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The Cube – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Cube Restaurant, Memphis style barbecue in the University Heights area

Timon: [singing] Luau. If you’re hungry for a hunk of fat and juicy meat
Eat my buddy Pumbaa here, ’cause he’s a tasty treat
Come on down and dine on this tasty swine
All you gotta is get in line
Are you achin’…
Pumbaa: Yup, yup, yup.
Timon: For some bacon?
Pumbaa: Yup, yup, yup.
Timon: He’s a big pig.
Pumbaa: Yup, yup.
Timon: You can be a big pig, too. Oy.
From Disney’s Lion King

Succulent swine.  Porcine perfection. Bodacious baby backs.  Pulchritudinous pulled pork. Every serious barbecue aficionado should go hog wild at least once in their lives and pig out in Memphis, Tennessee, indisputably one of America’s bastions of barbecue and home of the “Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cooking Competition.”  Never mind the great gridiron gala (the championship of the National Football League), the “Superbowl of Swine” is where barbecue addicts want their fill of pigskin and Memphis is where they meat.

Although Memphis prides itself on the diversity of its barbecue, traditional Memphis barbecue is primarily about “low and slow” smoked pork served  one of two ways: pulled into tender, melt-in-your-mouth pieces or as meaty ribs on a slab.  Those righteous ribs are available wet, dry or naked.  Wet means the ribs are basted with a sweet barbecue sauce before and after smoking.  Dry means a spice rub is applied before, during or immediately after they’re immersed in a smoker.  Naked, of course, means the ribs have neither sauce or rub.

The cavernous Cube

The cavernous Cube

In Memphis, the pulled pork, whether served on a sandwich or as an entree, is light and delicate through not what I refer to as “Ivory Snow” in that it’s not 99 and 44/100 percent pure.  On Memphis style pulled pork, you’ll find an occasional bit of fatty or sinewy meat; it’s not all white meat.  Pulled pork sandwiches tend to be served with a sweet, creamy coleslaw in between hamburger buns.  Madcap diners will venture far away from pulled pork purity and frequent restaurants which dare to serve pulled pork on spaghetti, nachos and pizza.  All are quite good!

Having lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for eight years,  Memphis was but a scant five-hour journey away.  My car practically had a built-in auto-pilot with Beale Street hard-coded.  Beale Street is not only the “home of the blues and the birthplace of rock ‘n roll,” it’s home to some of the very best barbecue restaurants in the city.  It’s where I discovered and became addicted to barbecued baloney, yet another form of pork Memphis has mastered.  The combination of blues and barbecue has remained in my blood ever since.

Guy Fieri visited in September, 2013

Guy Fieri visited in September, 2013.  The Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives episode featuring The Cube airs in December, 2013.

When The Cube launched in the summer of 2009, my immediate inclination was to dismiss it as an inauthentic parody, giving its claim of “Memphis-style barbecue” the same credence I give to many of Albuquerque’s pizzerias and their claim to “New York style.” For one thing, the contemporary edifice housing the newcomer looks nothing like the timeworn buildings in historical Beale Street. In fact, The Cube resides in a stand-alone building almost devoid of personality. It’s a stuccoed monolith on Central Avenue just west of the University of New Mexico.

Our inaugural visit reaffirmed that a restaurant should not be judged by its outward appearance.  In truth, there really is no template for what a barbecue restaurant should look like as more of them distance themselves from what used to be a bumpkinly stereotype with red and white checkered cloth tablecloths adorning oak tables, cute ceramic pig figurines on the counters and country music blaring from a tinny stereo.  At the extreme end of this stereotype, you might even see bails of hay, barbed wire and steel buckets serving in some fashion as part of the “ambiance.”

A two-meat (pulled pork and chicken) combination plate with a five-cheese macaroni and cheese, pasta salad and Texas toast

The Cube is a neo-modern complex worthy of its avant-garde name. It’s a yawning establishment with concrete floors and high ceilings from which sounds reverberate to create a loud atmosphere when the restaurant is crowded. Lighting suspended from the ceiling is in the hexahedronal shape of a cube with six equal squares as faces. Cubist and contemporary art festoon the walls. Tables and chairs are more functional than they are comfortable, but they’re well-spaced for privacy.

