Java Joe’s – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hey, Wasn’t This Once Tuco Salamanca’s Lair

I hate chile powder.”
~Tuco Salamanca
Breaking Bad, Season 2

Duty-bound to make himself available to the citizenry of the fledgling United States, newly elected president George Washington spent the night in so many private homes and inns that  “George Washington Slept Here” remains a real estate cliché and tourist draw centuries later.  Perhaps the closest similarly celebrated landmarks in the Albuquerque metropolitan area are the filming sites for the 16-time Emmy Award-winning television series Breaking Bad.  Never mind that Albuquerque recently celebrated its Tercentennial–three hundred years of history.  History is not what visitors want to see.  They want to see the Duke City of Breaking Bad.  Albuquerque, which itself became a character in Breaking Bad, is the home of Walter White, the down-and-out chemistry teacher who metamorphosed into “Heisenberg,” the city’s meth kingpin.  Five years after the series ended, pilgrimages to every Breaking Bad filming location remain a popular draw.

During my inaugural visit to Downtown Java Joe’s, a number of tourists, not all of them millennials, were snapping selfies in front of the east wall where a towering graffiti-inspired tribute to city life dominates.  One of them exclaimed “this used to be Tuco’s lair.”  Another chimed in, “yeah, until Walter White blew it up?”  Tuco?  It quickly dawned on me they were talking about Tuco Salamanca, one of the best television villains in recent memory.  The exterior of Java Joe’s did indeed serve as Tuco’s sanctuary and Walter White did blow it up by throwing fulminated mercury on the floor.  Thankfully, however, real life didn’t mirror that Breaking Bad episode.  Tuco’s lair is certainly not in ruins.  It serves as the home to Java Joe’s, one of the city’s most popular coffee shops.

The main dining room at Java Joe’s

Java Joe’s is located on Park Avenue one street south of Route 66.  Park Avenue runs between Central Avenue at its eastern-most point to the Albuquerque Country Club at its western flank with Jesse Pinkman’s house (another Breaking Bad landmark) virtually at the center.  Until earlier in 2018, its next door neighbor was Firenze Pizzeria, one of the city’s premier purveyors of pizza pie during its short tenure.  The aforementioned mural is Java Joe’s most distinctive exterior feature.  In a move befitting the edifice’s most notorious occupant, real-world owner Michael Phlieger once had graffiti artists paint wanted posters on that wall in response to the city’s crackdown on illegal graffiti.  The current mural will probably stick around until Breaking Bad aficionados lose interest.  It could be there for a long time.

Step into Java Joe’s and there are no vestiges of Tuco’s headquarters.  Instead of Tuco’s thuggish henchmen, you’ll run into hipsters and hippies, blue collars and white colors, and the type of characters who put the quirky in Albuquerque.  Scrawled on a black slate board above the counter where you place your order is a menu listing every daily special.  Plastic menus on the counter list everything else.  Walls are festooned with eclectic art, much of it for sale.  Handmade lotions and soap on a table hugging a wall are also available for purchase.

Mayan Mocha

Featured fare includes breakfast and lunch, sandwiches and wraps, soups and salads, pastries and beverages.  With so much temptation at your beck and call, you’ll be hard-pressed to make a quick decision.  Breakfast offers a full range of favorites, classics such as savory omelets and yogurt parfait to more elaborate items such as Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and blueberry granola pancakes. Then there are the New Mexican classics such as  breakfast burritos, breakfast enchiladas, huevos rancheros and even a tofu burrito.  If you’re wary about a coffee shop preparing New Mexican food well, your worries will be quickly dispelled.  Both red and green chiles are terrific (more on them later).

2 March 2018: Breakfast, of course, means coffee.  All of Java Joe’s coffees are roasted, flavored, and blended in-house on a daily basis under the name Red Door Roasters.  Daily regular, flavor and decaf brews are available.  So are  beans which can be purchased by the pound.  Flavored coffees are flavored in-house and vary on a daily basis but are always available bulk or by the cup.  Specialty drinks, which can be served hot, iced or blended, are also a good option.  The Mayan mocha (double shot) is an excellent choice, a worthy approximation of my beloved red chile mocha (available only at Cafe Bella).  Sans the annoying acidity of inferior coffees and the cloying qualities of designer drinks, it’s caffeinated love.

