2G’s Bistro – Albuquerque, New Mexico
In May, 2018, Yelp published its listing of the 50 best restaurants in Albuquerque. Only three of them came from the not-yet-done-revitalizing East Downtown (EDo) district. The two that won’t surprise anyone are The Grove Cafe & Market at number eight and Standard Diner at number forty-seven. Sandwiched between them is a relative newcomer named 2G’s Bistro which ranked twenty-first. Geographically, 2G’s Bistro is also sandwiched somewhere between The Grove and the Standard Diner on Central Avenue. My very preliminary assessment (one visit) is that it may be better than its EDo neighbors on Yelp’s list (gasp, the sacrilege). Even though 2G’s only has 43 Yelp reviews (as of this writing), they average five stars. That’s as perfect as Bo Derek, circa 1979.
If you haven’t heard of 2G’s, you’re probably not alone. It’s only been around since mid-2017 which makes its exalted ranking doubly impressive. Not surprisingly, two other couples dining on the Lilliputian bistro’s charming dog-friendly patio were visiting because of 2G’s lofty ranking on Yelp’s list, once again demonstrating the power of crowd-sourced reviews. Both couples raved about their inaugural experience, enthusiastically concurring that they’d return soon. Our own visit was prompted by the lovely Vanessa, a faithful reader of Gil’s Thrilling…who called 2G’s Reuben “the best in town” (more on that later).
Chances are very high that during your visit, you’ll interact directly with the characters for whom 2G’s Bistro is named. When we asked about the name 2G’s, one jokingly said it stood for two guys drinking beer. Actually, he elaborated, the two G’s represent the last names–Gonzales (John) and Garragan (Casey) of the two very hands-on business partners who run the restaurant. Both are peripatetic presences at one of the most charming little restaurants we’ve discovered in 2018. John inherited the entire (circa 1900) complex of which 2G’s is a part. That complex includes a maze of connected structures: private residences, offices and a small studio. The dog-friendly patio sits at the back of the restaurant, perhaps thirty feet away from the cacophony of bustle and noise that is Central Avenue. Beneath the canopy of leafy trees and shade-giving umbrellas, you might feel as if you’re not even in the Duke City. Who needs Calgon?
A very ambitious menu belies the diminutive diner. Though we usually order two appetizers to acquaint ourselves with a restaurant’s style, seeing humongous portions being delivered to neighboring tables dissuaded us though each of the five appetizers were certainly appealing. So were the salads, soups and salad-soup combos, numbering eight in all (little did we know when perusing the menu that the “side” salad was as large as a side of beef). Five house specialties, three of them sandwiches follow suit on the menu, but there’s also a sandwich menu with nine more options. Since you can never have enough choices, the menu also lists four entrees and a bevy of bountiful breakfast items. For those of us who need caffeine in the morning, the featured coffee is New Mexico Piñon Coffee, increasingly one of my favorite “best parts of waking up” coffees.
Among the appetizers are two taco plates–the blackened fish street tacos and the pulled pork street tacos (four fresh corn tortillas topped with slow-roasted pork infused with habanero BBQ sauce, in-house pickled jalapeños and onions finished with fresh feta cheese). It’s been our recent experience that when a menu boasts of a habanero sauce, the preeminent notes are sweet (which habanero peppers do have) with very little of the incendiary heat for which habaneros are appreciated by volcano-eaters like me. At 2G’s, the habanero BBQ sauce bites back–enough to gain my respect and my earn my Kim’s instantly ruddy complexion. With or without the sauce, these tacos are outstanding. Credit much of that to the slow-roasted, tender as my heart tendrils of porcine perfection. Moist and absolutely delicious, it’s a pork worthy of adulation.
