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Nexus Brewery – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nexus Brewery on Albuquerque’s Pan American Highway East

Set in Albuquerque, Breaking Bad, AMC’s critically acclaimed television series may leave viewers with the impression that the Duke City is a haven for meth cookery and fried chicken joints.  Had the fair city been more accurately typecast, it might have been portrayed as a mecca for microbreweries.  The Albuquerque Beer Scene blog says it best: “It’s like Portland, but with sun,”  a comparison which shows just how much the city’s microbrewery and brewpub scene has grown–and not just in terms of sheer numbers.  Duke City breweries have accorded themselves so well at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup that the city may soon be re-christened “Albeerquerque.”

Should the New Mexico Tourism Department ever decide to introduce a New Mexico Beer Trail, the Duke City would be its epicenter both geographically and in terms of quantity.  The Land of Enchantment now boasts of nearly thirty independent microbreweries, brewpubs, brew houses and taprooms with the largest concentration in its most populous city.  In fact, the Duke City could be the hub of a Beer Trail with spokes traversing to just about ever corner of the state because high-quality craft beer can now be found throughout the Land of Enchantment.

The interior of Nexus Brewery

The success of New Mexico’s craft brewing industry mirrors a nation-wide trend.  Nearly 1,800 craft breweries operated across the fruited plain in 2010 with an estimated 9,951,956 barrels (each barrel containing 31 gallons) of beer sold in 2010 accounting for sales of $7.6 billion, up from 8,934,446 barrels and $7 billion the previous year.  While craft beers continue to grow in popularity, overall beer sales actually declined by nearly one percent during the same 2009-2010 period.  That growth can probably be attributed to the local touch provided by brewers with ties to the community. Duke City residents, it seems, would rather quaff a pint or three of locally brewed beer than a six pack of the beer that made Milwaukee famous.

Over the years the culinary bill of fare at many of our state’s breweries has upscaled from salty snacks designed to make patrons thirsty to a repertoire of substantial sandwiches and bounteous burgers.  More recently, however, menus at several breweries and brew pubs have made significant inroads, some moving into the arena of the gastropub, a British term for a public house (pub) which specializes in high-quality, often high-end food. The term gastropub, a combination of pub and gastronomy, is intended to describe food which is a step above the more basic “pub grub.”  It may, in actuality, it can be several degrees of magnitude better.

Pico de gallo with chips

While many brewpubs don’t call themselves gastropubs, it’s obvious food isn’t an after-thought or a Miss Congeniality and diners don’t have to be four sheets to the wind to enjoy it.  These breweries and brewpubs understand something vinters have known for a long time–that pairing their product with the right foods can emphasize its inherently complex, interesting and delicious flavors.  Some of the Duke City’s breweries and brewpubs have emerged as dining destinations in their own right.  They remain at heart and first of all, purveyors of high-quality craft beers, but they don’t necessarily take a back seat to anyone when it comes to food.

One such destination is the Nexus Brewery which opened in June, 2011 on Pan American Freeway East.  It doesn’t have the brewpub-restaurant storefront look and feel of some Duke City breweries and is in fact, situated on a largely industrial complex off Interstate 25 just north of Montgomery.  Don’t look for it on the “restaurant row” side of the freeway as we first did.  It’s on the side of the freeway headed north toward Santa Fe.  Keep your eyes open because the signage doesn’t shout out at you as signage at some brewpubs tends to do–and even when you drive up directly in front of it, the only telltale sign is a small logo that resembles a brand you’d normally see on cowhide.

Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles with real butter and syrup

The Nexus Brewery is the brainchild of Ken Carson, a former banker who once served as the state’s banking commissioner.   A hobbyist home brewer, Carson decided to take it to the next level after fifteen years of perfecting his home beer brew.  He chose the name Nexus because it reflects his desire to create a sense of community–and as a tribute to Star Trek The Next Generation where in “the Nexus,” circumstances are whatever you want them to be.  For Duke City diners lamenting the absence of non-chain Cajun food and a truly great fried chicken, the circumstances are exactly as we want them at Nexus where both are offered along with what Carson terms “New Mexican soul food.” 

