Kelly’s Brew Pub – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Kelly’s Brew Pub on Central Avenue in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill District

“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.

Main dining room at Kelly’s Brew Pub

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.

Build Your Own Breakfast Burrito

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.

Cinnamon Roll

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
COST: $$
BEST BET: Build Your Own Breakfast Burrito, Cinnamon Roll, Coffee

20 thoughts on “Kelly’s Brew Pub – Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. Ah BOTVOLR, to show more of my age, remember that before Frontier arrived on the corner was Chisholm Drug and down Central at Yale was UD (University Drug) and East on Central was Frank’s Pizza. All places of my college days in the 60’s. Ah yes, the “Good Ole Days” before the riots and the “burning” of Central Ave. Remember when the Guild was across the street from the U. Wasn’t Dairy Queen on the corner of Harvard and Central?

  2. Just having gone thru cardiac arrest, a a broken sternum (from the excellent compression applied by the Sandoval County EMTs) and triple bypass I feel I can handle pain, including testosteronics of the veiled allusions.
    Figuring out some of BOTVOLR’s post are the most difficult, and sometimes painful exercise in which I partake.
    Sorry Gloria. Sometimes I just have no self control.

  3. BOTVOLR, thanks for the check in for my continuing rehab.
    I got to drive for the first time in 2 months.
    Very uplifting.
    And I can start upper body work next week.
    I’ll be able to defend myself from the subtle attacks mounted by you and the missing Gloria.
    Today is Christmas tree day.
    Yes, Grayce and I have had a tree ever year since 1971, don’t tell my grandparents, their still reeling from me marrying a shiksa.
    Merry Christmas to all, not to mention Hannukah and Kwansa.
    On a food note…
    Had a very disappointing dinner last Wednesday at Slate Street.
    Four of us were disappointed.
    My vegetarian meal was a tofu dish with House Made MARANIARA sauce I’m certain was their attempt at marinara.
    Considering I had Joe’s PH marinara sauce a few nights prior, the Slate Street version was horrendous.
    The best thing we all has at SS was their fried olives and an order of seet potato fries with a house made spicy ketchup.
    Straight downhill after the appys.
    It was the first time I have been disappointed by Slate Street.

    1. Interesting… 4 of us ate there Wednesday night as well. This was our first time for dinner after numerous breakfast and lunch visits.

      We ordered soup and roasted beet salads for appetizers. Our entree’s were: pork chops from the specials menu, Auntie Mays meatloaf and the spicy penne pasta. Everyone was very pleased with all their selections. A great dinner before heading to the Kiva Auditorium for a concert.

      1. Bruce,
        You must have been there when we were there and then over to see Joe Bonamassa.
        The Kiva is really too small for the amplified music but he is one terrific guitar player.
        We moved back to the last row for the electric portion.
        Re the pork special, 3 out of 4 of us, me excluded, had it and they were unanimous is not liking it.
        It was really the first time we were disappointed in Slate Street and the other couple eats there very often.

  4. – Ah Roland! Okie’s!! Ahem…you’re showing your age where you learned that a Sink by any other name on a Friday night was not a sink! Where else could you walk into someplace and get a contact high (of beer) per years of spillage on the wood floor? Maybe more sophisticated, Jack’s a few blocks west or at the Quarters a bit South? As an obvious ‘Steiner’, you certainly must have lifted one off the humongous(?) bar at the Buckhorn on Bridge St. or did some trolling at the Far West Club? Did you ‘do’ Elton John at The Pit? As a change of pace from the Frontier, how about a little spaghetti at Casa Luna; was it a Norm EllenBurger at Ned’s? Did the EB have chile in its day? Did ya ever get expertly fitted for great duds by Basil at the LMS’s?
    – Yo Jim…Indeed, I do mix my streams of consciousness, don’t I! My Filetto up the street at Scalo’s would be more Gourmet Heaven…Kelly’s provides the great possibility for being a ‘Social Heaven while chilin’ or a ‘Chilin Heaven for Socializin’ with the handy option for Vitals n Brews as others have noted!
    – Ah Brute…What can I say?? Seems your Rehab is coming along muy rapido!!! LOL

  5. Dear BOTVOLR,
    I think you said that Kelly’s is Gourmet Heaven, but I am not quite sure. Is this a more or less correct translation?

  6. In defense of Kelly’s, it is a good place to go with friends to hang out. Personally, the wife and I both like the simplicity of the French Dip; bread and meat served with a tasty, but not overly salty AuJus. We get it with a side salad which is also simple, but has always been fresh. Just as the Frontier is a great people watching venue, so too is Kelly’s. It definitely fills a niche in that neighborhood. Okey’s is long gone. It does not pretend to be Haute Cuisine. There are many choices in the Nob Hill and EDO areas for food of all qualities. Choose accordingly.

