Next Door to the Brewery
Sweets and sandwiches at Three Little Birds
Cozied up back on the lot next to Tractor Brewing in Nob Hill, Three Little Birds Cafe & Co. could easily have gone under your radar since its opening last year. The location isn’t exactly highly visible. I knew to look for it only because I had heard that the owners of Swiss Alps Bakery had opened it, and their cookies and pastries are pretty legendary.
Once you find the place, you walk in to order at the counter. The decor is pretty simple, with floor-to-ceiling windows all across the north side of the building and a garage door that gets opened during nice weather.
At the counter there’s specials written on a little sandwich board and plenty of pastries, cookies and sweets in a display case to tempt you: brownies and turnovers and truffles and cannolis. Maybe you lose sight of why you originally came here—for lunch—and grab a cherry turnover from the second-day shelf. But the buttery layers of the pastry dough and the crunchy coarse sugar on top are definitely a worthwhile holdover while you wait for your meal to come.
Three Little Birds is about as close to a deli as I’ve seen in Albuquerque. They do breakfast and lunch and, cleverly, stay open late to cater to the Tractor Brewing crowd as well. You can order at TLB, take a number and let them know that you’ll be at the brewery, and they’ll bring your order over to you. Though the menu is pretty limited to sandwiches, soups and salads, the fresh-baked breads from Swiss Alps makes this place stand out from your standard office drone lunch spot.
On a lunch trip I order the soup du jour and half sandwich, which happens to be a tomato basil soup and grilled cheese—some real comfort food. The sandwich is made with Swiss Alps’ own sourdough bread, buttered and cooked to crispy, cheesy perfection in a pan with gooey Swiss cheese. The tomato basil soup is garlicky and creamy, with both fresh and sundried tomatoes adding big flavor to the mix.
For breakfast, TLB has only a few entrée options—a breakfast sandwich, a daily quiche and a standard eggs-bacon-toast plate. The breakfast sandwich ($5.95) comes on one of Swiss Alps’ round soft rolls, a light potato bread piled with two scrambled eggs and a cheese and meat of your choice. It’s a hit-the-spot breakfast for a highly reasonable price.
If you’re looking to accompany your meal with something sweet, the peanut butter bar ($2.95) is upsettingly good. It’s like a giant Reese’s peanut butter cup, crunchy, sweet and peanutty, and entirely worth the inevitable stomach ache when you finish the whole thing.
The biggest turnoff to me was getting served on paper plates and plastic cafeteria trays. I understand that Three Little Birds does a lot of delivering to Tractor next door, and I fully expect that kind of presentation when I’m dining out like that. But people who are dining in at least should get real plates and silverware, right? It’s concerning in terms of all the stuff going into the landfill, for sure, but it also just feels a little cheap.
I’m sure that people who frequent Tractor Brewing appreciate having a ready source of grilled cheeses and panninis after a few beers on a weekend—and I suspect that’s TLB’s main source of business. The location isn’t very conducive to a lunch crowd on its own. But each time I was there, I saw several Nob Hill workers come in to grab a take-out lunch and chat with the staff there. It’s obviously become a go-to for some of the neighborhood, and so I hope it continues to do well. Whether you’re dining in or just passing through, stopping in for a dessert is doubtless worth your time.
114 Tulane Dr SE
Hours: Mon-Thu 8am-9pm, Fri-Sat 8am-10pm, Sun 8am-5pm
Vibe: Simple take-out and lunch spot, quiet and secluded.
Alibi Recommends: Soup and grilled cheese, peanut butter bar