Toltec Brewing Co. – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Toltec Brewing Co. on Albuquerque’s Burgeoning West Side

Vincent: And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
Jules: They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
Vincent: No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn’t know what the #%*&! a Quarter Pounder is.
Jules: What’d they call it?
Vincent: They call it Royale with cheese.
Jules: Royale with Cheese. What’d they call a Big Mac?
Vincent: Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.
~Pulp Fiction

265 “f-bombs,” copious racist slurs, torrents of extreme language and some of the most weighty dialogue ever spoken in an American movie. That was Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 apotheosis Pulp Fiction, a low-brow pastiche the cognoscenti consider one of the most quotable movies ever made. The clever banter and witty repartee between hitmen Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) is particularly memorable. It was their dialogue which introduced this review. It was what immediately came to mind when I espied the “Royale” on the “Breaking Bread” section of Toltec Brewing Co.’s menu.

“The Royale”

While no self-respecting gastronome would ever order a Quarter Pounder…er, Royale with cheese in Paris (or anywhere else, but especially not in Paris), Toltec’s Royale is an entirely different matter. Constructed from a patty weighing in at a whopping half-pound of blended brisket and crimini mushrooms, it’s the proverbial muscle-bound beach bully kicking sand in the face of the four-ounce weakling Quarter Pounder. Toltec’s Royale was first brought to my attention in June, 2018 by a well-meaning colleague who asked me if I had ever tried Albuquerque’s James Beard award-winning burger. He must have had the gift of prophecy.

As of June, 2018, the Royale had not won a James Beard award of any kind, but Duke City voters helped change that. The Royale was one of literally hundreds of burgers entered in the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project national project. Some of the other burgers entered in the competition were actually constructed by actual James Beard award-winning chefs so this was one formidable food melee. Voters were able to cast their ballots once a day through 31 July 2018.  After the ballots were tallied, the Royale was one of the top twenty vote-getters.  Those top twenty burgers were then evaluated by a panel of judges (including television personality Andrew Zimmern) to determine which five would be showcased at the James Beard House in the Blended Burger Bun’anza.  The five winners included Albuquerque Chef David Ruiz of Toltec Brewing and that fabulous Royale.

Local Cheese Plate

7 June 2018: The James Beard House will love the 1/2 Pound brisket and crimini mushroom patty with ancho and herb mayo, Young Guns green chile, aged white Cheddar, bacon, local-fried egg and heirloom tomato.Okay, you’ve read the campaign promises, but how does it deliver on those promises? Take it from at least two constituents, photographer extraordinaire Bruce Terzes and your gangling gastronome, the Royale warrants your support. Not since the green chile cheeseburger at Alamogordo’s Rockin’ BZ Burgers has such a fantastic burger crossed my lips. It made such a tremendous first impression on the Thursday of my inaugural visit to Toltec that I had to have another one the next day. Quite simply, it’s one of the very best burgers in the Duke City.

So, what makes it a burger for the people (at least the non–vegan people among us)? Well, it delivers on what was promised about Wendy’s burgers by 1970s commercials. Wendy’s spokesperson Clara Peller, for example, often asked “where’s the beef.” That question doesn’t apply with the Royale. There’s a whole half-pound of brisket blended with crimini mushrooms. The combination is hot and juicy, another Wendy’s promise of yore. It’s a multi-napkin affair with moistness sure to run down your arms and make a glistening mess of your face. The fried egg is over-medium which means the yolk is only slightly runny (like the Rio Grande). The bacon is crisp and plentiful, the aged Cheddar sharp and complex, but it’s the green chile from Young Guns which brings it all together. The green chile actually bites back, increasingly a rarity in the Land of Enchilement. Though the buns are formidable, they’re no match for the juiciness of this fabulous burger. Bravo, Toltec!

Side Salad with Blue Cheese

It may surprise some that Toltec, a west side brewery which launched in May, 2018, would serve such a superb burger though the surprise quickly evaporates when informed the genius responsible for this chef d’oeuvre is David Ruiz. Albuquerque knows David from his days as executive chef at Pueblo Harvest, a gig that earned him a 2017 appearance on the Food Network show “Guy Fieri’s Family Road Trip.” It wasn’t the chef’s only appearance on the Food Network. In 2016, he competed on the network’s popular cooking show “Chopped.” In 2017, David won the “Duke it Out” challenge, earning both people’s choice and critics’ choice for best entree. David was the co-founder of 505 Food Fights, a grassroots chef competition intended to fonder community in Albuquerque’s culinary industry.

