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Unmasked flavor: Food and brews rock at pub founded by Kiss lead singer

If local chains like Buffalo Wild Wings are sports bars, then Rock & Brews on Montgomery is more like a music hangar – a giant barn-like structure celebrating food and classic rock.

Opened in 2014 by Kiss lead singer Gene Simmons, it’s one of only a few locations in medium-sized markets across the country.

If you were subjected to the indignity of consuming food at Planet Hollywood during its heyday, you’re forgiven for your low expectations of Rock & Brews. While this cool restaurant doesn’t display much in the way of priceless memorabilia, the food is surprisingly good.

It’s not cheap, but it is very good.

The food is a mix between such Southern comfort classics as fried catfish and such American standards as pizza and burgers. The restaurant also has a mile-long beer list, diet and kid-friendly items, and some inventive desserts.

Like many friendly pubs, Rock & Brews also has some spectacular appetizers. The best one, though, is surely the Sgt. Pepper’s Jalapeño Poppers ($9.49). Giant fresh jalapeños are halved, then filled with cream cheese and then breaded in a great panko batter. They’re served with spicy ranch, and they are hands down the best jalapeño poppers I’ve ever had.

They were piping hot, both from the heat and from the spice, and they were so big they’d satisfy a family of four (or make a great late-night snack). These are twice as big as every other jalapeño popper you’ve ever had.

They were also made that day, not frozen or reheated, so the ingredients maintained their integrity and flavor. This Beatles-themed starter is a must-order item.

The baby-back barbecue ribs are marinated in a spice rub at Rock & Brews. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

The baby-back barbecue ribs ($15.49) were phenomenally good as well. They were blackened on the outside, and instead of being slathered in thick, sweet barbecue sauce, the spice rub marinated the meat to a perfect degree.

To say they were tender doesn’t do them justice. The meat – a lot of it, with very little fat (but just enough to kick up the flavor) – was smoky and flavorful and had the consistency of a slow-cooked pot roast.

This is the way all ribs should be done.

They were accompanied by crispy, breaded french fries and a cup of homemade coleslaw that was admittedly a little bland, but the fries were fantastic.

To keep fries from getting soggy, a lot of people lightly dust them with flour. These were also coated with a hint of spice for even more flavor, so they were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. French-fried perfection.

To finish the meal, you can’t do better than the “Purple Rain Drops” ($6.99, all menu items bear rock ‘n’ roll-themed monikers). They’re half a dozen round French-style doughnuts that are filled with warm chocolate and served with a raspberry reduction. They’re obviously not diet-friendly, but they’re definitely rock ‘n’ roll.

Beer enthusiasts will find heaven inside Rock & Brews, with every conceivable type of beer on tap or in bottles. But it’s also a surprisingly family-friendly spot; two families with adorable children dined on either side of me, and we all felt at home.

The only diner who might not find paradise is one with an aversion to loud noises. The place blasts rock music, though not too loud to bar a conversation at your table. Diners with sensitive ears might request outside seating (which features fire pits) or arrive with earplugs.

Albuquerque is lucky to have a spot so good, and the locals packed in on the Saturday that I visited prove the city is embracing Rock & Brews wholeheartedly.

It’s a place where you might bump into Gene Simmons, and that’s pretty cool.