurant has a full breakfast menu–three pages of traditional and New Mexican favorites. My early favorite would have to be the steak and egg burrito served Christmas style (red and green chile).  This burrito is engorged with three eggs, sautéed onions, roasted red peppers, cubed potatoes and steak–not a cheap cut of meat either, but grilled top sirloin. This is an excellent breakfast burrito made with high-quality ingredients and served hot.  Both the red and green chile at Hannah & Nate’s are very good with a slight nod going to the red chile which is almost burgundy in color and which possesses the rare earthiness I love in red chile. 

Breakfast Enchiladas with two fried eggs

Breakfast Enchiladas with two fried eggs

For my Kim, carne adovada is the standard-bearer against which she measures just how good a New Mexican restaurant is.  To her consternation, some restaurants which don’t use cumin on anything else (for some inexplicable reason) add it to carne adovada, bringing about the ruination of a delicate dish which requires no amelioration.  Hannah & Nate’s carne adovada is among her very favorites, especially when served on the carne adovada breakfast enchiladas plate: three stacked enchiladas stuffed with carne adovada and topped with red or green chile, Cheddar cheese and two eggs any style served with a side of hash browns and a tortilla.  If a breakfast dish can foretell a good day, this one will do it.  The carne is porcine perfection as tender as a mother’s love, marinated in chile that doesn’t shy away from its heat. 

There are a couple of perspectives about huevos rancheros. The “glass is half empty” perspective is that huevos ranchers are a rather uncomplicated dish constructed from a limited number of ingredients. Glass half full folks rave that having few ingredients allows those ingredients to shine.  At its essence, huevos rancheros are little more than eggs, corn tortillas, Cheddar cheese and your choice of red or green chile.  Both the red and green chile at Hannah & Nate’s are top tier, some of the best in the metropolitan area.  The corn tortillas have a pronounced corn taste, are relatively grease-free and are fried perfectly.  The eggs are prepared to your exacting specifications and have a farm-fresh flavor.  Count me among the glass half full folks.  Count the huevos rancheros at Hannah & Nate’s among the very best in the area.

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros

Hannah & Nate’s also features a daily special and if the market smoked porchetta is any indication, the specials are indeed special. Porchetta generally refers to a boneless, rolled roast of pork studded with garlic and herbs.  Hannah & Nate’s takes the pork and stuffs it into a baguette then tops it with a roasted garlic aioli, green onion marmalade, sage and tomato. The flavor combinations are sensational!  

Hannah & Nate’s doesn’t have a long line-up of desserts (muffins, chocolate brownies), but who needs more options when you’ve got cranberry bread pudding.  It’s not on Larry McGoldrick’s Bread Pudding Hall of Fame, but it could be the professor with the perspicacious palate hasn’t tried this bread pudding.  Quite simply, it borders on spectacular, providing a balance of flavors most bread pudding can’t approach.  The tangy cranberries and savory almond shavings temper the sweetness of the sweet sauce surrounding the soft, spongy bread.  

Cranberry Bread Pudding

Cranberry Bread Pudding

Another plus in favor of the Corrales restaurant is its patio which allows you to watch expensive cars drive by while you dine under a sun-lit sky. During the winter months, sitting indoors and enjoying the fireplace is nearly as nice.

Hannah & Nate’s
6251 Riverside Plaza, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 922-1155
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 26 April 2014
# OF VISITS: 9
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: Carne Adovada Crisp, Nate’s Melt, Market Smoked Porchetta, New Mexico BLT, Tuscan Meatloaf Sandwich, Steak & Egg Burrito, Cranberry Bread Pudding, Huevos Rancheros


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