Alibi V.24 No.20 • May 14-20, 2015 

Restaurant Review

Hitting the Sauce

Gravy adds a little something extra

Pancake flight
Pancake flight
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
First impressions count for a lot, but they can also be misleading. Consider the case of Gravy, the long-awaited diner moderne that occupies the former Milton’s building in EDo. The nearly two-year run-up to its opening could not have been more high profile, considering the space is on one of the most heavily trafficked sections of Central, the up-and-coming corridor between the University area and Downtown. Not only that, but as the younger sibling of the popular Holy Cow, this new-kid-on-the-block had a lot to live up to.

After several delays the restaurant finally opened in late 2014. And that’s really when the trouble began. Most restaurants suffer through a rocky opening period (in fact, our review policy at the Alibi is to give eateries at least 6 weeks before we’ll write about them for precisely that reason), but because of the high visibility of its location, the chaos of still-ongoing construction and the weight of expectations, Gravy’s debut verged on hellish.

Yelp reviews from the first few weeks of 2015 tell of long waits, harried servers and food arriving cold, among other problems. The most telling comments mentioned the fact that construction was still going on and that dust was prevalent, as well as ventilation systems breaking down and other woes. To put it simply, Gravy wasn’t ready for the kind of crowds and attention that it got, and the flood of one-star reviews that hit Yelp shows it.

Now, five months later, I’m pleased to say that Gravy seems to have resolved the issues that dogged its early days.

The first time I stopped by Gravy was soon after the opening. I lucked out by coming in during a quiet, midweek morning. The servers were clearly shell-shocked, and when I asked them how business had been, they simply shook their heads. I made up my mind then to give them a little while to get their act together.

Now, five months later, I’m pleased to say that Gravy seems to have resolved the issues that dogged its early days. Oh, you might still find service a little on the sluggish side during high-traffic weekend brunches, but nothing inexcusable. And more importantly, the food is excellent.

Breakfast sandwich
Breakfast sandwich
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Breakfast is the centerpiece for any classic diner experience, and Gravy offers the usual fare like huevos rancheros and biscuits and gravy, in addition to a few twists on old classics. Pancakes are as good as one could expect, and in addition to plain Jane flapjacks, Gravy adds some fancy twists to the lineup. There’s a cinnamon roll pancake, for instance, with a swirl of cream cheese icing and a ball of whipped cinnamon butter. And there’s a pineapple “upside down” pancake with chunks of the tart fruit throughout. The batter for both of these is sweet enough that there’s no real reason to reach for the syrup that comes with them. Just as well, as we’re not talking real maple here. There’s also a red velvet pancake that’s the showiest of the bunch, with its beet red coloring, but which I found to be the least appealing in terms of flavor. Not that it was bad, mind you; it just seemed like a regular pancake turned red for some reason. If you’re not sure which way to go with your pancake options, order the flight, and try one of each.

If you prefer a heartier, meatier breakfast, there is one option that you should absolutely not pass up: the breakfast sandwich. This isn’t some Egg McMuffin kind of deal—for starters the heart of the sandwich is a slab of fried chicken with cheddar cheese, a fried egg, bacon and white gravy oozing over it. The whole deal is pressed between a flaky, golden biscuit, but you’re not going to manage this delicious mess with your hands. A fork is definitely required.

taps
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
The fried chicken makes a reappearance on the lunch/dinner menu, and it’s just as good when given the chance to stand on its own without a slather of gravy. Three hefty pieces arrive, fried brown and mouthwateringly spiced. Seriously, the chicken and batter rivals some of the best in town, including Nexus Brewery’s gold standard.

As befitting any diner, Gravy’s lunch and dinner menu leans heavily on comfort food. In addition to the chicken, there’s a salmon steak on a bed of succotash that’s worth your time, and steak frites—a cut of beef with a peppery, brown gravy and a helping of Gravy’s hand-cut fries. For appetizers, my group chose the fat, clean-tasting, shell-on BBQ shrimp and Asian chicken wings. I was impressed with the quality of the shrimp—though the BBQ flavor was lacking—but the wings were a sweet assault on the senses, only somewhat mitigated by the horseradish dipping sauce.

Importantly, for the modern ale-obsessed Albuquerque, Gravy offers a stout selection of microbrews, several featuring local favorites like Marble. These days, a few local beers are par for the course, but there are at least a dozen taps here. Even the most jaded hophead hipster should be able to find something to appeal to their palate.

All in all, Gravy is a welcome addition to the EDo restaurant scene, and if anything, the early hits to their reputation only prove that patience is a virtue. If you’ve waited this long to try them out, go now. The wait is over.

Gravy
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

Gravy

725 Central NE
242-4299

Hours: 8am to 10pm, Monday through Sunday
Vibe: Diner done right.
Booze: Beer on tap.

The Alibi recommends: Breakfast sandwich, cinnamon roll pancakes, fried chicken, steak frites