ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — From the south side of Central Avenue, the regal nature of Downtown’s KiMo Theatre might capture one’s eyes enough to completely overlook last year’s addition to the dining scene: Adieux Cafe. The street-level gastropub shares an entrance with the Effex Nightclub and stays open late six days a week, aiming to please a miasma of diners from weekday lunchtime professionals to weekend revelers in the dark. This isn’t a fancy cocktail kind of place – the fancy here happens in the kitchen.
One’s visit to Adieux begins by walking past its sidewalk chalkboard for the weekly witticism, such as “No WiFi; you’ll have to talk to another human!” or “Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without Beer.” It serves up an $8 lunch special – any sandwich or wrap (normally $8-$9) with a soft drink. My money’s on the Beast: slices of sourdough enshrouding roast beef, fontina, mustard and horseradish. According to an unwritten Albuquerque sandwich shop rule, something with turkey and green chile must be on the menu; Adieux’s is a whole-wheat wrap, smartly called the “Burkey” (why hasn’t anyone used that before?)
If lunch drew you in once, come back for dinner and a wholly different vibe. House music is what you’ll hear rather than the sports coverage on flat panel TVs set to mute; the tunes often land squarely in the 1980’s, whether Huey Lewis or the Pet Shop Boys. The music is an aptly weird backdrop for the utilitarian wood/metal decor and mixture of high and low tables, the latter of which tends to fill first. High-quality beers on tap and the usual selection of cocktail basics help to mellow out the end of any day.
If the place is busy, bar seating could be the remaining option, but the food is worth it. Open-faced sandwiches do not get any better than the Cuban ($11), every bit as strange as an open-faced Cuban should be yet utterly delicious. Chunks of pickle dot the miniature mountain of pork loin, swiss, bacon and capicola; knife and fork is necessary. Proper Paninis range from $9 to $11 and include two vegetarian options, one with butternut squash hummus and curry.
In contrast, meat eaters need not avoid the salads – the Gemmi ($11) tosses bacon with portobella mushrooms and Brussels sprouts in a sweet dressing. When the whole Brussels-sprouts-in-restaurants trend is over, I’ll be a sad diner.
Happy hour specials run until 7 p.m. every night and include wings, nachos and must-try tacos of chicken, beef or carnitas (2 for $5), each with their own chile flavor profile and tart pickles or pico de gallo to balance the hearty meat. Desserts are not on the current menu so if you’re feeling like a sugary hole is burning its way through your heart, just order up a sweet cocktail and think back fondly on the delicious meal.