A reporter's incomplete, completely biased guide to Albuquerque - Albuquerque Journal

A reporter’s incomplete, completely biased guide to Albuquerque

Pilar Martinez

Some of my earliest memories involve me, usually book in hand, standing with my mom in the long line that seemed a perennial future of the Nob Hill location of Flying Star (then Double Rainbow) in the early ’00s.

If I wasn’t there, then I was spending time playing on the shop floor of my grandparents’ now-closed sewing machine business or wandering through the aisles of Beeps.

Whether I realized it or not, local businesses shaped who I am, with most of my fondest memories revolving around many of the wonderful stores and restaurants that call Albuquerque home.

And for the last three years, my life has revolved around these establishments even more.

Just weeks prior to the start of the pandemic in 2020 I accepted a full-time position covering Albuquerque’s retail and real estate scene. Initially, I expected that much of my job would revolve around the positive, like covering new restaurants and local shops. But my beat quickly changed. Business openings stopped and consumerism as we knew it disappeared.

It took two years before my beat largely returned to its pre-pandemic functions.

My time as the Albuquerque Journal’s retail reporter only deepened my appreciation for the unique place small businesses hold in our communities. During my tenure I’ve spoken with starry-eyed new business owners who have dreamed for years of opening up their own restaurant, with industry veterans looking to expand in new directions, and with proprietors who seemed to have the opportunity to run their own store fall into their laps.

Throughout it all, I’ve seen the passion and diversity that these owners bring to our community — something that separates us from so many other cities.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Albuquerque and all of the small pieces of this city that make it so special as I prepare to leave my career as a journalist at the Albuquerque Journal and move out of state to attend law school. As I prepare to leave the Journal and move out of Albuquerque for the foreseeable future, I wanted to share some of the places I’ve come to love the most. (Disclaimer: As a life-long resident of Albuquerque who has only lived south of Central there is an obvious bias towards business along or near the Central corridor.)

Gravity Bound Brewing Co.

816 Third NW

Gravity Bound Brewing Co. opened in 2020 in Downtown Albuquerque. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

When asked what Albuquerque does best, I almost always default to a trio of answers: beer, coffee and chile.

Sure, large city counterparts like Portland and Denver tend to place at the top of national lists of breweries, but in all honesty, even those nationally renowned locales barely match up to Albuquerque’s incredible selection of breweries and beers.

And at the top of the list, for me, is Gravity Bound Brewing Co.

Owned by Cameron and Chris Frigon, recent Colorado transplants, Gravity Bound quickly managed to cement itself in Albuquerque’s beer scene as one of the most interesting breweries in town — and within two years of opening.

Housed in a converted car repair shop in Downtown Albuquerque, the brewery menu features usual options like pilsners, lagers and IPAs. But where it excels is in its selection of sours and goses infused with ingredients like fruit, vanilla or even cocoa nibs.

Through collaborations with other local businesses like Slow Burn Coffee Roasters or Ex Novo Brewing Co., the brewery regularly serves up options like its layer cake series of beers: think sour beers made with coffee and brewed with fruit and vanilla beans (trust me, it somehow works).

Gravity Bound Brewing is open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

The Burque Bakehouse

640 Broadway SE

Started originally as a pop-up stand at farmers markets, The Burque Bakehouse has since moved to a storefront location in the South Broadway neighborhood of Albuquerque. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

I’m not an early riser by nature. Despite that, I spent half of my 20s working weekend mornings.

Both those things made the off-chance of me tracking down a croissant from The Burque Bakehouse pretty difficult for several years.

During that time, my encounters with the bakery came from living vicariously through Instagram posts of friends grabbing a sweet treat from the Railyard’s Market on Sundays or my own bi-annual visits to the market.

Luckily I no longer work weekend mornings, and even more luckily, Burque Bakehouse, like many other businesses in the last few years, has since graduated from its origins as a pop-up stand on weekends to a fully fledged storefront.

The walk-up bakery in the South Broadway neighborhood sells a selection of breads, sweet and savory croissant-based pastries, and other decadent treats like the hard to find cannelé.

While The Burque Bakehouse often has a line wrapped around the building on weekends, it thankfully moves quickly, making access to these once out-of-reach croissants that much easier.

The Burque Bakehouse is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Zendo

413 Second SW

Zendo features a menu of freshly made lattes including favorites like the Zia latte. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

When Zendo opened nearly a decade ago in Downtown, it was among the first of the trendy coffee shops to make its way to Albuquerque.

And while many new coffee shops of similar ilk have proliferated across the city in the time since, Zendo has remained my go-to spot for studying, or for spending a quiet morning by myself.

During my first visit to Zendo as a high school student, I quickly found myself enamoured by the bright, semi-industrial space and the beautiful drinks each topped with unique latte art.

It’s not just the superb coffee (re: the Turkish or Zia lattes) or unbeatable matcha latte that keeps me coming back, but the ever-kind baristas who are quick to make recommendations and wall art by local artists for sale.

My love for Zendo, much like my love for all of these spots, has a nostalgic bent to it: It’s where I went to write college and law school admissions essays, where I formatted resumes and where I anxiously typed out essays for college class finals. Luckily, these reminders of stress don’t overwhelm my fondness for Zendo.

Zendo is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Coda Bakery

230 Louisiana SE

Oanh Dang, front, wraps one of Coda Bakery’s famous Banh Mi sandwiches for a customer during a lunch rush. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

For more than a decade the International District’s Coda Bakery has earned a well-deserved following for its affordable and authentic Vietnamese eats.

I’m not alone in my devotion to Coda Bakery.

Much like its home neighborhood, the clientele of Coda Bakery (formerly known as Banh Mi Coda) is similarly diverse. At any time during lunch hours, the small, sparsely decorated lobby is filled with men in suits, servicemen from down the street at Kirtland Airforce Base, or families all gathered with one goal in mind: fast and reliably delicious sandwiches, noodle bowls and spring rolls.

Coda Bakery is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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