The Cube isn’t a sit-down restaurant in the sense that a hostess will seat you and the wait staff will deliver a menu to your table. Instead, you’ll place your order at a counter from which a view of a very industrious kitchen will catch your eye. The menu, including the special of the day, is scrawled by marker on several white boards and on placards on the counter. There’s a lot of read and digest which accounts for the slowness of the ordering process. The wait staff is very friendly and accommodating. They’re eager to make recommendations if you request help.

A half-rack of ribs (served wet) with mashed sweet potatoes, baked beans and Texas toast

18 December 2010: For first-time visitors eager to sample Memphis style barbecue, a best bet item is a two-meat platter with two sides. True to The Cube’s playful take on au courant styling, even the plating is contemporary. Instead of the paper plates you might expect, even barbecue is delivered on square ceramic plates, the type of which you might see at an upscale Japanese restaurant. Portions are plentiful with a two-meat platter and its two sides potentially big enough for two to share (not that you’d want to; you’ll want to hog it all for yourself).

18 December 2013: One of those meats should definitely be pulled pork, the best we’ve had in the Duke City since the much-missed Mad Max’s. As with all great pulled pork, this one is light on smokiness courtesy of hickory woods which impart only a subtle smokiness, just enough for optimum flavor. The pulled pork is tender and absolutely delicious. Served naked, you can add as much or as little sauce as you’d like from the squeeze bottles at your table. The sauce has almost equal pronouncements of acidity, smokiness, tanginess, sweetness and even a bit of piquancy. It’s a terrific sauce and there are two varieties of it including a hot and spicy variety.

A pterodactyl...er. turkey leg

A pterodactyl…er. turkey leg with onion rings and corn bread

18 December 2010: Our great fortune with a pulled pork reminiscent of what we experienced in Memphis was matched with the chicken. You know it’s great chicken when even the skin, impregnated with a beautiful char, is wonderful. Both the white and dark meat are excellent, with or without sauce.  Frequent visitors to this blog have probably noticed just how boring I generally consider chicken, particularly on Italian entrees, but also when it’s barbecued.  The Cube’s rendition is moist, tender and imbued with a light smokiness that seems to bring out its best qualities.

9 November 2013: In two visits, we’ve had mixed results with the baby back ribs.  During our inaugural visit, the Cube’s baby backs–unlike the fall-off-the-bone tender bones with which I fell in love in Memphis–appeared to have been extricated from the smoker before they were ready because they were tough and chewy.  Not even a surfeit of sauce (I had them “wet”) could salvage these ribs.  The second time we had the baby backs, they were terrific, an exemplar of all the qualities which make for great baby backs.  The first time we had them, the baby backs were a special of the day.  If they’re consistently made the way we had them our second visit, they’ll be special every day.

Cube012

The Lobo Dog

9 November 2013:  Among the most popular dishes available at the midway every year during the New Mexico State Fair are smoked turkey legs which have been sold there for more than a decade.  With a build-in “handle” they’re easily portable.  If you prefer eating turkey legs from a sitting position, The Cube has a turkey leg you might need to be sitting down for because it’ll floor you.  It’s pterodactyl sized!  It’s also one of the most mouth-watering turkey legs we’ve ever had.  These turkey legs are perfectly smoked so that when you peel back its outer skin, you’re greeted with a pinkish meat reminiscent of ham.  With a unique flavor wholly unlike chicken, the turkey is generously endowed with tender, moist, absolutely delicious meat.

Sides–and there are about a dozen from which to pick–are sure to please even the most finicky diners.  The five-cheese mac and cheese is some of the very best we’ve found in the Duke City.  Fromage fanatics will revel in each creamy, rich bite of rotini, a perfectly cooked corkscrew pasta smothered in the cheesy blend of Gruyere, Provolone, Sharp Cheddar, Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano.  This is not your child’s Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner.  It’s an adult macaroni and cheese which even kids should appreciate.

Chocolate and cinnamon bread pudding

Chocolate and cinnamon bread pudding

The pasta salad, also constructed with rotini, is also quite good with cubes of mozzarella providing an excellent foil for the sweet vinaigrette and the tangy tomatoes.  It’s also a nice contrast to the rich earthiness of the macaroni and cheese.  While it seems sweet potato fries have become a de rigueur offering at many restaurants, few eateries offer mashed sweet potatoes (topped with butter no less).  The Cube does and they’re quite good though I’m left to ponder the interesting contrast gravy would have provided (next time).

