Groundstone – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Groundstone on San Mateo

Kids say the darnedest things.  That was the premise of popular radio and television shows hosted by Art Linkletter from the mid 1940s through 1969.  Linkletter would engage children (usually aged three to eight) in casual conversation.  Humor–often laced with double entendre–would often ensue out of the children’s naive and silly responses.  Once, for example, he asked a little girl to spell Art, his name.  She proceeded to spell the host’s name R-A-T.  Most parents can relate to the unpredictable nature of what their children say. More often than not, it resonates with child-like innocence, but every once in a while an utterly unintentional and unfiltered zinger sneaks out that will make parents want to slink away and hide.

When her son Caleb was four years old, Kimber Scott, an Albuquerque resident and one of my very favorite people, discovered that he was curious about everything his world had to offer.  He was fascinated by all the letters, numbers and colors that whizzed by him.  Now nine, he’s always asked a lot of questions and has never shied away from expressing himself.  Sometimes he speaks with the insightful precociousness of an older child and sometimes with the naivete of innocence, but more often than not, the streams of consciousness that come out of his mouth warrant being shared.  Thankfully Kimber chronicled Caleb’s words of warmth, wit and wisdom in a recently published must-read book she named Caleb-isms:  The Things My Kid Says.  It’s a wonderful insight into the world of a child you can’t help but love.

One of the capacious Groundstone dining rooms

Because Kimber and her charismatic husband “Break the Chain” maven Ryan are passionate gastronomes and always a pleasure to break bread with, it’s only natural that the book be laced with Caleb’s observations about food.  Here’s one of my favorites: Every day after school, Caleb usually asks if I will take him to get a cheeseburger.  Cheeseburgers are his all-time favorite food.  He has affectionately called them hambahgahs for as long as he could talk.  I tried to explain that i was not going to buy him a hamburger every day.  I went on to say that if I did, I would spend a lot of money every month just on after-school hamburgers and I was not willing to spend that much money.  As well as that it is not not the best after-school snack, mainly because it fills him up too much and he will not eat his dinner.  I guess I blabbed too much going on and on about why I was not going to get him one.  He was silent.  I looked in the rear-view mirror and asked, “Well?”  He sulked, then quoted a line from his favorite Pigeon book by Mo Willems.  “You don’t want me to be happy, do you?”

To good old Charlie Brown, happiness is a warm blanket.  To Caleb and many of the rest of us, happiness in a warm cheeseburger, preferably one with green chile.  My friend Ryan and I have shared many a cheeseburger, but I’ve yet to have the pleasure of Caleb’s company at a purveyor of bounteous burgers.  One of these days, perhaps I’ll ask Caleb to write a guest review.  With his astute mind, there’s no telling what he’ll come up with though it’s bound to be better and more percipient and mirthful than anything I can come up with.  In writing this review, I tried to channel my own inner Caleb, but just don’t have his flair for words.  Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy this missive as much as we enjoyed our meals at Groundstone.

Ahi Poke

Parents of both two-legged and four-legged children will appreciate Groundstone’s family friendliness.  On both our visits, our sylphlike hostess Dawn fawned over our debonair dachshund Dude as did our smiling server Shannon.  They’re demonstrative dog lovers, not the pretentious type who only touch dogs with their fingertips.  During lull periods they returned to give the Dude more love.  We watched them impart the same kindness to children and elderly guests.  How can you not love a restaurant in which the term “dog-friendly” is a way of service, not just some patio in which dogs are sequestered away from everyone else?  Groundstone actually has two patios–one on the restaurant’s east side where the winter sun will keep you warm and one on the west side where the shade will shield you from summer’s rays.

Veteran restaurant impresario Russ Zeigler is the brainchild behind Groundstone.  He’s been creating restaurant concepts for four decades.  It’s pretty obvious one of the lessons he’s learned in that time is to hire good people who are earnest and caring in their approach to customer service.  That’s one of the things that sets apart restaurants such as Groundstone and Joe’s Pasta House.  Russ launched his first restaurant in 1977 and has since then owned or co-owned such stalwarts as Liquid Assets, High Finance, Options, Assets and Sandiago’s.

Green Chile Strips with Avocado Ranch Dressing

Groundstone is located in the 6,700 square-foot edifice which previously housed The Library and before that Johnny Carino’s, a short-lived Italian chain.  If you’re wondering, the genesis of the name “Groundstone” comes from the restaurant’s make-over.  During the renovation, an undesirable flooring had to be ground down to stone and concrete, leaving the floor with an organic look.  The cynosure of the capacious restaurant is an attractive bar back-dropped by distressed red bricks.  Several flat screen televisions are strategically placed throughout the dining room and bar, most tuned to NFL games during our visits.  Several of the staff are diehard Philadelphia Eagles fans, but they still treated this Cowboys loyalist very well.

