Freight House Kitchen + Tap
Beer and BBQ are the key to elevated pub grub
Bernalillo may not be the first spot that springs to mind when considering your next bite to eat, but the Freight House could certainly change that. The sprawling yet inviting space is cozy with booths, lots of tables and even a large outdoor patio (weather permitting) that's as approachable as the menu. There are board games you can grab and play while you wait for your order, which we can call elevated pub-grub that leans heavily on its barbecued and smoked meats, while still delivering a few unexpected surprises.
As so much of the menu seems built around the barbecued offerings at the heart of the restaurant (they do a bustling BBQ to go), the three-meat combo BBQ Platter ($16.99) seemed to be the right place to start. I took smoked turkey, smoked brisket and the 1/4 rack of ribs with Fr8 slaw and mashed potatoes (an additional $.99). I found each to be pretty solid, with the brisket probably taking the other proteins at the wire, and leaned slightly to the Fr8Train sauce because of the added spice from green chile. The portions were healthy, and the side dishes both worked well with the rest of the plate. As BBQ is the heart of the restaurant, it set a good baseline of expectation.
The Smoked Turkey Cobb ($12.99) was a generous salad: loads of tomatoes, chopped hard-boiled egg, a grate of cheddar and avocado with the welcome surprise of scallions and corn. The crisped-up bacon cubes highlighted each bite with texture, while the smoked turkey played off the creamy blue cheese dressing—a sturdy salad to share or make a meal of.
But the first true delight of the menu was the Firebox Burger ($12.99). Granted, it’s pricey. But the combination of ground pork belly and beef does raise the bar on this beast. The ghost pepper cheese, fried jalapenos and jalapeno aioli bring just the right spice and heat, while the red chile kimchi delivers the knock-out blow of subtle vinegar with a cool, crisp crunch. Delight number two was the Fried Chicken + Waffle ($14.99). Call it a New Mexico take on a down south favorite, only instead of a waffle, it's more of a churro waffle dusted with cinnamon and sugar. The giant chicken breast was battered and fried to juicy perfection, and worked with the sweet of the waffle and—again—with the unexpected yet smooth calabacitas side. Green chile gravy and some garlic mashed potatoes finish the plate off, plenty to fill you up and certainly interesting enough to order again. Another dish that merits a re-order was the Brisket Tater Tots ($8.99). While pricey as a starter, it wasn't what I was expecting. And yet it didn't disappoint. Ground brisket shaped into "tots" and fried, served with two sauces for dipping, making for a rich, chewy bite with just enough crunch.
If you catch them on a Tuesday evening, the five types of tacos on the menu are just $2—and who doesn't have room for a $2 taco? I tried the Smoked Chicken Taco, which, for an inexpensive special, was massive. The chicken was juicy, with just a little smoke and spice in it, finished by the cool crunch of Fr8 slaw, some pico and a dusting of cotija. At a couple of bucks per, you could make a big meal out of just the taco Tuesday special. To wet our whistle, my dining companions and I dabbled in a local brew and one of their specialty drinks—the Pickled Mary ($6). It’s a Bloody Mary with just a touch of heat, but brightened by a couple of Freight House’s delicious house-made pickles.
For dessert, the chocolate cake ($5.99) was about what you'd expect—with the peanut butter mousse and chocolate sauce addition falling a touch short. The peanut brittle, on the other hand, was luxurious and sumptuous. But no worries: The portions being what they are on average, there might not be much room left for dessert.
In terms of its restaurateur pedigree, the Freight House counts among her sister restaurants both the Range Cafe and Standard Diner. There’s plenty to suggest they’re worth a try. And the secret is out among the locals—with the large space well-attended, even on historically sleepier dine-out nights like early weekdays. Throw in Freight House’s attention to local and regional brews and spirits, their bustling events, weekly specials and overall engagement with their community, and you've got all the makings of a go-to spot whenever you find yourself in the neighborhood. While prices may be a touch high, you'll certainly find more to like with a menu and a vibe that's easy-going yet inviting.
200 S. Camino Del Pueblo in Bernalillo
Everyday from 11am to 9pm
Alibi recommends: Firebox Burger, Fried Chicken + Waffle, sip on a Pickled Mary
Vibe: Friendly, neighborhood-like in a sprawling yet cozy space.