Breakfast Enchiladas

2 March 2018: Breakfast enchiladas, once a relative rarity in Albuquerque, are becoming more prevalent, a terrific alternative to the ubiquitous New Mexican breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros.  Java Joe’s breakfast enchiladas features three corn tortillas layered with Cheddar, black beans and eggs smothered in red or (and) green chile.  Both the red and green are terrific with the piquancy and flavor aficionados crave.  After more than three decades of occasionally enjoying New Mexican cuisine laced with black beans, it still surprises me to see them on enchiladas, huevos rancheros or burritos.  Pinto beans, after all, are the official New Mexican state vegetable (along with our sacrosanct red and green chile).  No matter.  The chile is the centerpiece of this delicious breakfast dish. 

28 March 2018:  Java Joe’s sandwich menu features both cold and hot sandwiches, both served with a side of pasta salad, coleslaw, or sweet potato chips.  Cold sandwiches are served on multigrain, sourdough, marbled rye or baguette while the canvas upon which hot sandwiches are prepared is a baguette.  No ordinary baguette is this.  Texturally it reminds me of a buttery, soft focaccia with herbaceous notes.  The Southwest Philly (red onions, bell peppers, green chile & provolone cheese piled on grilled Philly steak) is rather unconventional for a Philly, but it’s a good one.  My sole complaint is that the green chile was so anemic I had to look for it (probably an anomaly).  The coleslaw might best be categorized as “could have been” as in with a little more salad cream or maybe chopped jalapeños, it might have been better.

Southwest Philly with Coleslaw

There’s no doubt the psychotic, bejeweled-toothed Tuco Salmanca would have had a much better disposition had he descended the stairs of his Park Avenue lair for coffee and a meal at Java Joe’s.  It’s a Breaking Bad type of hole-in-the-wall which visitors might pilgrimage to out of curiosity, but they’ll return for the food, coffee and quirkiness.

Java Joe’s
906 Park Avenue, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 765-1514
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 28 March 2018
1st VISIT: 2 March 2018
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET:  Breakfast Enchiladas, Mayan Mocha, Southwest Philly, Coleslaw
REVIEW #1028

Java Joe's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rebel Donut – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Rebel Donut on Wyoming Just North of Menaul

Many years ago if someone proposed a wager of “dollars to donuts,” you might have been well advised to take it.  The phrase “dollars to donuts” essentially meant the person proposing the wager thought he or she had  a sure thing, that he or she was willing to to risk a dollar to win a dollar’s worth of donuts.  Donuts weren’t worth much at the time (and they weren’t very good either) so winning a bet might result in being paid off by a baker’s dozen or so donuts.  Today, if someone offers a “dollars to donuts” wager, the counter to a five dollar bet might be two donuts and the donuts would likely be terrific.  

Visit a donut shop today and sticker shock might set in.  Donuts aren’t cheap anymore, not that it stops Americans from spending our dollars for donuts to the tune of about $3.6 billion dollars per year.  Americans consume some ten billion donuts a year. That’s 33 donuts per man, woman and child per year.  The demographic which loves donuts most is middle-income men ages 25 to 49 (now you know what accounts for the “middle-age spread”).

Donut deliciousness in a glass case

As with burgers, donuts are one of those rare foods which have proven to be recession proof.  Despite the  economic malaise of the past few years, the number of donut shops, amount of donuts consumed and profitability per donut shop has continued to increase every year (save for a short lapse when the nutrition police made donuts non grata).  The reason most attributed is that donuts are a tasty and inexpensive comfort food.  Similar to the gourmet burger craze which has taken America by storm, consumers don’t mind splurging on donuts that are more costly.