New Mexican soul food is a combination of Southern and Cajun entrees honoring the Carson family’s Southern roots and New Mexican favorites befitting their current home.  Nexus may have the only menu in which red chile nachos share space on the appetizer menu with fried pickles and signature dishes include both home style open faced enchiladas and Southern fried chicken and waffles.  Everything is made fresh in the brewery’s kitchen.  The Southern fried chicken, in fact, takes 25 minutes to prepare because it’s made to order so it arrives at your table steaming hot.

Southern Fried Fish and beer battered fries – 2 generous Swai fillets with fries

You’ll have a selection of seven New Mexican and Southern inspired appetizers to whet your appetite as you wait for your entrees.  If you order the fried chicken, you’ll want a starter that will last more than a few bites.  The homemade corn tortilla chips and fresh pico de gallo fit the bill.  This “rooster’s beak” is made from finely chopped tomatoes, white onions and jalapeños, but doesn’t have much of a bite if piquancy is what you’re after.  It’s still fresh and lively, coupling well with crispy chips which are low in salt.

Perhaps the most popular Southern-soul food combination across the fruited plain is the marriage of crispy, Southern-style fried chicken with waffles draped in maple syrup and butter.  At Nexus, a single golden, orb-shaped waffle sliced into four pieces, has just a slight crunch that belies a silken texture.  Alas the syrup is served cool and has a cooling effect on the waffles.  Thankfully the wait staff will gladly nuke them for you, but better would be warm syrup.   The combination of sweet, syrupy waffles and savory fried chicken makes for an excellent meal, better than an entree and dessert pairing.  In its annual Food & Wine issue for 2012, Albuquerque The Magazine awarded the Nexus Brewery a Hot Plate Award signifying the selection of its chicken and waffles as one of the “most interesting, special and tasty dishes around.”  Considering the thousands of potential selections, to be singled out is quite an honor.

Collard Greens – leafy collard greens slow-simmered, smoked turkey and a touch of spiciness

That’s especially true because Nexus’s fried chicken may be the very best fried chicken in the Duke City (although Johnny’s Homemade Takeout and Delivery would have had something to say about that had it not closed).  “There’s not much competition,” you say.  The truth is there are a number of restaurants (and not just the fried chicken joints showcased on Breaking Bad) who serve good to very good fried chicken.  The fried chicken (at least the breasts) is boneless and lightly breaded.  With a “have it your way” approach, you can order two or three pieces of chicken and select from among breasts, thigh or legs in any combination you desire.  Any way you have it, the fried chicken is superb! 

For the first four months of our eight year residency in Mississippi, our weekly after church Sunday lunch was at at Aunt Jenny’s, a circa 1852 home on the bayou which specialized in all-you-can-eat pond-raised catfish, shrimp and chicken served family style. Since leaving the Deep South, we’ve lamented the dearth of good catfish in New Mexico.  We saw it as almost heretical when we read the Nexus claim that its Swai, a fresh water farm raised fish, tastes better than catfish.  Swai fillets, two of them, are featured fare on the Southern fried fish and beer battered fries entree. 

New Orleans’s Style Gumbo – with chicken and andouille sausage

It may mean renouncing my honorary Southern Gentleman status, but I believe Nexus’ claim may be accurate.  These lightly battered fish are more moist than catfish, making them a more willing recipient of malt vinegar (a preferential hold-over from our years in England).  So, not only is this fish dish better than just about any we had in Mississippi, it may also have given us the best “fish and chips” dish we’ve had since leaving “Old Blighty.”  The beer-battered fries are excellent, too. 

Optional sides include collard greens, leafy cruciferous greens slow-simmered with smoked turkey.  Renown for their cholesterol-lowering ability as well as their leaf-like texture and a flavor that makes spinach seem tame in comparison, greens are an acquired taste.  We enjoyed them immensely during our years in the Deep South and were reminded of those with each bite of Nexus’ version. 

