“The older you get, the less cool you are.” At least that’s what my some of my twenty-something-year-old colleagues have told me when I’m not able to relate to the conventional mindset of the Y-generation (usually on matters such as what constitutes flexible work schedules and professional business attire). If the term “fuddy duddy” wasn’t so uncool, that’s probably what they’d call me.
Interestingly, just twenty-something years ago, I was among the cool generation of the time–one in the long line of generations that thought we had everything figured out. Older people, we thought, were just a bunch of clueless doofuses (probably not a cool term either) who didn’t know anything. Unlike preceding generations, we were cool and thought we always would be.
Advanced geriatric progression has taught me there’s nothing as cool as being comfortable in your own skin–not being concerned with what’s deemed cool and what isn’t. This acquired wisdom has helped make each year happier than the previous, a sentiment shared by most of my fifty-something friends who also aren’t concerned about being cool. Other friends and colleagues my age who haven’t come to this realization are usually in therapy or at the least, very unhappy.
The cultural anthropologist in me can’t help but enjoy observing the human condition in its natural habitat–such as the cool people and hipsters who frequent Bailey’s on the Beach, a thematic departure from the ubiquitous abobe-hued stucco facade so prevalent in New Mexico. Bailey’s is cool! Perhaps by default, the patrons who frequent it are cool…or at least they appear to be as they sashay through the premises in an ostentatiously casual manner adorned in regalia which expresses their youth or desire to be young.
If you’re wondering how a pseudo beach ambiance in land-locked Albuquerque could possibly be cool, you might be missing the point. Bailey’s IS on the beach…at least in an attitudinal way and it IS cool in every way. Bedecked in the stereotypical trappings of a contemporary beach-side eatery, Bailey’s will transport you to the salt aired climes of powdery white beaches and crystalline waters. Only the water, the sand and the humidity are missing.
The ground-level floor’s motif has an under-the-sea look and feel. The texture of an entire wall is patterned after undulating waves, the slow, smooth motion that lulls you into relaxation. Under changing light conditions, the finish also changes colors. The dominant color pallet on the walls is of foamy white, aqualine blue and palm green. The veneer of one mirror is a sheet of flowing water. A wall-mounted flat screen television plays and replays videos of toned surfers as they ride the waves. Seating is more functional than it is comfortable.
Indecisive guests may slow the lines a bit as they study the menu perched above the counter at which you place your order, but the staff is efficient and very helpful and tends to move things along fairly quickly Savvy frequent visitors will grab an individual paper menu and peruse it before they reach the counter. Once you place your order, you’re free to choose where you’d like to sit.
The rooftop cabana is the venue of choice, especially under the sun-shielding umbrellas which face Central Avenue. Rooftop furnishings are rather eclectic with a high lifeguard chair providing just a bit of thematic whimsy. Music–thankfully not of the overplayed Beach Boys genre–is piped in with live performances on some evenings. Happy hour specials are a popular draw, but perhaps not as much as the spectacular sunset views from the rooftop.
A relatively small kitchen belies the ambitious menu which features everything from sand-wiches to beach food, shell pastas to burgers and dogs, big and little salads, soups, sides and specials. Beverages include beach sodas and orange juice squeezed to order as well as homemade sangria, wine and beer. A limited breakfast menu is also available, but it includes a few surprises such as coconut milk pancakes and a “beach blanket scramble.”
During all my visits to San Francisco, one of America’s truly great culinary hotbeds, the one dish I absolutely have to partake of is cioppino, a fish stew whose genesis is indeed the City by the Bay. In Albuquerque cioppino is almost as rare as hanging ten on the Rio Grande so approximations have to make do. Bailey’s offers a seafood stew described on the menu as “seafood, grilled veggies and onions in Bailey’s Cabernet Bouillabaisse.” Jacques Cousteau would have been challenged to find more than a few small clams in the piping-hot stew, the star of which is the herb and spice enriched Cabernet and tomato-based sauce which has a nice bite worthy of V8. The seafood stew is served with grilled ciabatta bread.
One of the most popular entrees on the “beach food” section of the menu is the baked clams, large al-dente pasta shells engorged with baby clams and housemade breadcrumbs, both seasoned with Long Beach Seasoning which seem to have a heavy concentration of oregano. This is an interesting dish in which the baby clams are deliciously discernible despite the somewhat dominating breadcrumbs and seasoning. Albuquerque The Magazine staffers like this dish so much they awarded it a “Hot Plate Award,” the magazine’s highest honor signifying appetizers, desserts and drinks “that we can’t live without.” Four shells are served with a refreshing papaya-apple slaw, lemon wedges, guacamole and salsas.
Perhaps named for the beach attire that draws men to the beach, the Mostly Naked Quesadillas are a surprisingly good rendition, the likes of which you’re not likely to find on the Santa Monica Pier. Naked, in this case, might also have to do with the fact that these quesadillas are rather simple–Cheddar and Jack cheeses rolled in a flour tortilla with a double-roasted green chile that packs a punch. The quesadillas are cut into wedges and served with sides of guacamole, sour cream and salsa. You can dress up these cheesy delights with chicken, steak, mahi mahi and veggies which can be prepared in any of three ways: grilled, marinated or blackened.
Burgers and beaches go together well in more than an alliterative sense. Bailey’s Beach Burger is one of three burgers on the menu, a flame-grilled angus beef burger with “smashed-in caramelized onions,” double-roasted green chile and Monterrey Pepper Jack cheese on a ciabatta bun. It’s a behemoth of a burger with huge flavor. It’s as hot as beach sand on a scalding summer day courtesy of double-roasted green chile and a Pepper Jack cheese that bites back. Red chile au jus on the side is available, but it’s as salty as sea water and is wholly unnecessary.
Bailey’s on the Beach offers a number of desserts though our choices–mudslide madness (dark chocolate truffle brownie topped with marshmallows, roasted almonds and hot fudge) and Bailey’s Beach Blondie (butterscotch brownie topped with marshmallows and toasted walnuts doused with Bailey’s caramel fudge)–were cloying with a level of sweetness which would have made children ping off the walls. More apropos for the beach would have been the tropical key lime pie or Italian ice.
In my younger days I might have wondered whether or not I was cool enough to hang out at a restaurant like Bailey’s on the Beach. Now it doesn’t matter. Bailey’s is cool enough to make its patrons feel cool, too.
Bailey’s on the Beach
2929 Monte Vista, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 15 May 2011
# of VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Baked Clams, Seafood Stew, Bailey’s Beach Burger, Mostly Naked Quesadillas, Mudslide Madness, Bailey’s Beach Blondies