8 June 2018: Toltec is by no means a one-trick pony when it comes to dining. Its menu might be small, but it’s mighty. Save for “Green Eggs and Ham,” Toltec’s name for deviled eggs (with spinach and agave glazed pork belly), the “Beer Bites” section of the menu is pretty uninteresting. That doesn’t mean it’s not good. Take, for example, the Local Cheese Plate (local cheese, cured meat, flat bread, local honey and candied pepitas). It’s a turophile’s dream, celebrating Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory‘s fantastic fromage: (wonderful wedges of green chile and aged Cheddar and charcuterie meats (prosciutto, salami, capicola). The greater surprise, however, were the candied pepitas and the local honey from a bee-keeper of the chef’s acquaintance.

Sausage and Peppers

8 June 2018: With every burger or sandwich on the “Breaking Bread” menu, you have your choice of seasoned fries, cinnamon fries, cinnamon sweet potato fries, tortilla chips or side salad. The side salad (mixed field greens, candied pepitas, fresh apple slices, white cheddar and sweet red onions) is superb, pairing magnificently with the blue cheese dressing with its plenitude of cheese crumbles. This is a salad constructed of complementary ingredients; they all go well together.

8 June 2018: For my Kim, sausage and peppers evokes memories of Italian restaurants throughout the Chicago area where that combination is part and parcel of one of the best sandwiches you’ll find in the Windy City (and that’s saying something). Sausage and Peppers at Toltec is something entirely different: house-made lemon capellini topped with turkey, lemon and thyme sausage, a trio of bell peppers, roasted marinara and Parmesan. The capellini, a thin pasta whose name translates to “little hairs” is perfectly al dente. Strands of this light pasta wrap around red, yellow and green peppers, a coarse sausage and lots of red sauce. The dish was recommended by two servers, both of whom indicated it was the best thing on the menu. If there’s one aspect of this dish that would have made this dish more “Chicago authentic,” it would be using a fennel-kissed sausage instead of the thyme sausage. Thyme has a bitter, almost piney flavor profile that sometimes overpowers other aspects of a dish.

Service at Toltec is terrific. Make sure to ask for Nate, an ambassador for the restaurant’s menu who’s on-the-spot with whatever you need, whether it be a refill or an answer to a question about the menu. Toltec’s dog-friendly patio is only about fifteen feet away from a heavily trafficked and often noisy street, but it’s well-shaded (except right before sunset) and relatively cool. Were Vincent and Jules to ever visit Toltec, the ensuing dialogue would probably be laced with colorful epithets, all complimentary. They would love Toltec’s version of the Royale with cheese.

Toltec Brewing Co.
10250 Cottonwood Park, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 890-1455
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 7 June 2018
1st VISIT: 8 June 2018
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Royale, Local Cheese Plate, Sausage & Peppers, Side Salad
REVIEW #1045

Toltec Brewing Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, nearly 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,100 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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11 Comments on “Toltec Brewing Co. – Albuquerque, New Mexico”

  1. I tried the Royale this past weekend. Wow! What a burger! This is probably the best burger I’ve had in a long time, right up there with Santa Fe Bite. I lamented the closings of Santa Fe Bite and The Buckhorn within a couple of months of each other, but Gil’s right. With places like Toltec, we’ll be just fine. Speaking of which, I hope they do not change a single thing about this burger with Chef Ruiz gone. You can’t improve perfection so don’t even try!!!

  2. From the Toltec Facebook Page:

    This Friday, March 1st, come by Toltec around 5pm to celebrate our appreciation for Chef David! Chef has been such an integral part of this team since before we even opened our doors! Chef built his kitchen, built our menu, built our Kitchen team and our reputation for having amazing food! We are all very excited for his new adventure! Though he is off soon to his new project he, as well as all of us, are confident in the foundation in which he has built and the team he has created! He will always be part of Team Toltec! The special that night will be ribeye steaks and Chef will be here to say goodbye and thank you to all the awesome patrons who have supported him and Toltec! There will be more details to come, especially in regard to our new Executive Chef, we are all very excited for this new chapter and are extremely confident that the integrity and quality of the food will remain and excel.

    Sorry to see David go but will wish him success in his new venture!

