They are many things: brave; ambitious; determined; perhaps even a little foolhardy.
I’m referring, of course, to those who have opened restaurants during the pandemic.
Even in good times, more than half of restaurants close in the first year. In a time of draconian restrictions on dining in, the odds of success fall somewhere between those of making all the lights on the way to work and winning the lottery.
But if you’re going to take the plunge, then it helps to have experienced team, and that’s what Sobremesa has in abundance.
The brewery and restaurant that opened on the West Side last September is the fruit of a collaboration between restaurateurs Nick Giron and Ryan Strilich, founders of Brickyard Pizza, and brewer David Facey, formerly of Quarter Celtic and Steel Bender, among other brewpubs.
Sobremesa, a word that refers to the Spanish tradition of relaxing at the table after a meal, is a great name for a restaurant. It’s a fitting one, too, for an eatery that occupies a stretch of Coors between Interstate 40 and Ladera lacking in places to hang out, catch up with friends and watch the sun fade. In fact, local developer Sujay Thakur bankrolled the operation partly in the hopes of bringing a gathering place to residents of the area.
The parking lot is accessible from southbound Coors; if you’re coming from the direction of I-40, turn left on Sequoia and then make a quick right turn into the parking lot.
The spacious dining room is busy with decorative surfaces that brighten up the industrial-style bones. A narrow patio wraps around the front. There isn’t much of a view, unless you’re really into watching passing traffic, but it’s far enough back from Coors that the noise is not too intrusive. Each patio table is equipped with a handsome if slightly menacing gas-powered heater set in a bed of polished stones.
I met a friend and his young daughter recently for a lunch that started on the patio and moved inside when the winds picked up. There were a dozen people in the dining room, a number that grew as the afternoon wore on.
The menu has a Spanish and New Mexican presence, with empanadas, posole and green chile cheeseburgers, along with a few bar food favorites like nachos and buffalo wings. You can bring the menu up on your phone by scanning a QR code on the napkin.
Facey, Sobremesa’s brewmaster, has an impressive résumé, and the range of his skill is evident in a beer flight ($8) made up of six generous pours served in a wire rack. All of it was terrific, prompting my friend and me to reminisce, a little ruefully, about the flavorless beers we cut our teeth on in the days before the craft beer revolution.
As I sipped the beers, I made a series of mental notes. Siesta Stout: a perfect winter brew. Atrisco Amber: ideal for the fall. My favorite was the Hazy Eyez, an imperial India pale ale with a hefty 8.5% alcohol by volume. Its cloudy appearance suggests something murky and mysterious, but the taste is actually bright, lemony and refreshing, ideally suited to the warm weather ahead.
Tacos ($3 each, four for $11), served open-faced on a tray with spicy salsa roja, include solid versions of standbys such as carnitas, carne asada and carne adovada. I particularly enjoyed the Pollo Asado, marinated, grilled chicken served shredded with cabbage and chipotle mayonnaise sauce for crunch and heat. Also of note was the Pescado, a fish taco made with chunks of grilled haddock, a mild-flavored white fish, livened up with jalapeños and honey lime cilantro crema. For vegetarians, there is a sweet and spicy calabacitas taco with roasted squash, zucchini, corn and green chile.
The same carnitas and carne adovada show up as fillings in the empanadas ($3 each, four for $11). The third variation has a sweet potato and black bean filling that delivers a dessert-level sweetness. The dense pastry shell made these considerably more filling than the tacos.
Burgers and sandwiches run from $9 to $13 and include Cubano, barbecued pulled pork. My friend’s daughter gave the cheeseburger, a thick-pattied version made from a third of a pound of Angus beef, the seal of approval. It was accompanied by a generous portion of thick-cut potato chips made in house and tossed in a compelling seasoning mix.
The menu offers two entrees, although Strilich has discussed rolling out paella at some point. The fish and chips ($16) are made with beer-battered haddock. Herb-roasted chicken, the other entrée, is available in quarter or half sizes. I had the former, a leg quarter served with fingerling potatoes ($10) and spicy coleslaw. The dark chicken meat was unremarkable; the sides, however, were excellent, the purple and gold potatoes perfectly cooked and the coleslaw delivering the promised jolt of heat.
Service, initially attentive, slipped as the meal wore on. Only one server was working the dining room and patio, and she was getting overwhelmed as more people came in. Fortunately, there were plenty of TVs around to distract us.
Like its name suggests, Sobremesa is a place where you can hang out and stretch the meal well into the evening. It’s the kind of spot that’s sorely needed on Coors near I-40.