The Kitchen by 135 Degrees – Albuquerque, New Mexico

My Friend Bruce “Sr Plata” Silver Stands in Front of The Kitchen by 135 Degrees

Once described as the “enfant terrible of the gastronomic scene,” curmudgeonly English food critic Jay Rayner pondered “Why would anyone want to take a good piece of meat and cook it until it has the texture of shoe leather, but none of the utility? Why would they want to put something in their mouth that tastes of nothing and gives your jaw cramps?” He was, of course, railing against the egregious violation against nature of grilling a steak well-done. Sure, your perfect steak’s degree of doneness is a matter of taste, experience and preference, but even the most customer-oriented “have it your way” restaurants consider it a desecration to take a perfectly good slab of steak and make charcoal out of it.  Many post a caveat on their menus indicating “we are not responsible for steaks ordered well-done.”

Most chefs and steak savants agree that the optimum degree of doneness for any steak is medium rare, officially defined as steak cooked to an internal temperature of 135 degrees. At 135 degrees, the marbling on the steak has had a chance to melt, disseminating its butteriness and flavor throughout the meat. At that temperature, very little moisture has evaporated which translates to a juicy, plump, flavorful and tender steak, one which is red at the center with a ring of pink between the center and crust. 135 degrees is the gold standard of steak doneness!

The Kitchen’s Pristine Dining Room

When Joe and John Lujan and their uncle Tom Brinson decided to launch a new catering business, they chose the name 135 Degrees, not because the focus of their enterprise was going to be steak, but because 135 degrees is an exacting and recognized standard for perfection. It’s a standard they strive to achieve through their punctilious attention to detail, insistence on high quality ingredients and passion for making people happy through food. Joe and Tom helm the kitchen while John runs the front of the house and serves as business manager. Their catering company has been operating since December, 2017, with a repertoire that includes Italian, Asian, Barbecue, New Mexican and American cuisines.

In February, 2019, the trio expanded their operation, launching a brick-and-mortar restaurant they christened The Kitchen by 135 Degrees. Ensconced off Osuna in the westernmost section of the long complex which previously housed the Albuquerque Tortilla Factory, The Kitchen serves comfort food made from scratch. It is currently open only for breakfast (served all day) and lunch Monday through Friday. Place your order at a counter from a lit overhead menu and your food will be delivered to your table shortly thereafter.  You will, however, have to serve your own coffee from a condiments station.  It’s a very good, rich, strong coffee, by the way, bearing the Pura Vida brand.

Chicken Fried Steak with Sausage Gravy

The Kitchen by 135 is a bright, casual, airy restaurant sure to become a favorite.  The menu is relatively limited, currently offering eight breakfast items, four salads, green chile stew, three sandwiches, a burger, steak frites and chicken fried steak. Popular American breakfast favorites such as pancakes and French toast won’t be on the menu until the chefs can find a high-quality syrup whose exorbitant (quality costs) costs won’t be passed on to their guests.  Even then, Joe indicated the restaurant might serve Japanese-style pancakes which are much thicker and more fluffy than their gaijin counterparts.

In our quest to find the best chicken fried steak in the metropolitan area, Sr. Plata and I have traversed well-beaten, well-eaten paths renowned for exemplary renditions of his favorite dish.  Until our visit to The Kitchen, all our previous excursions had been to well-established restaurants.  We didn’t quite know what to expect.  Joe filled us in.  The Kitchen’s version of chicken fried steak is made from center-cut top sirloin heart, not a tenderized cube steak.  That in itself elevates it above others.  It’s breaded in panko breadcrumbs which are lighter and crispier than other breadcrumbs.  He had us at center-cut.

Chicken Fried Steak with Green Chile

Sr. Plata enjoyed his chicken fried steak topped with green chile, an autumn blend with both red and green roasted chile.  The Kitchen doesn’t shy away from piquancy nor does it adulterate its chile with cumin.  The chile is superb with a tongue-tingling heat New Mexicans will enjoy and which bodes well for The Kitchen’s green chile stew.  It’s not so piquant that you’re not able to discern the beefy deliciousness of the chicken fried steak.  My chicken fried steak was topped with a sausage gravy which had its own prickly spiciness.  It didn’t take long before we both agreed The Kitchen’s rendition is in rarefied air, one of the very best in the Duke City area.  It’s the apotheosis of Sr. Plata’s Chicken Fried Steak Trail.

Served with the chicken fried steak is your choice of a hash brown cake or roasted potatoes, white or seeded grain toast and two eggs any way you want them.  The roasted potatoes are beautifully seasoned and cut into bite-sized cubes.  If fault could be found about these potatoes, it’s that you’ll want more, more, more of them (Sr. Plata counted only eight on his plate).  The hash brown cake is an exemplar of the crispiness we all love from hash brown with light, tender potatoes inside.  Another sumptuous surprise is  the seeded grain toast (served buttered), so good we had to order a second portion.

