By Laura Marrich
Thanks for the Calories--I've gained eight pounds this year. Bad for my vanity, but a very good indication of the gastronomical happenings in our humble burg in 2006. Here are some of Albuquerque's other "big" trends of the year.
Closings: Particularly hard hit were the soul food restaurants, despite a passel of good reviews for many of them. Like I've said before, soul food restaurants in this town have the lifespan of butterflies, but they're beautiful while they last. La Siringitu Vegetarian Café, Albuquerque's first and only vegetarian soul food restaurant, officially closed on Saturday, Dec. 16. (But you can also still "Rent-a-Veggie-Chef" for caterings by calling 244-9105.) You can catch La Siringitu at one last shebang on Jan. 6 at 4 p.m., with a vegetarian buffet to boot. Other souls gone to heaven include Doc & Mz. V's Diner, Canty's Backwoods Smokehouse in Rio Rancho (Albuquerque's only Carolina pulled pork), Big John's BBQ and Big Mama's B-B-Q. If you're lucky, rumor has it you can still find Big Mama in a mobile food cart patrolling the Westside, while John may be setting up shop somewhere along East Central.
I'll always cherish my golden-fried memories of Bob's Fish and Chips and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, both knocked out within the past 12 months. Gone, too, are Pearl's Dive, Marta's Camino Real, Wrangler's, Koury's Deli, Howley's Place and Sig's. Mariscos Vallarta was also knocked out near Cottonwood Mall in 2006.
Variety: There's been a wellspring of new Vietnamese restaurants, particularly along the southeast Central corridor (with the notable exception of Kim's in the Northeast Heights), so many it's pretty much impossible to keep track of them all. Downtown continues to attract upscale comfort food, and this year saw Albuquerque's first full-service Cuban restaurant open shop (Don Yasmany Cuban Restaurant and Bakery).
Convenience: Two big improvements this year? Yummy Room Service (yummyroomservice.com, 833-EATS) delivers prepared meals from local restaurants. You can also order groceries from the Delivery Day LLC website (deliverydayllc.com), which they'll walk right up to your front door.
Late-night hunger became less of an issue in 2006, thanks to restaurants like New York Pizza Department staying open later than ever (3 a.m. on the weekends!).
Buying gourmet foods is more convenient now because of a rash of new specialty stores--Trader Joe's, Downtown Gourmet, Joe S. Sausage and Ravioli, Red Square, an Eastside Williams-Sonoma, new farmers’ markets in Nob Hill, Cake Fetish and Blackbird Pies all landed in Albuquerque in 2006.
Booze: It was a great year for wine in Albuquerque. Of course, wine lofts were a big buzzword, with both Vivace and Slate Street uncorking new rooms strictly intended for wine service. Wine Spectator's 2006 Dining Guide also doled out high praise to a number of local cellars, including Scalo Northern Italian Grill.
In other booze news, Old Town finally--finally!--lifted the ban on drinking alcohol on its restaurant patios in 2006. The year also ushered in two swanky new martini bars: Olive, a sidebar of Lucky's Lounge (Montgomery and Eubank) and, just in time for New Year's Eve, Ba Shie (which means "ice") at Sandia Casino. On the pub front, Two Fools Tavern opened in Nob Hill, O'Niell's Pub reopened in the Hiland district and Geckos added a second location in the Northeast Heights. Here’s looking at you, 2006, and cheers to 2007!
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