Flavors Far-out and Familiar
Duke City Kitchen rules AM roost
Growing up, we were sold on the idea of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Granted, it was probably an excuse for cereal companies to load kids up with sugar and send them into classrooms as little hellions, but the idea stuck in my mind after all these years. Breakfast is a tricky meal. You’ve got to get up early enough to be there before a kitchen closes the breakfast section and transitions fully into lunch. Beyond that, you’ve gotta hope that they actually know what they’re doing when it comes to making the food, because somehow tons of breakfast places still can’t cook an over medium egg right. How is their bacon? Too crispy? Not crispy enough? So many small factors go into making a breakfast worth going out for, and those factors are at the forefront of Duke City Kitchen.
Duke City Kitchen popped up in the parking lot next to Lomas and Manzano a few months ago and immediately appeared on my radar. Located only a few blocks from where I live, I finally had a new breakfast place to go explore. Unfortunately I also have the worst sleep hygiene of anyone in the city and rarely wake up early enough to get there before I have to go on with my day. The curse of late-night existence and a love of early morning food struck again.
But then the stars aligned. Due to early morning appointments, I was awake and mobile, finally able to stop by. A brief look at the menu showed an incredibly inventive selection that honored the classics but wasn’t afraid to take chances with flavor combos that shouldn’t work. I ended up going for a classic, something that was a spin on what I love and something that sounded altogether too crazy to work.
With coffee in hand, the waitress brought out the first order, the Huevos ($10). You can’t call yourself a New Mexican if you don’t love huevos rancheros. It is a simple and amazing dish that’s hard to do wrong, but even harder to do well. Their take on it features blue corn tortillas, three eggs, butter browns (think hash browns but softer), your choice of chile, cheese and garnish. The eggs were done perfectly, the cheese evenly melted and deliciously gooey. There’s nothing worse than mediocre huevos rancheros, which was something this dish managed to sidestep with no issues at all.
Then came the Hog Hash ($11). This dish is a meat lover’s paradise, served with the butter browns, sausage, chorizo, thick-cut diced bacon, diced ham served with choice of chile or bacon sausage gravy, all topped with cheese and eggs. There is something magical about this dish that I can’t really convey with words. Maybe my carnivorous heart was just satiated by the sheer amount of meat that this dish provided, all the fleshy and fatty breakfast staples combined into one ultimate dish that I shredded into a mess of color and flavor, its chunks no longer identifiable. This was an absolute dream to consume, with the chile just the right amount of hot for a breakfast meal. The bacon was very thick and crunchy which complemented the softness of the rest of the dish, creating a texture jamboree in my mouth.
I mentioned a third item, something that was too wild not to try. They offer lunch starting at 11am, featuring mostly sandwiches and burgers. When I asked my waitress what the weirdest thing on the menu was, she suggested the Betty ($12). This hamburger features peanut butter, green chile, sharp cheddar and blackberry jam on a ciabatta roll. Now, I’m willing to try things that don’t fit the mold every now and then, but this was legitimately the strangest combo I’ve seen in a long time in the 505. Peanut butter and jelly with cheese, beef and chile can’t work. I know those flavors intimately and while certain combinations of them work together, there was no way these could mesh. I have never been more wrong in my life.
This burger came out dripping with jam, a knife rising out of the top. I felt like I was watching an Ides of March reenactment (from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar). I boldly jumped in and was instantly floored by how phenomenal the flavor combination was. Beyond all reason, this was one of the best burgers I’ve ever tried. Maybe it was the fact that it meshes nostalgic childhood tastes with the New Mexican comfort food of green chile and cheese, all held together with this juicy beef that fills your mouth with every bite. Maybe it was the fact that I’ve never experienced all these flavors working in tandem, and my body reacted happily to something new and different. Or maybe it was just because this is one hell of a hamburger, and risks deserve to be rewarded. All I can tell you is that your biggest disservice to yourself in life is not giving this a shot at least once, because I have finally found love after 30 years of life on Earth, and it’s with this insane burger.
I have one issue with Duke City Kitchen, a simple fix that will probably change over time: I want them to stay open later. Usually closing around “2ish” according to their sign, this is the kind of food I would prefer to have access to all day long. My hope, dearest readers, is that if you help fill the seats of this food haven, they will have no choice but to stay open later to let me get this burger as a late-night snack. So, I beseech you, do not miss out on Duke City Kitchen. We don’t get adventurous culinary chances often, and I would hate to see that vanish.
5016 Lomas Blvd NE
Hours: Tue-Sat: 7am-2pm Sun: 8am-1pm, breakfast only
Vibe: Chillaxed breakfast and lunch joint
Alibi Recommends: The Betty, The Betty and The Betty