ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — To be revered by locals yet sought by newcomers (often despite crowds) is a recipe every restaurateur wants to crack, fry up and serve on a hot plate. At some decent spots, a line forms everyday, but other places with just as much character and taste sport open tables more days than not. Jay Wulf’s Greenside Cafe is in that second group, a restaurant with great food yet peppered with yay-and-nay online reviews from the beginning.
Wulf had a history with local spots like The Range Cafe and Prairie Star, then opened Greenside Cafe six years ago in the outpost East Mountain community of Cedar Crest. Little has changed in those hard-fought six years — the core menu is solid, with rotating weekly specials to keep the easily bored regulars on their toes. While relaxing on the cool patio in fading evening hours, I had the delicious Lovell-y Burger ($10.86), named after on-staff cook Todd Lovell (formerly of Gecko’s): juicy beef with roasted tomatoes and a dollop of bacon goat cheese butter just big enough to be decadent, small enough to almost wish for more.
Regarding the core menu, I’ll never tire of funky signature items like the pepper-lemon-garlic dip called Romesco ($5.39), or the Chicken Artichoke ($13.95) with tangy goat cheese sauce. Anything featuring marinated steak is a hit, too — from Steak Ranchero Salad ($12.85) to the Flat Iron ($17.95), served with hearty mashed potatoes and veggies. Dietary preferences are honored, with a showcase list of vegetarian-friendly delights like spicy Peanut Noodles ($9.59) or a recent special of Roasted Eggplant Pita ($8.59), gooey with cheese and fragrant with dill.
For local residents, Greenside’s location is convenient, especially with two nearby restaurant closures in the last year. Despite few other options, expectations remain high for this space with lovely décor and a well-regarded chef. Sometimes service isn’t speedy or an order mix-up occurs — it can happen, especially when the food is from scratch — but not often, and there are always smiles all around.
We’ve become accustomed to seasonal menus that change given the harvest, the week or the daily whim of the chef. It’s nice to have a Goldilocks place with a reliably unchanging foundation with a little bit of weekly whim for balance — that’s Greenside Cafe.