Cracklin (Chicharrones) Cornbread

Dining at Nexus is perhaps as close as you’ll find in Albuquerque’s to dining in the deep south.  A surprisingly Southern menu includes New Orleans-style gumbo with andouille sausage and chicken.  As John Lucas astutely points out in the comments below, proteins are parsimonious (paltry poultry and absent andouille), but flavor is not.  Its thick, hearty roux has a smoky bouquet and a nice spice kick (moreso than the piquancy of some New Mexico green chile). The thick, dark roux is complemented with plenty of okra as well as the “holy trinity” of Cajun cooking: onions, celery and bell pepper.

Though the gumbo isn’t accompanied with French bread,  you can do one better by ordering Nexus unique rendition of New Mexico inspire cracklin cornbread.  Cracklin cornbread is a Southern tradition, usually made with all pieces of crispy rendered pork fat and skin.  Paula Deen, the queen of butter, even has a version in which jalapeños are used.  At Nexus, the cracklins are chicharrones and instead of jalapeños, green chile is used.  The muffin-shaped cornbread is crumbly yet moist, perfect for for crumbling into the gumbo.  A basket of four is the way to go here.

Bread pudding

For dessert, the staff favorite is Nexus biscuit bread pudding a la mode.  Howard Paige, author of “Aspects of African-American Foodways” explains that biscuit bread pudding originated when African Americans could only afford homemade biscuits instead of the white bread the more affluent enjoyed.  When the biscuits went stale, inventive cooks turned them into a wonderful bread pudding dessert.  Nexus doesn’t use stale biscuits, but it does use a biscuit mix to create dense, but moist bread pudding which is topped with a Scottish dark ale glaze.  It’s served warm and is best with vanilla ice cream. 

In its annual Food and Wine issue for 2013, Albuquerque The Magazine‘s staff sampled “every dish of nachos in the city” and selected Nexus Brewery’s nachos as the fourth best in the city.  The magazine raved that “the chefs here don’t hold back when topping your nachos” with “tons of meat (including seasoned ground beef)” and a “plethora of protein.”

My friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate, is as fond of Nexus’s libations as he is the cuisine.  Whether you visit for the craft brews or the terrific New Mexico Soul Food, you’ll find something to like at this very welcome member of the fraternity of award-winning breweries.

Nexus Brewery
4730 Pan American Freeway East, N.E., Suite D
Albuquerque, New Mexico
505 242-4100
Web Site
LATEST VISIT:  2 December 2012
1st VISIT:  4 February 2012
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 21
COST: $$
BEST BET: Fried Chicken and Waffles, Southern Fried Fish and Beer Battered Fries, Collared Greens, Pico de Gallo, Cracklin Cornbread, New Orleans Style Gumbo, Bread Pudding


View Nexus Brewery on LetsDineLocal.com »

Nexus Brewery on Urbanspoon

  • Larry McGoldrick says:

    Try the fish tacos. Cajun-inspired New Mexican Soul Food at its very best. My favorite there. And Andrea liked ‘em, too.

    February 6, 2012 at 11:42 AM
  • Andrea Lin says:

    I did like the fish tacos but the night I was there the service was among the worst I’ve had in town – not rude, just completely ignorant of our presence and unapologetic. I hope it’s better, because the food is pretty tasty.

    February 6, 2012 at 10:32 PM
  • Roland says:

    Gil I love reading this blog, however, I feel I must call attention to the use of the word renown in this and several previous blogs. I believe the correct form for the sentence above should read ” Renowned for its…” I refer you to the following http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/renowned and renown for a more authoritative voice on the correct usage of the words.

    You provide a great service to all of us and please keep up the good work. I use your site as a reference for finding good food in NM as well as other sites. As a native New Mexican, I believe we must support our local businesses as often as possible.

    February 6, 2012 at 11:11 PM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      Hi Roland

      Thank you for the kind words and for teaching this sesquepedalian something else about an English word I didn’t know. Despite being around for part of some seven decades, the English language and its many quirks and eccentricities still confounds me. As Doug Larson once said, “If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.”