Groundstone’s promise to its guests is “local, fresh, fun.”  The concept combines “the best of the burger, pizza, and craft beer scene, and rounded off with incredible gourmet salads meant to re-invent the dining experience.”  Russ calls the triumvirate of pizza, burgers and beer “the classics,” and indeed, there are few eateries across the Duke City in which this troika can be found under the same roof.   A commitment to serving mostly local ingredients will endear local diners who appreciate such high-quality local products as Fano bread and Bueno chile.  When local ingredients aren’t possible, the restaurant’s commitment to freshness and quality is not compromised.

The Cubano

26 November 2017: Appetizers (and desserts, too, for that matter) have become pretty blase as if imagination is left to wholesale distributors who supply so many restaurants.  It’s rare that we find an appetizer that surprises us.  Count among those rare surprises the Ahi Poke (sashimi grade seared tuna, kale, sweet chili (SIC), pickled ginger, wasabi, avocado, sesame soy glaze) at Groundstone. With a perfect sear framing the perfectly red tuna, it’s got the chops of a good sashimi.  The sweet chili sauce contrasts nicely with the quick burst of heat from the American wasabi and the biting freshness of the pickled ginger, all of which provide a diversity of flavors.  The buttery avocado and slightly bitter kale are good, but it’s the sashimi grade tuna which shines most.

3 December 2017: In the past few years, restaurants across the Land of Enchantment seem to have discovered the delicious potential of green chile as an appetizer alternative (or addition) to salsa.  It should come as absolutely no surprise that green chile strips have caught on.  The real surprise is that it took so long.  Groundstone’s version showcases Amber ale battered Bueno green chile strips served with a cooling avocado ranch dressing.  The green chile is a bit on the mild side, but it has a nice roasted flavor.  The avocado ranch dressing is a winner.  Even better is the green chile ranch which our delightful server Shannon thought we might enjoy.  The green chile ranch isn’t quite as thick as the Dion’s version, but it’s every bit as flavorful.  All salad dressings are made on the premises.

The Groundstone Burger with Sweet Potato Fries

3 December 2017:  Several elements define the Cuban sandwich, a hearty sandwich which got its start among the working classes in Cuba.  What Americans have come to know as a Cuban sandwich typically includes thin slices of marinated pork roast, thin slices of ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles.  Groundstone pays tribute to the Cuban sandwich with a burger called the Cubano.  The burger contains some elements of the popular Cuban sandwich, but it goes much further.  Picture Akaushi beef topped with black forest ham, smoked pulled pork, provolone cheese, pickles, whole grain Dijon ale mustard, served on a Fano brioche bun.  It’s a mouthful and then some.  The generous portion of this burger’s three meats–rich, buttery Akaushi beef (a type of Wagyu); salty, intensely-flavored black forest ham and smoked pulled pork– will make carnivores very happy.  It wouldn’t be a Cubano, however, without the pickles which provide a textural and flavor (zesty and sour) contrast.

26 November 2017: Sometimes a burger is constructed with too much of a good thing.  That was our assessment of the eponymous Groundstone burger (grass-fed beef topped with Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, tomato, roasted garlic infused mayo, served on a Fano brioche bun).  Though the sautéed mushrooms provide terrific umami (deep, dark, meaty intensity), the strong, pungent garlic mayo is the dominant flavor.  That’s almost criminal considering the tender grass-fed beef; rich, sweet Gruyere and sweet caramelized onions.  We scraped off some of the mayo and enjoyed it much more.  Next time we’ll order this burger sans condiments.

The Brooklyn with Green Chile

3 December 2017:  Nine pizzas grace the Groundstone menu.  Available in ten- and eighteen-inch sizes, they’re not as waifishly thin as today’s fashionable pizzas nor are they thick, casserole-like slabs.  If the Brooklyn (pepperoni, roasted garlic, mozzarella, fontina, garlic infused olive oil) is any indication, they’re more generously topped than the penurious pizzas on which it’s a challenge to find some of the named ingredients.  That generosity applies as well to the cheese which drapes over the crust like a molten blanket.  No matter which of the pizzas you order, it can be improved with green chile (which goes well with everything).

Groundstone may not be entirely groundbreaking in its concept or menu, but it’s got a great pedigree and is committed to such ideals as using locally sourced products, enthusiastic and warm service and providing a comfortable milieu in which families can enjoy themselves.  With effervescent hostess Dawn and attentive servers such as Shannon at your beck-and-call, you can’t go wrong.  Groundstone is terrific: For now you’ll just have to take my word for it, but someday I hope to share Caleb’s unique perspective.

