Catch the Pizza Bug
Blue Grasshopper has serious pizza and scads of beer
According to comedic genius Dave Barry, “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” Blue Grasshopper Brewpub on the West Side invented neither beer nor pizza, but does a damn fine job at serving up both to the sweaty Burqueños who crawl into its cool, dark depths.
In a sprawling shopping center near Montaño and Coors, lies Blue Grasshopper's newest and second location. After the blinding sun and triple-digit heat, the interior is like a subterranean oasis. It is dark, a long bar skirts the back wall which displays their massive beer list, and tables are scattered about like a field of stalagmites in a cave. There are two random chandeliers. Life-size statues of the Blues Brothers stand frozen in melodic motion in a back corner not far from the small stage where local and traveling musicians play tunes six nights out of the week.
On my first visit at lunchtime on a weekday, the joint was almost completely empty. I perused the menu, asked my server about his favorites, then made my selection: beer cheddar dip with pretzels ($6), fried buffalo wings ($6) and a Reubenesque SW sandwich ($9). I flipped through the beer menu—a few half-page printouts stapled together—and saw everything a thirsty 21+ person could ask for: Scotch ale, Monk's ale, milk stout, Elevated IPA, amber ale, hefeweizen, Maibock … on and on and on. All for $5 a pint. An impressive collection, to say the least.
The chunky demisphere of beer cheddar dip, garnished with grated cheese and wreathed in nutty brown pretzels arrived first. The white dip was creamy and thick. I picked up a pretzel and dug in. It was nice enough as a generic chip dip, but I didn't really get a cheesy, malty beer flavor from it. It tasted like salty sour cream—which isn't a crime since sour cream is delicious, but I didn't quite find the flavors I was hoping for. I continued to munch on it anyway until the rest of my food arrived.
Six orange wings lay nestled in a checkered basket with cups of ranch and blue cheese dressing. I'd requested the fried, hot 'n' spicy buffalo kind. They followed the lead of the dip—good enough as far as bar food goes but not mind-blowing.
Next up was the reuben done Southwestern-style with gouda cheese and green chile. On the side were house-made fries with “ale ketchup.” The 'wich was tasty enough and certainly filling. I commend the cooks for using real green chile—not the sissy stuff. It was hot and flavorful in a way that sort of took over the pastrami and sauerkraut, but again I can't complain. The funny thing about my meal was the small, almost insignificant detail that blew me out of the water: the ale ketchup. Heavens to Betsy, it was incredible and unexpected, and I couldn't get enough. The potatoes were perfectly cooked—crisp on the outside, soft on the inside—and salted just right. The ketchup looked like regular ol' ketchup, but had a fantastic malty flavor that brought the whole experience up a level. I'd go back just for the ketchup and fries.
My next sojourn to the western wastes was a bit harried, so I called ahead and ordered three 7” pizzas ($8/each) to go: a Margherita, a Meatless Monday and a Gyro. As I paid, a total stranger turned to me and mumbled, “Smells good. Garlic!” I smiled and greedily proclaimed that all three were for me. Back in my car, that garlicky smell filling the small space, I decided to taste just one slice before heading back to the office. I chose the gyro. It was cute and lovely in that handmade sort of way that excellent pizzas have. The crust was thin with little patches of oven burn that provide tons of smoky flavor. I bit into a small triangle, and my eyes rolled back in my head. A huge grin lit up my face as pungent red onion, tender sheaves of gyro meat, cool tzatziki sauce, crumbles of tangy white feta and fresh, juicy tomato slices played over my tongue. It was extraordinary. I felt a momentary sadness that I would have to drive way the hell out there again if I ever wanted to have this taste of heaven again, then shrugged and shoved another slice in my mouth. Almost the entire pizza was gone by the time I got back to the office.
With gleaming eyes and flour-dusted fingers, I pried open the other two pizza boxes. Aromas of Italian spices and that wonderful garlic rose up to greet my nose. The Margherita was salty and gooey with Parmesan, mozzarella and provolone. It was bedecked with four rosy tomato slices and liberally sprinkled with green herbs. The nightshade fruit was surprisingly sweet, but balanced by the earthy qualities of the oregano. The Meatless Monday—a vegetarian pie with a rich, thick white garlic sauce—pranced along the pizza conga line going across my desk, delivering chewy sun-dried tomato, firm cubes of green zucchini and zingy artichoke hearts. That lunch was the most exciting and delicious part of my whole week.
So, sure, the first visit wasn't the most amazing I've ever had, but the second more than made up for it. That gyro pizza was some of the best pie I've had in Albuquerque, and I'll definitely be back for more.
6361 Riverside Plaza Lane NW
Hours: Sun-Thu noon-10pm Fri-Sat noon-midnight