When news first broke that Flying Star—that fixture of Albuquerque eating since the late ‘90s—was facing bankruptcy, many of my friends turned into armchair business strategists and weighed in with what they saw as the company's fatal mistake. Over-expansion was a popular theory, along with criticism of the coffee-shop wing of the enterprise, Satellite, and the trade-dress redesign it had gone through recently, perhaps in preparation for breaking into out-of-state markets. But, by far, the most common refrain was about the prices.
“Maybe they shouldn't charge so damned much.”
This was voiced with some variation (sometimes people said “so goddamned much”) by almost everyone I spoke to. And it seems that Flying Star's owners, Mark and Jean Bernstein, were having similar conversations and decided to respond. Walk into a Flying Star right now, and in front of the familiar baked goods case and ordering counter, you'll see the brand new “Café Menu” emblazoned on its very own display stand. More shockingly, you'll find, right there on that list, sandwiches for less than $10 and a grouping of hamburgers for about the same price. In other words, the stars of Flying Star have heard your cries for affordable options, and they have answered them.
In other words, the stars of Flying Star have heard your cries for affordable options, and they have answered them.
How does it all stack up, though, really? To find out, I rounded up a group of my office-mates and headed over to the nearest Star (you're never more than .5 miles away in this town) and gave it a shot. Here's what we had, and what we thought.
Constance Moss, Front Desk
“It was really good. Loved the pretzel roll it came on, and the artisan mustard. The bacon was excellent. All in all it seemed to have a more Germanic influence than most BLTs. I'm not sure if $8.50 for it was a great value, but it was a great BLT.”
Tossed Caesar Salad, $10.95
Mark Lopez, Copy/Calendars Editor
“This was pretty tasty, although the chicken was a tad dry. With this kind of salad, the dressing can sometimes be overpowering, but I was pleasantly surprised by how it complemented the flavors of the chicken, cheese and croutons. I think the cheese could have done with a little more shredding. But that's just me. For $11, I probably wouldn't order this salad again. Then again, my motto in life is ‘If it's cheap or free, it's me.’”
New Mexico Burger, $10.95
Ty Bannerman, Food and Features Editor
“I was surprised they didn't ask me how I wanted it done, but it came out a pretty solid medium, so I was happy with that. The local beef was firm and flavorful, and the chile had a smoky heat to it that set it apart from many of Albuquerque's also-ran green chile burgers. I ordered onion rings on the side, and they had a nice crisp batter and weren't greasy. The onions themselves were sweet and delicious. All in all, a good burger for the price.”
Final judgment: There’s nothing earth-shatteringly new here, though it’s nice to see a better selection of burgers and a few bucks knocked off the prices. We’re still not talking about a lunch “bargain” at Flying Star, but the food is of a high quality with a lot of local ingredients, and the prices now seem more in line with our expectations.