The menu, scrawled in white chalk on several slate boards, is extensive, an indication that The Cube is no one-trick pony.  It’s a diverse menu of traditional American summer, picnic or anytime favorites: barbecue, burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and sausages.  The hot dogs are one-hundred percent beef with natural casings.  Best of all, these are not your standard mustard embellished hot dogs although a “regular” hot dog is available (with onions or sauerkraut on request).  Ten over-the-edge and out-of-the-box specialty hot dogs will amaze you with their creativity; they are certainly not the hot dogs of your parents’ generation.  Alas, they’re about twice as expensive as a standard hot dog, so if you’re hungry your best bet is probably the specialty or regular hot dog meals which are value priced and include a beverage and fries.

Chocolate Mudslide Cookie

Among the specialty dogs are two which gave me hopes of reliving the fabulous Sonoran dogs we enjoyed during a summer foray into Tucson in 2010.  If you’ve ever had a Sonoran hot dog, you’ll never forget it and your quest to have another  after another will never end.  The Cube offers two hot dogs with some of the ingredients you’ll find on a Sonoran hot dog, but flavor-wise, they fall short of the quintessential Tucson food.  One is the Lobo dog, a hot dog wrapped in bacon, grilled onions, green chili (sic) and pepper jack cheese.  The other is the Guadalajara Dog, a hot dog wrapped in bacon, chipotle sauce and pico de gallo.  The ingredient combinations are a hit and the hot dogs are right-sized (not the gargantuan variety).  They’re both quite good, but there’s nothing like the Sonoran dogs.

Desserts, if you have room for them, are another winner for The Cube. If you have a 32 sweet teeth, the sweet treat sure to please is the chocolate mudslide cookie, two brownie cookies sandwiching a cloying cream filling. For me, one bite was enough, but for my Kim who’s much sweeter, this is heavenly decadence. More my style is the chocolate and cinnamon bread pudding made with a strong chocolate accentuated with cinnamon to give it an almost Mexican chocolate flavor. The bread pudding is topped with housemade whipped cream. It’s a top-tier bread pudding, among the five best in the city.

A visit to The Cube may not be the same as a visit to Memphis, but if you close your eyes as the sound system plays the blues and you’re luxuriating in each fluffy, feather-light bite of pulled pork, you just might imagine a taste of Memphis has come to Albuquerque.  That’s the Cube bringing the ‘cue to the Q (former mayor Martin Chavez’s unpopular appellation for Albuquerque).

The Cube
1520 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 243-0023
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 9 November 2013
1st VISIT: 18 December 2010
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chocolate and Cinnamon Bread Pudding, Strawberry Lemonade, Pulled Pork, Chicken, Macaroni and Cheese, Pasta Salad, Baked Beans, Baby Back Ribs, Creamed Corn, Turkey Leg


View The Cube BBQ on LetsDineLocal.com »

The Cube on Urbanspoon

  • Terrie says:

    They have a website at http://www.thecuberestaurant.com/. I also recommend their hot dogs. The Guadalajara dog is seriously tasty.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:37 PM
    • randall says:

      No thanks, much like many of Guy Fieri’s other visits that are hit and miss, this one missed! Go to the County Line instead! This place is wwaaayyy over rated!

      February 16, 2014 at 4:56 PM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    Bread puddings — what are the other four on your list?

    I favor Barry’s Oasis, Two Fools, and Cajun Kitchen across the street from Barry’s. Nothing else in CK rises above ordinary. My favorite in NM is at Lambert’s in Taos (rum raisin). We already have reservations for Christmas Eve (he wrote drooling on his keyboard).

    I must try Cube’s PP. My favorite, of course, was at Mad Max’s, where Max and his brother-in-law used fruit woods (predominantly apple) for their delicate and, to me, perfect taste. They thought hickory was too bitter.

    So I’ll give the Cube a try.

