For restaurants located in downtown Albuquerque’s Arts and Entertainment district, centered along Central Avenue and Gold Avenue west of First Street, downtown revitalization, a ten million dollar infusion of energy and creativity, has been both a dichotomy and a dilemma. Daylight hours bring a diverse swathe of white- and blue-collar diners to those restaurants, but after dusk, the downtown demographic is more of a “20-something” crowd, many of whom are more interested in the area’s bustling nightlife and youth-oriented clubs than they are in dining.
While many downtown restaurants shutter their doors at dusk, others have embraced the youthful energy of the nocturnal crowd and their pursuit of bar-hopping, live music and social discourse. Among them is Adieux Cafe, a gastropub which opened its doors in June, 2013. Adjacent to the Effex nightclub, Adieux’s hours of operation–11AM to 2AM Monday through Friday and 5PM to 3AM on Saturdays–are convenient to the most energetic of party-goers and day workers as well. A shared door between Effex and Adieux allows revelers to access the gastropub when the munchies strike at unholy hours (at my age, that’s anything past 10:30).
From street level, Adieux isn’t much to look at. In fact, you might not (speaking from personal experience) immediately grasp that the window signage reading “Ac” is short for Adieux Cafe. If you don’t stumble over the sidewalk chalkboard (more personal experience) and actually read it, you’ll be treated to such iaconic aphorisms as “don’t eat the yellow snow.” Provided traffic isn’t blocking your view, take a gander across the street at the KiMO Theater, the Pueblo Deco picture palace operating since 1927. There’s nothing else like it on Route 66.
Step into Adieux and you’ll find a contemporary milieu belying the plainness of the gastropub’s exterior. There’s a lot going on within the 2,000 square-foot complex. Televisions tuned to the requisite sports channel are strategically positioned for viewing. Thankfully the volume is turned down so you can enjoy conversation instead. Periodic “meet the artist” functions are held prior to displaying artwork on the walls. Seating is more utilitarian than it is comfortable, but at least it’s not in personal space proximity.
The menu is divided into seven sections: apps (appetizers), salads, happy hour (4PM to 7PM), wraps (whole-wheat or sun-dried tomato tortillas), sandwiches (with chips), open-faced sandwiches (with chips or salad) and paninis (with chips or salad). More than a perfunctory effort is taken to appease vegetarians, too, and not just with salads. It also speaks volumes that this gastropub knows how to prepare and present its unique and creative sandwiches in more than the conventional “ingredients between bread” fashion. Even better, your server won’t balk if you want something on the wraps menu prepared between bread instead.
Perhaps shortened for the vernacular style of the Twitter culture and its economy of words, all menu items have one-word names prefacing very thorough ingredient descriptions. There are only four items on the appetizer menu, but they cover a nice range of flavor profiles. The “Anti” (short for antipasto) platter will appeal to most diners with its pleasing variety of meats (pepperoni and prosciutto), vegetables (artichoke hearts, olives, beets) and cheese (brie) served with garlic hummus, Balsamic olive oil and toasted baguettes. The only shortcoming with this appetizer is that it may leave you wanting more, especially of your favorite ingredients.
My philosophy on ingredient substitutions at restaurants is that the chefs generally know better than I do what goes best together, but on rare occasions my mind’s eye envisions something better with a slight adjustment or addition. Sometimes my mind’s eye is a Mensa and sometimes it’s a dunce. Listed on the open-faced sandwich section of the menu, the Rusty is a compilation of ingredients (agave-roasted figs, prosciutto, arugula, olive oil, Balsamic vinegar and shaved Parmesan) which should go very well together. Better even, I surmised, on the top rustic Italian bread prepared panini style. While quite good, the overwhelmingly dominant flavor is of the figs–and it would have been the dominant flavor whether served open-faced or conventionally. There isn’t enough cheese to serve as a complementary foil (speaking from lots of experiencing in combining figs and cheeses).
Much more successful in the “have it our way” modification effort is the Guido. Listed on the “wraps” section of the menu, my friend Bill Resnik determined this sandwich is too manly to be a wrap and ordered it between the rustic rosemary bread. It was a rousing success spearheaded by the pillowy soft, absolutely delicious rosemary infused bread (one of four breads available along with baguette, sourdough, ciabatta and honey wheat). The Guido, as good an Italian-inspired sandwich as you’ll find in Albuquerque, is constructed from pepperoni, capicola, salami, Provolone, pesto aioli, lettuce, tomato and onion, a melange of ingredients which go so very well together. If Bill regretted splitting sandwiches as we usually do, he was too kind to say.
Given the option, eschew chips and opt instead for a salad. Constructed from crisp, fresh greens, chopped tomatoes, a sliced cucumber, what makes this salad special are the housemade dressings: Ranch, blue cheese, Russian, thyme red wine vinaigrette, champagne vinaigrette, Balsamic vinaigrette, raspberry vinaigrette and lemon Parmesan. The blue cheese dressing, though applied a bit penuriously, is excellent, offering a lively sharpness that accentuates the freshness of the salad ingredients.
The Adieux Cafe offers a number of enticing food and adult beverage specials. On weekdays, it’s eight dollars for any sandwich or wrap, including an iced tea or soft drink. Appetizers are half-priced on Mondays. Taco Tuesdays mean two dollar tacos and two dollar Pabst Blue Ribbon (this will get Bob of the Village People’s attention).
The Adieux Cafe isn’t solely for wise night owls jonesing for a great sandwich. It’s a breath-of-fresh-air departure from the all too commonplace bastions of Boar’s Head products which lack the ingenuity to create sandwiches with imagination.
420 Central Avenue, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 8 May 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: The Guido, The Rusty, Anti