The June 11th, 2012 launch of Rebel Donut (singular) will certainly give consumers an opportunity to splurge. Rebel makes two types of donuts: raised donuts made from yeast-based dough, and cake donuts made from cake batter.  Rebel makes two types of donuts. Raised donuts – made from yeast-based dough, and cake donuts – made from cake batter. Since they are made from rolled dough, and hand-cut, raised donuts can be formed into almost any shape. Proofing the donuts before they get fried gives them a fluffy, airy texture. Cake donuts are sweeter and denser than raised donuts. They are a little crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. They are always going to be round, but they can still be filled and decorated in a million ways.

Nutella-Chocolate, 3X chocolate, Powdered Sugar Vanilla , Old-Fashioned Coconut

As might be expected for a donut shop bearing the appellation “Rebel,” Rebel Donut is expanding the boundaries of donut conventionality.  Even the shop’s logo, a donut with wings, bespeaks of nonconformity, risk-taking, daring to be different.  Rebel Donut is taking donuts to the extreme, helping them be all they can be…self-actualizing donuts.  Unique flavors include red velvet, chocolate salted pretzel, chocolate mint, peanut butter and apple, peanut butter and Sriracha, carrot cake, watermelon and blueberry pancake and those are tame compared to other donuts on the ever-changing menu.  

You’d expect no less than imagination and inventiveness from Rebel Donut owners Carrie Mettling and Tina Winn.  Carrie was the founder and creative force behind Cupcake Fetish which she opened in March, 2006 and which began a bit of a cupcake boom in the Duke City.  The Rebel owners have hired a like-minded staff and given them the latitude to be visionary.  Then, as if the Rebel team wasn’t already taking donut innovation to new heights, they gave Facebook followers an opportunity to suggest new donut ideas.  The ideas were so clever that many, if not all, will be implemented.    That’s donuts by the people, for the people and by the people.

Top: Mocha Chocolate, 3X Chocolate Muffin, Key Line Pie
Bottom: Dreamsicle, Apple peanut butter, Smores

Striving to be Albuquerque’s premier artisan donut and pastry shop, Rebel Donut showcases more than thirty donut flavors per day with new and different surprises every day.  One unexpected surprise for us is the presence of kolaches (Czech and Slovak pastries with a dollop of fruit inside), but not exactly the type of which we experienced in Chicago.  Purists will argue that Rebel Donut’s line-up kolaches (sausage and cheese; sausage, jalapeño and cheese; and veggie sausage, green chile and cheese) are not kolaches, but Klobasnek.  Call them what you will, but you will call them delicious.

If you have any inkling that these donuts sound like so much fluff and style, one bite will assure you’re there’s plenty of substance beyond the round hole in the middle.  These donuts taste like very good renditions of their named ingredients.  The Dreamsicle donut tastes like a sweet and tangy orange.  The mocha chocolate tastes like a creamy, chocolatey coffee.  Then there’s the donuts in which seemingly disparate ingredients (peanut butter and Sriracha, for example) are combined.  These, too, as if by some feat of enchantment, are at the very least interesting, but more often than not, quite good.

Maple Bacon

If your idea of a radical donut is chocolate with sprinkles, Rebel Donut will rock your world.  Who but a Rebel would create a donut topped with candy resembling blue sky meth, the vice of choice on Breaking Bad, a popular television drama filmed in Albuquerque?  Who but a Rebel would launch a second shop at a seemingly cursed location on Albuquerque’s west side, a location which has seen a number of restaurants and even another donut shop?  Who but a Rebel would open a satellite shop in Albuquerque’s fledgling downtown area? 

In 2013, Rebel Donut was  selected to compete on a new Food Network show called “Donut Showdown” which premiered April 2nd on the Food Network in Canada.  The show made its United States debut on Wednesday, July 3rd on the Cooking Channel.  Carrie competed with two other donut-makers for a $10,000 prize.  The theme of the show was “Carnival.”  Although the Duke City’s dominant donut presence was victorious in 2013, it finished as runner-up during the 2014 showdown.

