Albuquerque is landlocked.
And itâ€™s more than 600 miles from the nearest ocean, but that doesnâ€™t mean you have to drive all day to find decent seafood.
Pelicanâ€™s Steak & Seafood in the Northeast Heights flies in fresh catches so you can taste the bounty of the sea without freezer burn.
The restaurant sits in what looks like a New England dock house, decked out in Polynesian- and nautical-themed art and objects, and complete with fish tanks and captainâ€™s wheels on the wall.
I recently tried both surf and turf: The teriyaki center-cut sirloin steak ($18.95) and the grilled salmon ($21.95) were both excellent, oversized plates of food. The teriyaki steak was large, probably 10 ounces or more, and was grilled to perfection with a slice of grilled pineapple on top. It had a slight teriyaki flavor, but it wasnâ€™t overwhelming: it reminded me a lot of a high-end Japanese steakhouse, minus the theatrics.
The flavor, though, was great. It was as tender as a filet, and with the teriyaki marinade, it had a sweetness to it that added to, and didnâ€™t mask, the flavor of the meat.
The salmon was fresh and filling. Both entrees came with massive loaded baked potatoes and a loaf of bread for the table with roasted garlic cloves. Mash up a little with your fork and then dip your bread into it for the best bread accompaniment youâ€™ll ever have.
The pre-meal salad was also an event. Instead of individual servings, Pelicanâ€™s brings to the table a big communal bowl with fresh broccoli, thick slices of cucumber, carrots, homemade croutons and dressing, and, for some reason, a big green onion. Youâ€™ll never be served a plate of wilted lettuce here â€“ the salads are prepared for each table to order.
Although I didnâ€™t try it, the shrimp scampi passing by on a plate looked fantastic and I briefly had ordererâ€™s remorse. Just another reason to go back. On Pelicanâ€™s part, the fried mozzarella sticks ($8.95) were the only misstep I saw. The appetizer comes with four giant sticks of freshly breaded and fried cheese, but the oil is too hot and the sticks are too thick to properly cook so the result was a hot, crispy exterior but a cold, hard interior. If the chunks of cheese were halved, theyâ€™d be a perfect starter.
Service is excellent and for good reason: I counted 11 staff members in my section alone, so understaffing isnâ€™t an issue at Pelicanâ€™s. You wonâ€™t wait long for your food or refills, either.
The prices make this a special-occasion restaurant mainly, but it does get points for not gratuitously adding green chile to everything. Pelicanâ€™s has two locations in Albuquerque, the other at 10022 Coors NW, and theyâ€™ve been serving fresh seafood and certified Angus beef for 40 years.
Parking isnâ€™t a big problem, and large parties can be accommodated. A kidsâ€™ menu guarantees happy campers of all ages. And Wednesdays and Thursdays are â€śmartini nights,â€ť if thatâ€™s your scene.
Sometimes, living in the desert has drawbacks. A lack of enticing seafood options is one of them, but if you havenâ€™t given them a try, or you havenâ€™t been recently, youâ€™ll be surprised at the freshness and flavor of the Pelicanâ€™s menu.
LOCATION: 9800 Montgomery NE, 298-7678, pelicansabq.com
HOURS: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday