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 V.22 No.51 | December 19 - 25, 2013 

Restaurant Review

Back to the Daily Grind

An Albuquerque original resurfaces

photos by Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

The 17-year-old Daily Grind has moved into a new location, with such little street visibility you could almost call it a secret location. It’s tucked next to I-40, just west of the Washington Street bridge, and shares a parking lot and courtyard with Los Pinos Fly and Tackle Shop and Calibers indoor shooting range. You’ll only spot the new building’s gray corrugated steel siding and matching signage if you’re looking right at it.

Green chile pocket with fried egg
Green chile pocket with fried egg

I take this as a sign of confidence from a business that knows how loyal its customer base is. Indeed, three months into the new location, customers both new and old don’t seem to be having much trouble finding the place. The high ceilings and cement floors echo with the buzz of table chat in the cavernous and open 17-table dining room. A garage door opens to patio seating, weather permitting, alongside the Los Pinos running miniature trout stream and fly-casting pond.

Steak and frites
Steak and frites

The move has brought more changes than just location. There is now table service, booze and dinner. But the baked goods that earned them their customer base are still in place, including the scones that Alibi readers once voted Best of Burque by a landslide.

The scones, designed and baked by Daily Grind matriarch Nancy Rogers, are indeed impressive. At once hearty and ethereal, the batter and berries bond in a praiseworthy feat of baking alchemy. The other sweet treats I tried—the Boston cream pie that was really a cake, the solid chocolate mousse with the blackberry on top, the tangy, custardy key lime pie—were all great.

The move has brought more changes than just location. There is now table service, booze and dinner. But the baked goods that earned them their customer base are still in place.

Perhaps my favorite baked good was the savory green chile pocket, a mix of potatoes, cheese, bacon and roasted green chile bound in a flaky puff-pastry that wraps around the contents as you bite into it. Pro-tip: Order the green chile pocket with a fried egg on top.

While not a New Mexican restaurant, the Daily Grind does up our State’s cuisine with authority. The sides of red and green alike are generous; the green sauce is stew-like, while some dishes, like the aforementioned pocket and green chile fries sport whole or chopped peppers. The heat is consistently hot enough to never let you forget you’re eating chile, but not enough to slow you down.

The new dinner menu is diverse, confidently branching out into directions never ventured before in the Daily Grind’s nearly two decades. Chef Leah Purucker, who’s been at the grind for seven of those years, has landed gracefully in her expanded kitchen.

Attention to the little details is obvious. The garnishes, fresh berries and leaves, and the occasional pickle, are so beautiful and fresh, anyone who lets them return to the kitchen untouched should be issued a citation.

We started with an order of crab cakes, and they came chunky and moist, with a lively jalapeño buttermilk slaw. It was a sharp beginning to our meal.

I usually order my steak rare as a way of starting a conversation with the chef. It begins with my question: How much confidence do you have in your meat? How rare do you go?

Chef Purucker answered with a seared piece of locally raised meat, practically still twitching in the middle. Confident indeed.

I actually don’t like truly rare meat, so I sent it back to have it cooked more. (Another good reason to order rare is many cooks will overdo medium-rare. It’s easier to cook meat a little longer than try to uncook it.) My steak returned medium rare and proceeded to explode in my mouth with moist, juicy, tender, beefy deliciousness. The accompanying dish of malt vinegar aioli ran out too quickly, as did the glass of California’s Fog Head pinot noir I washed it down with.

The meal came with a large, perky side salad that I actually preferred to the other salads on the menu. The taco salad was kind of meh, with underseasoned black beans. Also disappointing was the salad wrap, which felt routine and lacked the pizzazz I’ve come to expect from this restaurant. It seemed to me that the salads indicated a lack of appreciation for greenery, with the kitchen piling on meat, fruit and cheese instead.

Our vegetarian friends should not miss the portobello Florentine. It comes elongated to fit its oblong plate, with a steaming pile of wilted spinach at one end and blocks of polenta at the other, all covered with portobello chunks and a slightly tangy veggie ragout. The polenta had a light skin enclosing creamy molten innards, with a touch of sweetness and openness to interact with the other components of this stunning dish.

It feels trite to call the Daily Grind ABQ’s best-kept secret. But given its new location—low-profile on the outside and bursting with life and flavor on the inside—there might be truth in such triteness. But I suspect the secret won’t last. A path will get beaten there soon enough.

View in Alibi Chowtown calendar


4360 Cutler NE, Suite C
883-8310

Hours: 7am to 9pm Monday through Saturday
8am to 8pm Sundays

Range: Breakfast starts at $4, dinner tops out at $20.
Vibe: Classy chill
Veggie options: Several
Booze: Finally, after 17 years

The Weekly Alibi recommends: Steak and frites, crab cakes,
portobello polenta, green chile pocket
 

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