The Rebel Donut location on Albuquerque's west side (9311 Coors Blvd NW)

The Rebel Donut location on Albuquerque’s west side

NOTEIn the following paragraphs, Gil’s Thrilling… recaps the national attention garnered by Rebel Donut.

To get all existential about it – how do I know the perfect donut for me is the perfect donut for you? The truth is there really is no Perfect Donut because we all love different things. So at Rebel Donut, we are all about options.” How’s that for an appealing mission statement or operating philosophy, not that Rebel Donut’s Web site calls it that. With that level of commitment to variety and people pleasing, is it any wonder Albuquerque’s Rebel Donut was named in January, 2018, “The Best Donut Shop in New Mexico” by Delish. Like Rebel Donut, Delish believes “there’s no wrong way to eat a donut.” To compile its list of each state’s best donuts, Delish consulted Yelp, increasingly the most reliable crowd-source on culinary matters.

The Daily Meal describes donuts as “extremely versatile” and “essentially a blank canvas.” As to prove the versatility of the donut, in November, 2016 the online site compiled a list of America’s Most Outrageous Doughnuts and Where to Find Them. You probably didn’t have to give it a second thought to know Albuquerque’s Rebel Donut would make the list. Breaking Bad fans recall Rebel Donut’s “Blue Sky” doughnut which was topped with something resembling blue meth. That’s not even their most outrageous donut. That honor, according to The Daily Meal, would be reserved for the Dough Boy doughnut which “is studded with chocolate chips, drizzled with ample chocolate sauce, and topped with a hefty scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough.”

The best kind of six pack

Perhaps the most eloquent and certainly the most aptly descriptive quote ever uttered about donuts came from everyman philosopher Homer Simpson who once said “Mmmmmm…doughnuts.” What more needs to be said? Maybe “better than cupcakes, as classic as apple pie.” That’s what BuzzFeed said in October, 2016 when introducing a feature listing the best donut shop in every state according to Yelp. Using an algorithm that looked at the number of reviews plus the star rating for every doughnut business listed on Yelp, the best donut in New Mexico was determined to come from Rebel Donut in Albuquerque. That comes as no surprise to Duke City donut aficionados who have been flocking to the premier artisan donut and pastry shop in the Land of Enchantment.

Although the Cooking Channel doesn’t grace my cable subscription package, I find comfort in knowing Founding Friends of Gil (FOG) member Jim Millington was able to watch the channel’s “Cheap Eats” show in April, 2016 when it featured host Ali Khan visiting beautiful, sunny Albuquerque. Jim reports that “the show is pretty much like Rachael Ray’s old Twenty Dollar a Day show except that Ali lacks Rachael’s cuteness and he has $35. His first stop was at the Tia B’s La Waffleria for vegan waffles which he found to be wonderful. Next stop was the Route 66 Pit Stop for the famous green chile cheeseburger which knocked his socks off. Third was Rebel Donuts. He didn’t even get a donut shaped one. It was long, stuffed and topped with bacon. Papa Felipe’s introduced him to the amazement of carne adovada stuffed in a sopaipilla.” Thank you, Jim.

Rebel Donut gained tremendous notoriety for creating a donut mimicking the potent crystal blue meth made famous by AMC’s Breaking Bad series. In March, 2016, Rebel Donut was honored on Food Network Magazine as one of a dozen “best in dough,” an honor bestowed upon fun donuts. The honoree is Rebel Donut’s pina colada donut, a vanilla cake donut dipped in coconut rum glaze then raw coconut with buttercream frosting. Unlike the Breaking Bad donut which has no actual blue meth, there is actual real rum in the pina colada donut. It’s one in a small line of adult donuts though it can be made “virgin” as well. 

Albuquerque is one of the four original cities to syndicate the Jim Rome Show, a sports talk mainstay on 610 AM for nearly two decades. With a unique lexicon and format, the show now boasts of some 200 radio stations across the United States and Canada. Listeners are fiercely loyal to the show, reveling in a  format which encourages them to be critical of other cities on the syndicate as well as other listeners, including “laying the smack down” on “Albucracky” and its tumbleweed motif. During Rome’s most recent visit in November, 2016, he and his road crew discovered the “blue meth” donuts from Albuquerque’s Rebel Donut. The donuts were much more than a punchline to the jocular crew, all of whom enjoyed every morsel.

