"We are what we eat," they say. So when it comes to dropping dining dollars, I look for a few simple things: I want a restaurant to be mindful about buying from local growers and agribusiness, to support local brewers, and to deliver something better than I can make myself. Slate Street Cafe, tucked away on the fringes of Downtown, is exactly that kind of restaurant. A bright, earthy, minimalist/industrial space and a down-right friendly staff welcome diners. For most of the week it caters to casual worker-drones like me, while weekends tend toward the brunch and date-night crowd.We started with a Saturday brunch. The patio is cozy, spartan in design, but well shaded—a fine spot for our late-morning nosh. Since it was brunch, we opted for something from both the menu’s “breakfasty” and “lunchy” options, and some mimosas. While I’m sure the traditional orange juice mimosa is great (or the pomegranate, for that matter), as fans of swanky salty dog cocktails, we ordered the grapefruit mimosa ($5). It’s a tart citrus pop that is quickly mellowed by the sweetness of the champagne. In fact, we took to shooting quick belts with a little lick of salt off the knuckles. Just keepin’ it classy, Albuquerque.Our first plate was the green chile turkey sausage sliders ($9)—an elevated take on biscuits and gravy. The flaky biscuits were punctuated with green chile and cheddar, and piled with farm-fresh turkey sausage patties which were themselves slathered with a white chipotle gravy. It came with hash browns covered by a quick melt of white cheddar. The salt, smoke and hearty, creamy flavors were balanced and precise. I added an over-easy egg for serious breakfast perfection.The “lunchy” menu’s house staple, the bruschetta ($10), is a crowd favorite for good reason. It holds up as either a shareable appetizer or meal for one. The crusted bread, still soft in the middle, combines perfectly with the “pick-three” (of-many) flavor combinations. Choose wisely and the dish makes for a stripped down three-course meal—all in one entrée! We started with the pungent, gooey Maytag blue cheese atop flash-wilted spinach, all finished by a tangy balsamic reduction and call that your salad course. For the “main course,” the char-sweated honey ham and creamy, melted brie mimicked an elegant open-faced sandwich. And we ended with the honey-infused ricotta under small, almost creamy dates, topped with slices of toasted almonds. One order, three courses, and no leftovers.For lunch we sat in Slate Street’s main room, decorated by vibrant, floral artwork, chic pendant lights and windows with live plants. It was one of summer’s hottest days, so it was a bit warm. I’d vote for a few ceiling fans to push the air around more, but that’s a minor gripe.No complaints with the food, however. There’s a great burger, the turkey sandwich is a go-to and daily specials are usually worth gambling on. But the best-kept secret at Slate Street is the fish. Even the fish-n-chips is made with salmon, but the dish that’ll knock your socks off is the seared salmon club ($13). The slightest char on the briney sourdough, the decadent mayonnaise, a clutch of sweet, leafy lettuce and smoky, thick-cut bacon all sit atop the light, perfectly rare-seared salmon steak. As a spice lover, I’d like to see the same sandwich done Cajun style, but even as it is, I’d stack it up against the best fish sandwiches in town. No mention of their lunch would be complete without talk of the fries. Salt-and-peppered to perfection, the sturdy French cut is thin enough to handle the fry, but thick enough to keep from over-crisping.At its core, Slate Street is a white tablecloth, date-night dinner spot. It features beers from a handful of local breweries, and their wine list (curated by the owner herself) is varied and complex. Wine matters here. The staff has really been put through their paces wine-wise, and will be happy to offer pairing suggestions if you need, so ask away.As appetizers go, the calamari and artichokes ($11) are hard to beat. The breading stays light and the calamari is terrifically fresh. The artichokes go soft and buttery when fried, and the sweet and fiery raspberry chipotle cocktail sauce absolutely crushes it. I truly can’t wait to order this again.For dinner, there’s plenty of big proteins to try. But for a lighter summer appetite, the mini sesame pork shanks ($10) deliver huge flavor. A glorious slather of spices and a soy glaze coat the bone-in shanks in salty, umami sumptuousness. Two shanks come on a bed of jasmine rice with a couple of flash-grilled scallions to tie the signature flavor together. If it’s a post-work beverage you seek, the wine loft is for you. There are some small plates available—holdovers from lunch plus a few dinner options—but the star of the loft is the wine itself. Slate hosts monthly tastings—a great way to rub elbows as you try a few vineyards. Again, the staff truly shine here—offering terrific, layperson descriptions that’ll get you to a wine you like without feeling like a rube. We left with a few names (True Myth Cabernet and the Crios Malbec among them) to hunt down next time we have some wine snobs to impress.According to Geology.com, slate (the metamorphic stone) is popular in architecture and design because of "its durability and attractive appearance." Both hold true for the restaurant as well. As for my metrics: they source locally, while proudly supporting our breweries and vintners. Check and check. And they cook better than me too—boy do they. I am all too happy to sit down to a plate of whatever they got. Sit yourself down to a plate of your own soon.
Slate Street Café515 Slate NW243-2210slatestreetcafé.comHours: 7:30am to 3pm, 4pm to 9pm, Tuesday through Thursday7:30am to 3pm, 4pm to 10pm, Friday9am to 2pm, 5pm to 10pm, Saturday9am to 2pm Sunday7:30am to 3pm MondayWine loft opens at 4pm Tuesday to SaturdayVibe: Metamorphic deliciousnessThe Alibi recommends: Salmon club, bruschetta, green chile turkey sliders.