It’s hard to think of a piece of popular entertainment—film, TV show or otherwise—that has impacted Albuquerque as dramatically as “Breaking Bad.” To get an idea of how it has shifted our cultural landscape, just take a stroll through Old Town and note how Walter White t-shirts have overtaken Kokopelli in the windows of Southwestern kitsch stores. So it was with a heavy heart that we all watched the final season approximately one year ago, knowing that although the Greek tragedy of Heisenberg and company had come to a satisfying conclusion, a significant part of the local economy was going to be left hanging.
Imagine the joy then when AMC announced that the spin-off series “Better Call Saul” would hit the airwaves in 2015 and that it would continue to be filmed in Albuquerque.
One local business that has some insight into the new show is Café Lush (700 Tijeras NW), a boutique diner in Downtown that will pop up during the premiere on Feb. 8. I sat down with owner/head chef Tom Docherty to ask him about his experience with the filming of the episode and how he intends to mark the show’s airing.
Q: So you’re going to be featured on the first episode of “Better Call Saul,” which is kind of an event around here. How did that come about?
And Vince Gilligan came in again when they were finally filming and gave my wife a big hug. So she was giddy.
A: Well, somebody had called us to scout for a [different] film and asked if they could use us. And one day my wife was sitting here in the restaurant, and I said “Oh, look, they’re here!” Obviously, people were out with cameras, and I said, that must be them. And then my wife said, “Oh my god, that’s [”Breaking Bad” creator] Vince Gilligan!”
Q: She recognized him?
A: She used to be part of the film scene in New Mexico. So he came in and had lunch here and said, “We want to use your place,” and we were stunned.
Q: So it was kind of happenstance?
A: Yeah, they liked the name of the restaurant, and since it’s set like eight years before “Breaking Bad,” they liked that this restaurant looked like it could have been here at any time, 15 years ago, whatever. And Vince Gilligan came in again when they were finally filming and gave my wife a big hug. So she was giddy. They took over the place for a whole day. And it was such a hot day, so we brought some patio furniture and set up a kind of lounge [for the crew]. ... So they filmed it, and now you can see us in the trailer. Right at the end when Saul says, “You better believe it!” or something. In the background you can see the restaurant.
Q: Did they film inside at all?
A: No, it was all outside. But my wife Sandy is in it. They used her for one of the scenes where they are at a table. She wore our t-shirt, and they kept the name and everything.
Q: Are you doing anything special to mark the premiere?
A: I’m going to have a Saul burger and a Jimmy McGill overstuffed ham rollup as specials.
Q: Jimmy McGill being Saul’s real name?
A: I think so. Sandy watched every trailer there was, and at some point he’s called “Jimmy McGill.”
Q: Did Bob Odenkirk come in at all?
A: No, he stayed across the street. This is kind of a spoiler maybe, but he was working with some skateboarders to run a scam. I think I can tell you that.
“Better Call Saul” premieres on Feb. 8 at 8pm on AMC. Café Lush is open 7am to 2:30pm Monday through Friday, 8am to 1pm Saturdays.