      Gil

      February 7, 2012 at 9:44 AM
  • John L says:

    Gil, love your blog and appreciate the range of restaurants you review. Never would found found the Nexus Brewery without your blog. We tried the fried pickles, fish and chips, fried chicken and waffle, and the collard greens. Everything was quite good. The beer-battered fries sounded like a bad idea but were quite tasty–they get them already battered. The chiken was good but the fish was exceptional as were the collard greens. They make their own tarter sauce and it is great. We’ll be back.

    February 7, 2012 at 8:11 PM
  • John L says:

    Tried the Nexus Brewery for a second and was rather disappointed. The service as lack luster though they were not very busy. We split a bowl of their gumbo that was tasty enough but strong on vegetables and weak on protein. There were a few reasonable size chucks of chicken. The andouille sausage pieces were about the size of a large kernel of corn—so small we couldn’t really get a sense of what it tasted like. After we finished the gumbo a different waitress showed up, started to clear away the silverware, and asked us if we wanted the check. I told her that our meals hadn’t been served yet so we didn’t need the check and to leave the silverware since we hadn’t used it yet. She cleared it away anyway and brought new silverware—wasteful.
    I had the fish and chips and Kay had three pieces of fried chicken and chips. Neither was nearly as good as what we had on our first visit. It took nearly forty minutes for the dishes to arrive. The first batch of fish was inedible. It had been cooked so long it was completely dried out and tasted like cardboard. Compared to what we had previously it seemed over battered and I knew we were really in trouble when I could not cut it with a knife. I sent it back and they replaced it at no charge. The second batch was much, much better but they need to be more consistent. Kay’s fried chicken was good but again not as good as the last time. Again it seemed over battered.
    Their soft drink machine was on the fritz. Kay ordered a diet Dr. Pepper and it has zero carbonation in it. A second glass was no better and they offered to replace it with iced tea which took forever to arrive. It did not come until our meals finally showed up.
    We were there for two hours in all. Even though they do their fried chicken from scratch for each order it shouldn’t take that long. This time we were there for lunch, around 12:45. Last time we went well after three. Perhaps the cook was different. We’ll give them another try but they gotta do better. John L

    April 13, 2012 at 7:13 PM
  • Susana of NMWeddingBlog.com says:

    Gil, I don’t know why I torture myself reading your blog (It’s addicting!), especially before I’ve eaten. I always end up being so hungry because you do such an amazing job with your reviews! :) It’s no wonder you were in Albuquerque the Magazine’s, Best of the City. Congratulations!!!

    December 3, 2012 at 4:35 PM
  • Dave Hurayt says:

    Much to agree with in Gil’s review. The fried appetizer trio was really excellent, very possibly the best fried zucchini anywhere. Fried mushrooms would be a fine addition. The chicken was perfect…delightful crunch and exceptionally juicy. The fried chicken& waffle combo is frequently found in Pennsylvania Dutch country at church suppers.

    My companion ( A brew aficionado ) swears that Nexus’ beers match those of the incomparable Ted Rice who pilots the brewery marvels at Marble….and THAT is high praise indeed. Sadly he ( Coming from the Bayou zone in deep east Texas where diners have Very Strong Feelings about the dish ) felt the gumbo was un-inspiring…lacking that very essential Cajun touch of file ( ground sassafras root ) powder much prevalent in the versions I have had at some superb Acadian restaurants in ( Party Town ) New Orleans.

    We found the service to very good and look forward to returning to try the rest of the menu& the seasonal brews.

    It might do all of us a bit of good to remember that even some of the greatest restaurants occasionally have a less than extraordinary night ( I can remember some kitchen disasters I was responsible for. Even the great Julia Child went through 500 lbs of flour before making a baguette with which she was satisfied ). Not many people realize the enormous amount of effort required to produce a few hundred faultless meals a day.

    We anticipate many more pleasurable meals at Nexus

    January 5, 2013 at 9:44 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    Once again we were last in the city to try Nexus but it was worth the wait. I ordered the fried chicken & waffles which I thought a strange combination. i still think so but it is not as strange as I thought. I can say however that the combination of waffles, syrup and an IPA is awful (my fault). The Child Bride went for the Gumbo which is what we will have for breakfast as she instantly attacked my Fried Chicken which is easily the best for many, many miles around. It is what Popeyes promises but fails to deliver, hot & spicy. The place was crowded beyond my imagination but if the older reviews about bad service were accurate the problem is fixed.

