November and December are typically marked by a faster pace and excitement as people and businesses alike prepare for the holiday season.
And Sawmill Market, at 1909 Bellamah NW, was no exception.
The past several months were not only marked by holiday festivities, but also by the addition of multiple vendors at the food hall and open-concept market.
Among the new vendors are Roti NM, which specializes in rotisserie chicken; a new drink stop, Lemon & Brine; and Mexican-street-food-inspired Paleta Project and Churro y Corn.
The former Heritage Hotels and Resorts-operated Mercantile Wine Bar was also swapped out in favor of West Cocktail & Wine Bar.
The addition of several vendors isn’t unexpected since the market was envisioned in part as an incubator for small businesses looking to get their start without committing to a traditional brick-and-mortar shop.
When the 33,000-square-foot market opened just days before the pandemic began in spring of 2020, it had 19 vendors. That number has now grown to 26, according to the market’s website.
At that time, developers and concept creators said the goal was to create a space that highlighted local foods and specialties unique to New Mexico and Albuquerque.
Chef Gilbert Aragon was already familiar with Sawmill Market’s owner Heritage Hotels when he opened Roti NM shortly before Thanksgiving.
He did, after all, serve as the executive chef for the upscale hotel company.
But the chance to open up the rotisserie chicken restaurant in Sawmill Market represented more than just another project with the company he has worked for over the last 12 years. For Aragon, it was “a breath of fresh air.”
“Roti came … out of, actually, I think not only a passion for food, but just out of a necessity,” he said. “I needed to become happy again with food and I think this has really invigorated me.”
Aragon said he began developing a concept for Sawmill Market during the early stages of the pandemic and looked into what the market lacked, eventually landing on the rotisserie chicken concept.
“I think chicken is one of those dishes that everyone can get around,” he said. “It’s not heavy, it’s healthy, you still get the protein.”
Roti serves two types of rotisserie chicken, one made with a traditional French brine of lemon, garlic and herbs, and another made with a New Mexican-inspired brine with red chile and onions.
Customers can order whole chickens, partial chickens, chicken wings, salads and homemade roti style bread.
Born and raised in New Mexico, Aragon said he has been working in kitchens since he was a teenager, with most of his career spent as a hotel catering chef.
He said it was important to him to bring those southwestern roots to his new restaurant by offering chicken that makes use of a red chile brine.
The chance to open a stall at Sawmill also allowed Aragon to change settings and learn to work in a small, compact space and to perfect a recipe.
While Roti has only been open for a little over a month, Aragon said he could see the concept outgrowing Sawmill Market and eventually having several locations.
But for now, Roti remains at Sawmill Market and staffed mostly by members of Aragon’s family.
Lemon & Brine
Lemonade might not be the first drink you think of during winter months, but Lemon & Brine owner Jordan Long said that hasn’t stopped customers from coming to his newly opened space at Sawmill Market.
Lemon & Brine, which also opened shortly before Thanksgiving, specializes in “craft lemonade” and pickles.
Customers can order a regular lemonade or one muddled with mint or basil or lemonade served with homemade fruit syrups. Regular pickles and pickles brined with roasted green chile are also sold.
“We put a lot of love and care into all the handcrafted syrups we make,” he said.
Long, who has worked as a bartender for several years, said he wanted to bring his experience from the bar and extend it to nonalcoholic drinks.
Every drink is handmade and shaken, like a cocktail, before being served to customers.
Though his shop serves a particularly summery drink, Long said he was thankful to open up during the cold season because it gave him time to figure out how to operate his new business.
“Now that we’ve found a formula that works I think I’m really excited for the summer season,” he said. “… I wasn’t sure how well we would do in the winter, but … I’m finding a really thriving community of people who love to come out and eat and have a good time.”
Paleta Project and Churro y Corn
The husband and wife team behind Sawmill Market’s XO Waffle have branched out with the addition of two new concepts at the central market.
Cindy and Ray Campos opened Paleta Project and Churro y Corn shortly after Thanksgiving, according to a Heritage Hotels spokeswoman.
Paleta Project specializes in Mexican popsicles made from fruit and Churro y Corn focuses on “street-fair inspired” offerings like elote and churros.
West Cocktail & Wine Bar
One of the original tenants of the market, Mercantile Wine Bar is no more.
Instead, the space has been converted to the West Cocktail & Wine Bar, which, like its predecessor, will serve a variety of wines by the bottle or glass in addition to craft cocktails and small plates.
According to a spokeswoman with Heritage Hotels, the bar serves items like Tarte Flambée with eggplant, herb ricotta, roasted peppers and apricot, and charcuterie and cheese boards.
Sawmill Market is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit sawmillmarket.com.
Pilar Martinez covers retail and commercial real estate for the Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.<br>