New Perennial Favorites, Part Two—This multipart edition of "The Dish" is devoted to established Albuquerque chefs who are stepping up to the range at new projects. Click here to read last week's installation on Sam Etheridge's forthcoming Nob Hill Bar and Grill.
The Cup is a new sister restaurant of Gold Street Caffè; an unlikely siblinghood if only for their two very different locations. If these cafés were people, Gold Street would hold court as an established Downtown hipster. She'd probably have a lip ring, smoke unfiltered Gauloise cigarettes and wax poetic over a pristine glass of Pinot Grigio. Her precocious Cup little sister, on the other hand, would be a Northeast Heights girl with up-to-the-minute ringtones on her teeny, tiny cell phone. Although these two restaurants have more than 10 years and tons of pavement between them, they've both got the same heart. That’s because they share the same papa, chef and owner Matt Nichols.
"Behind Texas Land and Cattle, there's a Cold Stone, a Subway, a Japengo, an Asado, and then, right on the end-cap, there's us. Just south of the Papadeaux." That's how Matt described The Cup's unlikely spot outside the Height's Brobdingnagian Rio 24 movie theater. The Cup (subtitled "A Gold Street Caffè") is entrenched in a restaurant row that includes Goliath chains. But Matt appears up to the challenge.
"We're for people who appreciate made-from-scratch. We're getting away from the big chains by offering something unusual here," he says with some cheerfulness. People aren't as hip to breakfast in that part of town, he says, but they're catching on. Mornings have seen plenty of commuters popping in for a coffee fix, and more faces from the Downtown café are showing up at The Cup. "Because of the proximity to the freeway, I think the location is easier for people," he says. "It's always a balancing act."
At this point, the menu is identical to Gold Street. You'll notice the entrée names are not. (Some dishes gleefully take their titles from ’80s hits, as in "Shot Through the Heart of Romaine Salad" and "Cubano Wrap It Up, I'll Take It.") And even though the size of the restaurant is roughly the same as Gold Street, "the feel is much different," Matt says. The first thing you'll notice is a counter that's actually shaped like a cup.
"There's a nice side patio with sunset views and local photographs are on the walls. We have an upstairs loft with windows into the dining room and all the desserts are made in-house in an exhibition bakery," he says, adding, "... with a bitchin' new oven proofer!" Even for a man who hasn't seen his wife and kids in weeks, hard work can have its rewards.