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Retail Roundup: subs, Korean, pizza and coffee

Cheba Hut, a cannabis-themed restaurant chain, has opened its second Albuquerque location in the former Quarters Barbecue at 3700 Ellison NW.

Franchise owner Isaac Montoya said the new West Side location serves the same fresh-made sandwiches as the restaurant at 115 Harvard SE.

“Cheba Hut has kind of always been in the family,” Montoya said. “My parents took over the Cheba Hut near the university with some partners a few years ago when I was going to UNM.”

Montoya said he would juggle his schoolwork with being the general manager to help his parents out.

“In 2014, I actually took over my parents’ business partner’s shares in Cheba Hut, so that’s kind of how I fell into the whole role of owning and operating my own franchise.”

Cheba Hut franchise owner Isaac Montoya holds one of Cheba Hut’s signature sandwiches, the KaliMist. (Stephen Montoya/Albuquerque Journal)

Montoya said the biggest thing he wants everyone to know is that Cheba Hut is a sandwich shop first and foremost.

“The cannabis symbols and so forth are just a theme for the restaurant,” he said. “We are not serving drugs in the back or anything; it’s just a theme.”

Montoya said many customers have asked him if they would be able to pass a drug test if they ate the food at the restaurant.

“We get people that come in all the time with a stigma about what we serve,” he said. “At the end of the day, we serve great food, and that’s the bottom line.”

What Cheba Hut does serve at its new location that it doesn’t at the original location near UNM is liquor, including several drinks that are unique to the restaurant.

Cheba Hut franchise owner Isaac Montoya stands in front of his new location, at 3700 Ellison NW. Cheba Hut’s second Albuquerque location has a liquor license and serves unique drink blends such as the Dirty Hippie. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

“The most popular drink we have is called the Dirty Hippie, which is an infusion of cucumbers, vodka and some lemonade,” he said.

One of Montoya’s favorite sandwiches on the menu is the Kali-Mist (California Club) – turkey, jalapeño peppers, chipotle mayonnaise, bacon and pepper jack cheese.

“We are planning on an expansion in Albuquerque on the East Side sometime soon, but for now we are happy to be moving forward with this location,” he said.

Montoya said there are 25 Cheba Hut restaurants nationwide.

Orbiting a new location

Satellite Coffee CEO Jean Bernstein said the franchise will be opening its newest location at 7600 Jefferson NE in the Market Place at Journal Center on March 4.

“It’s looking beautiful. Everything is coming together,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein estimated that the new location would create about 10 jobs, depending on the amount of business it generates.

As for the menu, customers will find all of their favorite items offered at other Satellite Coffee locations.

“We may have a couple of sandwiches that are new, but for the most part it will basically be the same menu,” she said.

Bernstein said what makes this store unique is that she was able to repurpose an old Starbucks. “Starbucks has like 54 locations in Albuquerque, and now one gets reclaimed by a local. It’s kinda cool,” she said.

Bernstein said the new store will be Satellite’s sixth.

The last wave

Bonchon Korean restaurant, at 2101-2 Vista Oeste NW.

The question “addicted yet?” is stamped on every takeout box that comes from the new Bonchon restaurant at 2101-2 Vista Oeste NW near Unser Boulevard.

Native New Mexican and Bonchon General Manager David McCreary said he trained for a month in New York City to learn the art of cooking Korean cuisine in preparation for the opening.

McCreary said the Albuquerque restaurant is the chain’s 90th location in the U.S. The chain has 300 stores globally.

“I am shocked at the response we are getting since our soft open,” McCreary said. “We are getting a lot of Asian clientele that know this food, but it’s the locals that seem like they can’t get enough.”

Jessica Luchini-Espada, a server at Bonchon, a new Korean restaurant at 2101-2 Vista Oeste NW, with some of the restaurant’s specialties, including wings, chicken katsu and bull dak. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Bonchon carries traditional Korean plates such as bibimbap, a rice bowl served five ways, or bulgogi, thiny sliced, marinated rib-eye beef with sauteed mushrooms, scallions and onions.

McCreary said the new Bonchon is in a neighborhood of roughly 22,000 people with no other restaurants, so he expects business to be good.

Bonchon also serves beer and wine.

“We are going to have a Korean beer called Hite. It’s like the Budweiser of Korea, and we are doing mochi, which is a traditional Korean-Japanese dessert, which is fried ice cream in a rice layer.”

McCeary said Bonchon has 40 employees and room for 60 customers in the restaurant’s 4,000-square-foot space.

“I was little nervous bringing Korean food to Albuquerque because I knew Vietnamese and Thai were popular, but Korean cuisine was like the last wave of the Asian food trends,” he said.

Restoration Pizza well underway

Jotham Michnovicz, Bosque Brewery’s director of operations, said the new Restoration Pizza near Cabela’s in the Legacy at Journal Center shopping area should be open in April.

“The area is still under construction. I mean, there is paint on the walls, but we still have to move the restaurant equipment in,” Michnovicz said. “It’s really starting to take shape, but we don’t expect to open the doors fully until sometime in April.”

The Journal first reported on the pizzeria last summer, noting that it would serve pizza, breadsticks and salads, as well as Bosque’s craft beers.

Bosque has partnered with consultant Nathan Winham and Adelante Development Center, a nonprofit in New Mexico that supports people with mental and physical disabilities. Michnovicz told the Journal that 50 to 70 percent of the restaurant’s staff would be “differently abled” individuals so the company can provide good jobs for people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.