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Cheese & Coffee serves up lunchtime favorites – be sure to save room for dessert

The Focazzia Sandwich and the Apple Waldorf Salad are on the menu at Cheese & Coffee Downtown. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The Focazzia Sandwich and the Apple Waldorf Salad are on the menu at Cheese & Coffee Downtown. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While the phrase “cheese & coffee” might not sound like a winning flavor combination, Albuquerque’s sandwich shop on Louisiana bearing the name Cheese & Coffee started out selling mostly — you guessed it — cheese and coffee in bulk.

When sandwiches were added nearly 15 years ago, it quickly became an insider’s choice for lunch without the fuss of long lines or the guilt-inducing menu items from national chains.

As luck would have it, Downtown diners began to enjoy Cheese & Coffee a few years ago at the new San Pasquale location, complete with the usual deli favorites.

I’ll admit that it has been quite some time since I was impressed with the phrase “Boar’s Head” on a restaurant’s sign, especially with the proliferation of house-prepared meats and gourmet brands in general. That said, Cheese & Coffee is still making darn good sandwiches — 17 of them, to be exact.

Depending on the day, my loyalties bounce between the Chelsea ($8.75) and the Bavarian ($8.75). In the former you’ll find turkey, avocado, green chile and provolone all grilled until gooey; the latter goes European with braunschweiger, Swiss, dijon and onion, all on rye. Sandwiches include a soup or salad — take the soup, always, to enjoy a homemade bowl of deliciousness.

Beyond the specialty sandwiches there’s always a build-your-own option, as well as prepared deli salads like a superchunky Waldorf or a classic egg salad. All salads can be served as sides or made into a Trio Combo ($8.95) to comprise your whole meal, or just order the enormous Chef Salad ($8.95) for a trip down memory lane with sliced deli meats, cheese and tomatoes on crunchy lettuce.

At the Heights location, diners can enjoy the serving prowess (moderate confusion at no extra charge) of twin sisters who float around the room, loving what they do. Even without the twins, the Downtown waitstaff are definitely friendly even when the place is busy, happy to follow-up on questions and giving off the vibe of a doting auntie.

Cheese & Coffee gets my thumbs up for not serving chicken fingers to kids but rather just offering PB&J or Grilled Cheese for $5, including a side and a drink. Even if your kid is already into coffee (or you are), skip it — I’ve found the brew to be pretty weak and just not worth it.

What is worth it? Desserts, boy howdy. Several kinds of homemade cookies ($2) with tempting flavors like Potato Chip or Rocky Road hold their own against the Cake of the Day ($4.95), so well that let’s just say the cookie I took for the road didn’t make it too far on my drive back.