“If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way, take the highway that’s the best
A-get your kicks on Route sixty-six
It winds from Chicago to LA
More than two thousand miles all the way
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.”
~Nat King Cole
With a population of approximately 30,000, Albuquerque had just about as many people in 1939 as Alamagordo has today. In 1939, life in the Duke City centered around Central Avenue and 4th Street where F.W. Woolworth’s Department Store (Albuquerque’s first national chain store) was situated. That year Route 66, the fabled Mother Road, saw a peak in the migration to California (and the promise of a better life) of destitute Oklahoma sharecroppers. In 1939, on Second Street just north of Central, New Mexico native Conrad Hilton built the first of his eponymous hotels–and the first modern high-rise–in the state of his birth. Further east on Central Avenue in the Nob Hill area (Albuquerque’s first sub-division) construction began on the De Anza Motor Lodge.
In 1939, with the threat of war imminent in Europe, the Army Air Force established a pilot training center (today called Kirtland Air Force Base), setting the stage for Albuquerque’s biggest boom ever. When the war ended, pilots and military personnel who trained or worked in Albuquerque returned to the burgeoning city where opportunity awaited. In 1939, the Duke City was still a close-knit town and many people walked wherever they needed to go.
For those who could afford an automobile, in 1939 Ralph Jones built one of the most modern facilities in the west at the time with a large curved front window which gave passing motorists a view of the latest Ford vehicles. The Jones Motor Company included a full-service gas station that serviced many of the west-bound motorists passing through the city. The Jones Motor Company thrived for nearly two decades before relocating.
The Streamline Moderne-style complex changed hands several times over the next four decades, serving as everything from a moped shop to an Army surplus store. In 1999, six years after the building was officially designated as a historic building, Janice and Dennis Bonfantine purchased the old Jones Motor Company and repurposed it as Kelly’s Brewery. Today, guests and visitors have a glimpse of what life was like on the Mother Road more than seven decades past. The Kelly’s signage is patterned after the old Texaco star. Antique gas pumps can still be found on what is now an expansive outdoor patio, one of the city’s most popular for al-fresco dining weather permitting.
Historic relics and vintage Route 66 brick-a-brac can also be found inside Kelly’s Brewery, which contrary to its name is much more than a watering hole featuring more than 20 house brand craft premium beers as well as other beers and wine. It’s also a very popular restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seating is communal style, perhaps because large gatherings meet at Kelly’s to watch their favorite sporting events on one of the dozen or so televisions in the sports bar area.
The menu is pretty much what you’d expect at a brewpub, albeit one that doesn’t take shortcuts. Burgers weigh in at a half-pound and are constructed from Harris Ranch Black Angus Beef, an exemplar in high-quality beef. Meats–such as the all natural Harvestland Turkey and the corn beef used on the restaurant’s Reuben sandwiches–are roasted in-house. Soups and salads are also made on the premises. The award-winning creamy green chile chicken soup is a popular favorite which has crossed my lips while judging Albuquerque’s best soups at the Roadrunner Food Bank’s annual Souperbowl event. The menu also offers a number of healthy items.
Breakfast goers will appreciate the bottomless coffee which is complimentary with breakfast and is replenished faithfully by an energetic wait staff. The coffee is the antithesis of Starbucks in that it’s smooth and acid-free, an easy blend with which to start the day. It pairs well with Kelly’s Build Your Own Breakfast Burrito which starts with three eggs and potatoes. From there you have your choice of meat (bacon, ham, chorizo, chicken, turkey), veggies (including mushrooms and olives) and chile (red, green or both). All is not lost even though both the red and green chile are made with cumin. You can ask for chopped green chile instead. The chile is fresh and has a discernible piquancy though most New Mexicans can handle it easily.
The adjective “behemoth” should preface breakfast burrito. It’s so large that it’s plated cut in two. My ingredients of choice were mushrooms, olives, turkey and ham, all good choices which go well with the chopped green chile. The eggs are light and fluffy and the potatoes used sparingly so as not to dry the burrito. While the chopped green chile does its job in providing piquancy and flavor, the element of moistness offered by a “stewy” red or green chile is missing.
Kelly’s offers a skyscraper of a cinnamon roll. Easily three-inches tall, it sits in a buttery-sugary pool and is so sweet and cinnamon-rich that it might just have you pinging off the walls in a sugar rush. It’s a very good cinnamon roll, but it’s one made for sharing as no one person should consume so much butter and sugar (or eat a brick-sized dessert).
Throngs of diners and appreciators of adult beverage converge on Kelly’s patio on warm days. Even your four-legged children are welcome at this very popular brewery and eatery which would probably have been out-of-place in 1939, but is so very much at home in the twenty-first century.
Kelly’s Brew Pub
3222 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 1 December 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Build Your Own Breakfast Burrito, Cinnamon Roll, Coffee