The Daily Grind delivers a fairly sophisticated menu of breakfast, lunch specials - Albuquerque Journal

The Daily Grind delivers a fairly sophisticated menu of breakfast, lunch specials

The Daily Grind’s Carne Adovada Breakfast Burrito smothered in red chile. It is filled with meat, potatoes and scrambled eggs. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Sometimes, a bit of brutal honesty is just what’s needed to liven up a perfunctory conversation.

Case in point: I was at the Daily Grind, the coffee shop/restaurant near I-40 and San Mateo, recently and asked the server if they had wine.

“Yes, and it’s quite bad,” she quickly responded.

The contradiction between her cheery tone and the message therein made me snort. It’s the kind of friendly, world-weary attitude you’d expect to find at a favorite hash-slinging joint. But the Daily Grind is no greasy spoon. It has a fairly sophisticated menu of breakfast and lunch specials. Alongside breakfast burritos and club sandwiches, you’ll find crab cakes, a cheddar French toast BLT and baked goods made in-house, including the locally famous blueberry scones that usually sell out by noon. The drinks menu offers local beers, champagne and, yes, the aforementioned wine: Sutter Home, to be precise.

Half a Burque Grilled Cheese with an Apple Gorgonzola Salad and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

The combination of friendly service and elevated comfort food has enabled the Daily Grind to quietly become one of the elders of the local dining scene. Albuquerque natives and married couple Nancy and Mike Rogers opened the first location in 1996 on San Pedro and Candelaria in the Northeast Heights. Ten years later, they moved to East Downtown before relocating to their current home on Cutler west of San Mateo in 2013.

Richard Spinello, executive director of the State Bar of New Mexico, and Greg Gutierrez purchased the restaurant from the Rogers in 2015 and have been operating it since.

The plaza that hosts the Daily Grind is something of a hub for outdoorsy types. Across the parking lot stands Los Pinos Fly Shop, home for all your fly fishing needs, and Calibers Shooting Range, from which the occasional muffled boom emanates.

The Daily Grind occupies a big, bright room inside a corrugated-metal clad building. There are lots of tables, a bar and a lit-up display case of baked goods that you scan hopefully for the scones. Artwork decorates the walls.

The large menu has breakfast stuff on one side, lunch on the other.

The espresso- and drip coffee-based drinks come in under $5. One day I was there, the server quickly delivered a competent Americano ($2.85) made with beans from Boulder, Colorado-based Allegro, Whole Foods’ signature brand. Another time, I opted for a caffeine-free experience with a lovely Strawberry Refresher ($3.95), faintly sweet, a little fizzy and finished with a cloudlike layer of coconut milk foam.

The Daily Grind’s Strawberry Refresher is topped with a layer of coconut milk. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Most of the stuff on the breakfast menu ranges from $5 to $10. A couple of eggs, home fries, bacon and toast will set you back $8.95. If you’re looking to splurge, the steak and eggs are $16.25.

A Carne Adovada Breakfast Burrito ($12) arrived looking like a football smothered with red chile and cheese. The carne inside was not a sauce-heavy version, but still moist and easy to shred, and balanced well with home fries and scrambled eggs. The initial sting from the chile quickly faded to a slow burn. One of these for breakfast will put off your hunger pangs until well past lunch.

Another day, the lunch menu beckoned with an extensive selection of sandwiches, burgers and salads, mostly between $10 and $12. Under the heading of the Lighter Side, you can pick a half sandwich and salad for $10.50.

I ordered a half Burque Grilled Cheese with an Apple Gorgonzola salad. The sandwich was a bit of textural oddball, the fresh sliced tomato slipping away from the thick, melted slabs of cheese, the wheat bread not quite grilled, not quite toasted. The good green chile flavor and heat saved it.

The salad was a more successful proposition, with the apples, cranberries and candied walnuts acting like a firewall against the potent cheese. A dressing of raspberry vinaigrette, tangy and sweet, melded it all together.

There are a few vegan options, and gluten-free bread is available.

Be sure to grab one or three of the crumbly, buttery scones on your way out. They are testament to the care and attention the Rogers’ bring to The Daily Grind. A lot of coffee spots have come and gone over the years, but The Daily Grind keeps on, well, grinding.

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