Foursquare, an online presence which purports to help readers “find the best places to eat, drink, shop, or visit in any city in the world,” took on the enviable challenge in October, 2015 of determining the best bakery in each state. Because man and woman cannot live on bread alone, the list included a number of more specialized bakeries such as Albuquerque’s Rebel Donut. Foursquare noted: “From maple bacon to cherry lemonade to chicken and waffle donuts, Albuquerque’s Rebel Donut certainly breaks the mold when it comes to breakfast confections. The shop also gained fame for its signature Breaking Bad-themed “Blue Sky” variety, which was endorsed by the show’s stars themselves.”  

While trying to get to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1945, Bugs Bunny accidentally wound up in Germany where for the first time he utters the recurring line “I should have made that left turn at Albuquerque.” Realtors across the fruited plain have come to the realization that many people aren’t making any turns when they arrive in the Duke City. They’re here to stay. For them, the Movoto.com blog, the lighter side of real estate, provided in June, 2015, “29 things you need to know about Albuquerque before you move there” Among the sagacious tips: Green Chile: Love it or Leave Town; Great Community Food at the Grove Cafe; You may not Know the Mufin Man, but Everyone Knows the Candy Lady; The Perfect Ron Swansonable Steak (from Farm & Table at “rustic Old Town”); All Other Bread Will Pale in Comparison (from the Golden Crown Panaderia); These Donuts, Oh Man, These Donuts (from Rebel Donut); and Your BBQ Search is Over at Mr. Powdrell’s BBQ House.

Apple Corporation recognizes the value of rebels: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”  Rebel Donuts is changing Albuquerque one donut at a time.

Rebel Donut
2435 Wyoming Blvd, N.E. 
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 293-0553
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 18 February 2018
1st VISIT: 28 July 2012
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 19
COST: $
BEST BET: Maple Bacon, 3X Chocolate, 3X Chocolate Muffin, Key Lime Pie, Mocha Chocolate, Old Fashioned Coconut, Nutella Chocolate

Rebel Donut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Loyola’s Family Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Loyola’s Family Restaurant on Central Avenue just East of Washington

You might think that the etymology of the name Loyola has always been tied to the quality of being loyal and faithful. Instead, the name has its genesis in a Basque term meaning “mud” and only over time did the name come to represent the honorable qualities of loyalty and faithfulness.  When it comes to Loyola’s Family Restaurant on Central Avenue in Albuquerque,  an association with those qualities just makes sense.  Not only are Duke City diners loyal to this expansive restaurant on the eastern fringes of Nob Hill, that loyalty is reciprocated by the restaurant’s staff and ownership.  A framed placard on one wall proclaims “Mi restaurante es su casa” (my restaurant is your home) and the staff will do its darnedest to make you feel that way.

Loyola’s Family Restaurant is an anachronism, a throw-back to the days when Route 66 (now Central Avenue) bisected Albuquerque, then a more intimate, close-knit city. In some ways Loyola’s is a relic because its genuinely friendly service and wholesome food truly elicits return visits and the type of patron loyalty that has all but evaporated with the onslaught of corporate chains. Loyola’s is the type of restaurant where your coffee (Farmer Brothers) is never allowed to cool down too much because faithful servers replenish it at about the time your cup is half full. That’s how attentive the wait staff is, but their secret is being attentive and personable without being intrusive and hovering.

One of Loyola’s Capacious Dining Rooms

The familial feel of Loyola’s Family Restaurant is a tradition established by founding owner Loyola Baca for whom the restaurant is named.  Loyola launched her eponymous home away from home in 1990 and quickly earned a faithful following attributable as much to her buoyant, outgoing nature as to the restaurant’s menu of New Mexican and American comfort foods.  When Loyola passed away just as 2010 was dawning, she left a legacy of happy, satisfied and well-fed guests. 

