Admit it. The second thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “Swiss Alps” is the scene from one of cinema’s most heartwarming movies. It begins with a distant camera drawing closer to a verdant mountainside backdropped by steep, snow-capped peaks. Soothing music grows louder as the camera pans in on a lone figure with arms outstretched. The chappeaued figure twirls and looks skyward as a voice in the background sings “The hills are alive with the sound of Griswolds.” Never mind that Clark Griswold’s dream sequence for the comedy classic European Vacation was actually filmed in the Austrian Alps, not the Swiss Alps.
The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is the Swiss Alps Bakery & Cafe, a Duke City mainstay for more than three decades. If you don’t remember Swiss Alps being around for that long, the bakery actually got its start as the Black Forest Bakery. For nearly the first two decades of its existence, the Black Forest Bakery was ensconced in a strip mall on Menaul. In 2012, Jessica Espat-Johnson bought the bakery and relocated it to a larger location on the northeast corner of San Pedro and Candelaria. The move allowed her to transform the bakery from a grab-and-go operation into a sit-and-stay cafe-style milieu that includes a pet-friendly patio for al-fresco dining.
Note: Albuquerque has become surprisingly dog-friendly. Bring Fido, the nationwide dog travel directory lists 64 restaurants in the Duke City that welcome dogs at their outdoor tables. Weather-permitting, our four-legged son Dude (he abides) accompanies us for al-fresco dining at many of these restaurants. Invariably we run into other dog lovers who, like us, take their dogs everywhere they can. Without exception, the dog people we’ve met are warm, friendly and parentally proud of their dogs. Look for “Dog Friendly” on the “Restaurants by Category” section of the navigation menu on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog and if you know of other dog-friendly restaurants, please pass them on to me.
During our long overdue inaugural visit in April, 2017, my Kim, our delightful dachshund Dude and I had the pleasure of sharing the patio with Bodie, a sheepdog cross; Massie, a German shepherd and their dog parents. Nary a growl or snarl was uttered by any of the three furry, four-legged children who luxuriated in the attention and pampering of six dog parents. We also shared restaurant intelligence–specifically what Duke City restaurants are most dog friendly. The couple at the table to our left raved about their favorite items at Swiss Alps, a cafe they frequent every weekend weather-permitting.
The Swiss Alps Web site boasts immodestly about its breads: “Baked with only the freshest ingredients, and a sprinkling of love, Swiss Alp’s signature breads are unmatched in quality, freshness, and taste.” As Muhammad Ali once said “it’s not bragging if you can back it up.” Swiss Alps can back it up with some of the freshest, most delectable bread anywhere in New Mexico. The line-up of hot-from-the-oven fresh breads and rolls includes brötchen, German rye, sourdough, pumpernickel, Challah, brioche and several other choices. We can certainly vouch for the sourdough which makes a very good toast in the morning.
Fresh pastries are on display in two well-lit pastry cases under glass. There you’ll find turnovers, butter croissants, elephant ears, coffeecake, Danish, eclair, fruit tarts and more. Cookies galore also await you: chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sugar cookies, peanut butter, biscochitos and other seasonal specials. The Bakery can make any cake you wish to order. House specialties include a Black Forest cake, mocha cakes, tiramisu, fruit cakes, carrot cake and German chocolate. Holiday specials are also available.
Breakfast and lunch menus are served all day long. There are only five items on the breakfast menu including a quiche and stuffed croissant of the day. The lunch menu would put many a sandwich shop to shame and not only because all sandwiches are constructed with house-made bread. There are three types of sandwiches: panini style served on a baguette, grilled sandwiches and cold sandwiches. All sandwiches are served with a pickle spear, chips and your choice of a side. Sandwiches are available in half or full sized. Meats are supplied by Boar’s Head.
22 April 2017: Swiss Alps’ Monte Cristo (turkey, Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard with a side of raspberry jam served on marble rye bread) is rather unique in several respects. That’s a good thing. What a crime it would have been to dip the marble rye in an egg batter as is done with the traditional Monte Cristo. Too many Monte Cristo sandwiches end up looking like ham and cheese between soggy French toast. We loved that the marble rye was lightly toasted, not pan-fried or worse, deep-fried. It meant the bread was unadulterated. We also loved the use of Swiss cheese instead of the more traditional Gruyere or Emmenthal. We especially loved the accompanying raspberry jam, made on the premises. With a bit of lavender, it could have passed for having been made by Heidi’s Raspberries.
