There are two strikes against The Shop right from the get-go. The first is that it’s called “The Shop,” which immediately turns any conversation about it into an Abbott and Costello routine. “Have you been to The Shop?” “Which shop?” “The Shop! It’s called The Shop!” “What kind of shop?!” and so on as the world’s easiest-to-please studio audience erupts into laughter. The second is that it’s in one of those store-fronts-of-doom, a location that chews up restaurants and spits them out. Last year, the site was home to Cecilia’s Nob Hill location. Before that, the Chocolate Café. Before that, well, suffice to say that there are quite a few “before that’s.” But even the most ignorant non-sports-fan alive (which is to say, me) knows that two strikes don’t mean a damn thing if the next swing knocks the ball out of the park—and when it comes to the food, The Shop does just that. And thank God, too, because I’ve exhausted my baseball metaphors. As I said, The Shop is in a funny kind of location, behind the Taco Bell on Central and Girard, in a strip center that doesn’t typically see a restaurant stick around for too long. Just down the row, Amore Pizza is doing its best to buck the trend, and maybe with two high-quality joints like these, they’ll make it together. I dearly hope so. The Shop offers upscale diner food for breakfast and lunch; ingredients seem straight-from-the-garden fresh, and it’s clear that whoever’s working the kitchen is some kind of spice genius. For breakfast, there’s the usual lineup of pancakes, French toast, waffles ($7.50 for each of those) and huevos rancheros ($9), but I advise that you not turn your nose up at these typical offerings. Take the waffle for instance. There’s something magical about this golden brown concoction. The crunch is juuuuuust right, and the buttery batter makes for a blissful experience in eating it. I don’t know if you’ve ever been propelled to a higher state of consciousness by a breakfast item, and for that matter I don’t know if it’s possible, but if anything is going to get you there, it’s this waffle. The Shop is also one of the few places in New Mexico to offer chilaquiles ($15). The Shop’s version is a far cry from the Tex Mex scramble, and pricier than expected, but I have no complaints. Because, look, there’s a frigging ribeye steak in the middle of your eggs and corn chips. And it’s no slouch ribeye either: coffee and cumin rubbed, cooked to order and just slightly spicy. Maybe not your classic chilaquiles, but they can call it whatever they want as far as I’m concerned.Don’t miss the Kentucky hot brown ($10.50) either. Eggs, cooked to order, rest atop a succulent slice of ham and beneath them both, battered bread. Drizzled over the whole mess is a white cheddar mornay sauce. The effect is a a bit like the richest, most delicious biscuits and gravy you’ve ever had. With ham. For lunch, The Shop puts up a selection of sandwiches and a few varieties of mac and cheese. Of the three sandwiches I tried—duck confit, qbano and carne adovada torta—the carne adovada ($9) really stood out as something special. A just-hot-enough red chile, with a touch of sweetness and paprika accents saturating the traditional and tender pork pieces, this is carne adovada at its finest. The torta presents it on some bread with greenery and lime dressing, but I’d be happy with it in a bowl all by its lonesome. The duck confit ($10) is a super-rich and juicy little sandwich that benefits from the zing of balsamic vinaigrette. As far as the mac and cheese is concerned, I don’t often find myself ordering mac in a restaurant (being something of a blue box purist), but the bacon mac ($7.50) is top of the class and just as bacony as you could wish for. Again, not my thing, but it made my dining companion very happy indeed. Now, let it not be said that this place is perfection itself. There are a few missteps on the menu. The fried chicken and waffle ($10) is notable only for the aforementioned waffle. The chicken itself is tasty and juicy, but the batter is nondescript in terms of flavor. The qbano sandwich ($9.50), besides the sin of being a vehicle for an arbitrary ‘q,’ doesn’t make much of an impression either. Don’t get me wrong: if you’re hankering for pork shoulder, this might work for you, but otherwise there are much better choices on this menu. And that’s it. That’s all the buzzkill I can muster for this place.In other words, I’m strongly recommending it. And I can only hope that whatever mischievous spirit has cursed their location sees fit to lift the spell and allow them to thrive. And you should, too.
The Shop2933 Monte Vista433-2795theshopbreakfastandlunch.comHours: 8am to 3pm, Tuesday through SundayClosed MondayVibe: High class diner Vegetarian/Vegan options? YesPrice range: $6.50-$15Weekly Alibi recommends: Waffle, carne adovada torta, chilaquiles, bacon mac