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Hidden gem: Oak Street Cafe a charming oasis with tasty pub-style fare

Oak Tree Cafe is a splendid little sandwich shop off Alameda serving high-quality hamburgers, sandwiches and salads, but its low profile and location mean you probably haven’t eaten there, and that’s too bad because the food is stellar.

The place is adorable, if only on the inside. It’s in a strip mall near the Rio Grande, but inside, the place reveals itself as a charming Albuquerque oasis, complete with a hot air balloon gondola hanging from the rafters.

But the food is the real story.

Three or four small potatoes are baked, halved, then scooped out and a mixture of cheeses and bacon is sprinkled on top at Oak Tree Cafe. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

I went all in during a recent visit and tried a little bit of everything. I started with the potato skins appetizer (around $8), a delicious and filling starter made fresh in house. Three or four small potatoes are baked, halved, then scooped out, and a mixture of cheeses and bacon is sprinkled on top. The whole thing is baked and topped with sour cream.

The potato skins were fantastic, reminiscent of good pub fare, and would make a hearty meal all by themselves. As an appetizer, they’ll serve two or three easily. (They also make excellent leftovers – just pop them into the oven for 15 minutes and they’ll come out as fresh as the moment they were served.)

The main course was one of Oak Tree’s signature sandwiches, the Fifth Avenue (around $10; prices change frequently), a turkey sandwich topped with provolone and sun-dried tomatoes. Sandwiches at Oak Tree come with a pickle spear and either apple coleslaw, homemade macaroni salad or fresh fruit. For the sake of variety, I opted for the macaroni salad and added a side of steakhouse fries.

The sandwich was absolutely awesome: a healthy portion of fresh turkey is piled onto a kaiser roll, then smothered with melted provolone cheese. A delicate paste of sun-dried tomatoes, sliced tomatoes and fresh lettuce finished off the sandwich, along with a dash of extra-virgin olive oil. It was delicious and savory and filling; the provolone might have been a slightly unfortunate option for this particular sandwich, because it competed a bit with the sun-dried tomatoes. A mild Swiss would have turned this into a masterpiece of a sandwich.

The fries ($4) were great, too, and they came in a wine-bottle serving boat that you will probably see at no other restaurant ever. Little touches like this – and a long row of local microbrews on tap, a laid-back order-at-the-counter atmosphere, and Albuquerque memorabilia lining the walls – make Oak Tree Cafe an undiscovered gem on the north side of town.

The service is phenomenal, as well. You’ll get your meal less than 20 minutes after ordering (usually a lot less). The restaurant has a menu items kids will love, like its famous fish and chips, served on Fridays, and parking is convenient and plentiful.

There is nothing not to love about Oak Tree Cafe, from the top-notch deli meats to the locally inspired ingredients. (In true local fashion, green chile is available to add to any dish). Oak Tree Cafe is truly an undiscovered neighborhood hangout!

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