As themes to organize a restaurant around go, “eclectic” is a pretty solid one. Finding inspiration in world cuisine usually makes for a well-rounded menu, and the promise of both an “urban pizzeria” and a “tap house” was all I needed to give Eclectic a try.It’s a slightly industrial brick and concrete affair, offset by warm, butcher-block tables—call it casual and utilitarian dining with just enough comfy flair. The space was contained without feeling restrictive, and the weekday post-work dinner crowd was friendly and energetic. It felt like everyone was a regular, even if finding the lot and parking was a bit tricky. The Hot and Tangy chicken wing appetizer ($6/$10), promising sriracha and lime juice, caught my eye. More tangy than hot, these wings are certainly a touch askew from the typical, bringing just enough heat to get your lips tingling while even timid palates need not fear the sriracha. A small order gets you four wings, a large is eight, served with a thick ranch sauce for dipping. Enough of a start, but hearty appetites should plan on an entrée.If it’s lunch, and you can’t decide between salad and pizza—you’re in luck. The lunch special ($12) offers a little of each—half a pie and any of the salad options on the menu proper. I took a chance on the frisée and lardons salad—and I’m glad I did. The pan-crisped French lardons (bacon to us mere mortals) is smoky and salty, plus walnuts atop the fresh, crunchy frisée, quick-tossed in a tangy shallot vinaigrette—it’s just enough to flavor the greens without going soggy. You could add another protein if you’d like—but this vibrant and satisfying salad course doesn’t need it.The pizza half of the lunch special has you choosing between either Margherita, pepperoni or the one I picked (more in a second!). Two light appetites could probably get their fill sharing the special—or you’ll have a few leftovers for after work. As for my pizza, the ham and mushroom option is my enthusiastic recommendation. The rosemary-scented ham is sliced razor-thin, getting a salty char from the brick oven as it bakes. The button mushrooms are earthy with a touch of butter to them, and the red sauce mixes expertly with their spot-on blend of Cantal and mozzarella cheeses. Finish it off with fresh basil leaves, and you’ve got a fine half-pizza! Even if, like the internet says, every pizza can be a “personal pizza,” it’s probably wise to share the full-sized dinner pie—especially if you take a starter. The Tio Juanito with roasted chicken ($12 + $1.50), like all their pizzas, features my favorite kind of crust—thin, dry, with a little brick-oven burn on the underside. The pizza was light on the rough-torn bits of chicken, but generous on the Brie—which, even with the rind on, was mild and approachable. The Hatch green chile comes in long, thin strips and had each bite nicely balanced between the silk of the Brie, mozzarella and Cantal cheeses, the sauce, and the spice. And it being dinner, don’t forget a beer! There are quite a few to pick from, including a cache of locals—something I always applaud in a restaurant.For dessert, I went with the vanilla milkshake ($5). Smooth and light, as far as milkshakes go, and there was certainly a bit of that backyard, rock-salt, hand-churned ice cream flavor you will never forget if, like me, you had grandparents who made it. The whipped cream was a little dull, but I can forgive it. Had I not been so full, I surely would’ve jumped into another dessert—say the zeppole or the pecan brownie—but getting your money’s worth from your meal proper can hardly be a complaint.Leaving Eclectic, I found myself thinking about all the menus items I missed (tacos on Tuesday, a steak, fish and chips, and quite a few interesting-looking sides)—always a good sign. Everything from source cuisine, to location, to the simple but effective execution is just curious enough to surprise while still being down-home-friendly enough for anyone. No wonder everyone seemed like a regular. They’re open from 11am to 9pm Tuesday through Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday), so try them, and you just might become a regular yourself.
Eclectic Urban Pizzeria & Tap House2119 Menaul NE(505) 322-2863www.eatdrinkrepeat.usHours: Tue-Sat 11am-9pmVibe: Casual and utilitarian elbow-rubbing with regularsAlibi Recommends: Rosemary ham and mushroom 1/2 pizza, frisee and lardon salad