The Tao of Downtown--My apologies to the South Valley and Rio Rancho for not seeing much ink lately. Gas is expensive, but I'm saving up for more trips in the near future. Now, to loosely quote Animotion in regard to my two favorite new places west of the train tracks: You are an obsession. You're my obsession! Where do you want me to be, to make you eat with me?
Roma Bakery and Deli (on the northwest corner of Fifth Street and Roma, 843-9418) will surprise you. For one, the service is warm and attentive, and nothing costs more than $6. The second reason is actually two guys named Oscar and Bruce. Oscar, who is Salvadoran, bakes Central American-style pastelitos (like soft, mini-pies), empanadas and biscochitos (a knot of shortbread cookie with cake filling on the inside), plus Dutch pinwheels and French butter croissants in-house.
Many of the meats used in their compact, delicious sandwiches are also roasted in-house by a fellow named Bruce. That goes for the marinated pork loin in their grilled Cubano, and the tasty turkey in the fabulous magnífica (salami, pepperoni, turkey and provolone cheese with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, lettuce and roma tomato slices). This tiny café's from-scratch philosophy flies in the face of many Downtown eateries, where you can slurp down the same Sysco-brand potato salad in 10 different restaurants and commissaries. Dare to be different. Roma Bakery and Deli is open weekdays from 7 a.m.-5:50 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
And why haven't you made it into Downtown Gourmet (900 Central SW, 877-2262) yet? Sure, it carries 70 kinds of cheese and a smattering of fancy crackers to eat with them, but it also has your mundane milk-bread-and-eggs needs covered. (Granted, it's all locally sourced milk, bread and eggs.) My girlfriends and I have made it a habit to buy a bottle of wine after work, then run down to see Downtown Gourmet proprietress Carey Smoot with our selection. It's fun to pick her brain while she happily pulls cheese out of climate-controlled cases, slicing off little tastes for us to try. Carey converted one blue cheese-hating friend into a whole new woman with a slice of young, gingery-mango Stilton to accompany our Shiraz, and showed us how to dress up a table Merlot with a plate of quince paste and sheep's milk Gouda. "America's Next Top Model" night will never be the same. She also makes a few fresh entrées and soups to-go, for people who just want to grab something good to eat on their way home from work. You can see the daily changing menus at www.downtowngourmetabq.com. Store hours are 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Friday, and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays.