“I saw Sisyphus in violent torment, seeking to raise a monstrous stone with both his hands. Verily he would brace himself with hands and feet, and thrust the stone toward the crest of a hill, but as often as he was about to heave it over the top, the weight would turn it back, and then down again to the plain would come rolling the ruthless stone. But he would strain again and thrust it back, and the sweat flowed down from his limbs, and dust rose up from his head.” ~Homer, The Odyssey
Even those among us most satisfied with our jobs sometimes feel work is our personal Sisyphean ordeal. That’s especially true on days in which work seems monotonous and meaningless, when it truly does feel as if we’ve been sentenced to push a boulder up Sandia Peak only to see it roll back to the Rio Grande at the end of the day then to repeat that ordeal the following day. The drudgery of the incessant and assiduous labors of Sisyphus is one of life’s metaphors with which most of us can sometimes relate.
Greek mythology is replete with the manifestation of vices, flaws and hubris in the Greek gods and goddesses. Though it may seem perpetual interference by the petulant and spoiled deities doesn’t warrant the worship they crave, every once in a while one of the Olympians will actually do something beneficial for their human charges. Of course, such acts of benevolence are usually limited to their favorite humans, typically a bastard son or a pulchritudinous woman. Only in soap operas and modern politics do you find such pettiness and shallowness.
Though Greek mythology is seemingly teeming with tragedy, leave it to Friedrich Nietzsche to find something life-affirming about all those tribulations. Nietzsche believed tragedy is valuable because it allows us to affirm life. Maybe that means you can only appreciate happiness if you’ve experienced tragedy. As someone who long ago abandoned Nietzsche’s esoteric moralism for the more life-affirming wisdom of Jack Handey, I would have loved to read Greek myths with a more joyful theme, some positivity…maybe read about some god or goddess who exemplified the spirit of “meraki.”
Meraki is the Greek word that describes the soul, creativity or love put into something; the essence of yourself in your work. Not surprisingly, meraki is a Modern Greek word. It’s derived from the Turkish “Merak” (labor of love, to do something with pleasure). It’s highly unlikely (despite what Albert Camus wrote) that Sisyphus experienced a labor of love while trying to roll that rock up a steep hill. The optimist in me hopes each and every once of us who occasionally experiences a Sisyphean task approaches most of the things we do with the spirit of meraki–that we love what we do and do it well.
A labor of love is an apt description for the transformation of an unused space at the northwest corner of the edifice which houses Mykonos Cafe, one of Albuquerque’s most venerable and popular Greek restaurants. That formerly unused space now houses Meraki, a coffee shop and so much more. Meraki is the love child of restaurateur Nicole Kapnison who long ago ceased being thought of solely as “Nick Kapnison’s daughter” and established a presence as a formidable force in Albuquerque’s culinary scene.
In her website’s “About” page, Nicole gushes “I feel like I have never worked a day in my life because I truly love what I do, sounds so cliche, but seriously, my job rocks, even during the hard moments, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” With that attitude and energy, there was only one name for her coffee shop: Meraki. We arrived at about half past twelve on a Sunday morning and found only one available table. We also found that (in our late 30s) we were probably the oldest diners (though The Dude was the youngest) in the high-energy place with a vibe that bespeaks the spirit of meraki.
Meraki is a beautiful space. More expansive interior patio than true restaurant space, its exterior walls are really garage doors that–weather permitting–recess to provide an open area. Because the space faces west, Meraki provides sun-shielding shade–instant relief from summer’s vengeful heat. For al fresco dining, few Duke City eateries are as attractive or as much fun. There is no table service, but there is a counter at which you place your order. When the kitchen (shared with Mykonos) has prepared your food, one of the friendly servers will ferry it over to your table. The process is efficient and easy.
5 June 2022: The menu is everything you might expect from a coffee shop cum eatery. Specialty and traditional coffees are just the beginning. You can also get your “morning buzz” from such brunch favorites as green chile bloody Marys, mimosas and lavender margaritas. Wine and spirits–all either female owned, sustainably sourced or bio-dynamically formed free from additives or chemicals–round out the adult beverages. My Kim enjoyed a white cinnamon mocha while your humble blogger had a lavender lemonade that wasn’t too sweet (just the way I like it). Meraki also features a surprisingly ambitious eye-opening menu of “eats.”
5 June 2022: Because of our late arrival, loukoumades (Greek donut holes soaked in honey, crushed walnuts and powdered sugar), we had to settle for a cinnamon roll. Well, maybe “settle” isn’t the right word. It was a cinnamon roll that made my Kim happy which means it actually had plenty of cinnamon and lots of tooth-decaying frosting. Being late also meant no “Betty bowl,” a smoothie bowl with fresh berries, banana, chia sunflower mix, house granola, local honey, coconut). Also not available were fresh Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels. Lesson learned–next time we’ll get there early.
5 June 2022: Although Meraki had run out of mussels, fresh clams were available. Served with toasted ciabatta was a small netful of clams steamed in a broth of white wine, minced garlic and scallions. We don’t often have fresh clams for breakfast-brunch, but these certainly had us asking why not. Not only were they absolutely delicious, there was no discernible “fishiness.” As with many white wine-based broths, we longed for more bread to sop up all the broth. Though it can be lapped up like a good soup, there’s just something satisfying about broth-soaked bread.
5 June 2022: My Kim is probably tired of me describing her food choices as “boring,” but how else can you describe a basic breakfast sandwich (bacon, Cheddar, fried egg, green chile aioli, Meraki hot sauce on a brioche) when there are so many more interesting items on the menu? Sure, quality ingredients made it a cut above most breakfast sandwiches and that Meraki hot sauce is liquid dynamite, but to eschew such intriguing items as feta lamb meatballs (tomato vodka sauce, grilled ciabatta) and an open-faced chicken salad sandwich is (to me) a criminal act. My Kim enjoyed her sandwich very much so my little rant (as usual) didn’t go anywhere.
5 June 2022: Although one of the ingredients of the NM Burger is fire-roasted green chile, my choice was the Meraki burger (bacon fig jam, melted brie, green chile aioli, arugula) with fries. You can have a great green chile cheeseburger anytime (oh, my gosh, did I really say that?) but how often do you see such unique ingredients on a burger, especially sweet and savory elements that maybe should go well together? The Meraki burger was a surprise in the most pleasant and mouth-watering ways. Those perceived disparate ingredients actually went very well together, melding into a cohesive, delicious whole. Especially notable was the one-two flavor punch of bacon fig jam and green chile aioli–sweet, savory and piquant notes throughout. A thick beef patty made up for the buns being only four-inches.
19 August 2022: If you continue to believe lamb is the black sheep of meat and believe it’s gaminess is akin to tainted meat or meat that is otherwise “off,” it may help to start off by eating lamb that has been ground. Ground lamb is less gamey (which to savvy diners only means it tastes like meat should taste if an animal ate only grass) than lamb chops while still retaining its customary earthiness. Ground lamb plays very well with strong spices such as fennel, chili flakes and cumin. It also plays two-part harmony with sauces, especially those based on tomatoes. And, it’s fabulous with feta and blue cheese. Take that ground pork!
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that among European Union nations, Greece is the per capita leader in consumption at 12.3 kg (27.1 pounds). If that didn’t surprise you, maybe this will – in Greece, gyros are normally made with pork–not lamb. Meraki’s Greek heritage is on display in several dishes, among them feta lamb meatballs. Three beauteous orbs are covered in a tomato-vodka sauce then sprinkled with feta and micro greens. The vodka sauce is wholly unlike the sauce you might find in an Italian penne all vodka. It’s the tomato that’s emphasized on these meatballs. That’s not a bad thing if you’re somewhat trepidatious about the taste of lamb. Lamb lovers might scrape off the sauce and leave it for the accompanying grilled ciabatta.
19 August 2022: Forget gold medals. Throw away silver medals. Denounce bronze medals. During the ancient Olympic Games, more valuable prizes were awarded to victorious athletes–“honey tokens” or fried balls of dough covered in honey. Today, loukoumades, a pastry made of deep-fried dough soaked in a sugar-honey syrup and sprinkled with walnuts are among the most popular of all Greek pastries. They’re also the very first pastry ever mentioned in European literature. It would be wholly appropriate to read a Greek classic as you enjoy loukoumades at Meraki. These “donut holes” are fantastic–not too sweet and absolutely delicious. My Kim had never had these fresh fried pastries (served warm) before and now considers Meraki’s version among the very best donut holes she’s ever had.
19 August 2022: Sparta was a warrior society in ancient Greece that reached the height of its power after defeating rival city-state Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.). Because of the city’s warrior mentality, the term “spartan” has come to mean “showing the indifference to comfort or luxury traditionally associated with ancient Sparta.” Hmm, I probably would have lived in a city-state whose power was based on enjoying large quantities of delicious foods. It was somewhat of a surprise that a bowl as bountiful as the Spartan Bowl would be named for a society who would rather fight than eat.
The Spartan Bowl (hummus bowl with Greek salata, fresh veggies, roasted cauliflower, pita, grilled ciabatta and olives) was probably named because it wouldn’t take much effort to prepare so that diners can quickly resume doing battle with traffic and bad bosses. It’s certainly not named because it’s austere. This is a bowl brimming with deliciousness though if you don’t like your food “touching” other food you probably shouldn’t order the Spartan Bowl. At the very bottom of the bowl is a garlicky, creamy hummus. On top of that is a Greek salata showcasing such diverse ingredients as pepperoncini, watermelon radishes, cherry tomatoes, roasted cauliflower and artichokes all topped with feta. Who needs salad dressing when you can pluck off and enjoy such goodies. Three types of bread–grilled ciabatta, pita and crispy lavosh–can be enjoyed for dipping or on their own. Perhaps if the city-state of Sparta ate like this, they wouldn’t be quite as grouchy.
19 August 2022: One of the most clever, colorful and frankly, pretty dishes we’ve discovered in recent years is Meraki’s Betty Bowl (smoothie bowl with fresh berries, banana, chia sunflower mix, house granola, local honey and coconut). It had never dawned on us that smoothies could form the basis for a dish as delightful and delicious as the Betty Bowl. Mix up all the ingredients in this melange if you’d like or enjoy them one at a time–either way, you’ll be surprised and thrilled. Once more, however, if you don’t like your foods touching one another, you won’t like this dish. For those of us who would just as soon mix everything (it all goes to the same place), it’s especially fun and good.
Here’s betting Sisyphus would have made it over the hill if Meraki Coffee + Market awaited on the other side. To say Meraki serves coffee and food good enough for the Greek gods and goddesses would be giving them esteem they don’t deserve. Albuquerque does deserve deserve a coffee shop like this one.
Meraki Coffee + Market
5900 Eubank, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Website | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 19 August 2022
1st VISIT: 5 June 2022
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Meraki Burger, Fries, Cinnamon Roll, Breakfast Sandwich, Lavender Lemonade, White Cinnamon Mocha, Clams, Feta Lamb Meatballs,
17 thoughts on “Meraki Coffee + Market – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
Alas, one of my favorite ‘historical’ characters can be found as GIFs…a couple of seconds animation… at https://tinyurl.com/244uyaps
~ Here’s a FAV illustrating a Mother’s work is never done https://tinyurl.com/44kw5k3x
~ Indeed, for those caught eternally in some form of life’s drudgery, consider a
Alas…pardon/blush. Didn’t know the Sisyphus poster would not appear at the bottom of the post to complete the “Indeed….” sentence, nor that apparently only one pic gets posted thus excluding a sculpture pic.
👍to Ryan, Sarita, Sr Plata, Schuyler and Foodie Star. Gil is truly blessed to have friends like you. We know he rocks and the others…well, one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies of all time says it all.
Butch Cassidy is talking to the Sundance Kid: “Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”
Was there bifocals in the old cowboy days?
Bifocals were invented in August, 1784 by Benjamin Franklin.
Kittrick, a near-sighted cowboy portrayed brilliantly by Jack Elam in the movie The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County, could have used bifocals. By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a classic.
I’ve always thought readers of Gil’s Thrilling… are among the best and brightest people in the universe. That’s not solely because a lot of my readers are MDs and PhDs–including a number of college professors. (By the way, I traced “History Professor’s” IP address to a university in California. Thank goodness he wasn’t a professor at UNM where I work and know quite a few history professors.) Readers of Gil’s Thrilling tend to be very well read, adventurous and funny (Captain Tuttle’s “It’s all Greek to me” comment was classic).
I’m definitely blessed to call Ryan, Sarita, Sr. Plata, Schuyler, Captain Tuttle, Foodie Star and so many others champions of Gil’s Thrilling. They come to my defense every time someone impugns my observations or character. Then there’s Ruben who’s taken the term “food porn” to a new level.
There are so many things that compete for our reading eyeballs daily. The news, fake and authentic, is typically pretty dismal. That novel you haven’t finished yet; do you even want to? I pull up Gil’s blog because following “the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite” is entertaining and informative. On top of that, I get to find out about some good restaurants that I might not have found on my own. Sure, now and then I eat at a place Gil has raved about only to wonder if The Dude was the ghost writer on that one, but it’s all part of the joy of discovery. I’ve come to look forward to some of the comments from the blog’s regular contributors, and occasionally get a laugh from the more moronic entries. You all know who you are! Any criticism of our local beloved Sesquipedalian Sybarite, especially unwarranted, is going to be struck down as soon as it hits the page. As others have said before me, we have choices for what draws our attention and sometimes decide to “pass.” It also bears repeating that sage advice from an animated character in 1942:
Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?
Thumper: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.
Hi History Professor-
Welcome to the blog!
Now &*$& off.
Go enlighten another blog. We love Gil.
👏👏👏👏👏 Ryan, you are my spirit animal!
Five paragraphs! 463 words! That’s how long it takes for you to even mention the restaurant. Does anybody even read your introductory gibberish? We just want to read about the food, not your condescending academic ruminations. You’re not nearly as smart as you think you are!
I just look at the pictures.
Oh History Professor, the bottom line is, did the review all or in part help you decide if the restaurant review was something that influenced you to eat, not eat or stay undecided to partake in that establishment! I find it sad that Gil does his best to share food in multiple ways meeting all people and all styles; it sounds like he provided what you needed to know and apparently more., It would be more helpful for you to provide feedback on the restaurant you tried and comparing the data found in Gil’s review for all, this way we can decide if a restaurant is worthy of our attendance.
****Does anybody even read your introductory gibberish?****
Apparently you do…if you know that it took 5 paragraphs and 463 words…as well as probably 90% of the blog’s readers. Just saying…
I personally have not read it yet, because I haven’t gotten around to it. I hope I can get it, because it all seems Greek to me, but guess we shall see…
Hi History Professor,
What did you hope to accomplish with your comment? I think the readers whose attention you captured would like to know, so please share.
Since you graced us with your opinion, allow me to share mine: If you don’t like Gil’s blog or his reviews, exercise your right to “change the channel” and never trouble yourself with reading it again.
Gil isn’t as smart as he thinks he is? He’s actually a lot smarter than he thinks he is! He wouldn’t call himself a polymath, but I would..as well as raconteur, genius, gentleman and my best friend for 43…er, 39 years. Most of his loyal readers recognize that the uniqueness and instructiveness of his reviews are unlike anything out there and he doesn’t charge a cent for his selflessness.
You forgot scholar and acrobat.