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Modern General excels at food, service and ambiance

If Martha Stewart visited Albuquerque (for some reason), she would brunch at Modern General.

In fact, anyone with discerning tastes would eventually find Modern General, a companion store to the Santa Fe original (itself also new, opening its doors in 2015), and would fall in love.

And there’s plenty to love.

Breakfast sandwich is served with egg, cheese, pork sausage on a homemade buttermilk biscuit at Modern General. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

Despite their prices, which are slightly higher than one might expect in Albuquerque, this might be our best new eatery. I base this assessment mostly on the strength of Modern General’s biscuit game, which is particularly strong, but everything they do is done well.

On a recent visit to this Old Town-adjacent cafe, the first thing that struck me was the design: the interior is almost all white except for a few yellow flourishes, and yet the place still has a timeless, uniquely American feel.

Everything is good, from the smoothies to the fresh pastries and even the selection of useful books on the back shelf, but the food is what makes this place so special.

I tried the breakfast sandwich (only $7, which is more than fair) and was blown away by the intensity of flavor, the freshness of the buttermilk biscuit and a house-made pork sausage that is the best I’ve ever had. The dish was small, though somehow incredibly filling, and I couldn’t have recreated it on my own if I had Martha Stewart’s help.

The sausage was a flavor focal point – I’m certain I could pick out flavors of individual herbs like rosemary or sage – but the biscuit was next level. I doubt this is the case, but I briefly wondered if it was made fresh for me.

The closest match to Modern General’s biscuit game is that on offer at Pine State Biscuits in Portland, Ore., where customers usually wait in long lines and then have to fight over tables. In this spirit, my advice to the owners of Modern General is to keep those Food Network shows at bay and resist the type of publicity that ruins local’s favorite spots.

If a sausage, fried egg and cheese biscuit is too for-the-masses, food snobs would be thrilled with that day’s accoutrements, a small dollop of homemade goodness that came unannounced. I asked what it was and learned it didn’t have a name necessarily, but included mashed avocado, coconut oil, chia seeds and lime juice. I couldn’t decide if it was a condiment or an amuse bouche, but it certainly elevated the plate.

Also on offer are “modcakes,” Modern General’s gourmet pancakes made with whole grains and health-minded ingredients like kale and flaxseed. Prices are about what you would expect.

Coffee and tea drinkers will find nirvana here, but they also do fruit juices like pros. I ordered the glass of orange juice and it was quite literally squeezed freshly just for me. There weren’t bits of pulp in it so much as there were whole chunks of orange floating around, and right away I decided this was the best glass of OJ I’ve ever had.

I finished the meal with a homemade apricot kolache (about $2.75 for one), a small pastry-like treat from Eastern Europe with chunks of apricot baked in the middle. It was delicious but not very sweet, and had a yeasty flavor, and my only regret was not ordering six of them. As desserts go, a little kolache is an excellent way to end a meal without a sugar high.

Service is great, but because everything is so fresh, you may wait a bit for your meal. It would be worth the wait even if it was twice as long. Even though waiting in line to eat at a restaurant in Albuquerque is unacceptable, this is the type of place where you’d be willing to do it.

Modern General is a refreshingly original breakfast-and-lunch addition to our food scene, and it’s well worth the money. It’s slow food, not fast food, and it shows: even the egg in my sandwich could not have been cooked better if Martha Stewart herself was in the kitchen.

4 stars

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