The Feel Good – Albuquerque, New Mexico
“Whoa! I feel good, I knew that I would, now
I feel good, I knew that I would
So good, so good, ’cause I got you
So good, so good, ’cause I got you
So good, so good, ’cause I got you.”
The lyrics to the “Godfather of Soul’s” signature song aren’t etched on the windows or door of The Feel Good, but several other thematic aphorism are. There’s Virginia Wolf’s quote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” M.F.K. Fisher’s “Sharing food with another human being is an ultimate act that should not be indulged in lightly” is etched on the door while Alan D. Wolfelt’s sage “Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate” occupies another window. Maybe because it’s a shorter quote, James Beard’s “Food is our common ground. A universal experience.” occupies a small window.
One quote which perhaps should be etched on The Feel Good is San Francisco-based journalist Madison Park’s “Having a belly stuffed with comforting food can feel like a warm hug from the inside.” In a 2010 article for CNN, Park explained why eating a lot feels so darn good. You might be surprised that the reasons are more about evolution and survival than they are about (gasp…blasphemy) great cooking, superb ingredients and plenitude of portion. “Evolution,” Park explains “has given us the instinct to eat a lot every time we can, preparing for hard times. It’s the drive to survive, like puffy-cheeked squirrels storing up for winter. Our brains reward us for it, by releasing pleasure chemicals–in the same way as drugs and alcohol, experts say.”
Okay, most of us don’t think about physiology, evolution and survival instincts as the underlying reasons eating comforting food makes us feel good. We only care that it does. Erin Wade gets it. In an interview with KOB TV News, the peripatetic founder-owner of Albuquerque’s Feel Good restaurant explained, “We want people to feel better when they leave than when they came in. We want people to feel uplifted.” Talk about a raison d’être that should resonate with all diners. Isn’t “feeling better and more uplifted” one of the reasons we enjoy dining out so much?
The Feel Good is a living, breathing, functioning paean to Erin’s grandma and other ladies in her family who taught her how to cook. Hand-scrawled notes on The Feel Good menu follow in the tradition of all grandmas who scribbled tried-and-tested variations on menus they compiled in their own culinary vade-mecums. “Try it Ruth Reichl-style with shallots,” for example, is inscribed next to mug of tomato soup on the menu. There are other matronly musings and you’ll want to heed them all. If Erin Wade’s grandma is anything like mine, the only accepted deviations to any traditional recipe were those proven over time or to make it uniquely her own.
Ironically The Feel Good occupies the Lilliputian space that until 2009 housed the Route 66 Malt Shop where conservative ideology was unabashedly on display on the counter as you walked in. It made for interesting banter between the owner and patrons who weren’t like-minded. Several other tenants have occupied the space since 2009, but none have provided such a dramatic departure from the Malt Shop’s Route 66 nostalgia theme as has The Feel Good. The 900-square-foot space is bright and airy with a sophisticated and intimate feel. In some ways, it’s both a continuation and a departure from Modern General, its sister next door and even moreso from Vinaigrette, Erin’s inaugural Duke City venture.
Befitting the cozy space is a rather limited menu which bespeaks of elevated tradition. This stuff all sounds familiar, but has little loving touches you could imagine a doting grandma adding. Fried basil and Parmesan toasties on the tomato soup, for example. Both the “luncheon” and “supper” menus offer a soiree of soups, the grandma-approved cure-all. And yes, you did read “supper.” Doesn’t supper sound just a bit more homey and familial than dinner? The terms, by the way aren’t synonymous. My inaugural meal at The Feel Good was over lunch…er, luncheon where a menu of soups, tarts and tartines, sandwiches, “other fine snacks” and sides did have the intended effect of making me feel good…very good.
Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi stressed “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Don’t tell Erin Wade there’s no such thing as perfection. She even used that descriptor on one of the sides and after a couple of them, you might actually be persuaded these perfect potato chips earn their sobriquet. They’re waifishly thin, crispy and delightfully salty with none of the annoying “bottom of the bag” crumbs you find in store-bought chips.
These chips are even better with a side of tuna-avocado poke (check out the close-up in the June edition of Red or Green). The chips are formidable enough to scoop up the poke (small chunks of fresh, pinkish tuna; creamy avocado, tomatoes and green peppers studded with black sesame seeds ). It’s a combination as good as any chips-dip pairing you can name. While The Feel Good may take pride in being “tradition-driven, not chef-driven,” this tuna-avocado poke has chef written all over it. If you didn’t know better, you might suspect it’s ferried over from one of Albuquerque’s poke restaurants though this one isn’t overly sauced as some tend to be.
Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches are the yin and yang of comfort food. They complement and balance one another–the steaming fragrance of creamy soup a prelude to its swoon-worthy deliciousness; the melty, oozy food-porn quality green cheese with lightly toasted bread. It’s no wonder the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten calls the combination of tomato soup and grilled cheese “the ultimate comfort food meal.” The Feel Good’s grilled cheese is a triumvirate of terrific cheeses: Cheddar, Jack and Comte on baked sourdough from the Modern General bakery. It’s relatively unadorned compared to some of the creative, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink grilled cheese sandwiches currently popular. Take the crusty sourdough on a swim in the mug of tomato soup. It’ll leave you satisfied and make you feel good…very good!
The Feel Good lives up to its name, an uplifting venue serving up comfort food favorites that’ll make your day. It’s the type of restaurant you’ll especially welcome on Mondays, but will love any and every day of the week.
The Feel Good
1720 Central Avenue, S.W., Suite A
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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LATEST VISIT: 27 June 2019
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup, Perfect Potato Chips with Tuna-Avocado Poke