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From truck to barn: Smokehouse lures locals

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Chris White and Katie Calico are getting ready to celebrate the five-month anniversary of TFK Smokehouse in Southeast Albuquerque. But in reality, their BBQ business has been all around the Duke City for more than five years. For the majority of that time, TFK was a food truck.

It made sense financially – the truck was a much smaller financial investment than brick-and-mortar, said Calico, and it allowed the husband-and-wife team to test their smokehouse concept before taking the leap to a standalone building at 400 Washington SE, near Zuni, a space that previously housed Kasey’s Restaurant & Pub.

Chris White smokes turkey, hams, pastrami and prime rib with applewood at his TFK Smokehouse at 400 Washington St. SE. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

“We have a great local clientele,” said Calico. “They loved having Kasey’s here…and now we’re their go-to neighborhood spot.”

“We also developed quite a following,” said Calico of the food truck.

Calico and White, former sous chef at Slate Street Cafe, made the microbrew circuit, serving a menu of barbecue sandwiches, platters and sides at venues like Marble and LaCumbre. The truck, they said, looked like something out of a Mad Max movie. It was a domed cage of metal that garnered a lot of attention, said Calico, an artist who once owned a gallery at 4207 Lead SE called Talking Fountain. Many of the display fixtures and racks from the defunct art gallery were repurposed for the truck along with other artistic touches.

The gallery inspired the name Talking Fountain Kitchen.

The eatery offers smoked meat platters and sandwiches, as well as vegetarian options like Spinach Caprese and Grilled Portabello Mushroom. Sides include potato salad, cole slaw and a mac and cheese infused with champagne.

TFK also sells its meats by the pound and sides to go, and provides catering.

A combo plate at TFK Smokehouse at 400 Washington St. SE. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Pressed to name a customer favorite, Calico cited the beef brisket. It is tender, juicy and has the right amount of smoke flavor. As does the ham, turkey, bacon and chicken varieties.

“We smoke with applewood as opposed to (a variety like) oak,” said Calico, talking about the flavor profile. “We also use red chile in our spice rub” for a bit of a New Mexican twist.

Business plans include launching a brunch menu come summer, where the smoked meats will be paired with various egg dishes, said Calico.

TFK has some other news: The business recently got approved to sell beer and wine.

“We’re excited to have beer sales” to round out the revenue generated by lunch and dinner staples, where the portions are anything but skimpy, said Calico, whose artwork is also for sale on site.

MIXX-ing it up

The chef behind Sophia’s Place is launching a new eatery.

Dennis Apodaca is opening a new restaurant one year after the closing of Sophia’s Place, which he operated for over a decade.

Apodaca is shooting for an early March opening of REMIXX, described as Mexican restaurant with New Mexican influences. The new eatery will be Downtown at 901 Park SW. It will feature a breakfast and lunch menu to start, and will open in the summer for dinner. Expect classics, such as breakfast burritos with homemade salsa, fish tacos, gourmet salads, specialty sandwiches, and a surprise weekly Farmer’s Market special.

REMIXX, which formerly housed the MIXX Food Bar, will seat about 50 people indoors and 20 customers on the patio.

No stranger to the limelight, Apodaca appeared in an episode of the Food Network cooking competition show “Chopped” and Sophia’s restaurant was featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in 2008.

Whole LOTA love

The latest Blake’s Lotaburger in Albuquerque is at 1640 Gibson SE. The new outlet features a modern exterior and interior. (Courtesy of Lucy Rosen)

Blake’s Lotaburger, the iconic New Mexico-based hamburger chain that has grown to 75 locations throughout New Mexico, Texas and Arizona, chose Valentine’s Day to debut its newest location on Gibson Boulevard. The Feb. 14 opening also showcased the chain’s “new look” – incorporating both a more modern exterior and interior and amenities like wi-fi.

“Valentine’s Day was the perfect day to open our newest Blake’s location, giving us the opportunity to bring a LOTA love to the community as we launched our 75th location with a fun way to celebrate the holiday,” said Lucy Rosen, marketing director.

Turns out the burger chain not only served as the place where many New Mexicans had their first jobs, but has also been a venue where couples had their first dates or where Blake’s co-workers met their future spouses, Rosen said.

Steve Sinovic is the Journal’s retail reporter. He can be reached at ssinovic@abqjournal.com or by calling 505-823-3919.

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