Last Call Baja Mexican Eatery6261 Riverside Plaza Ln. NW, Suite A1717-1207lastcallabq.com Hours: Mon-Sat 10am to 10pm, Sunday noon-8pmAlibi recommends: Try some smothered fries and select either a taco or a burrito by filling.Vibe: Crazy-kitsch of Mexican wrestling in a utilitarian yet friendlyspace
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I suspect that, like many of you, my first experience with Last Call was via their late-night, wacky-hours Nob Hill location. There, local revelers could soak up the evening with some twilight tacos and curbside conversation. I remember enjoying the fare … what I can remember, that is. So I was delighted to discover a Westside location that offers the same menu with far more traditional hours. As my memory was fuzzy at best, it was like trying it all again, for the first time. Understandably, Albuquerque is a pretty great taco town. We have all the geographical advantages, a kind of perfect storm of influences and ingredients, so hanging their hat on such a laser-focused menu—basically just tacos and burritos—could be risky if they didn’t deliver. Luckily for all involved, they absolutely do. Tucked in to one of the many retail spots in Riverside Plaza is their simple, utilitarian space, cozy yet comfortable, with a small outdoor patio to boot. You order at the bar, then turn in your playing card when picking up your food. A few simple paintings of luchadores appoint the space which, based on my handful of visits, seems to do a steady business throughout most of the day. As for the food, again, the menu is small: roughly four different stuffings, each available as either a taco or a burrito—the main difference being the addition of fries to fatten up the burritos. They offer fries a few ways and a “Signature Sammich” ($9) and that’s basically it. And you know what? It’s truly all you need! Your “decision-making flowchart” will go something like this: Fries to start? What type of protein? Taco or burrito? What kind of salsa? Or, if none of those sound right, the “sammich” then? It might sound easy, but I found each iteration and configuration to be delicious in its own right, and, unless you’re strictly vegan, I suspect you might too. The flavor profiles are roughly thus: chicken and cheese, carne asada either with or without cheese (as burritos both $8.50), beer-battered fish or the vegetarian burrito (both $7.50). Tacos come three for $8 or four for $10 with some twists between the tacos and their burrito counterparts.Sturdy burritos are wrapped by big, glorious tortillas with real handmade flavor, and the tacos are the small, soft, handmade corn tortillas you expect as a local. The fish tacos come with habanero salsa and the light and bright punch of pickle cabbage, and there are $1 specials on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5pm to 8pm. The chicken tacos have rich black beans, cilantro, lime and onion on board but it’s really these slight differences in toppings and salsa from taco to burrito that make each one just different enough to be worth trying and nearly impossible to choose between. For the strict vegans out there, I didn’t find anything but a side of fries though the vegetarian tacos without cotija cheese might do the trick (ask to make sure). Otherwise, the appetizer question, if you’re hungry (because even the half portion is generous) is “how do you want your fries smothered?” Here, similar choices abound: chicken, carne asada, the squash and chile de arbol salsa of the vegetarian fries—otherwise topped with a blend of Monterey Jack and cheddar, a dollop of Mexican cream, some chipotle aioli, tomatillo salsa with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime as a baseline. Again, the devil is in the details—and the tiny additions to each are rock-solid choices. The only real dark horses on the menu feature truffle oil—as an earthy, primary feature in the truffle fries ($7) and on a three-cheese grilled “Signature Sammich.” The smooth melt of Swiss, cheddar and smoked gouda between slices of hearty marbled rye with a smear of dill aioli is plenty, but grilling them atop white truffle oil takes this grilled cheese to a different place altogether. If you are a fan of truffle oil, this is certainly a “sammich” you don’t want to miss. It’s a gamble to limit what’s on offer, but it seems—be it wacky hours at their original location or a straightforward and simple menu elsewhere—Last Call does exactly what they want to do … and they do it damn well. With the confidence of their fare and the crazy-kitsch of Mexican wrestlers, they’re easy to spot and remember, and have rapidly become a new taco and burrito go-to for this luchador.