Brixens – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Brixens, soon to be a downtown fixture on Central Avenue

Though he may not have received any votes in the recent Gil’s Thrilling…. poll asking “with whom you would most like to break bread or tortillas or pita or hearts from among the cast of characters with whom Gil has shared his journey of (then) 999 reviews,” my friend Bill Resnik has and will always be one of my favorite dining companions. He’s a brilliant conversationalist and one of the very funniest people you could ever hope to meet (two hours after my appendectomy he had me in more stitches than the actual surgery). When he recently invited me to lunch, he asked if I wanted to go to “the restaurant opened by the love child of Vixen and Blitzen” (two of Santa’s reindeer). It didn’t immediately dawn on me that he was talking about Brixens, the very highly touted new downtown restaurant in the heart of Central Avenue.

Brixens is not named for the love child of any of Santa’s reindeer. Nor is it named for Brixen, a town in Northern Italy. Brixens is named for the brick accents, particularly on the west wall of the venerable Yrisarri building built in 1909. Located on the southwest corner of 4th and Central, the Yrissari building has cast its shadows on both the historic original route and the rerouted path of Route 66. For three decades, the bottom floor corner of that edifice was the home of Nick’s Crossroads Cafe after which it was occupied by the short-lived Cafe Bien whose closure was swathed in infamy. Brixens is wholly unlike either of its predecessors with a vibrancy that bespeaks of modernity and energy.

Brixens’ capacious dining room

You’ll do a double-take the minute you walk in and espy 5,000 square feet of space laid out creatively. An year-long construction process was well-spent. Save for the floor-to-ceiling brick wall, nary a vestige of previous occupants remains. The cynosure of the space is a hand-crafted bar above which the name “Brixens” is prominently displayed with the “X” noticeably taller than the other letters. To the left of the bar is a vertical sign, a menu of sorts which from top to bottom reads: Smile, Eat, Laugh, Talk, Kiss, Drink, Sing. Ostensibly these are all activities in which guests can engage during their visit. During our inaugural visit, the words “Eat” and “Drink” were lit up, a reminder perhaps of what we were all there to do. Three flat screen televisions hanging over bar were tuned to a surprisingly diverse troika of programs–a perfunctory sports show, a sultry soap opera and a Christian music program. Talk about catering to all tastes.

Even the ordering process is 21st century. Instead of the conventional paper menu, you’re handed an iPad on which the menu is displayed in as clear and unpixilated a view as modern technology can make possible. Techies among us will drool almost as much about the iPad’s tap-and-drag, one- and two-finger scroll capabilities as we will about the menu. Click on any menu item and you’ll not only see a food-porn-worthy image of the item, but a mouth-watering description that includes such dietary essential information as if the item is gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan. Custom hand-built tables which feature ice coolers built into the center of every table will keep your adult beverages cold.

Chips & Dips

“Fine Fare and Luxurious Libations” are the tag line below the restaurant name on the Brixens Website which also boasts of “Drawing on flavors and inspiration from our New Mexican culture, as well as regional cuisines from across America, the Brixens’ menu spotlights dishes you know and love done with a surprising new twist that focuses on quality ingredients and thoughtfully crafted, scratch made food.” Indeed, we do know and love the dishes spotlighted on the menu, but many of those dishes can be found at other restaurants. What distinguishes those dishes at Brixens are the quality ingredients, thoughtful crafting and scratch-made preparation…just as it says in the menu. We had the pleasure of meeting executive chef Chelsea Carbin whose enthusiasm for the menu and the Brixens concept are contagious.

The menu is the antithesis of those compendium War and Peace-sized menus which list so many items none of them can possibly be good. Instead, the focus seems to be on a handful of items executed very well. The menu is arranged into four categories: Snacks & Starters, Handhelds, Greens and Sweet Endings. Snacks and starters include such New Mexico standards as chips and dips and tempura-battered green chile strips, but they also include toasted ravioli and a Brussels dish that sounds almost too good to be true. Eight items adorn the Handhelds section of the menu including an open-face meatloaf and broken tacos. Handhelds are accompanied by your choice of fries, sweet potato waffle fries, onion strings or a side salad. Three salads and four sweet endings round out the menu.

Triple Green Chile Sliders

Remembering Bill once joked “if you ever see me eating a salad, it’s just a pile of whatever fell out of my tacos,”  I didn’t suggest we order the Brussels (crispy Brussel sprouts, apple salad, herb-roasted nuts, Balsamic glaze).  Instead we ordered chips & dips (made-to-order corn chips, fresh pico de gallo, guacamole and green chile queso).   In New Mexico, you can’t go wrong with this terrific triumvirate.  Brixens’ version is among the very best you’ll find.  Rarely does pico de gallo have much pico, a Spanish term which translates to bite.  This one does.  Chopped jalapeños are the reason.  Along with red onions, zesty cilantro and chopped tomatoes, it’s got great flavor along with that bite.  The guacamole is chunky and fresh, also adorned with red onions, cilantro and chopped tomatoes with a little citrus influence for good measure.  Our least favorite (though still good) was the green chile queso which didn’t have nearly as much heat as the pico.

Bill’s introductory meal at Brixens was the triple green chile sliders  (three three-ounce Akaushi beef sliders, triple cheese blend, green chile queso, hot New Mexico chopped green chile, tempura green chile strips), a celebration of New Mexico’s official state vegetable.  Though the three burgers may resemble a jumble of ingredients, Bill declared this burger a winner, prepared to his exacting medium-rare specifications.  He especially loved the Akaushi beef.  Akaushi beef, by the way, comes from red livestock, one of four breeds known collectively as Wagyu (which translates simply to “Japanese cow”).  Similar to other Wagyu, Akaushi beef is buttery and tender but has no lingering fatty aftertaste.  With his burger trio, Bill had fries with a remoulade he enjoyed very much.

66 Crunch Burger with side salad

For those of us who love our burgers moist and juicy, the “gourmet” ingredients we can’t figure out are those with crispy (typically desiccated) qualities.  Onion rings, onion strings and potato strings, I’m talking about you.  Why would any self-respecting chef use you?  My initial inclination when ordering the 66 Crunch Burger (6.6 ounces of fresh ground beef, American and Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickle, Thousand-Island dressing and a “signature crispy potato topping”) was to ask that that crispy potato topping be taken out back and buried.  The desire to honor the chef  and consume the burger as intended won out, however.  There’s still plenty of moistness in this burger, particularly at medium-rare.  There’s also a lot of flavor, especially from the ground beef.  The crispness and freshness of the pickles and the Thousand-Island dressing also stand out.  Instead of fries, my accompaniment was a side salad with a ranch-blue cheese crumbles dressing.  Bill pointed out that arugula sounds like the sound a jalopy’s horn would make.  It makes for a very nice salad ingredient, too, and the blue cheese crumbles were a terrific counterbalance to the richness of the ranch. 

While your dining companion might not be as funny as my friend Bill, you’ll still have a fun time at this rollicking new restaurant on Old Route 66. The 66 Crunch Burger beckons.

Brixens
400 Central Avenue, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 242-2400
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 6 October 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST:  $$
BEST BET:  66 Crunch Burger, Triple Green Chile Sliders, Chips & Dips
REVIEW #1002

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

14 comments

  • Hi Gil! Thank you so much for taking the time to come in, try us out, and write such a thoughtful review! We are very happy that you enjoyed your experience with us! I have read your blog for years as a place to learn what is new and worth trying in Albuquerque, and was personally thrilled when you posted a review on us. I hope you will come in again as I would love to meet you. Thank you again!

    Tanya and the entire Brixens’ Team

    • Sorry, I can't resist

      Does anyone else have visions of BOTVOLR going into Brixens and introducing himself to Tanya as Gil? Trying to score free food and/or hitting on her in his unique way? I almost shot water out of my nose thinking about that…

      • About a year ago, BOTVOLR and I were having lunch at a local eatery when our server told us the Air Force officers at another table were inquiring as to who we were. I told her BOTVOLR was Bob of the Village People (the muscular dude in the construction ensemble). She became visibly excited (I thought for sure she’d make like a Tom Jones groupie and hand over her hotel keys), but BOTVOLR was the consummate gentlemen. He explained that even though we could pass for male models from the Chippendales, we were just two ordinary guys having lunch. That’s typical of BOTVOLR, one of the finest, most civic-minded people I know. He’s a true ambassador for the Land of Enchantment and a credit to this blog.

        • Schuyler

          LOL. Chippendale models, yeah I can see that–Chris Farley and Steve Buscemi.

          Back when Gil and I were both still single, I asked him to teach me a few words in Spanish so I could flirt with a pretty seniorita. He coached me to say “quanto cobras” which I did only to get my face slapped. What he had taught me to ask was “what do you charge?”

  • Sr Plata

    So, great discussion, I will have to try Brixens. On the subject of Food Trucks of NM, how about Gil creating a subheading for just that subject so we can ID, Document, Eat, Locate, etc. at all the great food trucks I have been hearing about but haven’t tried??? i.e. Its time to follow the Food Truck Trail…

    • You’re the umpteenth person to have asked me to add a category called “Food Truck.” Apparently the category “Mobile Food Kitchens” (what many food truck owners prefer) category on the blog isn’t very intuitive. As a compromise, there is now a category called Food Trucks (Mobile Food Kitchens).

  • Schuyler

    Methinks Gil is pulling your collective legs. When he was a nine year old prodigy ( in celebration of his youngest sister’s birth) he drew a map of the world completely from memory, free hand and to scale. You can place him anywhere in the country and within minutes he can tell you where he is….or at least where to find a great restaurant.

    The child bride sounds very much like my own wife who could get lost backing the car out of the garage, but speaks four languages and can recite Shakespearean sonnets I don’t even understand. In our family I’m the navigator and she’s the translator.

    • BOTVOLR

      Wait just a minute there Schuyler! On, presumably, the Right hand you are bragging RE Gil being so prodigical, but on the Left hand, you leave us wondering why, in the good name of tarnation, would someone create a map of the world on the event of his Sister’s birth in Peñasco, New Mexico? What is the rationality of that? Are you comparing him to Sheldon (of the Big Bang Theory) and, as such, alluding to the fact that there is, in fact, no rationality? Elsewise, are you the one trying to pull our legs en masse?

    • Some prodigy, Sky. The sainted teachers at Peñasco Elementary tried every form of corporal punishment (and probably wished they could have used capital punishment) to try getting me to color between the lines and use the appropriate colors on those coloring book drawings.

      Roberto, my grade school interests included memorizing facts from world book encyclopedias, learning polysyllabic words from my dictionary and yes, drawing maps. Unfortunately I peaked at about ten years of age.

  • Jim Millington

    I hate to say that you are getting disoriented in your old age but I a pretty sure (a polite way of saying absolutely sure (without addressing dementia) that it is on the SOUTHwest corner of 4th & Central.

    • There’s a class of people (I’m one of them) who are chronically lost; who take a few steps in a strange city and can’t find their way back to the hotel; who don’t know how to exit the building they’ve just entered because they’ve strolled a corridor or two; who are totally befuddled and even panicked when they drive into a familiar intersection from an unaccustomed direction; who break into a cold sweat when someone says, “you know how to get home — just reverse the directions”; and who, because they’re frequently lost, are subject to ridicule and mockery from their very own families and from their most intimate friends. – From article on Geographical Dyslexia

      • Jim Millington

        That sounds like a description of my Child Bride. I have told her that she is dyslexic. Most people think that it is difficulty in reading such as reversing of letters but problems vary widely from person to person. They always involve organization or patterns. Richard Branson is dyslexic but a genius. Bok has absolutely no sense of direction and can’t read a map. She understands that a map is basically a photo of the earth but she can’t fit it into what she sees around her. She is also unable to organize a sentence when speaking (subject, predicate, modifiers) resulting is a seemingly random, incomprehensible pile of words (what I was accusing BOTVOLR of a while back in his writing). After living here since 1972 she can’t find her way across the street and has several other symptoms.

        Regarding BOTVOLR’s response below it always amazes me how many tourist (you are here type) posted on sidewalk maps do NOT follow the universal north is up rule-they leave me dizzy & confused on the sidewalk.

    • BOTVOLR

      OMG Jim! I looked (read), but didn’t see….”Northwest” LOL
      Trivia: I once had a wife who could not use/read a map….hand drawn or cartographical… altho able to get her MA. I had to textize directions: Turn Left at the end of the driveway; go two blocks to the traffic signal and turn Right; go….yada yada.
      Be that as it may (altho some may find this http://tinyurl.com/mvwr9xn of interest), one can also see in the opening pic the number 400, as on Central Ave., on the building. In the olden day, the USPS(?) or some governmental O-CD type, standardized that “even” numbers were on the left as increasing from the first.
      – Additionally, while showing tourists where places of interest around the city/state are on a map, it amazes me how many will ask “Which way is East or South etc.?” I.e. North is universally(?) toward the top of a piece of paper, with East and West on the Right and Left respectively, presuming there is some right side up text…LOL. Alas and admittedly, as I get older, I have to check which wrist my watch is on which might be confusing to someone facing me as I’ve worn my watch obstreperously on my right one despite being right handed.
      “Chow!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *