Alibi V.20 No.50 • Dec 15-21, 2011 

Mina's Dish

Side Dishing

Piggy’s, Plum and Pizza 9

Piggy’s Hot Dogs and Hamburgers

4400 Central SE • 948-1596

Hacienda Express, on the corner of Central and Washington, is gone. Piggy’s opened in its place on Nov. 7, a drive-through and walk-up restaurant with some of the best dogs in town.

The menu isn’t fussy—dogs, brats, burgers, chicken, fish and grilled cheese sandwiches. Grilled chopped onions and the usual fixings dress up the grilled, buns and meat just fine. But that simple plan has been six years in the making for owners Robert and Brandy Torres, who previously worked in auto dealerships.

Brandy mans the windows while Robert handles the grill, charring dogs and sausages to perfection. Their “pig tail”—mild andouille sausage rolled on a stick—gets its crispy skin from a dip in the fryer. A few carefully selected sides includs thin, lightly battered fries.

It wouldn’t hurt to call ahead with big orders.

Plum Cafe Asian Grill

4959 Pan American Fwy. NE • 433-3448

The Plum crew, with Brian Triem and Wyn Chao at center
The Plum crew, with Brian Triem and Wyn Chao at center
Mina Yamashita

Plum Cafe Asian Grill serves a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai food that’s new to the city. Wyn Chao and his brother Brian Triem have been working for 10 months in preparation for their recent opening, but they’re a part of a family restaurant business that began decades ago.

Chao’s parents are native Chinese who relocated to Vietnam as “boat people” in 1979. The upheaval kept them moving, and as Chao puts it, “They became boat people again and came to the United States.” In 2002 they landed in Roswell, where the family opened two restaurants, the Kwan Den Grand Buffet and Zen Asian Diner. The parents eventually moved to California, but by then Chao and his brother had established themselves as restaurateurs, opening Banana Leaf in Rio Rancho, which they sold in 2006.

Plum uses the order-at-the counter model, but the dining area is spacious and elegant. Plus, its location in the Century Rio complex is right on the money for folks looking for a bite before or after the movies.

The menu includes many familiar dishes, but it’s the finesse and creativity that set them apart. Most dishes can be made vegetarian. The tama cod, battered and crispy, is glazed in a tamarind sauce that would appeal to orange chicken fans. The Thai mango curry is creamy and expertly spiced, but you can always ask to have the heat adjusted.

View Plum Cafe Asian Grill in Alibi Chowtown Chowtown

Pizza 9

1716 Eubank NE • 323-6463

Mina Yamashita

Julie Johnson became the owner of a new Northeast Heights Pizza 9, an Albuquerque-based franchise, a month ago. In addition to a standing menu of pizzas (including buttery deep-dish crusts), calzones, pizza rolls, sandwiches and salads, she’s begun adding her own specials. Buffalo wings, for example, are moist and medium spicy. The 12-inch pizza is also available gluten-free.

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