Chefs of EDo

by Christie Chisholm, LocalFlavor Magazine, June 2011

EDo’s evolution from a sketchy, motel-ridden slice of Central to an urban oasis has been a relatively quick one. In the last few years, the area has boomed, with renovated lofts attracting residents, the Rail Runner calling to commuters, and various art galleries and retail shops popping up along the stretch. The district’s graduation into a new kind of neighborhood is perhaps best seen in its restaurants. Suddenly EDo is bursting with eateries that draw people from all over the city. From a top-shelf diner and a veteran of fine dining to cafés that make luxury affordable and a pizzeria that raises comfort food to new heights, with a tantalizing rooftop bar thrown in for good measure, EDo has become one of Albuquerque’s best scenes for culinary connoisseurs.

 

Farina Pizzeria & Wine Bar

510 Central SE, 505.243.0130, www.farinapizzeria.com

Farina does pizza with an upscale twist. It’s the lovechild of the owners of the Artichoke Café and Chef Richard Winters, who worked in the Artichoke’s kitchen for 16 years. Ready to hang up his fine dining hat, Winters loves the casualness of this little brick pizzeria, which serves a classic and popular margherita alongside dishes like roasted rosemary pork loin panini (Winters’ two favorite menu items of the moment). “Artichoke is more of a citywide destination,” he says. “This is a smaller neighborhood place.” That’s the kind of restaurant that fits snuggly into this stretch of Central, which has garnered a larger residential population as the dilapidated motels along the corridor have been bulldozed. Many of Farina’s clients live across the street in the renovated Albuquerque High Lofts, and they’ll stop by after work for a bite, a brew and possibly a bottle of wine.

 

The Artichoke Café

424 Central SE, 505.243.0200, www.artichokecafe.com

The Artichoke Café is EDo’s gastronomic grandmother. Owners Pat and Terry Keene opened the fine dining establishment in 1989, long before redevelopment swept the district. “We loved the corner, even though it was surrounded at the time by seedy hotels,” says Pat, who’s also Artichoke’s head chef. “And it was what we could afford.” The Keenes had a significant hand in jumpstarting the area, working with their neighborhood association to get Mayor Martinez Chavez to put out an RFP on the derelict Albuquerque High building. Pat served on the selection committee that eventually picked developer Rob Dickson for the project, and Terry was an integral force in completing a sector plan for the corridor. Through it all, Artichoke has continued to put out seasonal menus that have earned it the title of “best in the city” from multiple polls and publications. With dinner entrées like grilled duck breast with edamame jasmine rice, baby carrots, snap peas and an apricot soy reduction and desserts like limoncello cheesecake with a shortbread crust and blueberry coulis, it’s not hard to see why.

 

The Daily Grind

414 Central SE, 505.883.8310

This mom-and-pop shop is just as adorable as you’d imagine. Brightly colored with flowers painted on the walls and springing out of patio pots, this little café is light and airy and feels like the next best thing to mom’s kitchen. Baked items change daily, but the miniature bunt cakes and sugar-swept scones are morning staples. Owner Nancy Rogers makes the cakes, but when Chef Leah Purucker came on a few years ago, she added ethnic flavors to the menu, like cubanos, Greek paninis and curries. Purucker likes working in the district, which she never used to come to before the redevelopment. “It’s definitely had a facelift,” she says, adding that she likes the combination of old and new. EDo has been modernized, but The Daily Grind’s cute little space is 100 years old.

 

Standard Diner

320 Central SE, 505.243.1440, www.standarddiner.com

True to its name, this EDo eatery embodies the 1940s feel of the classic American diner. But there’s nothing standard about it. In what was once a Texaco station and then a car dealership, high-backed booths and exposed brick hint at the fact that this spot is more of a fine dining destination than a burger joint. You can still find said burgers on the menu, but they’ll come with Kobe beef, caramelized onions and poblano peppers, bleu cheese, and truffle fries—labeled the “Standard burger,” it’s Chef Chris Olsen’s favorite. Olsen’s only been at the restaurant for two years, but he lives Downtown and has watched the area morph into what it is today. “It’s a great neighborhood with great people,” he says. “It would be great to see it keep expanding.”

 

Apothecary Lounge

806 Central SE, 505.242.0040, www.hotelparqcentral.com

The old Memorial Hospital sat vacant for years. Locals like to speculate about the ghosts that came to inhabit it when no one else dared. And then, last year, something amazing happened: It was transformed into the creative and chic Hotel Parq Circle. One of the amenities of the hotel is the Apothecary Lounge, a rooftop bar and patio with a stunning view of the progress that’s been made in EDo, along with the rest of Albuquerque. Executive Chef Jeremy Castro grew up close to the district and remembers days not long ago when he worried about walking down the street. He’s watched it transform into something “inviting,” he says, and he likes having a role in that development. The menu he and Executive Sous Chef Natalie Correa created is pretty inviting, too. Pork in adobo, sautéed in red wine and served with caramelized onion crème, sits on the same menu as the “inebriated mussels,” which are sautéed in butter and shallots and simmered in a beer broth. Along with generous cocktail offerings, the Apothecary Lounge has quickly become one of the city’s premier nightlife spots.

 

The Grove Café & Market

600 Central SE, Suite A, 505.248.9800, www.thegrovecafemarket.com

In the five years since it opened, The Grove has become a hot spot for Albuquerqueans who brunch. Its interior is clean and modern, and the food that comes out of its kitchen, served on sleek silver lunch trays, is local and organic whenever possible. The local aesthetic works well for café, which chose its EDo location for a specific reason: “We always wanted to have a restaurant that was community oriented,” says Chef Jason Greene, who co-owns The Grove with his wife Lauren. “We wanted a neighborhood establishment where everyone could come in every day and get coffee and a cookie and a sandwich.” Greene describes his food as “everyday casual” with a fine dining approach. It’s evidenced in menu items like the croque madame, which comes open-faced on a rustic farm loaf with black forest ham, tomato, whole grain mustard, gruyere cheese and an egg served sunny side up. With that and a passionfruit cupcake for dessert, a person could die happy.