Erin Wade’s first step into the restaurant industry started with rejection.
She applied to work at Subway, but was too young to work the meat slicer.
Many years later, however, the fashion school graduate now owns a slew of restaurants in New Mexico and Texas — with more soon to come. Wade has plans to open three new eateries, a commissary kitchen, a food stand at Country Club Plaza and a private club in Albuquerque, all within the next two years.
Wade opened farm-to-table salad restaurant in Santa Fe in 2008 after starting a ranch in Nambé. By 2012, the brand had expanded to Albuquerque, and in 2016, Wade established a new location in Austin.
She also opened two locations of general store Modern General Feed and Seed, one in Santa Fe and one in Albuquerque, as well as comfort food restaurant The Feel Good.
The three new restaurants are planned for the area between Old Town and Downtown, which rebranded itself a few years ago as “West Downtown.”
Vinaigrette will be moving across the street to join two new “microconcepts:” A pizza parlor, inspired by the 1988 film “Mystic Pizza” starring Julia Roberts, and a Polish-style deli called Krolicki’s — partly inspired by Wade’s fiance’s Polish American heritage. The three eateries will share a commissary kitchen, a choice that Wade says adapts to changing dining habits.
“Cities need strong centers so they can be vibrant and alive,” Wade said. “I think trying to activate the whole neighborhood with a host of concepts that are close together, but complementary rather than competitive, is more effective than spreading them out all over the city.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has had lingering effects on restaurant-goers, Wade said. Takeout has increased and patrons want to sit outside, “even when it’s, in my opinion, getting too cold,” Wade said. Vinaigrette’s move will add more patio space while consolidating the restaurant’s operations into the shared kitchen.
German brewhaus Schweinhund will take over Vinaigrette’s old space.
When it comes to food, “my only rule is no rules,” Wade said. Although each of the eateries tackles a different cuisine, Wade said that they all feature unique ingredient pairings, as well as farm fresh ingredients — a way of looking at food that she learned when she was studying in Milan at a local pizzeria. Her favorite pizza featured proscuitto, corn and four cheeses. At Vinaigrette, a favorite staff meal is pizza made on the restaurant’s homemade foccacia.
“I’m coming full circle,” Wade said.