  7. If I may take a moment out from the testosteronics of the veiled allusions…I mean illusions to Commentators’ skills at (Oct. to June) flirtatiousness, let me seriously add a bit to Gil’s great historiography lest there be some Younguns reading herein. References to The Mother Road and “Nat” can be elaborated upon here and for others, they might recall watching the adventures of Buff and Biff tooling along Rt. 66 . Had they came prior to ’37, they would have found themselves turning Northwesterly ‘several’ miles past the Texas border, to cruise through Sante Fe. Can’t imagine what the roads were like, let alone in winter or the Rainy Season! Anyway, they’d’ve taken NM 313 (which you still can do if coming back from dining at e.g. Blade’s Bistro to ABQ, which, some might say, transubstantiates into 4th St. (i.e. going from bucolic into commercial) passing through the Village of Los Ranchos nowadays, to then cross Central headed to Los Lunas to eventually swing Northwest to 66 (I-40) similar to what the Southwest Chief did/does today. Lest ya never noticed, what is a ‘mall’ today (and possibly not for long) at 4th and Rt. 66, there is signage indicating what used to be, i.e Rt. 66 crossing Rt. 66. (Sorry, don’t know how long this will remain active on Google Maps.)

    Alas, I’m envious! While I retro-salivate envisioning the bestest of greasiest of cheeseburgers and fries of yore as being ‘legal’ still at an Orange Julius on Jefferson in LA, it would have been sooo great to have a place like Kelly’s to hang…while munching on and sipping whatever while matriculating at USC which was lacking such in the closeby environs!!! Not all of us had cars at first to cruise Sunset Strip, Hollywood Blvd., Venice Beach etc.!!!! Ya couldn’t include that as an expense in applying for a National Defense Student Loan in those days!!!! Viva Kelly’s and the amenity it provides Los Lobos!!!

  8. Beer – As already mentioned, beer is not great, just decent. For all the praise they get, you’d expect better is all I’d have to say.

    Service – This place is usually packed, so service is what you would expect, maybe even a little worse. However, sometimes if you catch the right waitress or are seated at the perfect table, then it can actually be pretty good. Again, few and far between, though.

    Food – Fair. I was always disappointed, until I tried their Ribeye sandwich. It’s pretty good with the onions, green chile (not the best, but adequate), and cheese. Not as good as the NY Steak Sandwich at Stoneface, but it will do.

    Atmosphere – When I’ve gone, it has always been to hang with friends that I haven’t seen in awhile or when we are out riding the HOGs, so it tends to skew the rating. Agree with Edward that this is a great place to people watch.

    All in all, if you are looking for a great culinary experience, don’t come here. If you are looking for a good place to hang out, get some decent grub, people watch, AND bring your furry companion (I’ll let someone else make the hairy jokes here…), then this is a good place to go.

  9. Actually I have no memory of particularly bad service, just very attractive waitresses serving huge piles of less than mediocre food and insipid beer. The only worse beer I can recall at a brewpub was in South Padre Island and Texans have a long held love of horrible beer, Your normal choices are Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light and Shiner. The quality of food and beer is also a regular complaint on Urbanspoon. I tend to disagree with Urbanspoon more often than not because so many reviewers love anything as long as there is a lot of it.

    Edward,I was also going to question the comment on the waitress as my Child Bride would never let me survive writing such a thing. She is more than a little closeminded.

  10. H and I have been to Kelly’s a few times, and I would characterize the place as generally good, but highly inconsistent. The food is usually fair to good, but service is really just the luck of the draw. However, we usually have only gone to sit on the patio and enjoy the view, like for parades or bringing the pooch to breakfast. It’s a terrific place to hang out and people watch. So I guess it’s basically like a restaurant with an ocean view — you don’t necessarily go for the food or service.

    Also, Gil, does Kim read comments at your site? Because after that remark about the waitress, I suspect your next review is going to be of the Dog House!!!

    1. For better or for worse, Kim doesn’t read anything I write. That includes reviews, comments and clever missives under overpasses and bridges. Even if she were to read of my dalliance with the pretty young waitress, she considers my “flirting” skills on par with those of Barney Fife, Ross Geller and Howard Wolowitz.

  11. We ate here a couple of times a few years ago and decided that it was in serious contention for being the worst restaurant in all of Albuquerque. Even the Child Bride who proclaims that “Food is food” agrees. Unusually for a brewpub the beer was also awful.

    The only thing I can pick up from Urbanspoon is that is has really gone downhill. We are not inclined to give them a third chance.

    1. Jim, I’m probably the last person in Albuquerque to have visited Kelly’s Brew Pub. Ironically, bad service, a consistent theme among Urbanspoon reviewers was the furthest thing from what I experienced on the early Sunday morning of my inaugural visit. Having a pretty young waitress practically to myself (my Kim was in Chicago and most of Albuquerque was still sleeping at ten o’clock) made my visit a very enjoyable one.

      1. Given that you admit to be the last resident to have visited Kelly’s, please feel free to take a quick jaunt down to Carlisle and Gibson and stop in for some excellent breakfast at El Sabor de Juarez. Menudo is a dish that when executed perfectly is heavenly. I have not seen you review menudo since 2008, when you spoke of Barelas’s rendition. The menudo at El Sabor de Juarez is outstanding. Not mere hangover food.

        1. Thank you, Ian. In the early 80s (1982-84), there was a second restaurant named El Sabor de Juarez. It was attached to the American Inn motel on Central near San Mateo and was one of my very favorite restaurants in Albuquerque for breakfast. That makes my visit to the El Sabor on Gibson long overdue.

      2. Thanks for the head’s up Ian. I’ll have to check out El Sabor’s version of menudo. Do they make it with posole, or is it pure? I’m always trying to find good menudo, but find that most places are just OK. The main culprit is when it has posole in it. I want menudo, not posole…

        Barela’s is by far my favorite in town, but I am always looking to expand my search.

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