You’ve probably noticed the structure that houses One Up Elevated Lounge, located Downtown on Central and Third Street. It’s the building leaning ominously over the street, looking ready to fall on its face. This is appropriate, because everything about One Up seems designed to inebriate. In addition to the exhaustive list of beer, wine and specialty drinks at One Up, many of the tapas come in wine-based sauces. Others are accompanied by shot glasses of booze meant to complement the dish. And the “Recessionista Fridays” happy hour menu (5 to 8 p.m.) includes $3 well drinks and Coronas, $4 draft beers, and a free taco bar.
The dishes that don’t come with alcohol all seem, uncoincidentally I suspect, to taste very good with alcohol. Most likely when you leave One Up you’ll have a full belly and a buzz on—but you might not leave for a while. Shorty and I arrived Friday afternoon and left that night only after finally prying ourselves off our cushy lounge chairs (and the bluesy honky-tonk of Felix y Los Gatos playing live on stage).
From the inside, those leaning windows are just as vertigo-inducing as they appear from the street. It’s almost like being in a glass-bottom boat, with great views of all of the Downtown riffraff.
The place has an open floor plan divided into distinct lounging zones. There are the tall chairs and tables by the windows, patio furniture on the outside deck, couches in the center, an area of lounge/coffeehouse-style cushy chairs, and an elevated seating area. Each neighborhood has a subtle yet distinct personality, and in the back: 11 pool tables.
The dishes that don’t come with alcohol all seem, uncoincidentally I suspect, to taste very good with alcohol.
The decor is slick and unobtrusive, with minimal art, solid earthtone-colored walls, cool lamps and ceiling fixtures, and candles at every table. The clientele is a cross-section of Albuquerque—we saw suits, tattoos, cowboy hats and a T-shirt that announced “Slayer Fucking Slayer.” At 7 p.m. on Friday evening, it was busy but not suffocating.
The food is tapas-style and, for the most part, impressive. A bowl of mussels in a butter and wine sauce with thyme and tomatoes was extraordinarily savory, complete with toasted ciabatta bread on the side for dipping. Also top-notch, a similar dish of baby clams with chipotle, pine nuts and smoked chorizo yielded a tart, smoky flavor. Calamari salad came together successfuly as crispy shoestring squid on balsamic-dressed leaves. Even though the concept of Kobe beef hamburgers is kind of bull (Isn’t the whole point that Kobe is tender? What burger isn’t tender?), I was very happy with my Kobe sliders. They came with tasty aioli and shoestring onions in a light batter, which made for great dipping in our leftover mussel and clam broth.
Less impressive were crab cakes, which, though beautifully plated, were small and tasted like the crab was from a can. And, the accompanying shot of ginger sake notwithstanding, the ahi tuna poke was disappointing, if not false advertising—far from raw, it was heavily marinated and cooked. The tuna was sinewy.
A gin and tonic was generously strong, a cucumber Mojito dangerously drinkable. My “Rude Cosmo”—made from Patron silver tequila, Cointreau, and cranberry and fresh lime juice—was rather like a melted Margarita, strong and tasty.
One Up is ideal for dates. It’s lively but not too loud. You have to lean in just a bit to hear each other, but not so much that you’ll spray her with squid spittle. After just two gin and tonics, Shorty was wasted—which isn’t saying much, but still, I was grateful.
The Alibi Recommends:
• P.E.I. mussels
• Cucumber Mojito
• Window seats
• Happy hour
One Up Elevated Lounge
301 Central NW (second floor)
Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight weekdays; 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. weekends. Closed Sunday.
Vibe: Noah’s Ark meets the Hotel California
Price range: $8 (coconut chicken satay) to $15 (the P.E.I. mussels). $4 happy hour specials.
Booze: Uh, yeah.
Extras: Credit cards accepted. Patio seating. Check website for live music schedule.