    1. Thanks for letting us know, Bruce. I scoured Toltec’s Facebook page for information as to what Chef Ruiz’s next adventure will entail, but didn’t find anything definitive. Do you know if he’ll be remaining in New Mexico?

        1. Gil, Spoke briefly with David on Friday to wish him well. No immediate plans other than to continue consulting and spend more time with his young son.

  3. Toltec brewing has initiated a “Craft Course Wednesday” featuring a 3 Course fixed price Food and Beer Collaboration dinner every week. Soozi and I were there for the inauguration last week and enjoyed it so much we returned last night for a repeat performance. I’m pleased to say that Chef David and Head Brewer Kaylynn did not disappoint!

    Last weeks offering started with a butternut squash bisque with candied pepitas paired with a Rye Lager. The 2nd course entree was Buttermilk soaked fried chicken 2 generous pieces served on garlicmashed potatoes with candied Brussels sprouts and a hearty Stout Gravy paired with their Altbier. The desert course was an excellent tiramisu creme brûlée paired with a their Dunkelweizen.

    The pepitas were a nice crunchy surprise on the flavorful bisque. The entree course was an excellent fried chicken, crisp on the outside – tender and moist within. The garlic mashed potatoes were tasty with a good garlic flavor, though they could have arrived a bit warmer on the plate. The hot and tasty gravy (made using their oatmeal stout) saved the day with respect to temperature. Desert was a delightful combination of all the great flavor and texture of tiramisu and a creme brûlée.

    This weeks menu included poached pear salad with blue cheese, sweet onion and candied papitas paired with their Agave Wheat. The main attraction was beet tagliatelle (a first for us), buffalo ragout, winter greens and fine herbs paired with (one of our favorites) an Altbier. Note that Toltec also offer vegan and vegetarian options on request. Desert was a delicious and creative blackberry crisp with vanilla bean ice cream paired with an oatmeal stout (my personal favorite from the beer menu). All three courses were excellent!

    With respect to the beer pairings – they were well thought out and as these events should – the beer and food complemented each other well.

    Toltec starts serving the Craft Courses at 5pm. We arrived before 5:30 on our first visit. Not knowing what to expect, Toltec planned for 16 servings. We were fortunate to order ours just in time. This week they doubled their expectations.

    Priced reasonably at $20, the Toltec Craft Course Wednesday offerings are a welcome addition to the local brew pub scene. We have attended similar events at other local venues which were priced at the $30 – $40 level and even higher in some cases. Chef David Ruiz serves up a delicious, satisfying and budget friendly alternative and I think you should give it a try!

  4. Congratulations to Toltec Brewing and Executive Chef David!

    From the Toltec Facebook Page:

    “On May 28th, just 3 weeks after our grand opening, our Executive Chef, along with family and friends began asking all of you for your support in voting for the Royale Burger in the James Beard Blended Burger Project! This competition was nationwide and had more than 600 plus participants! Thanks to all of your votes we placed in the top 20! Five winners were then determined by a panel of food experts selected by the James Beard Foundation, including Andrew Zimmerman! Out of hundreds of entries we are beyond ecstatic to announce our Executive Chef and his creation, The Royale, have won this Competition! We now have a James Beard award winning burger on our menu! So, if you haven’t tried it yet, we’ll see you all soon! Thank you again to everyone who voted and has supported and or been to our new brewery! Congratulations to Chef David! The Toltec team promises, that we still have so much more to show! Stay tuned!”

    1. Thank you, Bruce. That is fantastic news! On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 6:30PM, the top five burgers in the competition will be presented at the James Beard House in an event called Blended Burger Bun’anza.

      New Mexico was very well represented in this prestigious competition with two of the Land of Enchantment’s best finishing in the top twenty, the other one being Rio Rancho’s The Point Grill.

    2. There is a very well known professor of German History named Andrew Zimmerman & a Chef @ Sepia in Chicago. However the Press Release by the James Beard Foundation lists the following judges:
      NEW YORK – As the James Beard Foundation’s annual Blended Burger Project™ grows in restaurant participation, the Foundation has named a prestigious panel of judges to help select this years’ top mushroom + meat* blended burgers:

      Antoinette Bruno, CEO and Editor in Chief,
      Susan Westmoreland, Culinary Director, Good Housekeeping.
      Andrew Zimmern, TV personality, chef, writer and teacher.

      Zimmern is very accustomed to being misnamed. I had the name wrong for years.

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