Hash Brown Cake

It always surprises me to ponder just how much Albuquerque exemplifies the “it’s a small world” adage. Thinking it was a long-shot, my friend Sr. Plata asked Chef Joe Lujan if he was related to the governor (Michelle Lujan Grisham). Joe told us not only is he related to the governor, but to former Secretary of the Interior and Congressman Manuel Lujan, Jr. and even to Ben Ray Lujan, the U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district. His dad, Larry Lujan, a prominent entrepreneur, is an investor in the 135 Degree enterprise. 

The Kitchen by 135 Degrees is one of those rare restaurants you’ll wish would open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.  The chicken fried steak is so good, it’ll inspire future visits to see what else Chefs Joe and Tom are cooking.  It’s bound to be outstanding.

The Kitchen by 135 Degrees
141 Osuna Road, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 404-8307
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 7 February 2019
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chicken Fried Steak, Hash Brown Cake, Pura Vida Coffee
REVIEW #1094

The Kitchen by 135 Degrees 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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7 Comments on “The Kitchen by 135 Degrees – Albuquerque, New Mexico”

  1. There are as many hangover cures as there are brands of vodka – everything from hair-of-the-dog, Kiwi fruit enema, bowl of oatmeal with Worcestershire, oxygen tank bedside, or keeping a buzz going 24/7 (called the “Keith Richards Method”) – but my all-time favorite is to “follow the gravy trail,” as Jonathan Gold advised, which leads straight to a warm plate of traditional chicken fried steak (that means cube steak!) slathered lava-thick with southern gravy (buttermilk! black pepper! paprika!).

    Though I’m open to trying The Kitchen’s heretical versions using top sirloin, Panko or green chile, I guess I’m a traditionalist (gets worse with age), and would opt-in for the tried-and-true southern version when confronting a well-earned hangover.

  2. While I really miss the Alb Tortilla Factory (at this location), I’m excited to see this new restaurant. It’s on my list for this week. Thank you, Gil!

  3. Another hidden Albuquerque gem is ‘The Kitchen by 135 Degrees. Hannah and Nates definitely has a great challenger for the breakfast and lunch crowd! I honestly hope the best for this month old restaurant located on Osuna near 2nd. Gil gave an expert expose on this eatery but the pictures don’t do it justice. I love Chicken Katsu. This Chicken Fried Steak was like experiencing Steak Katsu, top quality meat covered in, Bruce say it, PANKO. It was definitely a change from the ordinary and each bite was like having the 1st. It was very sad when it was gone…the saving grace was it was that it was ‘big’ my-oh-my! I had my CFS with Green Chile which was quite excellent with a good bite, 1) First recommendation is that they provide a gravy without sausage. Lorenzo (Hermano to Sr Plata) would have been in hog heaven. Hopefully they will offer a variety of gravies. The place is very young yet and I am so glad they graciously accepted Sr Plata’s recommendations. Another one 2) is to offer Pancakes, Waffles, etc. but they have a great reason why they don’t serve them. They are looking for the right high quality yet affordable syrup. What a great answer and making it worth my weight. They are considering Japanese Pancakes, which are a slightly bit thicker. My mind is racing about what could be the start of the Pancake / Crepe New Mexico Trail! Before I forget, I loved both forms of potatoes. For those who like potato latkes, you have a place in Albuquerque. I would recommend sour cream or apple sauce added to the menu for those “latkes.” And lastly, they serve delicious seed grain bread fresh from the bakeries of Whole Foods here in ABQ that has a live bakery in action. Oh, The Kitchen is the only place I know in New Mexico where the butter is melted on the toast. That’s normal for L.A. but most places here can’t seem to comprehend the concept. ALL, please lets make this Highly Successful. Let me know how you fared and let the owners know of this very special food blog…. Sr Plata Out

    1. Sr. Plata, did you live in LA and, if so, during what time period? Do you remember the Googie-architecured Ship’s coffee shops? There was a toaster at every table and the waitress brought you a plate of bread to toast.

      1. I grew up 3 blocks from UCLA and we enjoyed Ships many times while it was open. A shame when it closed. Was there up to 1973 but returned to L.A. 1978.

        1. Ships had three locations – Westwood, Culver City, and La Cienega. Sounds like you frequented Westwood. I lived in West Hollywood starting in 1978 and went to La Cienega. A starving wannabe, I used to order the Navy Bean soup, filling up on unlimited bread, toasting it on the Sunbeam toasters atop every table. Ships Westwood was the first to go, closing in 1984, demolished and replaced by a 20-story office building. Culver City and La Cienega closed in 1995.

          By the way, the movie “Into the Night,” directed by John Landis, was filmed at Ships on La Cienega in 1985. Not a bad comedy thriller.

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