Habitues of Gil’s Thrilling are undoubtedly familiar with (and probably tired of) my ad-nauseam whining about meatball subs. The genesis of my whining stems from two years of enjoying the best meatball grinders (what subs are called in Massachusetts) on the East Coast. Regardless of my pride in (almost) all things New Mexico, our meatball subs don’t have much of the enchantment. Still, your humble blogger persists. Wondering if perhaps a meatball sub pervaded with green chile might do the trick, I hesitantly ordered 2G’s Green Chile Meatball Sub (Grandmother’s recipe with a New Mexico twist, homemade meatballs infused with green chile cooked in a scratch marinara topped with melted provolone and basil on a fresh baguette). There won’t be any hesitation the next time. Grandmother (John’s) certainly knew what she was doing. The meatballs are about the size of a golf ball with a nice ratio of meat to binder. The chile imparts a roasted piquancy that marries oh so well with the marinara. My search for a transformative meatball sub in New Mexico is over.
Not that long ago, an inquiry by BOTVOLR about Reuben sandwiches triggered an cavalcade of comments with respondents weighing in as to where the Duke City’s best can be found. If the Reuben at 2G’s isn’t the best, it’s on a very short list, in rarefied air alongside the Reubens at Bocadillos and The Farmacy. At 2G’s all meats are slow-roasted on the premises. If the corned beef was any more tender, it would be chipped beef. As is, the slow-roasted corned beef is sliced thin but piled high and topped with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and a house-made remoulade on marbled rye. The remoulade is fabulous, a worthy substitute for the traditional Russian dressing. The corned beef is the star however, delivering an Oscar-worthy performance that delighted our taste buds.
Sandwiches and house specialties come with your choice of potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw or Ms. Vickie’s chips. For a pittance, you can upgrade to the soup of the day or a side salad. If the soup we had, an indulgent French onion soup, is any indication, upgrading to the soup of the day is akin to ordering a second entree. We expected a miserly cup, not a satellite-dish-sized bowl brimming with flavor and ingredients. Think I’m exaggerating about the size of the bowl? The image below shows how easily two bread slices blanketed in molten shredded Gruyere fit into that bowl where all ingredients swim placidly in a rich beef consomme with sweet caramelized onions and sliced mushroom pieces. Prodigious though the portion size may be, it was the big flavors of complementary ingredients replete with flavor that really impressed us.
A few weeks before our visit to 2G’s, my Kim ordered a salad entree that set us back more than a ten-spot. We’ve had side salads larger than the scanty portion of wilted leaves and under-roasted beets set before us. The side salad at 2G’s is the proverbial beach bully to that salad’s 98-pound weakling. Again, pictures are worth a thousand words. As shown below, this side salad is is what George Costanza would term a “really big salad.” It’s teeming with mixed greens encircled by sliced cucumbers and topped with red peppers, red onion, sliced mushrooms and crumbled feta cheese. Make sure you enjoy your salad with 2G’s signature Cajun vinaigrette dressing made with agave nectar, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and Cajun seasonings. The sweetness of the agave tempers the fiery personalities of the other ingredients. It’s a revelatory dressing.
The intimacy and personal space proximity of the patio meant we got to know our neighbors, all millenials (ergo, all probably smarter than me). That was demonstrated with each delivery to their tables of such New Mexican dishes as a carne burrito (described on the menu as “melt in your mouth”) and enchiladas. John explained that though both the red and green chile have a nice bite to them, he can add to their piquancy by sauteing the chile with a few drops of capsaicin oil. It’s a tactic employed by other restaurants which serve the incendiary chile New Mexicans love. Alas, no one at the patio ordered the Southwest Benedict which Howie “The Duke of Duke City” Kaibel, Yelp‘s charismatic Albuquerque Community Manager, described in his own inimitable manner as “plenty of understated flavors balanced red and green chile that wasn’t overpowering, solid in-house ham and two of the most delightfully drippy, preggo poached eggos.” Add that to a growing list of “must try” items on my list.
The EDO neighborhood should be in any conversation about the city’s best dining destinations. 2G’s, the humble Lilliputian eatery with prodigious portions of wonderful food is one of the many reasons.
414 Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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LATEST VISIT: 19 May 2018
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Reuben, Green Chile Meatball Sub, French Onion Soup, Side Salad with Cajun Dressing, Pulled Pork Street Tacos