    December 21, 2010 at 6:14 PM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Great gastronomic minds think alike. The remaining four on my list are the bread pudding at Barry’s Oasis, Two Fools, St. Claire Winery & Bistro and (this might surprise you) Cecilia’s Cafe. Cecilia’s version is a New Mexican bread pudding called capirotada which she offers during the Lenten season. There are only a handful of New Mexican restaurants which serve capirotada and fewer still which prepare it well. El Paragua in Española has a passable version, but my mom’s beats them all.

      December 22, 2010 at 2:55 AM
    • randall says:

      food was sub par, service slow.

      February 16, 2014 at 4:58 PM
    • randall says:

      What the hell is ck and pp?

      February 23, 2014 at 9:43 AM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    Oops. Forgot one more, making my five list — Lemonberry Bread Pudding at the Indigo Crow. Classy finish to a classy meal in a classy restaurant in a classy Village.

    December 21, 2010 at 6:41 PM
  • R says:

    Yeah, I agree about their hot dogs. Love the 505 dog (hot dog wrapped in bacon and served with green chile and avocado) and their fries. The manager told me they get their hot dogs shipped in special. Not hot on their burgers, but everything else I’ve tried there has been wonderful.

    December 22, 2010 at 9:15 PM
  • shotsie says:

    I’ve been getting the meat platters, since they include two wonderful sides – I always get their wonderful cole slaw and then try a side that I haven’t had before – today, it was dessert-like candied yams, cooked in maple syrup – that WAS my dessert and they were great. The fries are fresh, the mashed sweet potatoes are velvety and the baked beans have a nice smoked flavor. The meats were great – the pulled pork was described pretty well above, and the brisket was pretty close to perfect. Of course, the rest of the crew got their hot dog fix in, and I do LUV the Guadalajara Dog – very close to the Sonoran Dogs in Tucson – if only The Cube would switch to a Mexican Bolillos rolls, then it would be perfect. Great looking desserts, but those candied yams were a fine substitute.

    About the place – LOTS of free parking – the lot is huge (try to find some other spot on Central with this size lot. They play interesting music – jazz, blues, accoustic, and have some neat looking art on the walls, plus lots of glass to look outside at Central. And the Happy Hour runs from 4 – 10 pm. How you can beat it?

    December 22, 2010 at 10:16 PM
  • WanRey says:

    I love the Cube. Coming from a southern NM town that was right by Texas, I grew up on good tasting bbq. What I always say tho is that most bbq places can make the meat good for the most part, but its the sides that set apart the pros from the rookies. The Cube definitely holds it down when it comes to sides, all their bbqed meats, and I had some cheesecake there the other day that was fantastic. The big windows also make for good people watching on Central.

    December 23, 2010 at 5:51 PM
  • Valerie says:

    I agree with the previous comments. The cube is excellent. I haven’t tried the hot-dogs yet but I will after the previous comments. I have tried their burgers and they are my opinion one of the best in the Duke City. The manager told me they ground their meat fresh everyday, a rarity in this city, from top sirloin. The patty is juicy and it taste like a steak. I do feel like the atmosphere needs lots of improvement, may be more booths? But as long as they continue to deliver good food I will keep coming back.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:06 PM
  • Stephanie says:

    Gil, for some reason your rating on the Cube isn’t showing??

    March 5, 2011 at 8:48 AM
    • randall says:

      Thats because this place sucks!

      February 16, 2014 at 4:53 PM
  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    Anybody try the Chicago Dog? Is it authentic? Nothing within 200 miles is.

    March 7, 2011 at 2:50 PM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      I didn’t try one, Larry, but the ingredients on the Cube’s Chicago dog–tomatoes, onions, peppers, relish, pickle–show an effort at authenticity. There’s no indication that the onions are the chopped white onion variety, that the relish is the sweet neon-green pickle relish, that the pickle is a dill spear, that the tomatoes are sliced or in wedges and there’s no mention of the celery salt or poppy seed bun. As with any claimant to serving another region’s famous foods, diners should always approach a Chicago dog from outside the Windy City with a caveat emptor attitude. That being said, I can point you to couple authentic purveyors of Chicago dogs in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

      March 7, 2011 at 3:19 PM
      • randall says:

        Hell, they can’t even hold on to thier employees!