    October 25, 2013 at 8:50 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    We have been back a couple of times since my first visit and I have a couple of somewhat useless comments.
    On our second visit I had the Red Beans and Rice which bore no resemblance to anything i ever made or ate anywhere in NOLA. I liked it but not as much as the traditional. A side of Collard Greens was also very unusual but good. My charming companion had the fish tacos and coleslaw. She disliked both but I couldn’t get a real explanation as to why not.
    The third visit I consumed Blue Corn Enchiladas and, even I who is not a cumin hater found the level very objectionable.She ordered Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes. We assumed that it would be like the chicken served with the waffles but it seemed to have a different batter. You really couldn’t tell though as the chicken was drenched in gravy which she spent the rest of the meal trying to scrape off.

    November 22, 2013 at 11:00 AM
    • Gil Garduno says:

      After tomorrow (Monday, November 25th), it’ll be a challenge to find a seat at Nexus which will be featured in an episode entitled “Comfort and Soul” on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives program. The American viewing public will be introduced to the “New Mexican Soul Food” so many Duke City diners love. On the following Monday (December 2nd), another Duke City treasure, The Cube, will be featured on “Triple D.” It’s been a banner year for New Mexican restaurants receiving exposure from the Food Network.

      November 24, 2013 at 10:26 AM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    ~ T’was Sunday eve that I blew past the obvious signage for this place and had to Uuueee around to hit it just past the Best Western. Alas, gave me the op to espy that the Claim Jumper (see the frozen food section of your grocery) has replaced Landry’s on east I-25 and a place called Cheddar’s is on the west 25, i.e. a quickly changing world of chains.
    ~ All that misincumberance was quickly offset by the twinkle (intended or just haplessly perceived?) of the eye of the welcoming hostess who morphed into Mz. Proficiency (as it should be, given her age…or mine) in finding a 2-Top for a Stag in the joynt that was 93% full…ON A SUNDAY NIGHT about 5:45!!! (Lest you be a Q-Tip and shy about going to such a hip place, don’t as there was a sprinkle of kin Folk therein.) No sooner had I dejacketed and unfolded my Journal, than another welcoming Spirit offered a menu and beverage order option.
    Lest it not be known, I’m not a beer aficionado, albeit some may think otherwise knowing I have 6 Paki of PBR in the frig for when I eat New Mexican ‘in’. Here, I chose the House Stout and was surprised by its smoothness in contrast to what one might commonly associate with the word ‘stout’. Rating: A
    Had a ‘Classic Chicken con Waffle’ but did the breast option. Indeed, found the chicken to be Tasty, Tender and Juicy. Batter provides texture, but was expecting “Soul Food” to have a bit more Soul…has the Colonel spoiled us?
    Waffle: nicely done re size and a touch of crispness. Alas, may be my aging palate, but maple syrup might just as well have been ‘whatever’, i.e. not what memories of New England breakfasts expected. Is memory waning or is this syrup lacking in gooey viscosity, sweetness (which I’m not usually into), as well as TASTE as might flow from a tree tap in Vermont? Be that as it may, there’s an ‘unknown’ perhaps to call me back another time.
    “Chow!”

    December 31, 2013 at 11:10 AM
  • Johnny Vialpando says:

    Dear Gil,
    My name is Johnny from the former JOhnny’s Homemade Takeout and Dine In. Thank you for your kind words and mentioning my resturaunt in another review as possibly the best fried chicken in Albuquerque that you have had. When copper theives took my livelyhood from me I was heart broken and it does feel good to be remembered as it brings joy to my heart and a tear to my eye to be remembered by someone of your caliber thank you once again. Happy Dining! Johnny:)

    March 24, 2014 at 11:51 PM
  • Troy McN says:

    Best Chicken and Waffles EVER!! I visited in July, since then Ive been to North Carolina, Los Angeles, and Boston, and nothing has come close…Can I have the home recipe Please!!!!!

    September 28, 2014 at 9:36 AM

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