Alibi V.28 No.39 • Sept 26-Oct 2, 2019 

Restaurant Review

Sugar and Spice Where Everything Is Nice

Cinnamon Sugar & Spice Cafe brings quirk to Nob Hill

Dripping that maple sauce
Dripping that maple sauce
Eric Williams Photography

A long time ago, in a local chain I will not name, there was a love for the craft of food prep. The food felt gourmet, especially as a young child, and the food was a reasonable price that made brunch as a family easy. Add onto that a bunch of great desserts, a wide drink selection and that local feel, and you have a business that was set to succeed. Somewhere along the way during these past 20 years, that path to success was lost by said business and the magic was gone. For a long time, I assumed I’d never find something that replicated that feeling of love and comfort within a place, but here I am, all these years later, being proven wrong.

Cinnamon Sugar & Spice Cafe is that wonderful mix of quirky and strange that makes living in Albuquerque so rewarding and unique, while also bringing a diverse menu with enough twists to help the food stand out amongst the multitude of breakfast places scattered throughout the town. When I stopped in at the Nob Hill location, I was surprised by a few things. The first was how open and light it felt inside. You don’t see a lot of places with full glass walls anymore, let alone two of them (RIP Scalo). With the light pouring in and the air feeling fresher for it, I went inside to go take a seat. Among the regular tables and set ups, you can also enjoy something a little stranger, like sharing a table with a skeleton or hanging out on the swings. Yes, literal swings. The interior decoration is akin to what I would imagine a fairy’s forest hideout would look, with long draping flowers and vines giving the space a bit of a magical feel to it. In many ways, I felt like I had taken a wrong turn and ended up somewhere far different than a restaurant and into something else entirely, in a good way.

The drink selection is pretty standard fare for a cafe, with a lot of different takes on breakfast and lunch favorites and a big focus on coffee. I went with my usual, a vanilla latte, and found it to be a really solid latte. The delicate balance of espresso and steamed milk with the gentle hints of vanilla worked together in harmony to make a drink I was sad to take my last sip from, if only because it was over. Better to have loved a latte and lost, than to never have latte-ed at all, right?

For the food side, you’ve got choices galore. For example, there’s the Cin-fully Delicious French Toast ($8), using their housemade bread, tons of cinnamon and brown sugar-toasted pecans. You can add a side of protein for $2 more (I went with the bacon, and it was the right mix of crispy and chewy that only true bacon masters can juggle properly in the kitchen). The housemade bread is what really pushes this dish from a regular French toast to something worth sitting and savoring. Not overpoweringly sweet, the cinnamon helps give it the little bit of boost it needs to perk you up on every bite.

Next up was the Ham Croissant ($8), with a buttery croissant, ham, eggs, Swiss and tomato. A fairly standard breakfast sandwich, but as with most food, the trick is in the quality. The flakiness of the croissant and the rich butter taste helps make the ham and Swiss combo pop, with the eggs and tomato giving some contrast to the texture. Simply delicious.

They also do a lunch offering, with sandwiches, New Mexican classics, burgers, salads and some traditional Greek dishes. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to lunch, but the one that stood out the most to me, not just because of the name, but also for the ingredients, was the Grecian Not-chos. For $10, you get crispy pita points, gyros, feta, tzatziki sauce, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, pepperoncinis, lettuce and tomato. This is the ultimate nacho look-alike that feels like you’re doing something good for your body, as opposed to how nachos normally treat your entire system. You can devour this entire plate, yet still feel light and un-weighed down by the meal. It’s about the most Greek dish I’ve ever seen that was so far and away from my normal Greek expectations. If nothing else, points are awarded for creativity, but seriously, it’s just a really damn good lunch that isn’t going to leave you sweaty and heavy for the rest of the day.

Finally, the desserts. Everything is made fresh onsite. With a million different things to choose from, I went the traditional route with the cinnamon roll. In a world of Cinnabuns, heavy and calorically evil, and Frontier Sweet Rolls, traditional but lacking the light fluffiness you want from a traditional cinnamon roll, we’re lucky to have Cinnamon Sugar & Spice Cafe. This was sized well enough for a single person to enjoy without feeling bogged down, but also to comfortably share with another person without feeling like you didn’t get enough from just half. The frosting is sweet and gooey, dripping down on all sides like it’s being filmed for a ’70s Pillsbury ad. It was the kind of cinnamon roll that leaves you thinking of all the lesser ones you’ve had before, and wondering why you ever bothered with them when this one was here all along.

Cinnamon Sugar & Spice Cafe has found the magic that makes cafes like theirs stand out. It embraces the quirkiness and loses any pretense of being remotely corporate, giving it a sense of being truly local and a piece of the community. With its selection, its vibe and its quality, there’s no doubt Cinnamon Sugar & Spice Cafe will be an integral part of the continued growth of Nob Hill.