        February 19, 2014 at 2:25 PM
  • Mr_Chris says:

    I love the food at the cube, but over the time they have been open I have found their service to be lacking. Little things really take things down a notch. I’ve had my burger brought out after it was finished cooking, while the friend I was there with had his BBQ plate brought out immediately. You can order a combo which comes with a drink, but they seem to charge for them most of the time. At times (when the owner is not there) I have heard music blaring, and not the music that plays when the onwer was there. I had a side I paid for not brought out, they did offer to make it up by asking me if I wanted desert, but I didn’t order desert, I’m not a sweets kinda guy. Having said all of that, I can’t say I have had a meal there that wasn’t good, or more like great! Darn good BBQ for us here in the Duke CIty!

    March 8, 2011 at 6:26 PM
    • randall says:

      It’s “DESSERT” not desert.

      February 16, 2014 at 5:03 PM
  • RichardFL says:

    As a native of the Windy City I can tell you that The Cube’s Chicago dog is an almost 100% authentic, never a 100% if you are outside Chicago, however The Cube sticks to the most important elements, a good frankfurter,poppy seed bun, neon relish, white chopped onions, 2 tomatoes in half, celery salt and real sports peppers. They do not steam the bun AND they grilled their frankfurter, but other that that,The Cube is where I get my Chicago dog fix if I am feeling kind of homesick for my native food.

    March 8, 2011 at 8:02 PM
  • Ryan Scott says:

    I’ve been to the Cube 3 times, and I think your review and rating are right on. Good, not great. I’ve enjoyed my trips to Powdrell’s much more lately. Powdrell’s collared greens are some of the best in the city.

    March 10, 2011 at 2:13 PM
  • Edward Sung says:

    I’ve been to the Cube a couple of times…the food is pretty good — the owners really care about putting out their best — but the service is truly godawful (when one of the owners isn’t around). I wish they would switch from counter service to full service, and hire some real waitstaff instead of the surly teens they have now.

    March 16, 2011 at 2:26 PM
  • Paul says:

    I have been to the cube about 4 times, each time has been great for me. I have had their BBQ (Love it) and their dogs. I live on the west side, so I don’t get over there often, but I will usually pass up all the BBQ places on the west side and make a trip across town just to visit the Cube for lunch. I hope to dine there more frequently.

    October 28, 2013 at 12:34 PM
  • JohnL says:

    After seeing it on Guy Fierri’s DDD we decided to try The Cube again after a previous visit several year’s ago. Then we found it to be OK but nothing special. This time we found it a mixed bag. The menu expanded quite a bit including things that weren’t listed before.

    My S.O. and I tried the Guadalajara dog meal-with coleslaw and a 3 meat combo meal with pulled pork, brisket, wet chicken, collard greens, onion rings, and corn muffins.

    I’m not a hot dog fan but the Guadalajara dog was yummy. The bun was quite good and the sauce and pico de gallo left a nice after taste. The coleslaw was good and we took some home with us,

    The BBQ was uniformly quite good, especially with the hot BBQ sauce. The portions were quite generous—especially the chicken. Take out boxes all around. The sides were another story.

    The collard greens were—contrary to Guy F’s estimation—not worth the effort. They were cut too large and served in too much broth that was essentially tasteless. The collard greens at Nexus are much better. We’ll have to try those at Powdrell’s.

    The onion rings were an exercise in grease extravaganza! They were over battered and the batter was infused with and dripping grease. What we could taste seemed OK but the grease was quite off putting.

    On balance, good BBQ but be careful about the sides,

    December 11, 2013 at 1:28 AM
  • Foodie Star says:

    Hey JohnL,

    The collard greens at Powdrell’s are the BOMB! Make sure to ask for hot sauce to put on them for a nice vinegar kick.

    December 12, 2013 at 10:41 AM
  • JohnL says:

    Decided to give The Cube another try. Our meal was quite disappointing. The pico de gallo ad sauce on the Guadalajara dog had very little flavor. This time the coleslaw was dreadful. Very little flavor and with way too much liquid in it.
    The BBQ was only OK and the sauces quite good especially the hot sauce. he portions were smaller than on our last visit. Sausage and ribs were good. Brisket was falling apart tender but with no flavor without the sauce.
    Their soda machine was down so no soft drinks. The iced tea was like lightly colored water.
    Henry Clopton (sp?) where are you now when we need you? Next time it’s Powdrells.

    August 22, 2014 at 8:36 PM

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