22 April 2017: Reflecting back on how sugary breakfast cereals used to give me a hyperkinetic boost of energy followed by a serious crash makes me wish breakfast sandwiches had been more prevalent in my youth. As with many of my generation, the Egg McMuffin was the first breakfast sandwich to catch my fancy though it didn’t take long to figure out a much better sandwich alternative could be built with just a modicum of effort. Unfortunately the “Ul-Pretz-Imate” (a creative play on the word “Ultimate”) wasn’t around back then. This sandwich, we were informed by a couple of the dog parents, truly is the best part of waking up. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to a Swiss Alps pretzel hoagie roll crammed generously with two eggs, Black Forest ham, bacon and three cheeses? It’s even better with a smear of chipotle mayo we were advised. Available only on Saturdays, it’s a sandwich which earns its name. The salty, chewy pretzel would be a treat all by itself, but this sandwich is truly a sumptuous sum of all its delicious components. It paired well with the Cheddar-Poblano soup.
22 April 2017: Is there a better breakfast (or any meal) idea than a stuffed croissant of the day, especially if the croissant is light and buttery. Swiss Alps’ version of the croissant is pretty flaky, a bane for those of us Oscar Madison types who draw crumbs to our wardrobes like light draws moths. We picked up two stuffed croissants for breakfast and regret not having sprung for a couple more. Simplicity itself, the ham and cheese stuffed croissant is a ham and cheese sandwich elevated. This won’t be mistaken for a “stuffed” sandwich; there’s plenty of room between the bread for more, more, more ham and cheese. My Kim loved the croissant, but Clara Beller would probably have bellowed “where’s the ham?”
4 November 2019: In the Torah, Jacob’s son Reuben scandalizes the family for having “relations” with his step-mother’s maid (who’s also his father’s favorite concubine). The controversy which ensued is nothing compared with the polemic as to the origin of the Reuben sandwich. In her magnificent tome American Sandwich, my dear friend Becky Mercuri points out that there are no fewer than three claimants to having created the first Reuben. There’s another controversy involving the popular sandwich, one centered in the Duke City. That controversy involves the amount of corned beef (or pastrami) piled into a Reuben. Just study the mile high Reubens in Mental Floss’s compilation of 11 of the Most Delicious Reuben Sandwiches in the U.S. You won’t find a Reuben that generously endowed anywhere in the Duke City. Not even close!
Swiss Alps offers two types of Reuben sandwiches–the Classic (corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss, 1000 island on thick-cut black pumpernickel) and a Southwest Reuben (corned beef, sauerkraut, green chile, Swiss, 1000 island on thick-cut black pumpernickel). Take all the corned beef on both sandwiches and it probably wouldn’t equal half the corned beef on a Reuben from Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City. You might remember that sandwich for having inspired a particularly enthusiastic reaction from Megan Ryan in the movie When Harry Met Sally. Meg Ryan would probably agree that size isn’t everything after her first bite of the green chile blessed Southwest Reuben. It’s an autumn blend chile with a nice piquancy that pairs nicely with the sauerkraut. The thick-cut (more a label than reality) is a very good canvas upon which to build a Reuben. Kudos to Swiss Alps for a good one, even despite the chintzy amount of corned beef.
22 April 2017: After Dagmar Mondragon closed her eponymous German restaurant and bakery in 2014, we frequently made like Sergeant Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes in our search for strudel. Thankfully Swiss Alps offers a very good strudel, albeit labeled as turnovers. Strudel is a pastry made from multiple, thin layers of dough rolled up and filled with fruit. Alas, during an April, 2017 visit some avaricious diner had absconded with all the apple turnovers, but the cheese-filled turnoveris no consolation prize. It’s absolutely addictive, as delicious as any turnover we’ve had in years. Even without the cheese filling, this would have been a superb turnover thanks largely to a terrific crust. Kim’s postprandial sweet choice was a biscochito, a super-sized version of New Mexico’s official state cookie. Large and thick, it kicks sand on the traditionally small and thin anise cookies New Mexicans love.
4 November 2019: At its essence, the traditional pastel tres leches (three milks cake) is a vanilla-flavored sponge cake drenched with a mixture of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk and cream then frosted with whipped cream. The only non-traditional aspect of the pastel tres leches at Swiss Alps is that it didn’t come from a Mexican restaurant. You could, in fact, probably take it to several Mexican restaurants across the Duke City and nary a disparaging word would be uttered. How could you when you’re making Rachael Ray-like yummo noises? It’s moist and decadent exemplar of perhaps the most famous of all Mexican cakes.
Longitudinal studies have shown that starting your day off on the right foot and in the best possible mood does impact the rest of your day. You (and your dogs) can’t help but be in a great mood all day long if you start your day with a visit to the Swiss Alps Bakery and Café, truly one of the best reasons to get up in the morning. Of course your mood would be even more greatly improved with more meats between the buns (yes, I do recognize that Swiss Alps is a bakery and therefore their breads, not the meats, are showcased).
Swiss Alps Bakery & Cafe
3000 San Pedro, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 4 November 2019
1st VISIT: 22 April 2017
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Ul-Pretz-Imate, White Cheddar Poblano Soup, Monte Cristo, Cheese Turnover, Biscochito, Southwest Reuben, Ham and Cheese Croissant