That legacy and the homey feel she sowed continues to this day courtesy of Loyola’s daughter Sarah Baca.  During a visit in 2015, I asked her what the secret to Loyala’s addictive green chile was.  She answered just as her mom would have, sharing with me the secret to their chile: “love.”  It’s an ingredient Loyola’s uses on all the ambitious menu’s offerings.  The menu has something for everybody–from American comfort foods such as pork chops (delicious), fried chicken and roast beef to hamburgers, sandwiches, New Mexican entrees and wake-you-up breakfast offerings known by faithful throngs to be among the Duke City’s very best.

Chips, salsa and faithfully replenished Farmers’ Brothers Coffee

04 March 2015: Loyola’s salsa is a bona fide hot sauce with a sunset red-orange hue, a pleasant piquancy and addictive properties aplenty courtesy of the capsaicin-caused endorphin rush that salsa engenders with every bite.  It’s just a bit on the salty side so you’ll be grateful that the thin, crispy chips are low salt.  Your first portion of chips and salsa are gratis when you order off the New Mexican Favorites menu, but if you don’t order from that menu, it’s worth splurging.

04 March 2015: Tom’s special burrito certainly earns its sobriquet. It’s a flour tortilla engorged with roast beef, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sour cream and topped with Cheddar cheese and red or green chile (get both).  It’s among the best burritos in town. The red chile has a New Mexico sunset red/orange hue and while not particularly piquant has a memorable taste leaving you wanting another dosage. If piquant is what you’re after, a better choice is the breakfast burrito covered generously with a green chile sauce that has an endorphin stimulating heat you’ll love. 

Tom’s Special Burrito

American breakfast favorites include a pork chop and eggs combination that appears to be among the most popular order choices. You can request the eggs any way you want them and invariably, they’re prepared just the way you order them. The pork chops are thinly cut, but meaty and delicious. Loyola’s pancake short-stack is also top tier, among the very best in the city.   For my friend Sr. Plata who loves chicken fried steak almost as much as NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson loves hairspray, the challenge is whether to have the lunch version or the breakfast portion, both of which are enormous. 

1 December 2015:  The breakfast version of chicken fried steak includes a mound of hashed browns, two eggs and a single pancake the size of a manhole cover.  The chicken fried steak is available with either brown beef-based gravy or a pork-based white gravy.  Loyola’s rendition may just be the most tender in the city.  It’s not just fork tender, it’s spoon tender.  It’s also quite tasty.  You can have the eggs any way you want them and the pancake is a golden orb that covers the plate, leaving little room for syrup. 

Chicken Fried Steak with Brown Gravy, Hashed Browns, Two Eggs and a Pancake

1 December 2015:  If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between flautas and taquitos, the answer is usually “very little” or “none at all.”  Flautas (little flutes) and taquitos (little tacos) are often used interchangeably depending on location.  According to a 1917 publication Preliminary Glossary of New Mexico Spanish, the taquito is a “Mexicanism” used in New Mexico. No matter the genesis of the term taquito, it’s a beloved dish many of us enjoy.

When offered as a daily special at Loyola’s, my friend Sr. Plata and I decided to split four taquitos as our appetizer.  Despite being deep-fried to a brownish-golden hue, the chicken inside retained juiciness and flavor.  In fact, the chicken was about as moist as stewed chicken.  The taquitos were served with both guacamole and salsa, both of which made for excellent dipping sauces and added to our enjoyment.  My taquito preference will always be for beef-based taquitos the way they’re made in Española, but these will do in a pinch.

Taquitos

An intriguing menu, delicious food, great service–these are the legacy of Loyola Baca and these are the things that make Loyola’s patrons loyal in return.

Loyola’s Family Restaurant
4500 Central, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 268-6478
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 01 December 2015
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Tom’s Special Burrito, Pork Chops, Breakfast Burrito, Salsa and Chips, Coffee, Chicken Fried Steak, Chicken Taquitos

Loyola's Family on Urbanspoon

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