ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Quick – think of the last time you were wandering around Nob Hill at midnight, a little festive and a lot hungry, with no desirable food to be found. Perhaps those nights are a rare occurrence in your life – I for one treasure those hours of dreamtime. However, when kicking up one’s heels is the order of the day, knowing that delicious food from local cooks can be found into the night-owl hours is the welcoming appeal of The Last Call, just off Central.
Albuquerque is not much of a late-night city, which means we also are not a mecca for street food, recent influx of food trucks notwithstanding. That’s where The Last Call (TLC) makes a tasty mark on after-dark dining.
First, let’s clear up the mechanics of your first visit – consider TLC a “permanent food truck” and you will go into the experience with perfectly tailored expectations. Ambience is not on the menu here, unless you’re an aspiring chef still wowed by working kitchens.
|The Last Call
LOCATION: 102 Richmond NE (north of Central Avenue), 369-6102, www.lastcallabq.com
HOURS: 5:05 p.m.-2:34 a.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 5:04-10:10 p.m. Thurdays; closed Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays
Inside, the medium workspace spurts frenetic energy and occasional cooking flames, crowned by a chandelier of dozens of hanging pans. Next to the register you’ll find a few chairs to wait for orders, with a table or two outside when the temperature is reasonable. That’s the whole of the setup: nothing more is needed.
If dining al fresco is not an option, plop yourself at a table or bar seat next door at Imbibe, where the music is loud and the food menu is 100 percent from The Last Call.
Scan the blackboard for specials such as discounted fish tacos, then order what you came to get anyway: Carne Asada Fries ($10). Do not come to The Last Call without trying this amalgamation of ridiculous pleasure. Thick-cut potatoes are fried to within a hair of “too brown,” strewn with carne asada and melted cheese, drizzled with chipotle aïoli (mayo) and habanero salsa, and decorated with cilantro and lime. The plastic fork is woefully inadequate – not that you won’t just use your fingers, anyway. Grab extra napkins.
Smothered fries task accomplished, try the rest of the menu – all of it, if your party is large enough. Fancy sliders (two for $8) feature cheese and bacon or dill aïoli and mushrooms on a bun – better than those gourmet burger joints in town.
Truffle Grilled Cheese ($9) is cheddar-Swiss-gouda with dill aïoli and truffle oil, with the edges of the cheese taking on a bit of crunch where it oozed onto the griddle. Itty-bitty tacos (three for $8) start with chicken, asada, fish or sautéed veggies, then pile on condiments galore. You’d expect onion and salsa on the chicken tacos, but the spicy peanut salsa on the veggie combination is a refreshing surprise.
After all the gushing, what could possibly go wrong? Any nit-picking has been foreshadowed all over this page: the prices. Yes, it is great street food, but really – grilled cheese for $9?