Route 66 Malt Shop Gets Into the Rhythm
Dance studio and diner combo comes out swinging
In 1927, Lindberg crossed the Atlantic and the world began dancing the Lindy. Energetic devotees swing on—and Rachel Green makes a career of the obsession. Green and I are chatting over lunch at the Route 66 Malt Shop, one door down from her dance space. I’m sipping a chocolate egg cream while Green enjoys a toasty crab cake sandwich.
Green began swing dancing as a student at UNM in 2004 and later joined its Jitterbugs Anonymous club. JA advanced beyond social dancing, choreographing routines they took to regional competitions. Upon graduation, Green, boyfriend Brett Dahlenburg, Kevin Clark, Dani Easley, Rebecca Lucero and Anthony Chen created a professional team—Groove Juice Special. See why they’re putting Albuquerque on the national Lindy hop map at bit.ly/ABQlindy.
Back in Burque, Green noted the dearth of spaces available for swing events. She and Dahlenburg were inspired by a January 2011 podcast of NPR’s “Planet Money” about pursuing your dreams. The piece noted that if you’re out of work anyway, you might as well do something you love. Dahlenburg wrote to the show: “Rachel’s dream has been to be a professional swing dance instructor. She holds a BA in both English and Spanish but was laid off from her degree-related job and has been struggling ever since. Recently we were given the opportunity to start up our own dance studio. We found a beautiful location, borrowed some money from a supportive friend and signed the lease last week.”
Rhythm’s grand opening this April hosted a full house. The space has a sprung floor and wall-to-wall mirrors. It’s the perfect environment for The Rhythm Project, a series of classes for beginner, intermediate and advanced students taught by Green, Dahlenburg, Clark and Easley. Every Saturday evening is set for social swing dancing, but there are classes and events throughout the week.
It’s no accident that Rhythm is just a swing-out away from the Route 66 Malt Shop. After 15 years Downtown, owners Diane Avila and Eric Szeman moved to their new location in East Nob Hill in August 2010. The Malt Shop keeps the atmosphere locked in time, perfect for refueling after a dance session. The decor is over-the-top ’50s, more rockabilly than Lindy. But the menu brings nostalgia back to the future with a Southwestern flair.
The couple serves home-brewed root beer on tap. And a breakfast serving of biscuits and gravy topped with an egg piqued my taste buds. Cook Tommy Harrell confirmed his secret ingredient is a hint of anise in the sausage gravy. You wouldn’t find garden burgers back in the ’50s, but they have them here—regular and deluxe. A wild Alaskan salmon burger with a side of sweet potato fries made my friend’s mouth water. In essence, the Malt Shop serves old-fashioned goodness with a modern twist.
The Malt Shop will host a vintage car show with live music by Go-Daddy-Go on Saturday, June 25, from 6 to 10 p.m. in the courtyard (RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org) and will be accepting donations for Wounded Warriors and Pennies for the Homeless at the event. Rhythm will be there, squeezing out Lindy juice. Fill up on good food, live music and vintage wheels, then dance ’til you drop.