Groundstone
5001 San Mateo, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 404-8287
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 3 December 2017
1st VISIT: 26 November 2017
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: Ahi Poke, Groundstone Burger, Sweet Potato Fries, The Cubano, The Brooklyn, Green Chile Strips, Salad with Avocado Ranch Dressing, Green Chile Ranch Dressing

Groundstone Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bristol Doughnut Co. – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Bristol Doughnut Company in the Sawmill District

While most people speak with fond nostalgia about their first ride on a double-decker bus, the memories of our inaugural trip are tinged with horror that traumatizes us to this day. As with most visitors making their first excursion to London, we wanted to take in all the sights with the best vantage point you can have. That meant sitting on the top deck of a double-decker. These bi-level behemoths ride higher than almost everything else on the road save for those noisy articulated lorries ( what we Yanks call semi-trailer trucks). Despite the congestion that typifies London’s streets, double-deckers provide spectacular, mostly unobstructed views of the city.

Though we arrived early to ensure we got seats on the coveted top deck, a couple dozen early birds got there earlier. As we climbed the stairs to our lofty perch, the portly fellow in front of us “let ‘er rip,” emitting the most noxious effluvia imaginable. Our eyes began to water as we coughed and sputtered at the malodorous “silent but deadly” emanation. Surely this odoriferous rank was equal to or more potent than the sulfuric gates of Hell. Congestion at the top slowed our ascent and heightened our suffering. Then, to our horror and dismay, the only available seats were behind the mephitic miscreant who continued his “assault from the rear.” As if to prolong our distress, an accident snarled traffic. When we finally disembarked—at the very first stop—we thanked God for our delivery from our putrid purgatory.

Doughnuts

When I excitedly told my Kim about Bristol Doughnut Co., a new donut shop in the Duke City which proffers “probably the best donuts in Albuquerque” (according to ever reliable Howie “The Duke of Duke City” Kaibel, the charismatic Albuquerque Community Manager for Yelp), she reminded me of the torment we suffered in London. It then dawned on me that the double-decker on which our torturous ordeal (death might have been preferable) occurred sported the Bristol name. Surely we thought, Bristol the double-decker manufacturer has absolutely no relation to Bristol the purveyor of peerless donuts.  We were half right.

When we asked “why the name Bristol,” we were told that a bona fide Bristol Double-Decker bus is being readied for selling donuts.  Can there be a better idea than donuts coming to the masses instead of the masses having to go to the donuts?  For now, when you attempt to go to the (Bristol) donuts, you may have trouble finding them.  Though the Bristol Doughnut Co. has a physical address, there is no exterior signage anywhere to let you know you’ve arrived at your destination.  Bristol is ensconced within The Spur Line Supply Company just past Mama’s Minerals in the burgeoning Sawmill District.  It’s in the southeast corner of a large complex resembling a warehouse.

Two Cinnamon Rolls, One Egg Nog Donut, One Maple Bacon Donut and Two Bristol Salted Butter Donuts

In addition to its unique location, the Bristol Doughnut Co. displays its featured fare in a very distinct manner.  Donuts are displayed behind what was once the back window of a vintage automobile which has since been cut in half.  It’s akin to a super-sized sneeze guard.  A limited number of donuts are available on any given day, not always the same kind.  We ordered four of the six kinds available on the date of our inaugural visit and absolutely loved every single one of them.  Bristol donuts are certainly among the very best of breed. 

My Kim tends to judge the worthiness of a donut shop by the quality of its cinnamon rolls.  As with almost all cinnamon rolls, she contends Bristol’s could have used a bit more cinnamon, but considering the general deliciousness of these dense, doughy spirals, it’s a nit.  A light sugary glaze practically begs for the sheen of melted butter, a sweet and savory complement she enjoys.  Maple bacon donuts have become as common as fake news, but Bristol’s version is better than any we’ve previously enjoyed.  The complementary flavors of sweet maple and salty bacon are in perfect proportion to one another.  Perhaps that’s because the bacon is in bits not strips.  Of seasonal significance is an egg nog donut which might just have you pining for its liquid counterpart.  Then there’s the salted butter donuts which stand out because the light glaze allows you to easily discern and thoroughly enjoy the salted butter.  They go together very well.

Now, if you’re thinking you’ll get up early tomorrow to grab donuts on your way to work, you can sleep in.  Bristol’s hours of operation start at 10AM Monday through Saturday and at 11AM on Sunday.  The good news is that you’ll be able to pick donuts up on your way home because Bristol is open until 6PM Monday through Saturday and 4PM on Sunday.  Donuts…no longer just for breakfast…and so good, we’d risk another trip on a double-decker bus.

Bristol Doughnut Co.
800 20th Street, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 596-0312
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 3 December 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Cinnamon Rolls, Egg Nog Donut, Maple Bacon Donut, Bristol Salted Butter Donut

Bristol Doughnut Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato