Get Smart, a comedy television series which aired from 1965 to 1970 showcased the exploits of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, a secret agent for CONTROL, a secret government counter-espionage organization. CONTROL’s nemesis was KAOS an international organization of evil bent on world domination. The head of the Asian arm of KAOS was a man called “The Claw,” who had a large mechanical claw in place of a left hand. The claw was magnetic, allowing him to pull phones, guns, and other metal objects toward him. Stereotypically, he couldn’t pronounce the letter L , which made Maxwell Smart think his name was “The Craw” and not the “The Claw.” Every time Max makes this mistake, The Claw corrects him saying, “Not the Craw, the Craw!”
During the second episode of the series, Smart was kidnapped by The Claw. In an attempt to communicate his whereabouts to the chief of CONTROL, Smart engaged a communication device on his watch. The ensuing exchange was hilarious:
Smart: “I suppose you think you’ve got me buried in this backroom in this building on Commonwealth and 8th Streets.”
The Claw: “Not 8th Street, Mr. Smart, F Street.”
Smart: “Oh yes, F Street.”
The Claw: “And it’s Crover Avenue.”
Smart: “Crover Avenue. er, Clover. That must be close to 9th and Delaware.”
The Claw: “Only if you take the cutoff at Exit 4.”
Smart: “Exit 4. That must be under the overpass.”
The Claw: “No, no, no, Over the underpass.”
Smart: “Over the underpass. Good, that’s all we need to know.”
The Claw: Indeed it is, Mr. Smart. Your chief will never find you with those directions.”
Maxwell Smart’s plight came to mind when we set off to Gold Street Pizza. Gold Street. That’s the street one block south of Central in Albuquerque’s downtown area, right? Yep. Drive the length and breadth of Gold Street and you’ll never find the Gold Street Pizza & Brew. Because of the Cabrona virus, that Gold Street location closed down. The family owned and operated restaurant’s other restaurant–on the intersection of Rio Bravo and Coors in the South Valley–stayed open but only on a take-out and delivery option. As with its now defunct sibling, it shares the Gold Street name though definitely not the address.
I became familiar with the area because of a handful of visits to Albuquerque City Limits at the same Rio Bravo Shopping Center that houses Gold Street Pizza. Albuquerque City Limits not only offers one of the very best green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico, its Lenten menu includes traditional Northern New Mexico dishes few restaurants offer. That destination seemed equal to Magellan’s circumnavigation of the planet from my office at the University of New Mexico. From Rio Rancho, that distance is more akin to driving to Mars. Oh, the distances I trek in the spirit of community service. William Shatner would be proud.
If you’re asking whether a drive to Gold Street Pizza & Brew is worth it, my answer is a resounding “yes!” Not only does the food warrant the five-star average Gold Star currently holds on Yelp, you’ll be treated like a welcome guest, almost like family. That makes sense considering this gem is owned and operated by a demonstraby loving family. Joe, the patriarch, works about seventy hours per week, but it’s a labor of love. He’s more ebullient than people half his age who work half as many hours. You’ll probably meet Joe’s son-in-law Chris at the bar and Joe’s beautiful daughter Cassandra at some point. During our second visit, we even met Joe’s delightful bride, the wonderful Diane. She works full-time as an accountant but helps out at Gold Street when she can. Just about the only one you might not meet is chef Omar, the genius in the kitchen who’ll prepare your meal. His talents are fine fine dining worthy (and in fact, he worked at four-star restaurants in Santa Fe until the Cabrona virus).
If the trek to the south South Valley leaves you parched, adults among you will appreciate the extensive brew options featuring a wide selection of New Mexico craft beers. Your four-legged fur baby will appreciate the expansive sun-shielded patio. Music lovers will appreciate the wide variety of local artists who perform at the restaurant for such worthy events as National Chicken Wing Day, National Chocolate Chip Day and National Rum Day. Live music is available on weekends, too. Guitars from performers of several music genres–New Mexican, Country, Rock–festoon one wall.
The menu lists far more than pizza. Appetizers include a number of wings served with your choice of bleu cheese or ranch dressing. If you’re not in the mood for wings or one of the other starters, don’t dismiss the salads. As much as anything on the menu, the salads showcase Chef Omar’s creativity. They’re artistically composed paragons of beauty as delicious as they look. A short list of sandwiches and calzones is available, too. Specialty and gourmet pizzas are available in nine- to fourteen-inch sizes and in five crust styles (including a green chile stuffed crust). Even the desserts are a cut above.
8 July 2023: As we were perusing the menu and contemplating what, if any, appetizer to start our Gold Street adventure, we espied a poached pear salad. No description of the salad was provided, but Joe’s son-in-law vouched for it. We’ll eternally be grateful. This is one of the best salads in New Mexico, more proof that Chef Omar is a genius. Served on a long rectangular plate, it’s an edible work-of-art with ingredients seemingly modeled on the plate for optimum aesthetics. Colors and ingredients are splayed on a ceramic canvas as if posing for an artist. Displayed in all their glory are strawberries, cranberries, shaved cucumbers, red onions, iceberg lettuce and Parmesan cheese. At the center of these ingredients is a single poached pear about as purple as a ripe plum. A strawberry vinaigrette is drizzled generously atop the salad. This salad is sweet and savory, fresh and crisp with every bite a sheer joy.
8 July 2023: As my Kim’s doting and devoted husband, I know that staying on her good graces includes finding restaurants that prepare and serve foods of her native Chicago. They’re few and far in between, especially since the 2022 closure of AK Pizza. Though Gold Street Pizza does offer a deep-dish pie, it’s not the casserole-thick pizza with which she grew up in the Windy City. Her favorite and most missed of all Chicago foods is the Italian beef sandwich. Our expectations were rather low when Joe and Chef Omar admitted to never having been to Chicago. The sandwich brought to our table says otherwise. It’s as authentic and as delicious as some we’ve had in Chicago.
Italian beef sandwiches are THE quintessential Chicago sandwich, piles of thin-shaved roast beef slid au jus into a French roll and topped with giardiniera. It’s a magnificent sandwich. My Kim prefers onions, bell peppers and cheese to giardiniera and she likes her sandwich “wet” (momentarily immersed in the au jus) Ask nicely and Chef Omar will dip your sandwich into the au jus and provide a side of the thin gravy with tiny shards of beef. It’s an Italian beef sandwich, the type of which she grew up with and still loves (maybe more than she loves me.) Even the French bread is authentic. Chef Omar gets up early every morning to bake fresh bread. It, too, is a labor of love.
8 July 2023: Though my heart was set on pizza, Gold Street’s menu lists another item whose time has come. We’d never before seen an Italian beef calzone (Italian beef served with sautéed onions, bell peppers, stuffed with mozzarella cheese with your choice of hot or mild giardiniera. Option of pizza sauce, butter base or garlic butter base. Complimented with au jus, marinara and ranch) on any menu. This is a huge calzone, more than I could finish in one meal. As with the Italian beef sandwich, the bread is a star! Its exterior has a wonderful crunch belying a pillowy soft interior. The calzone is overstuffed with melted mozzarella and a giardiniera not for the faint of heart. It’s got a real kick. Ask for the garlic butter base for yet another flavorful component to a satisfying sandwich you’ll return for.
25 August 2023: Torn between the best calzone I’ve had in decades and a pizza, I compromised and asked Chris if Chef Omar could prepare an Italian beef pizza for me. To complicate matters, I asked for half of the pizza to be topped with hot giardiniera and half without it (so my Kim could sample the pizza). Chef Omar delivered. Not literally. Chris ferried the pizza to our table. Chef Omar created a work of art pizza that ranks among the very best pizza I’ve had in New Mexico. Who needs green chile on a pizza (forgive the sacrilege) when you’ve got giardiniera as pleasantly piquant as most green chile? Seriously!
The pizza was also lavishly decorated with green peppers, red onions and a generous amount of Italian beef. Unlike Chicago’s casserole-like deep-dish pizza, deep dish at Gold Street Pizza is not quite as thick as Sicilian or Detroit style pizza. It’s about three times as thick as New York style pizza. The crust is light and airy with a very little cornicione (an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza). Best of all, the crust has the flavor and aroma of just baked bread. The true test of pizza greatness is how it holds up for breakfast the following day. Whether you heat up remaining slices or eat it cold, a great pizza should always be just as good as when it’s first delivered to your table. Gold Street Pizza delivers!
25 August 2023: When we order desserts, my plan is to try a forkful or two so I can describe the post-prandial sweet treat. Gold Street’s Cookie Delight, a chocolate chip cookie topped with strawberries (including two big chocolate covered strawberries), blueberries, two sprigs of mint and vanilla ice cream all drizzled with chocolate sauce. Unlike so many chocolate chip cookies, this one isn’t cloying and that’s not solely because of the fruit. Though generously dotted with chocolate chips, Chef Omar wasn’t heavy-handed with tooth-decaying sugar.
Maxwell Smart might not have been able to give you accurate directions to the Gold Street Pizza & Brew, but if you’re looking for great pizza and sandwiches and don’t mind a leisurely drive, make your way to the Gold Star Pizza & Brew, one of the more surprisingly wonderful restaurants in Albuquerque.
Gold Street Pizza & Brew
211 Coors Boulevard, S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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LATEST VISIT: 25 August 2023
1st VISIT: 8 July 2023
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Italian Beef Sandwich, Italian Beef Calzone, Poached Pear Salad, Italian Beef Pizza, Chocolate Delight