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Food Fridays start this week at Civic Plaza

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Cherie Montoya. The story has been changed to reflect her current name.

Think of it as patio dining in the city’s front yard.

ABQ Food Fridays debuts this week at Civic Plaza, a “pop-up” restaurant/happy hour experience that organizers hope will give Albuquerqueans a new reason to visit – and hang out at – the Downtown square.

The series will bring a different area chef to the plaza each Friday to serve at least one $10 entree. Marble Brewery will attend weekly to sell its locally made beer.

The people behind the program want attendees to enjoy an al fresco dinner experience under the plaza’s pergola or at tables set up near the fountain. Live music will add to the ambiance.

ABQ Food Fridays is one of several new initiatives meant to generate activity on the plaza.

Another program, “Movies on the Plaza,” also begins after dinner on Friday with a free public screening of “The LEGO Movie.”

The Albuquerque Convention Center, which took over management of the city-owned plaza last year, and organizations such as DowntownABQ MainStreet, which recently received a Southwest Airlines grant to rejuvenate the plaza, have spearheaded many of the projects.

“We’ve been talking a lot about what we can do with Civic Plaza so that it feels like it’s there for the people of Albuquerque and it’s part of really revitalizing Downtown,” said Damian Lopez-Gaston, director of event services at the Convention Center. “There’s been a lot of discussion for months about what we can do and a lot of that is coming to fruition this spring.”

Lopez-Gaston credits Cherie Montoya, owner of Farm & Table in the North Valley, for the pop-up restaurant/happy hour idea. Farm & Table has committed to take part in the series, as have Más Tapas y Vino and Cafe Bien.

Cafe Bien chef Ernesto Duran will run things during the inaugural week, dishing out a trio of $10 sandwiches – grilled chicken club, caprese and cubano – plus a $9 caprese salad this Friday.

Duran, who runs Cafe Bien with co-owner Lindsay Cavazos, said he gladly signed onto ABQ Food Fridays.

“I’m a huge advocate for Downtown. … The fact they want to make (Civic Plaza) a central point in the city is huge, and being part of it is going to be great,” Duran said this week from behind the counter at his restaurant, which is located just a few blocks away from the plaza.

Marble president and co-owner Ted Rice said he, too, liked the idea.

“We obviously love supporting Downtown and we think that dining al fresco is a great experience and want to further contribute to that experience here in New Mexico,” Rice said.

ABQ Food Fridays takes place each Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. through the summer and, weather-permitting, could continue into fall, Lopez-Gaston said.

“The LEGO Movie” screening begins about 8 p.m. Friday, the first of several movie events slated for the plaza.

Civic Plaza used to bustle in the warmer months as host of the city’s annual Summerfest series. But Mayor Richard Berry in 2010 announced a plan to disburse those events throughout the city. Downtown continues to host one Summerfest event annually, which this year is set for Aug. 8.

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